From White Deer Kennel
at White Deer Preserve
Recently, we were honored to have been selected by the editor of Sight and Scent Magazine, Ms. Melody Falcone, to respond to a series of questions regarding the Plott Hound. These answers were subsequently published in the August Issue of Sight and Scent
Please enjoy our answers!
by Joe Burkett III, DVM
Featured Breeder Questions and Answers
1. Please tell us about yourself and your involvement with the Plott.
|My love affair and involvement with the Plott breed began when I was 14 years of age. I acquired my first Plott, “Smithdeal’s Nigger Boy” or “Old Nig” as I affectionately called him, in 1958. Fortune smiled the day Chester Reese from Center Point, Texas gave me the 9-year old Plott male with the condition that I would care for him until his dying day. This commitment included daily care of his “eye condition”. Looking back, caring for “Old Nig” and religiously “medicating” his eyes is what set me on a course to later become a veterinarian. I graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University in 1971. I didn’t know it then, but I now know that “Old Nig” had cataracts. At that time treating cataracts through conventional surgery or with the modern miracle of laser surgery, was unheard of! Folks my first experience with the breed was nearly a half a century ago and the Plott has remained a significant part of my life ever since.|
|I did know that I had acquired a very important hound, but at the time had no idea just how important. Apart from being both a bench show champion and a field trial champion, he was a direct son of the venerable “Smithdeal’s Nigger”, perhaps the single most important Plott sire in the modern history of the Plott breed. Shortly after “Old Nig” came under my stewardship, the legendary Capt. Bob Snow (then Texas Parks and Wildlife Capt. of Predator Control for the State of Texas), who lived in Kerrville, Texas, contacted me. Capt. Bob asked to breed a Plott female he owned to “Old Nig”. It just so happened that Capt. Snow’s gyp was an ancient old girl named Hazelwood Sadie. We both knew that to get any pups would be a miracle due to Sadie’s age, nonetheless we allowed the mating and Sadie subsequently whelped three pups; Zeke, Nick, and Ginger. Capt. Snow kept Zeke and Nick. I kept Ginger. She was as fine a hound as I have ever owned and became the matriarch of my bloodline.|
|Being a young man from Kerr County, Texas, out on the very edge of civilization, I had not a clue, but later learned, the Hazelwood line of Plotts came from around Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. The Hazlewoods were reputed to be relatives of the Plott family by marriage.|
|The original Plott hound stock emigrated with the two Plott brothers from Germany in the mid 1700’s. One of the brothers died in transit and the remaining brother, Johannes George Plott settled in North Carolina at Plott Balsam Mountain, a stone’s throw from the Hazlewood home. So it follows that very likely there was a close connection between the two families and their hounds. Upon researching early Plott pedigrees, one finds the Plott, Hazlewood, and Balsam names recur time and time again. “Smithdeal’s Nigger”, was immortalized by Johnson City, Tennessee entrepreneur and Plott enthusiast Hack Smithdeal and later by the Dean of Plott Breeders - Dale Brandenburger of Millstadt, Illinois. “Nigs’s” ancestors were nearly 100% original Plott family hounds. Little did I know my “Ginger” had the very best Plott blood in all of North America coursing through her veins. Small wonder she was such a great hound! Capt. Snow’s two hounds, Zeke and Nick, matured to become the two most notable members of his legendary Jaguar hound pack which he kept at his Jaguar camp in Nayarit, Mexico.|
2. What are your thoughts on the Plotts now being eligible to participate in AKC Conformation events?
|Plott eligibility to participate in AKC Conformation events and their formal recognition by AKC, is perhaps the most significant addition to the breed registry in recent times. Inasmuch as this is an American Hound Breed having evolved from the original stock of Hanoverian Hounds, who were brought to this country in 1750 by Johannes George Plott from Germany to North Carolina. The lineage of the Hanoverian Hound can be traced back as early as the 5th century in Germany making them quite an ancient breed. The AKC conformation events and field trials that now include the Plott will afford the All American Plott Hound, its long overdue and much deserved recognition as one of the worlds finest scent hounds and American workingman’s dependable and versatile working dog. Recent AKC recognition and inclusion of this notable old scent hound breed is a landmark event for those Plott Men and Plott Women who have loved, nurtured and maintained the breed during their lives. As the dog loving audiences become more familiar with the Plott, I envision them as a popular and successful breed in AKC Conformation events.|
3. Will this change or influence your current breeding program?
|Breeding to a conformation standard often ignores valuable traits that should be inherent to a particular breed. In the case of the Plott, characteristics such as voice quality, tracking ability, and natural treeing/baying ability, among others, should be of equal or greater importance in a breeding program. With that in mind I will strive to prove my dogs in the field as well as in the show ring with the ideal being a handsomely conformed proven hunter often referred to as the dual grand champion. What remains a matter of personal preference and by no current measurable standard is voice quality; Tone, Pitch, and Volume. For me the ideal remains a beautiful hound which opens and trails with a bawl on track and finishes the chase with a distinct chop at bay or on tree. The voice change in Tone, Pitch, and Volume communicates to the houndsman the progression and state of the chase. Thus, both conformation and hunting ability will remain important to our breeding program. Certainly we will, as breeders, pay more attention to certain individuals and potential mating that produce winning hounds conforming to the AKC standard. However, our propagation program will remain loyal to the Plott’s primary purpose as a scent hound. But, in any case, all things taken into account, it should be considered in very poor taste to pursue beautiful game with ugly hounds!|
4. Do you think the AKC Standard for the Plott is accurate in its description?
|For the most part, I think so. Although, it should be noted that wide variation in Plott styles exist. Most of these styles represent families of hounds that have been selected for one specific purpose or another over many generations and represent the individual tastes and requirements of a given breeder or small association of like minded breeders.|
5. What is the Plotts most endearing characteristic?
6. What is the Plott like to live with; do they do well as house pets?
|Plotts are delightful house hounds! Their natural intelligence, loyalty and relaxed nature lend them to be easily house broken and trained to conform to urban environments and the home.|
7. How trainable is the Plott?
|The Plott’s intelligence, tractability, and desire to please their master make them trainable for anything from loving, loyal, and delightful house hounds to big game hounds for bear, wild boar, and Mt. Lion to search and rescue dogs (See the January 2007 AKC Gazette article by Mara Bovson about Linda Williams and her search and rescue Plott “Billy Bob”), and of course they are excellent coonhounds.|
|A fine example of the Plott’s versatility is the USDA border “Tick Force” employees. Who use their Plotts to track, bay and capture maverick Mexican cattle that have strayed onto US soil from Mexico, potentially carrying the malignant and dreaded Texas Fever Tick. Thereby helping to protect the United States multibillion beef cattle industry along the southern United States border from the Gulf of Mexico in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. Thank Plotts the next time you sit down to a meal with a cut of prime beef!|
|Given the loving, loyal and tractable nature combined with the intelligence and cold-tracking ability, it remains a mystery to me they are not in common use detecting contraband, and in particular illegal drugs.|
8. I read a quote from hunting dog expert, David Michael Duffey, who when asked, "When is a coonhound not a coonhound?" Mr. Duffey's response, "When it's a Plott hound." Can you explain this statement?
|Very likely Mr. Duffey was speaking to the fact that the Plott evolved from an entirely different scent hound stock than from the other “coonhound” breeds. The Plott being of Germanic origin has evolved from the original stock of Hanoverian Hounds imported into this country by Johannes Plott in 1750. All other recognized coonhound breeds are derived from combinations of the English Bloodhound and the English Foxhound. Mr. Duffey’s response is testimony to his deep knowledge of these scent hound breeds. The fact that Plotts are used for ‘coon hunting is simply another chapter in their versatile character. I suppose that to me, they have always been Plott Hounds, not strictly coonhounds! Being a Plott Hound always said something more to me than being “just a coonhound”.|
9. Is there anything you would like AKC conformation Judges to know and/or understand about the Plott?
|Variation within the breed including weight, color, head and muzzle shape, ear length, hair coat quality from rather course, to medium, to silky, voice quality from silent, to a chop, to a bawl on track, depth and shape of chest, freedom of movement, balance, tracking ability from being very cold nosed to rather hot nosed, white markings to a greater or lesser degree, and many other variations make the Plott a difficult hound to adjudge. Any combination of these rather variable traits and some others not mentioned can be Plott. So, it often becomes a question of individual taste. While two hounds could easily be of similar conformation “quality” but appear as substantially different “styles” is a real juxtaposition faced by Plott judges.|
10. Please give us 5 words that best describe the Plott.
|Intelligent, determined, tractable, loyal, and versatile scent hounds.|
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