The Bloodhound, also known as the Chien de Saint-Hubert and the St. Hubert Hound, is the oldest and largest breed of hounds that hunt entirely by scent. It has also been called the Sleuth Hound, Sleughhound, Sleuth Dog, Slot Hound, Slough Dog, Slughound, Sluithound and Sluth Hound. Whatever it is called, the Bloodhound is one of the most docile and gentle of all canine breeds. It is said that "no nose knows like the Bloodhound's nose." His unrivaled ability to follow even the faintest scent always ends when he has followed the trail to its logical termination; unlike a police- or military-trained dog, he will not apprehend or hold his quarry and is more likely to lick it than to bite it. The Bloodhound's tracking ability is so remarkable and reliable that the end-result of his efforts has been accepted as evidence by many courts of law. According to the American Kennel Club, some of the great Bloodhounds in this country have brought about more convictions for police departments than have the best human detectives. One famous Bloodhound in the late 1890s purportedly picked up a trail that was more than 105 hours old, resulting in a conviction. Bloodhounds reportedly have successfully followed trails that are more than 14 days old. They continue to be used by law enforcement and search-and-rescue organizations in their traditional capacities, but they also compete successfully in obedience and in the conformation show ring.
The source of the name of this breed is controversial. Most experts believe that it stems from the extreme care that was taken to keep this breed pure, going back to the twelfth century and even earlier. They came to be called the "blooded hound," referring to the purity of their pedigree and their ownership almost exclusively by persons of nobility. "Blooded hound" was meant to mean "aristocratic." Centuries later, a noted English physician and dog-lover offered another explanation for the name, suggesting that Bloodhounds were well-known to follow their prey not only while it was alive but also after death, once they caught the scent of blood.
The average Bloodhound stands 23 to 27 inches at the withers and weighs between 80 and 120 pounds. The taller and heavier animals are preferred, assuming that both overall quality and proportion are maintained. Bloodhounds have thin skin that hangs loosely in deep folds, particularly around the face and neck, resembling an oversized, ill-fitting suit. They are low maintenance dogs that require minimal brushing to keep their short, smooth, water-resistant coats clean. Their long, soft ears do require regular cleaning. Bloodhounds have a uniquely melodious voice that is difficult to ignore, but despite their reputation they do not typically bay or howl throughout the chase.
The Bloodhound is an ancient breed documented as early as the third century A.D. Their precise origin is unknown, but they are thought to have descended from dogs in the ancient Mediterranean, having been bred selectively over many centuries. Bloodhounds appeared in Europe long before the Crusades. Two particular strains developed: the black type called the famed "St. Hubert's Hound" of the seventh and eighth century, and the whites later known simply as the "Southern Hounds." Dogs from the St. Hubert's line apparently were exported to Great Britain in the eleventh century to become what we know as the Bloodhounds of today; the white Southern Hounds are thought to have eventually become predecessors of today's Talbot Hound, although this not certain. In the twelfth century, church dignitaries and royalty fostered development of the breed. High ecclesiastics maintained packs of Bloodhounds, and the kennel seemed to be an essential part of almost every English monastery. Great care was taken to preserve the purity of the Bloodhound, whose original function was to follow the scent of wounded wolves, deer and other large game. As the deer population dwindled over the ensuing centuries, English sportsmen became more interested in hunting the fox, which required a much faster scent-tracking hound. The Foxhound eventually replaced the Bloodhound as the preferred tracking companion in Britain, while Bloodhounds evolved to become trackers of poachers and other people.
The original St. Hubert's Hound became extinct during the French Revolution. In the late eighteenth century, only the British black-and-tan Bloodhound remained. Throughout the nineteenth century, the British Bloodhound was widely exported to other countries, which helped preserve the breed that almost disappeared from England by the end of World War II.
In the New World, Bloodhounds initially were bred as scent hounds specifically to track humans, particularly Native American Indians, runaway slaves and escaped criminals. In 1977, a pack of Bloodhounds was responsible for successfully tracking James Earl Ray, the murderer of Martin Luther King, Jr., after he escaped from prison and fled to the Tennessee hills. Today, Bloodhounds continue to work in tracking missing people but also are extensively used as police dogs and in search-and-rescue efforts. Their tracking capabilities are unmatched by any other animal, be it canine or human. They have been selectively bred as "finders," not as "killers" or "hunters." They are excellent companion and competition dogs and are almost overpoweringly friendly, although they can have a stubborn streak and probably are not the best choice for first-time dog owners. If left unattended or not safely confined, a Bloodhound's nose can get him into trouble. Bloodhounds were accepted into the American Kennel Club's Hound Group in 1885. The American Bloodhound Club was formed in 1952 to encourage and promote quality in the breeding of purebred Bloodhounds and to protect and advance the best interests of the breed.
Bloodhounds live on average between 10 and 12 years. Breed health concerns may include gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat), ear infections, entropion (usually of the upper eyelids), ectropion, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Dry Eye), prolapse of the gland of the nictitating membrane ("cherry-eye") and hip dysplasia. They also can be prone to congenital aortic stenosis. Their skin folds must be kept clean to prevent infection, and they tend to slobber.
Hollywood has given us two images of the droopy-faced Bloodhound. One, a focused detective's companion, sniffing out the bad guys from wherever they hide. Two, a lazy porch-dweller sitting along side southern gentlemen as they sip their iced tea. Neither of these images is entirely wrong. Bloodhounds are some of the best tracking dogs around, and they do love to relax. A laid back breed that is very good with children and other pets; Bloodhounds make excellent companions for families of any size.
The Bloodhound's reputation for relaxation can be misleading. While they are happy to nap the afternoon away, they do need lots of activity. They will do ok in an apartment, as long as they get several long walks a day. A house with a fenced in yard where he can run and romp with children or other dogs is the most ideal situation for a Bloodhound. The fence is very important – if a Bloodhound catches a scent and decides to take off, you'll have a hard time getting him back home.
Those who consider themselves to be "outdoorsy" should consider a Bloodhound. He makes an excellent hiking companion and will happily trot alongside joggers and bikers.
Bloodhounds are intelligent and in addition to physical activity, they need lots of mental activity as well. Problem solving or tracking activities can satisfy their need for mental stimulation.
Bloodhounds are stubborn and intelligent. They can spot a "softy" a mile away and will use his droopy eyes to manipulate a situation. It is important to be consistent and confident when training a Bloodhound – but never be stern or forceful. They are sensitive animals and will not respond well to harsh treatment. Positive reinforcement and lots of treats will help get desired behavior from a Bloodhound.
Bloodhounds are happy when they are able to track. Enrolling a Bloodhound in tracking activities can keep him happy and entertained year-round. Hunters won't need to put too much work into training a Bloodhound, his talents are inborn. They are such good trackers that Bloodhounds are often used by law enforcement to find missing children and wily criminals.
Bloodhounds take a while to grow up, so owners should be prepared for a prolonged puppyhood that includes chewing, barking and lots of jumping on people and things. Housetraining can also take a long time with this breed.
Bloodhounds are notorious for baying, especially at night or when left alone. They probably shouldn't be left outside at night – they will wake the entire neighborhood. Separation anxiety can also develop with Bloodhounds. They love spending time with their families and if they aren't exercised enough, can develop anxiety when left alone that usually manifests itself in chewing behaviors. And finally, Bloodhounds slobber and drool. A lot. Someone who has lots of expensive couches might want to reconsider adopting a bloodhound because he'll want to be near his people when they relax and there is no stopping the drool.
The Bloodhound possesses, in a most marked degree, every point and characteristic of those dogs which hunt together by scent (Sagaces). He is very powerful, and stands over more ground than is usual with hounds of other breeds. The skin is thin to the touch and extremely loose, this being more especially noticeable about the head and neck, where it hangs in deep folds.
The mean average height of adult dogs is 26 inches, and of adult bitches 24 inches. Dogs usually vary from 25 inches to 27 inches, and bitches from 23 inches to 25 inches; but, in either case, the greater height is to be preferred, provided that character and quality are also combined.
The mean average weight of adult dogs, in fair condition, is 90 pounds, and of adult bitches 80 pounds. Dogs attain the weight of 110 pounds, bitches 100 pounds. The greater weights are to be preferred, provided (as in the case of height) that quality and proportion are also combined.
The expression is noble and dignified, and characterized by solemnity, wisdom, and power.
In temperament he is extremely affectionate, neither quarrelsome with companions nor with other dogs. His nature is somewhat shy, and equally sensitive to kindness or correction by his master.
The head is narrow in proportion to its length, and long in proportion to the body, tapering but slightly from the temples to the end of the muzzle, thus (when viewed from above and in front) having the appearance of being flattened at the sides and of being nearly equal in width throughout its entire length. In profile the upper outline of the skull is nearly in the same plane as that of the foreface. The length from end of nose to stop (midway between the eyes) should be not less than that from stop to back of occipital protuberance (peak). The entire length of head from the posterior part of the occipital protuberance to the end of the muzzle should be 12 inches, or more, in dogs, and 11 inches, or more, in bitches. Skull-- The skull is long and narrow, with the occipital peak very pronounced. The brows are not prominent, although, owing to the deep-set eyes, they may have that appearance. Foreface--The foreface is long, deep, and of even width throughout, with square outline when seen in profile. Eyes--The eyes are deeply sunk in the orbits, the lids assuming a lozenge or diamond shape, in consequence of the lower lids being dragged down and everted by the heavy flews. The eyes correspond with the general tone of color of the animal, varying from deep hazel to yellow. The hazel color is, however, to be preferred, although very seldom seen in liver-and-tan hounds. Ears--The ears are thin and soft to the touch, extremely long, set very low, and fall in graceful folds, the lower parts curling inward and backward. Mouth--A scissors bite is preferred, level bite accepted.
The head is furnished with an amount of loose skin, which in nearly every position appears superabundant, but more particularly so when the head is carried low; the skin then falls into loose, pendulous ridges and folds, especially over the forehead and sides of the face. Nostrils--The nostrils are large and open. Lips, Flews, and Dewlap--In front the lips fall squarely, making a right angle with the upper line of the foreface; whilst behind they form deep, hanging flews, and, being continued into the pendant folds of loose skin about the neck, constitute the dewlap, which is very pronounced. These characteristics are found, though in a lesser degree, in the bitch.
Neck, Shoulders and Chest
The neck is long, the shoulders muscular and well sloped backwards; the ribs are well sprung; and the chest well let down between the forelegs, forming a deep keel.
Legs and Feet
The forelegs are straight and large in bone, with elbows squarely set; the feet strong and well knuckled up; the thighs and second thighs (gaskins) are very muscular; the hocks well bent and let down and squarely set.
Back and Loin
The back and loins are strong, the latter deep and slightly arched. Stern--The stern is long and tapering, and set on rather high, with a moderate amount of hair underneath.
The gait is elastic, swinging and free, the stern being carried high, but not too much curled over the back.
The colors are black and tan, liver and tan, and red; the darker colors being sometimes interspersed with lighter or badger-colored hair, and sometimes flecked with white. A small amount of white is permissible on chest, feet, and tip of stern.