Plott Coon Hounds are the only breed of the original six breeds of coon hounds without British influence in their ancestry. The other five breeds can trace their ancestry back to the fox hound, but the Plott Hound is the exception. And of only four dogs known to be of American origin, it’s also the only known breed to have been developed in North Carolina, where it is currently the state dog.
During the great migration of German, Scotch-Irish, Moravians, and other Europeans to America in the eighteenth century, Johannes George Plott, a sixteen year old boy, and an older brother (unnamed in family records) left Heidelberg, Germany to board the ship ‘Priscilla’ from Rotterdam, Holland, for Philadelphia. There were 209 German immigrants on board.
They were accompanied by five Hanoverian hounds—three striped and two yellowish. The brother died during the voyage and was buried at sea, but Johannes arrived in Philadelphia on September 12, 1750, where he anglicized his name. Jonathon traveled to New Bern, North Carolina and then inland to Cabarrus County. He married Margaret Littleton, bought a farm, and they began raising five sons and four daughters—and hunting dogs. Plott supposedly kept his strain entirely pure, making no out-crosses. In 1780, the Plott pack passed into the hands of Henry Plott.
At the age of 30, Henry, along with wife Lydia and brother-in-law Jonathan Osborne, left home to settle in Haywood County, or what was then Buncombe County, on Pigeon River near where Canton is now situated. There Osborne and Plott seem to have bought a farm in partnership, made one crop, and dissolved the company, or partnership. Osborne went back to Cabarrus, but came again later, and Plott with Lydia went farther west, took up a state grant on the waters of Richland and Dick’s Creek, the latter afterwards known as Plott’s Creek, and settled down as a permanent home. The exact spot of his location is now the home place of John A. Plott, a great grandson. Henry and his pack of Plotts were often called in to help his neighbors rid their farms of wildlife that was attacking their livestock.
Henry Plott and Lydia Osborne Plott reared a family of eight sons and three daughters. Henry died in 1839. It is for this famous hunter and his descendants that the U. S. Park Service named three peaks in the Balsam Mountain range and erected an interpretive sign at mile marker 457.9 along the Blue Ridge Parkway (the Plott Balsam Overlook) honoring Henry and his descendents. It reads
“Before you lies the massive Plott Balsam Range. On one of its eastern slopes Henry Plott, a German immigrant’s son, made his home in the early 1800’s. In this game-filled frontier, hunting dogs were a prized possesion. Here Henry Plott and his descendants developed the famous Plott Bear Hounds carefully selecting for the qualities of stamina, courage, and alertness the breed possesses today.”
For the next 200 years the dogs were bred by generations of Plott family members and were referred to as the Plott’s hounds. The dogs worked at hunting bear and raccoon in the Appalachian, Blue Ridge, and Great Smoky Mountains of the Eastern United States. The Plott family rarely put the dogs on the market so they remained rare outside the southern United States. The dogs were recognized for the first time in 1946 by the United Kennel Club.
These hounds come in many different colors. There are buckskins, blacks, brindles, browns, reds, and/or a combination of any of these colors. Plotts are hardy and have superior hunting instincts. They are very effective in the search for coyotes, wolves, and wildcats. The breed was carefully developed to be strong, courageous and persistent. They were able to make good family companions but were seldom kept as one, as most owners acquired the dogs for the hunt. It was initially used as a wild boar hound, but has also been used for big game hunting. Plotts are known for being very gritty and this is why they are used on big game such as bear so often rather than for raccoon.
Old Jonathan Plott would probably be surprised to find a valley and a mountain and a range of mountains, as well as a creek, bearing the family name. He probably would be even more surprised and amazed to find that it has been the dogs he brought from Germany that have made the name Plott a legend. The Plott Hound was officially adopted as North Carolina’s State Dog on August 12, 1989.
The Annals of Haywood County, North Carolina, by W. C. Allen, 1935.