Our latest hunting breed highlight is the bloodhound.
Perhaps one of the most iconic hound breeds in America, the thought of the bloodhound summons nostalgic scenes of lazy dogs napping with flies buzzing around, or focused hunters sniffing out a trail. But, as with most breeds, there is far more to the bloodhound and its history than meets the eye.
View the slideshow to see some interesting bloodhound facts that you likely didn’t know.
“Bloodhound” wasn’t their original name
The term ‘bloodhound’ was not the original name of this breed. In fact, they were known in their early years as ‘sleuthhounds’ because of their exceptional tracking abilities. This term stuck with them throughout their early years as a hound breed, back in the third century AD, when they were mentioned in Claudius Aelianus’s Historia for their exceptional noses.
The eventual term ‘bloodhound’ came about not from their exceptional tracking abilities, but because of their popularity among the nobility. The term ‘blooded’ refers to a hound of pure breeding. Because bloodhounds were so prized by the nobility, and thus so carefully bred, the term ‘bloodhound’ ultimately became synonymous with the breed. However, in the French-speaking parts of Europe, they are still known as St. Hubert’s hounds.
They’re a monkish breed
The term St. Hubert’s hound comes from St. Hubert, the Patron Saint of Hunters. In the Eighth Century, Hubert became known for breeding these excellent hounds, and the tradition carried on in the Abbaye de Saint-Hubert long after his death and ultimate sainthood. In fact, the hounds became so revered during this time that the Benedictine monks traditionally sent six hounds per year to the king of France.
They once had a bad reputation
In the Sixteenth Century, the bloodhound was given a new occupation. While the breed had been used for years to track foxes and deer, this era first saw them used to track humans. Because of this, they became prized by police, but inevitably, they were used for darker purposes.
In the classic novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the bloodhound was portrayed as a savage breed used to track down runaway slaves. While there is no doubt some truth to their use in this capacity, the bloodhound sank into considerable infamy thereafter. In literature and vaudeville productions, they were consistently portrayed again and again as bloodthirsty, vicious beasts meant to strike fear into the hearts of men.
Eventually, as is common with such sensationalism, the negative portrayal of bloodhounds died out, and the bloodhound was once again a popular working breed, if somewhat more infamous than it was before.
They’re hard workers
Though the bloodhound is not considered to be notably intelligent (it ranks 74th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs), it remains a highly trainable and workable breed.
Not only has the bloodhound long been revered as an excellent companion since before the Crusades, it has served as a prison guard dog, a search and rescue dog and, most notably, a police dog. Bloodhounds are known to be so accurate and diligent that trails found by a trained bloodhound are accepted in court as evidence.
The breed has become almost unrecognizable
The original sleuthhound has undergone considerable changes over the years. Once known for its black and white stock, it has split into two similar breeds used for different purposes: work and show.
The modern working bloodhound is descended from the white stock and reached the peak of its popularity in the United States as hound dogs.
The black stock, in turn, was bred largely for show in England, originally introduced by Queen Victoria herself in 1869 at the London Show. It is worth noting that the early bloodhound did not possess its trademark floppy wrinkles and, in fact, within twenty years of its introduction in the London Show, the bloodhounds trained for show over work had lost their unique power of scent, and had to be retrained and more carefully bred.
They’re surprisingly gentle
In spite of their reputations as hard workers and fierce trackers, they are remarkably good-natured, gentle companions, particularly for children. They rarely bark, and in their early years, are boisterous and energetic.
However, because of their large size, they can be prone to clumsiness, but they’re patient and thrive under attention. In fact, if a child is climbing over them, pulling at their ears, or ruthlessly pestering them, the patient bloodhound is unlikely to object.