"Of fine nose and beautiful voice"

A bell went off in my head when I read Eileen McGrath’s February 11 post on our sister blog, North Carolina Miscellany, about the official North Carolina State Dog, the Plott Hound. Evidently 2008 is the first year the breed has been admitted to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. A Newsday article provides some hound background: “Developed in the mountains of North Carolina by two German brothers who lent the breed their name, this big-game hunter was bred for baying boar and treeing bear. A true hunting hound, the Plott has a striking brindle coat, and is known for being intelligent, tenacious—and vocal.”

Strangely, Hugh Morton was known for those very same qualities (aside from the brindle coat). Seeing as how the Plott is the official NC hound, the only breed known to have originated in the state, and hails from the mountains, you might guess that Morton would have photographed it . . . And, you would be right.

Unidentified man with Plott Hounds on a bear hunt in Lake Waccamaw, NC, circa early 1950s

This gorgeous image is from a set of negatives labeled “Plott Hounds— Lake Waccamaw Bear Hunt.” My guess is they date from the late 1940s or early 1950s; the man is unidentified. Please let us know if anyone can provide additional context.

The hound group competed on Tuesday at Westminster, and I regret to report that the top prize went to an upstart beagle named Uno, who then went on to become the first beagle to win best in show. (The Plott didn’t even place). I guess recognition for this magnificent NC hound will come in stages.

24 thoughts on “"Of fine nose and beautiful voice"”

  1. I love this photo, Elizabeth. Thank you for posting it. I’ve really been enjoying this blog and the lovely photographs you all have been sharing with us.

  2. Elizabeth, This man could be H. T. Smithdeal. I have photos of him from a Lake Waccamaw bear hunt with Plotts dated 1947 and also have some other photos of groups from Belhaven and Lake Waccamaw bear hunts you should see in case you don’t think your photo is of Smithdeal. These are among our Conservation and Development Dept., Travel and Tourism photo files here at State Archives. I will send you jpgs of some of these right now….

  3. Elizabeth–I think I am wrong. Plott Hound researcher Libby Bagby (www.luckysplott.com) thinks the man is Von Plott, original developer of the Plott Hound breed from Haywood County, and I think she is probably right. I’ll be sending you some identified photos of Von Plott from our C&D photo files and you can decide for sure!

  4. Wonderful! I concur with Kim and Libby, this is definitely Von Plott, a descendent of the original breeders of the Plott hound. (See this photo on Libby’s website: http://www.luckysplott.com/factsheet.htm). This Morton image is one of a set of about 15 Plott negatives in the collection–there are other images of Von (Vaughan?) and another man (probably his brother John?) with the hounds, and a few group shots showing the actual hunt. Whether this is the same outing represented in the State Archives C&D files, I’m not sure–but the date seems about right. Thanks so much, Kim and Libby!

  5. Any mention of Plott Hounds causes a stir probably much like these dogs have as the sun comes up on a cold crisp morning in November. Elizabeth et.al. — thank you for posting this photo and to Kim for her insightful diligence. I was prompted to comment on the Parkway blog site as the Plott Hounds are revered enough to get their own interpretive marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway. See more at:

  6. Just a quick note to clarify a comment I made above about the origins of the Plott Hound breed —
    I stated that Von Plott was the originator of the breed and that is misleading. A more accurate statement is that Von Plott is a decendant of the family, the Plotts, who are credited with contributing greatly to the development of the breed. Sorry for being hasty with my wording in the previous post!

  7. Dear Steve and Elizabeth
    Congratulations on the recent award. You both are puttting the web and the photograph collections to its best use. I am sure anyone now and in the future will turn to ‘A View From Hugh” for advice and probably with more questions than you will have time to answer.
    John R. Woodard
    Archivist (RETIRED) WFU.

  8. Here’s an interesting recent article from Slate about the Plott hound:
    And here’s the interesting way I found out about it: my father is a scholar of the writer Cormac McCarthy (author of “No Country for Old Men,” the movie version of which just won Best Picture) — apparently this Slate article started a long discussion on the McCarthy Forum about Plott Hounds. Weird…

  9. The minute I read your blog about the Plott hounds I dashed to the attic where the old,old issue of “Colliers Magazine” had been for fifty years, but that box must have gone into storage on the Mountain. I will look for it, and if I find it I will send it to you. Meanwhile, as best as I can remember, the photos you have been writing about were made for “Coliers” in the mid-forties ( I think ) for an article about bear hunting and specificly on the Plott hounds. The Colliers photo editor or story editor who approached Hugh about making the pictures was Bill Emerson, probably at the behest of Bill Sharpe of the State of NC Travel and Tourism. The same Bill Emerson edited “Newsweek” a bit later. The men went out in the swamps at Lake Waccamaw pretty early in the morning and quite soon got thoroughly lost. They fired off their guns and yelled a lot to no avail; Hugh even climbed a tree to see if he could find the right direction to take to get out. He couldn’t,and I remember he said it would have worked in the mountains. He reported that the the last thing he saw as the sun was going down was a big snake sliding off of a log. They were prepared to spend an uncomfortable night in the swamp but they saw lights that turned out to be a farmer plowing a field with his tractor. They were an exhausted, muddy, and hungry bunch of hunters when they got back to our house…. The Colliers, when I find it, will identify your man, but I think everyone who said the subject was Mr. Plott was right….. You do know that the photos you have been showing were “early” Hugh Mprton’s. He improved as much as the cameras and film did as time went by. But he had incredible opportunities to photograph interesting people, events, and things by being in the right place at the ri

  10. When I said that the article in Colliers would have been in the mid-forties, I should have said he mid-fifties. We were at war in the mid-forties.

  11. Beautiful photograph.
    FWIW, I don’t think Plot Hounds will ever win a Westminster Prize. I had one in college, bought from Jackson Co. which neighbors Haywood Co., their ancestral home.
    That animal had the best nose of any hound I’ve ever seen and at the same time was dumber than dirt.
    A Plotts beauty is in their coat, proportions , hunting ability and savvy once they have cornered their prey.
    My mistake was trying to make one a house dog.

  12. Hi again –
    Do you have a photo of Hugh MacRae’s daughter, Agnes? Agnes MacRae (Morton) named the famous Wrightsville Beach pavilion LUMINA. I’m doing an article on Lumina for Wrightsville Beach Magazine and would love to have Miss MacRae’s face within it.
    She named the property in 1905, but I’ll settle for any year’s accurate resemblance.
    Many thanks,
    Susan Block

  13. i hunt up there a lot and i wish i know were that sight was so i could stand there and know that there was a man standing there in the 50’s

  14. I think Bill Sharpe (NC Travel and Tourism) is the man who told me that the Plott Hounds were invited to Michigan once because that state was having problems with some bears. They started off with great enthusiasm but were distracted by a porcupine, a creature altogether new to them…Darned near ruined the dogs.

  15. Dustin, you’re right — I checked the book and an almost identical image does appear on p. 75, with no credit to Hugh Morton. Maybe the author/publisher got it from Collier’s?

  16. I ran across an interesting article in “The State Magazine” for March 20, 1948. It’s call “The Plott Hounds” by Harry Z. Tucker. The article is on pages 6 and 7.

  17. In re: Webster’s post.I adopted a Plott Hound puppy six months ago. At nine months she was smart enough to divert my roommates attention long enough to drink most of a pint glass of his beer. She gently picked up his cellphone and carried it into an adjoining room.He followed.She set the phone down,took an alternate route to where he’d left the beer and stuck her nose in the glass and started slurping it up.
    She’s been a great house dog but does like a lot of exercise.
    No idea how she’d do with a bear though…

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