He was a chieftain of the Di tribes 翟, yet some sources say that he was a descendant of Tang Shu Yu 唐叔虞, who was a brother of King Wu of Zhou 周武王 and also the ancestor of the house of Jin. He was the father-in-law of Prince Chong'er 重耳 of Jin, the eventual Duke Wen of Jin 晉文公 (r. 637-628).
Under Duke Xian 晉獻公 (r. 677-651), Hu Tu was a charioteer of Prince Shensheng 申生 in a campaign against the Red Di 赤狄 tribes of Gaoluo 皋落. Because Prince Shensheng was the Heir Apparent (taizi 太子), Hu Tu urged the Prince not to personally go into battle because this would offer an opportunity for his opponents to slander him at the court, with the argument that he planned to usurp the throne of his father. Yet the Prince ignored the warning and was consequently killed. Hu Tu thereupon retired from his position and refused to leave his home.
His sons Hu Yan 狐偃 and Hu Mao 狐毛 accompanied Prince Chong'er during his long years in exile. When Duke Huai 晉懷公 (r. 637) mounted the throne he ordered Hu Tu to have his sons return to Jin, yet Hu Tu refused, and was executed.