The Bloodhound or St. Hubert Hound, as it is also named, is a large dog unmistakably recognised by its saggy folds of skin, hanging eyes, and long, droopy ears. While its appearance gives it a lazy looks, many times perpetuated in television by its portrayal as a sluggish dog sleeping on the porch, make no mistake – the Bloodhound is extremely active, loves the outdoors and a good challenge.
Bloodhounds are well-known for their unparalleled sense of smell and their strong tracking instinct, which makes the breed a favourite among the police and rescue teams, as they are indeed able to track the scent of a person across long distances, even if it is several days old. Apart from their working ability as man trackers, Bloodhounds are sensitive and loving family dogs, affectionate with children and other animals.
About & History
Though nowadays they are considered as being the same dog breed, Bloodhounds and St. Hubert Hounds have developed in different regions and time periods – their history only being brought together in the 19th century. St. Hubert Hounds originated in medieval Belgium and France and are thought of as the ancestors of this dog breed, which then disappeared during the French Revolution in the 18th century. Simultaneously, it is believed that some St. Hubert Hounds were taken to the UK as early as the 14th century and developed over time to become the Bloodhound.
After the extinction of the St. Hubert Hound in France, some dogs were brought back there in the late 19th century, thus re-establishing their presence in the country. Some claim that the original St. Hubert Hound was a much larger dog, although from then on both breeds were regarded as the same. It is possible, however, that some mixed breeding occurred during the development of the breed in the UK, perhaps giving it a smaller appearance.
Legend says that the St. Hubert Hound was already bred around 1000 AD at the Saint-Hubert monastery in Belgium. By 1200, monks would present the king of France with dogs, considered to be useful as “leash hounds” for hunting deer and wild boars. While King Charles IX of France was not particularly fond of the breed, later in the 16th and 17th century, King Henry IV elevated the breed to a higher standard, regarding it as a noble and useful dog breed. In fact, it is thought that the name Bloodhound derives from it being thought of as a dog of pure blood. Others, however, believe the name comes from the dog’s ability to smell blood and follow its scent.
In England, the oldest records of Bloodhounds go back to the 14th century and there are claims that point to the arrival of these dogs from France by William the Conqueror, although this has not been proved. The first reference to the name Bloodhound appears in a poem by Sir Humphrey de Bohun, 6th Earl of Hereford, in 1350, called “William of Palerne”. Dogs were used for hunting and there are references of them tracking people, mainly including thieves and poachers in the 1300s. The numbers of Bloodhounds decreased considerably with the decline of deer-hunting – though with the advent of dog shows and the support of dog-loving Queen Victoria, fanciers of the breed managed to keep breeding them and later exported them back to France.
Bloodhounds arrived to the US quite early, where they were used to track and find runaway slaves. After the American Civil War, they became popular as tracking dogs and were extensively used by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Nowadays, they are used to track escaped prisoners, missing or lost people and pets. A Bloodhound’s evidence is even admissible in the court and Bloodhounds have helped in solving many cases. Other dog breeds that own at least some part of their heritage to the Bloodhound include American Coonhounds, Swiss Jura Hounds, Brazilian Fila Brasileiro dogs, and Bavarian Mountain Hounds.
Bloodhounds are large and heavy dogs, quite thick for their length. Their coat is short and dense and comes in a few colour variations:
- Black and tan
- Liver and tan
Bloodhounds have a deep and long foreface, very long, pendant ears that fall in folds and are thin and soft to the touch, and saggy folds of skin. Their anatomy is built for scenting, as their pendulum-like ears help in carrying the scent from the ground to their nose. They also have a large nasal chamber, compared to other dog breeds, as well as an increased number of olfactory receptors.
A male Bloodhound weights between 46 and 54 kg (101-119 lb) and a female between 40 and 48 kg (88-106 lb). A male is usually 64 to 72 cm tall (25-28 inches) and a female 58 to 66 cm (23-26 inches).
Character & Temperament
Bloodhounds are gentle and affectionate dogs that make great family pets. They are kind and sensitive, kid-friendly, and they appreciate the company of other dogs, or even cats, as they are generally friendly with other animals. They are calm and easy-going, though they may be reserved around strangers, which is why an early socialization is important and may prevent their shyness.
Despite being pictured as lazy, due to their saggy appearance, Bloodhounds are, in fact, very active. They love long walks and are the perfect companion for those who love hiking. Because they are scent hounds, they will instinctively follow scents and they are tireless when doing so. It is almost impossible to regain a Bloodhound’s attention after it smells an interesting scent and starts tracking it. For this reason, off the leash walks are not always advisable (but, of course, it depends on the dog and his training) and dogs should have a fenced yard to protect them from wandering and simply disappearing.
Due to their tracking instinct and strong sense of smell, along with their determination when doing their job, Bloodhounds can be wilful and stubborn, which makes obedience training hard. They need a consistent and firm owner, but also one that is loving and uses positive reinforcement because Bloodhounds are sensitive to correction.
Bloodhounds are usually calm and quiet when indoors, though their size and the fact they tend to be exuberant jumpers, may make them look like a “bull in a China shop”. They may adapt easily to apartment living if they are provided with enough opportunities to exercise, although a house with a fenced yard is preferable. They love to chew and may become destructive when bored or not exercised enough. Providing them with chewable toys is a good idea, as they also tend to swallow objects, which may lead to unexpected and unwanted veterinary emergencies.
Bloodhounds mature later than other dog breeds when they are around 1 year old. A longer puppyhood usually means more silly mistakes, but also more fun, and as even-tempered dogs they are, no major problems tend to arise. Sometimes they may show signs of aggression towards same-sex dogs and they may be possessive of their food and toys, so owners should be alert in those situations. Bloodhounds have a deep and loud voice and are also known for snoring and howling. In any case, Bloodhounds are nice, patient, and sweet dogs to have as pets.
Bloodhounds may be difficult to train for obedience, as they tend to be stubborn. Training should start early (as early as 3 months old), as well as socialization, since they can be shy around strangers. They are sensitive to punishment, so positive reinforcement is recommended, as well as finishing the training sessions when they do something well. Training sessions should be short (15 minutes) and frequent.
They are easily trained for tracking people, as they are naturally inclined to do so, and they usually just need to take the scent from a “scent article”, be it a piece of clothing or a footprint, to be able to track the person to which the scent belongs, being able to detect as few as one or two cells.
Bloodhounds are among the most shortest-lived dog breeds, with a lifespan of 7 to 8 years. They are also prone to several health problems, including:
- Bloat – Because they are large dogs, they are more prone to bloat than other dog breeds and this is actually the leading cause of death among Bloodhounds. This is a condition in which the dog’s stomach expands with air, usually after a large meal followed by exercise. Bloat may be followed by gastric torsion, which is when the stomach twists around itself, cutting off any blood flow. Gastric torsion is a life-threatening condition that requires seeking veterinary care immediately. Prevention is achieved by feeding the dog small portions of food and not letting it exercise after eating.
- Hip dysplasia – Hip dysplasia is a problem in the dog’s hip articulation and it is shared among different dog breeds, especially the larger ones. It is an inherited condition and results from an incorrect formation of the hip joint. Because the head of the femur bone does not fit well in the socket of the pelvis, the joint is left loose, and the constant wear and tear from the dog’s movement will eventually cause inflammation, pain, and lameness.
- Elbow dysplasia – Elbow dysplasia occurs due to a mismatch of growth between the elbow and wrist bones – the radius and ulna. This malformation creates increased pressure on the articulation, damaging it and leading to pain, arthritis, and, ultimately, loss of function of the affected front limb.
- Eye conditions – Eye conditions in Bloodhounds are mostly entropion, ectropion, and keratoconjuntivitis, or dry eye. Entropion occurs when the eyelids roll inward, causing irritation of the cornea, discomfort, and pain. Ectropion is the opposite, occurring when the eyelids roll outward, overexposing the eye, and eventually leading to dry eye. However, keratoconjuntivitis may occur without ectropion, and results from a decreased lacrimal secretion. Both entropion and ectropion are corrected surgically, while keratoconjuntivitis may be attenuated by using artificial tears.
- Hypothyroidism – Hypothyroidism is a disease caused by a deficiency of thyroxine production by the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is a hormone that controls metabolism and a lack of it leads to clinical signs, such as hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss, and lethargy. Diagnostic is made by running a series of blood tests and treatment is thyroxine replacement with medication.
Exercise and Activity Levels
The Bloodhound is an active dog breed. They will be happier living in a house with a fenced yard, where they can run and play, but they can also easily adapt to living in an apartment, as long as its owner takes it for daily walks and provides it with sufficient mental and physical stimulation. They love to follow scents and explore everything around their surroundings and they are quite easily distracted by interesting smells, which often deviate them from their way.
Bloodhounds require quite a high level of care, and they have the “hound smell” – a distinctive doggish odour not appreciated by most people. They also drool a lot and because they have such long ears, they will put them in their food bowl and get them dirty quite often. Therefore, it is useful to keep a cloth always handy, as they will need to be cleaned frequently.
Their wrinkles are the perfect environment for bacterial growth, as well as their droopy ears, so both should be cleaned daily with a damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth. The upper part of their lip will probably also need to be cleaned after they eat. They are average shedders, so a weekly brush with a rubber brush is recommended. Nail trimming and brushing their teeth will complete their grooming routine.
Popular Bloodhounds are:
- McGruff the Crime Dog, an animated dog created in the 1980s for a national crime prevention campaign in the United States.
- Pluto, Mickey Mouse’s famous pet. Although technically being a mixed-breed, Pluto was designed after a Bloodhound.
- Beauregard, from the American comic strip “Pogo”.
- Napoleon, in Disney’s film “The Aristocats”.
- Bruno, Cinderella’s dog in Disney’s film (1950).
- Buddy, the Bloodhound from the 2001 family film “Cats & Dogs”.
A commonly found Bloodhound cross-breed is:
- Labloodhound – Cross between a Bloodhound and a Labrador Retriever