Although bloodhounds look massive and menacing, they are anything but. These large, powerful dogs are in fact gentle, meek, and loving giants.
The main thing that sets these dogs apart from other breeds is their keen ability to track by scent rather than sight or sound. Originally, they were bred for hunting purposes, but today they have been specially bred to track humans, whether escaped prisoners, for example, or to find missing people, such as children. They are also sometimes bred to track animals, such as lost pets.
The Bloodhound likely originated from France, with the first known strains of this breed appearing about 1000 A.D. At that time, monks at the St. Hubert monastery in Belgium were breeding these dogs. In about 1200 A.D., the Abbey of St. Hubert began to send pairs of black hounds to the King of France as gifts. Although King Charles IX generally preferred the larger Chien-gris dogs (now extinct), and writer Jaques de Fouilloux considered them strong but with low, short legs making them only suitable as leash hounds, King Henry IV thought highly enough of them to present a pack to King James I of England. By the time Louis XIV's reign was over, the St. Hubert bloodhounds were increasingly rare.
During the revolution, the St. Hubert monastery stopped sending dogs to the Kings of France, and hunting in general decreased in popularity until the Napoleonic wars were over. In general, writers from that time agreed that the original St. Hubert bloodhounds' breed had died out in the 19th century. The European St. Hubert bloodhound replaced the original, coming about as a specific result of modern bloodhound breeding.
Bloodhounds were well established in England by about the mid-14th century, if English literature is to be believed. It may be that the modern bloodhound's ancestors were brought over by William the Conqueror from Normandy, but it's not known whether that is true. The Normans did bring hounds from Europe, but it's not known whether these were actually bloodhounds, or ancestors from whom the modern bloodhound was developed. Today's modern "bloodhound" gets its name not from its ability to track "blood" (scent) as is commonly believed, but from a reference to its pure bloodlines.
Bloodhounds were reportedly used to track people from the earliest times, with Robert the Bruce from medieval Scotland reporting that he was followed by sleuthhounds in 1307, as did William Wallace around the same time period.
Hunting uses, decline and resurgence in popularity
Although bloodhounds were commonly used for foxhunting and deer hunting in the 16th and 17th centuries, its popularity for this purpose nonetheless diminished. The breed was still kept by a few enthusiasts and aristocrats, and it began to reemerge as a popular show dog in the 19th century. In the later part of the 19th century, bloodhounds were imported from Britain by French enthusiasts who regretted that the St. Hubert line of bloodhounds had been allowed to become extinct. Today, the Federation Cynologique Internationale recognizes the bloodhound as the original Chiens de St Hubert bloodhound.
Bloodhounds were imported to the United States early on, although the exact year is not known. It is known that some type of "bloodhound" (although perhaps not pure) was used to track runaway slaves before the advent of the American Civil War. Truly pure bloodhounds (as opposed to those of questionable ancestry) were introduced and then bred in America beginning in the late 19th century. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1885.
Today, this dog is used extensively by law enforcement for tracking purposes and is also a beloved family pet. In fact, its ability to track by scent is deemed so accurate that it's used as evidence in courts of law.
The breed standard for the modern bloodhound goes back to medieval times. This powerful but lean dog weighs between 80 and 110 pounds, sometimes more, and stands 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder. This working dog and gentle family pet has a strong back and a long, narrow head and nose. Eyes are yellow to deep hazel, and the ears are thin, drooping and very long. The bloodhound has a lot of extra skin that makes it "wrinkled," hanging off the body. The folds of the skin are especially useful because they help the dog hold the scent while tracking. The coat is stiff, but has softer hair on the skull. Colors can be tan and liver, tan and black, tawny and red, and simply red. There may be some white patches on the chest and feet.
Perhaps the best word to describe this dog's personality is "patient," or even "long-suffering." The bloodhound's personality is gentle, lovable, exceedingly patient and mild-mannered, even meek. Bloodhounds are a children-friendly pet, so excellent with children and so patient that they'll take rough treatment without complaint, so you as the owner must be very careful not to let your small children overly "abuse" your pet. They love to receive attention from human owners, feel very much a part of the pack, and simply want to be part of the family.
Young puppies can be difficult to train because, although gentle and endlessly mild-mannered, they're also quite independent. This is especially true because of their extreme focus on scent. As scent dogs by nature, they'll follow a scent before they will listen to you! Young dogs can be boisterous and difficult to handle before the age of two, but will become much more mellow and obedient thereafter with proper training. They love and actually need an owner that has a calm, stern air. Anything else could elicit willfulness, especially from a young dog.
Above all, the bloodhound is a working dog that exists to track scents. That means that if he or she gets a scent and wants to follow it, you're going to have to be very stern if you don't want your pet to do so! They're so tenacious that they can find and then track scents that are over 100 hours old. Bloodhounds have been known to stay with trails for up to 100 miles, which means that when your dog is on a scent, he or she is in his or her element – not necessarily misbehaving, but simply "on the job." Knowing this and still providing your dog with a firm hand so that he or she will listen to you when the pull of the scent is so strong will help ensure that your pet stays well behaved.
Bloodhounds love everyone, and simply want to be bonded with their owners. They can actually do quite well even in small apartment settings, as long as they get plenty of physical activity including a daily walk. If you're not an owner who can physically handle a dog who wants to track a scent, though, it's best to choose a smaller breed. A very tenacious bloodhound "on a scent" can be very difficult to control indeed.
Unfortunately, the bloodhound is prone to significant health problems, including hip dysplasia, entropion (eyelids turning inward), and bloat. The most deadly of these is bloat, and it can become fatal very rapidly and without warning. Because of this, they do best with two or three small meals a day instead of one large one. Since bloat is so deadly, though, and because it can develop so rapidly, keep an eye on your pet for any digestive problems and get him or her to a vet immediately if you see any difficulty. The average lifespan for your pet will be about 10 to 12 years with proper care, exquisite attention to diet, and quick action when you see any digestive difficulties.
AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: Bloodhound.
Retrieved February 22, 2012.
Retrieved February 22, 2012.
Bloodhound (St. Hubert Hound) (Chien de Saint-Hubert) (Flemish Hound).
Retrieved February 22, 2012.
Group Classification: Hounds, Hound Group, Scenthound Breeds
Country of Origin: N/A
Date of Origin: N/A
Shedding: Moderate Shed
Body Size: N/A
Weight M: 90-110 pounds
Height M: 25-27 inches
Weight F: 80-100 pounds
Height F: 23-25 inches
Litter Size: 8-10 puppies
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
Recognized By: CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR
black and tan, liver and tan, or red. The darker colors are sometimes interspersed with lighter or badger-colored hair and some times flecked or roaned with white. White may also be found on the chest, feet and tip of stern.
While they can handle living in an apartment (they love being couch potatoes), it is best that they have a large yard to play in. They require a great deal of exercise, and play time. Leash walking is really your only option unless you are prepared to chase the dog once he has caught the scent of something that interests him. Don't over walk or run a young Hound or it will cause joint problems later. This dog will not do well being chained up all day.