References to bloodhounds first appear in English writing in the mid 14th century, in contexts that suggest the breed was well established by then. It is often claimed that its ancestors were brought over from Normandy by William the Conqueror, but there is no actual evidence for this. That the Normans brought hounds from Europe during the post-Conquest period is virtually certain, but whether they included the Bloodhound itself, rather than merely its ancestors, is a matter of dispute that probably cannot be resolved on the basis of surviving evidence.
In Medieval hunting the typical use of the Bloodhound was as a ‘limer’, or ‘lyam-hound’, that is a dog handled on a leash or ‘lyam’, to find the hart or boar before it was hunted by the pack hounds (raches). It was prized for its ability to hunt the cold scent of an individual animal, and, though it did not usually take part in the kill, it was given a special reward from the carcase.
It also seems that from the earliest times the Bloodhound was used to track people. There are stories written in Medieval Scotland of Robert the Bruce (in 1307), and William Wallace (1270–1305) being followed by 'sleuth hounds’. Whether true or not, these stories show that the sleuth hound was already known as a man-trailer, and it later becomes clear that the sleuth hound and the Bloodhound were the same animal.
In the 16th century, John Caius, in unquestionably the most important single source in the history of the Bloodhound, describes its hanging ears and lips, its use in game parks to follow the scent of blood, which gives it its name, its ability to track thieves and poachers by their foot scent, how it casts if it has lost the scent when thieves cross water, and its use on the Scottish borders to track cross-border raiders, known as Border Reivers. This links it to the sleuth hound, and from Caius also comes the information that the English Bloodhound and the sleuth hound were essentially the same, though the Bloodhound was slightly bigger, with more variation in coat colour.
The earliest known report of a trial of the Bloodhound's trailing abilities comes from the scientist Robert Boyle, who described how a Bloodhound tracked a man seven miles along a route frequented by people, and found him in an upstairs room of a house.
With the rise of fox-hunting, the decline of deer-hunting, and the extinction of the wild boar, as well as a more settled state of society, the use of the Bloodhound diminished. It was kept by the aristocratic owners of a few deer-parks and by a few enthusiasts, with some variation in type, until its popularity began to increase again with the rise of dog-showing in the 19th Century. Numbers, however, have remained low in Britain. Very few survived the Second World War, but the gene-pool has gradually been replenished with imports from America. Nevertheless, because of UK quarantine restrictions, importing was expensive and difficult, throughout the 20th century, and in the post-war period exports to the USA, and to Europe where the population had also been affected by the war, considerably exceeded imports.
During the later 19th century numbers of Bloodhounds were imported from Britain by French enthusiasts, who regretted the extinction of the ancient St Hubert. They wished to re-establish it, using the Bloodhound, which, despite its developments in Britain, they regarded as the St Hubert preserved unchanged. Many of the finest specimens were bought and exhibited and bred in France as Chiens de S. Hubert, especially by Le Couteulx de Canteleu, who himself bred over 300. Whatever few original St Huberts remained either died out or were absorbed into the new population. As a result, the Bloodhound became known on parts of the Continent as the Chien de Saint-Hubert. In the mid 20th century the Brussels-based FCI accepted the claim of Belgium to be the country of origin. There are now annual celebrations in the town of Saint-Hubert, in which handlers in period dress parade their hounds. In Britain the bloodhound has continued to be seen as a native breed, with European St Huberts being accepted by the UK KC as bloodhounds.
In Le Couteulx’ book of 1890 we read that ‘Le Chien de St Hubert actuel’ is very big, from 0m,69 to 0m,80 (27½-31½in) high. This does not accord with the 16th century descriptions of the St Hubert given above, nor with the FCI standard, but the idea that the St Hubert is much bigger (up to 0.915m, 36 in) than the Bloodhound persisted well into the 20th century, among some St Hubert enthusiasts.
When the first Bloodhounds were exported to the USA is not known. Bloodhounds were used to track runaway slaves before the American Civil War, but it has been questioned whether the dogs used were genuine Bloodhounds. However, in the later part of the 19th century, and in the next, more pure Bloodhounds were introduced from Britain, and bred in America, especially after 1888, when the English breeder, Edwin Brough, brought three of his hounds to exhibit at the Westminster KC show in New York City. He went into partnership with Mr J L Winchell, who with other Americans, imported more stock from Britain. Bloodhounds in America have been more widely used in tracking lost people and criminals - often with brilliant success - than in Britain, and the history of the Bloodhound in America is full of the man-trailing exploits of outstanding Bloodhounds and their expert handlers, the most famous hound being Nick Carter. Law enforcement agencies have been much involved in the use of Bloodhounds, and there is a National Police Bloodhound Association, originating in 1962.
In Britain there have been instances from time to time of the successful use of the Bloodhound to track criminals or missing people. However man-trailing is enjoyed as a sport by British Bloodhound owners, through national working trials, and this enthusiasm has spread to Europe. In addition, while the pure Bloodhound is used to hunt singly, bloodhound packs use bloodhounds crossed with foxhounds to hunt the human scent.
Meanwhile, the Bloodhound has become widely distributed internationally, though numbers are small in most countries, with more in the USA than anywhere else. Following the spread of the Bloodhound from Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, imports and exports and, increasingly, artificial insemination, are maintaining the world population as a common breeding stock, without a great deal of divergence in type in different countries.
Bloodhounds are now coloured red, black and tan or liver and tan; however, until Elizabethan times they also occurred in other solid colours, including white, and all other hound colours. It is possible that the Talbot, now extinct, was a white Bloodhound, but this is uncertain.
During the late 19th century, Bloodhounds were frequent subjects for artists such as Edwin Landseer and Briton Riviere; the dogs depicted are close in appearance to modern Bloodhounds, indicating that the essential character of the Bloodhound predates modern dog breeding. However, the dogs depicted by Landseer show less wrinkle and haw than modern dogs.
Throughout most of its history the bloodhound was seen as a dog of English or Anglo-Scottish origin, either of unknown ancestry, or, more recently, as developed in part from the St Hubert. It was only in the 19th century that it was claimed, primarily by Le Couteulx, to be the St Hubert itself. Medieval hunting pictures show raches and limers, of the general sagax type, with hanging ears and lips, but not having the specific characteristics of the bloodhound. 16th century descriptions of the St Hubert as short-legged, and only medium sized have led to speculation that the main European antecedent of the bloodhound was rather the Norman hound, which was very large, than the St Hubert. Others such as the sleuth-hound, the Talbot, the dun-hound and the southern hound, as well as pack hounds, have also been supposed to have contributed to its make-up. Some writers doubt whether anything certain can be said about specific breed ancestry beyond the last few centuries. The picture given by Le Couteulx and D’Yauville of the St Hubert was that it changed considerably through mixed breeding, and perhaps degenerated, before its disappearance, while the bloodhound which replaced it, preserved its original character. However, it is apparent from 16th century pictures that the bloodhound itself has changed considerably. The modern St Hubert is the English bloodhound, in descent and type. Generally, national and regional variants of hounds, terriers, spaniels etc. have been recognised as separate breeds, France in particular having many regional breeds of hound; the bloodhound’s identification as the St Hubert makes it an anomaly in this respect. Whether the bloodhound is British or Belgian in origin is ultimately not something one can prove historically, depending as it does on whether one chooses to regard two related animals differing in tradition, and history, and somewhat in type, as separate breeds, or variants of the same one.
Descriptions of the desirable physical qualities of a hunting hound go back to Medieval books on hunting. All dogs used in the hunting field were 'gentle', that is of good breeding (not necessarily pure breeding), and parents were carefully chosen to maintain and improve conformation. In 1896, making some use of wording found in earlier descriptions, Edwin Brough and Dr J Sidney Turner published Points and Characteristics of the Bloodhound or Sleuth-Hound. This was adopted by the newly-formed Association of Bloodhound Breeders, and ultimately became, with very little change, the 'official' breed standard of the KC and the AKC. Meanwhile, the Belgian or Dutch Comte Henri de Bylandt, or H A graaf van Bylandt, published Races des Chiens in 1897, a huge and very important illustrated compilation of breed descriptions, or standards. In this French edition the Bloodhound appears as the Chien de St Hubert, although the pictures illustrating the standard are all of British Bloodhounds, many of them those of Edwin Brough. The book was revised and reprinted in four languages in 1904, and in this edition the English text of the standard is that of the Association of Bloodhound Breeders, while the French text is closely based on it. However, the present FCI standard uses a quite different layout and wording. The AKC standard has hardly been altered from the original of 1896, the principal change being that the colours, 'black and tan', 'red and tan', and 'tawny', have been renamed as 'black and tan', 'liver and tan', and 'red', but the British KC has made considerable changes. Some of these were simply matters of presentation and did not affect content. However, responding to the view that the requirements of some breed standards were potentially detrimental to the health or well-being of the animal, changes have been made affecting the required eye-shape and the loose skin, the most recent revision being 2008-9.
Derivation of name
The word 'bloodhound' is recorded from c1350. Most recent accounts say that its etymological meaning is ‘hound of pure or noble blood’. This derives from an original suggestion of Le Couteulx de Canteleu in the nineteenth century, which has been enthusiastically and uncritically espoused by later writers, perhaps because it absolved this undoubtedly good-natured dog from suggestions of bloodthirstiness. Neither Le Couteulx nor anyone since has offered any historical evidence to support this view. The suggestion sometimes seen that the word derives from 'blooded hound' is without basis, as the expression does not appear in early English, and 'blooded' in this meaning is not found before the nineteenth century. Before then 'bloodhound' had been taken to mean, 'hound for blood', or ‘blood-seeking hound’. This was the explanation put forward by John Caius, who was one of the most learned men of his time, and had an interest in etymology, in the sixteenth century. It is supported by considerable historical linguistic evidence, which can be gleaned from such sources as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED): the fact that first uses of the word ‘blood’ to refer to good breeding in an animal post date the first use of ‘Bloodhound’; that other comparable uses, as in ‘blood-horse’ and ‘blood-stock’ appear many centuries later; and that derogatory uses of the word ‘Bloodhound’, which any suggestion of noble breeding would sadly weaken, appear from as early as c1400. Other early sources tell us that hounds were supposed to have an interest in blood, and that the Bloodhound was used to follow the trail of a wounded animal. In the absence of anything in early usage, or any historical evidence whatsoever, to support the modern explanation, the older must be regarded as correct.
(text from Wikipedia.org)
The Bloodhound is a very powerful, massive hound dog. The back is very strong for the dog's size. The head is long and narrow in proportion to the dog's length, and long in proportion to the body. The muzzle is long and the nose is black. The deeply sunk eyes are diamond in shape due to the lower lids being dragged down and turned outward by the heavy upper lids. Color varies from a deep hazel to yellow. The thin, soft, drooping ears are set very low and extremely long. The Bloodhound has a lot of extra, wrinkled skin hanging excessively loose, even more so around the head and neck where it hangs in deep folds. The dewlap is very pronounced. The muscular, front legs are straight. The tail is carried high with a slight curve above the topline of the back. The folds of the skin aid the dog in holding in scent particles while tracking. The coat is wrinkled, short and fairly hard in texture, with softer hair on the ears and skull. Colors include black & tan, liver & tan, red & tawny and red. Sometimes there is a small amount of white on the chest, feet and tip of the stern.
Bloodhounds are the perfect companion pet for a human who wants a challenge. Their noble expression can be quite charming and a Bloodhound will be the most affectionate and loyal dog in the world, but you will earn it! They are stubborn. They like to be in charge and they assume that they are. While some breeds aim to please you, the Bloodhound aims to challenge you, just for his own entertainment. Possessing a superior sense of smell, a Bloodhound is likely to take off on a trail ignoring all your commands to stop. They need to be in a fenced-in yard (and they don't do well with invisible fences) or on a leash at all times. However, they can pull like a tractor, so start training them to walk on a leash early!
A bloodhound puppy usually starts behaving like an adult at about three years old, but you will be training your bloodhound for his whole life. A "teenage" bloodhound will be very energetic and need lots of exercise. A "mature" bloodhound might nap all day.
Bloodhounds of all ages will need to spend time with you and hate to be left alone. With lots of love and patience, the bloodhound can be well-trained and well-behaved, and several of them have done well in obedience competition. They are very intelligent, but it takes a while for them to learn not to chew and eat batteries, rocks, towels, and diapers. They are incredibly gentle with children, but need to be closely supervised, because children will be tempted to pull on the Bloodhound's extra skin. Their bark is frighteningly loud and deep. They also howl. So while they can be particularly stinky due to the folds in their skin, and while they can be a touch stubborn, while they can shoot drool and slobber on four walls at once, they are also loveable, loving, loyal, and fun, unless you want them to play fetch -- that they just will not do. They will shower you in cuddles and attention and needs lot of cuddles and attention in return.
Height: Males 25 - 27 inches (63 – 69 cm) Females 23 - 25 inches (58 – 63 cm)
Weight: Males 90 - 110 pounds (41 – 50 kg) Females 80 - 100 pounds (36 – 45 kg)
The Bloodhound will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised. They are relatively inactive indoors and do best with at least an average-sized yard.
The Bloodhound needs regular opportunities to romp and play, preferably in a large fenced in area. The Bloodhound has the tendency to overeat so regular exercise is a must if this breed is to stay healthy and active. At least 90 minutes per day is required to keep this dog healthy, happy, and in shape. Bloodhounds do best with acreage and a large area to roam in however can do well if they have an owner that has a regular exercise regimen.
The Bloodhound is extremely intelligent and eager to please his owner however can be very stubborn making training a definite task. Gentle handling and speaking is a must as this breed can be very sensitive, but consistency is also necessary if this breed is to thrive and learn. Bloodhounds can be very slow to house train and train period, however if proper training exercises are followed on a regular basis, this breed should excel and become a wonderful family and/or hunting companion.
Grooming / Care:
The Bloodhound has a very short, and hard coat that should cover the entire body and should be close lying. The hair should be softer on the head and ears while the remaining hair should be harsh and coarse. This breed requires little grooming, however the ears should be cleaned regularly to prevent any problems that could arise.
As a hunting hound, the bloodhound needs a good deal of daily exercise. It was bred to trail through any hardship, and once on a trail it cannot be called off. It thus must be exercised in a safe area. The bloodhound drools a lot, so its facial wrinkles require daily cleaning; the ear tips drag in food and must also be kept clean. The ear canals also need regular cleaning for good health. Coat care is minimal, requiring only occasional brushing or wiping. Bloodhounds can live outside in temperate climates if they are given plenty of shelter and soft, warm bedding. Most do best as indoor/outdoor dogs; note, however, that this is not the breed for people obsessed with cleanliness in the house!
The bloodhound is a steadfast trailer, built for endurance rather than speed. Its skin is thin and loose, falling in wrinkles around its head and throat. Its long ears are supposed to stir up scents as the ears rake along the ground, and its profuse wrinkles are said to trap the odors around the face, although neither of these assertions has ever been scientifically verified. Its dense short coat protects it from being caught in brambles. Its docile temperament makes it nonthreatening to the humans it is sometimes now called upon to trail. Its gait is elastic and free, with tail held high. Its expression is noble and dignified.
For all its calm manners at home, the bloodhound is a tireless trailer once on the track. It is tough, stubborn and independent, yet it is so gentle and placid that it is extremely trustworthy around children — although it may not be playful enough for some children's needs. Nonetheless, it is not the lazy ol' hound dog portrayed in folklore but instead an active, playful companion. Although not the easiest breed to train for traditional obedience, it is exceptionally easy to train in tasks involving trailing. The bloodhound is reserved with strangers.