The Bloodhound, also known as the Saint Hubert Hound and Sleuth Hound, is one of the oldest and most famous breeds of dogs in the world. Bred for centuries for their unique tracking abilities, many believe that the Bloodhound has the most powerful sense of smell in the canine world. Originally bred for use in hunting deer and wild boar, the modern Bloodhound has become more famed for its ability to track humans. A large and powerful breed, Bloodhounds’ noses have been responsible for tracking everything from foxes and wolves to children and beloved pets that have gone missing. In fact the olfactory sense of Bloodhounds is so acute that those used for police and search and rescue work have successfully tracked scents in excess of a week old. In 1995, a Santa Clara County Bloodhound working with a search and rescue service successfully tracked down a man who had been missing for eight days.
Bloodhounds were one of the first dogs to be carefully bred according to a standard. Bloodhounds are probably one of the oldest breeds of dogs to originate in Europe. The origin of the Bloodhound dates back at least as early as the Seventh Century. It was at that time that Saint Hubert, a famous hunter known for his highly skilled deer-hunting hounds, converted to Christianity and abandoned the hunt for more ecclesiastical pursuits. Saint Hubert eventually became the patron saint of hounds and the hunt. It is unclear if the actual hounds used by Saint Hubert are the direct ancestors of the Bloodhound, but it is clear that the dogs bred by the monks at the monastery named after him were.
The Abbey of Saint Hubert is located in Mouzon in the Ardennes region of France. The Abbey became famous for breeding dogs in the Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance. The monks at Saint Hubert put a careful focus on their hound breeding that would be very rare until the Nineteenth Century. Their hounds were “blooded,” or “of pure blood.” These hunting dogs eventually became known as Saint Hubert Hounds. It is unclear exactly when the Saint Hubert Hound came into existence, but it most likely occurred sometime between 750 and 900, well over a thousand years ago.
It is unclear exactly what dogs the monks of the Abbey of Saint Hubert used to create their new breed. Some tales say that the dogs are the direct descendant’s of Saint Hubert’s hounds, although this is impossible to verify, and is probably unlikely. Perhaps the most common tale is that crusaders returning from the Holy Land brought back Arabic and Turkish hounds with them. However, this is unlikely as apparently no historic records exist of such a practice happening. Additionally, there are no Middle Eastern dog breeds modern or historical which closely resemble depictions of the Saint Hubert Hound. This theory is made even less likely by the fact that the Abbey of Saint Hubert began breeding their dogs sometime between 750 and 900, and the First Crusade did not begin until 1096. It is more likely that the Saint Hubert Hound was developed by carefully breeding local French hounds, with an occasional foreign dog with desirable traits added to the bloodlines.
The carefully bred hunting hounds became very desirable among the nobility, who enjoyed hunting as a primary pastime. They were widely famous for their keen sense of smell. It became customary for the Monastery to send six young hounds to the King of France every year, a tradition which lasted for centuries. The popularity of these dogs among the royal court varied, some kings used them extensively, while others avoided using them entirely. However, the dogs were continuously prized as gifts to the nobility. Royal favors led to the rapid spread of the Saint Hubert Hound across the entirety of the French and English dominions.
The Saint Hubert Hound and other hunting hounds played an important role in Medieval and Renaissance society. Hunting was one of the most treasured pastimes of the nobility. Royalty from across Europe engaged in hunting, and its near-universal popularity made it a major tool. A great deal of diplomacy, both international and intranational, was conducted over hunts. Bloodhounds were likely witness to the negotiations to some of the most important treaties in European history. Hunting excursions also built up camaraderie between kinds and nobles, as well as nobles and their knights. These trips built up personal and professional loyalty in times of rebellion and war. A gift of Bloodhounds was often more than a personal gift to a friend or relative, or even a showing of favor. It was part of a complicated system feudal system of competing loyalties and responsibilities. Such gifts strengthened bonds between often feuding lords which would later impact thousands of citizens of many nations.
While well-regarded in France, the Saint Hubert Hound became even more popular in England where the names Blooded Hound and Bloodhound became more common. To this day the Bloodhound is still known as the Saint Hubert Hound, although this is now somewhat archaic. In England, Bloodhounds began to be bred to work alongside horses. It was in England that the Bloodhound began to be used to track humans as well as animals. It is perhaps due to this use that the Bloodhound became associated with ancient English and Celtic myths. Throughout the British Isles, there are many traditional stories about Black Dogs and Hell Hounds. Seeing one of these creatures inevitably leads to the death of the viewer, and often their descent straight to Hell. Although these myths pre-date the creation of the Bloodhound, over the centuries the Bloodhound has taken the place of the dog breeds originally contained in them.
The Bloodhound was such a valued and respected breed in England that it was one of the first purebred dogs to be imported into the American Colonies. The earliest records of a Bloodhound in America can be found at The University of William and Mary. In 1607, Bloodhounds were brought to America to aid in defense against Native American tribes. If the Bloodhounds of the 17th Century were anything like the modern day breed which is so friendly as to be ill-suited for guard dog work, it is unlikely that they were particularly useful in this regard. However, the keen nose of the Bloodhound has always been well-respected in America, particularly in the American South. Throughout much of American history, the Bloodhound has been the only animal whose testimony was allowed in criminal cases. It was believed that the nose of the Bloodhound was reliable enough that their identification of a suspect was enough to send a prisoner to jail for the rest of his or her life, and in some instances for execution.
Unlike in Europe where the Bloodhound was often used as a hunting dog, in America the Bloodhound has traditionally been used to find humans. Regrettably, one of the Bloodhound’s first uses in America was to pursue escaped slaves. Eventually, the dogs began to be used extensively to search for criminals and escaped convicts, a role in which the Bloodhound excels to this day. More recently, Bloodhounds have been recruited to be search-and-rescue and drug-sniffing dogs, to great success. Bloodhounds are now even being used to track down and recover lost and runaway pets.
As one of one of the oldest pure-bred dogs, it should come as no surprise that the Bloodhound has long made appearances in conformation shows and in the registries of kennel clubs. The Bloodhound was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1885, one year after the AKC was founded. The American Bloodhound Club, or ABC, was founded in 1952. Due to the frequency and importance of the Bloodhound’s work in law enforcement, there are additional breed associations devoted to law enforcement Bloodhounds. The National Police Bloodhound Association was founded in 1966, and The Law Enforcement Bloodhound Association was founded in 1988.
It is very possible that the temperament of the Bloodhound has changed substantially over the history of the breed. Several early historical mentions are similar to those of The University of William and Mary mentioned previously, of a dog which may have been used in war or battle. There are also the many associations of the Bloodhound with violent and demonic dogs throughout the British Isles. It is possible that Bloodhounds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were far more aggressive than the sweet and affectionate dogs of today. This makes sense in many ways. An animal used to track and hunt large and potentially dangerous game species such as deer needs some amount of tenacity and ferocity. It is also the case that hounds had a far more generalized purpose in the Middle Ages than they did later on. Hounds were often expected to be more than just hunting companions; they were also responsible for personal protection of their masters and the estates on which they lived. This also requires dogs with a certain amount of aggression and protective instinct. However, as Bloodhounds began to be used exclusively for hunting, a premium was put on their lack of aggression and responsiveness towards their handlers. This process was likely furthered when the dogs began to be used to track people instead of animals. It is generally undesirable for a search-and-rescue dog to attack its quarry upon finding it.
The keen nose of the Bloodhound, along with his great fame in crime fighting and distinctive serious appearance, has led to Bloodhounds being portrayed extensively in popular media. Although normally portrayed as a Great Dane or Mastiff, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskerville’s was likely based on a Bloodhound. The popular Hanna Barbera cartoon Huckleberry Hound was a Bloodhound, as was Trusty from Lady and the Tramp. Perhaps most fittingly, Scruff McGruff, the crime-fighting dog, is a Bloodhound. The breed’s continuing popularity can be seen by its appearance in more recent films, such as Sweet Home Alabama.
Because of the Bloodhound’s antiquity and reputation, the breed has been incredibly influential in the creation and improvement of many other breeds. For many centuries if breeders desired to improve their dogs’ sense of smell, the introduction of Bloodhound into the gene pool was one of the primary ways to do so. Bloodhounds have been very important in the development of many French and British hounds. The Bloodhound is believed to have figured prominently in the ancestry of many Swiss Hounds as well, particularly the Saint Hubert Jura Laufhund. The Bloodhound likely featured prominently in the development of several American Coonhound breeds as well; the Black and Tan Coonhound is thought to have been heavily influenced by the Bloodhound.
Unlike many other breeds who are now kept primarily as companions, there are still a large number of Bloodhounds performing their original purpose. Thousands of Bloodhounds are used by military, search-and-rescue, and law-enforcement agencies around the United States and the World. These dogs are used to sniff out anything from homemade explosive to lost kittens. However, their kind and gentle nature, combined with their unique and charming appearance is leading to more and more families deciding to keep Bloodhounds for no purpose other than companionship.
Origin of the Breeds Name
There is considerable dispute in modern times as to how the breed was originally named. Many modern historians tend to claim that the Bloodhound was not named for their ability to smell blood, but rather because they are blooded, or pure-bred. This theory seems to have sprung from the nineteenth century writings of Le Couteulx de Canteleu, and has been enthusiastically and uncritically repeated by later writers, perhaps because changing the origin of the name would far remove this unquestionably good-natured breed from suggestions of a blood thirsty temperament. Unfortunantly, however, neither de Canteleu, nor any later authors ever provided any historical evidence to support this point of view. What is historically accurate is that the first person to consider how the named was derived was John Caius (1576); unquestionably the most important figure in chronicling the early history of the Bloodhound. In his works he makes numerous descriptions of Bloodhounds and their usage, detailing their use in game parks to follow the scent of blood, the breeds ability to track thieves and poachers by their foot scent, how it would wail if it should lose the scent when thieves cross water. He also details their usage in and around the Scottish borders (the borderland) to track cross-border raiders, known as Border Reivers. Cauis also made the following additional notations about the Bloodhound:
To him, Bloodhounds derived their name from their ability to follow blood-trails. In the absence of any earlier discussion, or any evidence to the contrary, there is no reason to doubt Caius. Additionally the use of the word "Blood" in reference to lineage as in a ‘blood-horse’ or ‘blood-stock’ came hundreds of years after the observations of Caius. Therefore we are left with a lack of an earlier usage, or any historical evidence, to support the modern explanation for the breeds name; as such the older assertion by Cauis must be regarded as correct
The Bloodhound is one of the most distinctive and familiar looking breeds of dogs found in the world. They have the traditional wrinkled face, droopy ears, and “sad” eyes associated with most scent hounds. These very large dogs are famous for having a “serious” expression and large, drooling mouth.
Bloodhounds are one of the largest and heaviest breeds of hound. Male Bloodhounds should be between 25 and 27 inches in height and weigh between 90 and 110 pounds. The slightly smaller females should be between 23 and 25 inches in height and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. The dog’s weight should always be proportionate to its height. Breeders and judges prefer dogs which are towards the taller and heavier end of the spectrum, provided that the animal is in good health and condition. Bloodhounds are first and foremost working dogs, and should always appear in healthy condition.
Bloodhounds are found in several different but similar colors. The most popular image of a Bloodhound is of a tan and black animal, although Bloodhounds also come in tan and liver, as well as red. Many of the tan and black and tan and liver colored Bloodhounds have a distinctive saddle shaped marking on their backs, this marking is of the darker coat color. This pattern is particularly prominent in tan and black Bloodhounds. Areas of darker-colored hair often have lighter colored hair interspersed among them. Small patches of white hair are acceptable around the feet and the chest.
Bloodhounds have been bred to maximize their sense of smell for over a thousand years. Most of the Bloodhound’s appearance is a result of these centuries of breeding for purpose. Bloodhounds have long snouts and protruding noses, which give them a greater area to have scent receptors. Bloodhounds have wrinkled jowls, which are said to collect and trap scent particles from the ground, although whether or not this is actually the case is scientifically disputed. The long, drooping ears of the Bloodhound are said to collect scent particles, as well as to buffer them back to the nose, although many believe that this is unlikely. The Bloodhound’s eyes are sunk deeply into its face, giving the dog the “serious” expression for which it is so famous. The color of a Bloodhound’s eyes should be similar to that of its coat. The wrinkles on the jowls often extend well up the face, and sometimes as far as the neck, although not nearly to the extent of a Mastiff or a Bulldog. In general, Bloodhounds appear to have excess skin over almost their entire bodies, which can appear to jiggle and move as they walk.
Bloodhounds should appear somewhat muscular, particularly in the legs. However, these dogs are not typically as obviously muscular as some other breeds of hound such as Coonhounds. A Bloodhound should have a relatively long tail, which is usually held erect, almost like a saber.
Bloodhounds are well-known for being non-aggressive, and sometimes even affectionate. These dogs have been bred to track and trail human beings, without attacking or harming them when they reach their quarry. This means that they are less likely to show human aggression than many other breeds. Bloodhounds are known for being exceptionally gentle with children. If you are looking for a guard dog, you would definitely be better off looking elsewhere. Many Bloodhounds trained for law enforcement and search and rescue work come home every night as loving members of the family.
However, Bloodhounds are definitely not the right pet for everyone. These dogs have a reputation for being extremely difficult to train. Bloodhounds have been bred to be stubborn. Their stubbornness makes them great at tracking very old scent trails for many miles over rough and challenging terrain. It is what allows them to pursue quarry for hour after hour until they have reached their goal. It also means that they don’t like to be told what to do. In fact, many Bloodhounds are very, very poor at listening to and responding to commands. This does not mean that Bloodhounds are stupid or bad natured. Quite the opposite is true. It does mean that you will have to spend a great deal more time training a Bloodhound than you would most other breeds of dog. Even with that extra effort, you will probably never see the results that you may expect or like. Many Bloodhounds are food motivated, so plenty of treats will help. Unfortunately, this training difficulty extends to housebreaking. Expect housebreaking a Bloodhound to take a significant amount of effort, and to last much longer than you may expect.
Another potential problem resulting from the Bloodhound stubbornness is a tendency to escape. Bloodhounds will get on a trail and follow it for hours, and sometimes even days. They will keep right on going, without even noticing that you aren’t following. They may end up many miles away, or worse get hit by a car. You should always, always keep a Bloodhound on a sturdy leash. If you do leave a Bloodhound in an area unleashed, make sure that there is a tall and sturdy fence. These dogs are strong and powerful enough to jump over or go through most fences if they have the desire. They are also extremely difficult to call back after they get on a trail, because of their stubbornness and selective hearing. It is probably unadvisable to leave these dogs unsupervised outside as they are also quite capable of digging under fences.
Bloodhounds are known for extended puppyhoods. They take longer to mature than most other breeds. This means that you will have to deal with a playful and bouncy puppy for longer. For many fans of the breed, this is great and exciting. Others find it less desirable. If you want to avoid extra rambunctiousness, you may want to consider adopting an adult dog.
Most breeds of hound were bred to work in packs, making them excellent companions for other dogs. Bloodhounds are somewhat of an exception. Bloodhounds are often used alone or in small pairs. While many Bloodhounds get along very well with other dogs, it is somewhat common for them to show aggression towards dogs of the same sex. If you want to either introduce a Bloodhound to an existing dog family, or a new dog into an existing Bloodhound family, it is advisable that the two be of opposite sexes.
Bloodhounds have been used primarily to track humans for a very long time, and more recently other pets. This means that they tend to show less animal aggression than many other breeds of hound, and may be a better choice for multi-animal households than some other hunting breeds. However, they were still initially bred to hunt and kill other animals. This means that some Bloodhounds still exhibit fairly intense prey drives. If you wish to have a Bloodhound co-exist with other creatures, it is best to acclimate them from a very young age.
Bloodhounds need to get sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. These are animals designed to work for long hours thinking through problems. If their needs are not met, they can become destructive, very destructive. This is a very muscular, powerful, hundred pound animal. Bloodhounds are also infamous chewers, willing to put pretty much anything they can find into their mouths. Unexercised Bloodhounds can also become extremely bouncy and excitable, particularly with new guests. Most houseguests will not be comfortable with a massive dog jumping all the way to their shoulders and slobbering on their face.
There are a few other unique aspects of the Bloodhound that prospective owners should be aware of. Bloodhounds drool, and not a little. There will be a regular stream of drool coming out of almost any Bloodhound’s mouth. This drool will get all over your clothes. It will get all over your furniture and carpets. It will get all over you and your guests. Bloodhounds are also loud, very, very loud. Their bay has alerted their handlers that they are on the scent for centuries. It excites both them and those on the hunt. They were bred to be loud enough to be heard over horses, yelling, and horns. They can easily be heard over all of those things. The bay of a Bloodhound is one of the loudest noises that any dog can make. They will also make it quite frequently, sometimes for long stretches of time. If you have ever watched an old crime or prison break movie and heard the very distinctive and very loud howling of dogs chasing the criminal down, those were Bloodhounds. Bloodhounds may lead to some noise complaints and angry neighbors.
Black and Tan Coonhounds should require very little professional grooming, if any at all. Regular brushing should be all that most Bloodhounds need for their coats. This is not to say that Bloodhounds are not shedders. Some Bloodhounds are very prolific shedders, although not to the extent of some other hound breeds. Sometimes, their fur will get stuck to trails of slobber, making it somewhat sticky. Bloodhounds also sometimes have a fairly strong “doggy odor” that many people dislike.
Just because a Bloodhound’s coat is easy to maintain does not mean that a Bloodhound is a low maintenance dog. Bloodhound owners must pay special attention to their dogs’ wrinkles, and droopy ears. A Bloodhound must regularly have its jowls an ears cleaned to prevent infection and foul odors. It is definitely advisable to start doing so from a very young age to avoid difficulty and fear when the dog grows to full size and strength.
Unfortunately, Bloodhounds suffer from a number of health problems. They are victim to many of the ailments common among both purebred dogs and large breeds. The ears of Bloodhounds are particularly susceptible to infections. Bloodhounds are known for having comparatively short lifespans, roughly 10 years.
The most serious health concern for Bloodhound owners is bloat. The American Bloodhound Club, as well as many veterinarians, is very concerned with this condition, also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus Syndrome. Bloodhounds are particularly susceptible to the rapidly developing and potentially fatal condition. Bloat occurs when part of a dog’s digestive system, usually a part of the intestines, becomes looped around itself. This completely blocks the system. Mortality rates range from 10% to 60% depending on several factors. Even with quick detection and surgery, mortality rates are as high as 37%. One of the most common causes of bloat is overeating followed by over exercise. It is important that Bloodhound owners are careful about how much that they feed their dogs, and also that they restrict their exercise after eating.
It is always advisable to get your Bloodhounds, and all other dogs, tested by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia. These conditions can be detected, and potentially prevented in your dog. It is also possible to avoid breeding animals with these conditions and thus eliminate or reduce their occurrence in future generations.
Other problems that have been reported to affect Bloodhounds include: