Working Wednesday: The Bloodhound

The Bloodhound is a noble dog who has a dignified expression and is characterised by its solemnity, wisdom and power. They are large Scent hounds and has been bred to continue their outstanding ability to track human scent over vast distances, even days after and through water.

Bloodhounds have an extraordinary sense of smell which, when combined with its strong and tenacious tracking instinct, produces the ideal scent hound. They are often used by police/law enforcement to track missing people and escaped prisoners as well as being used by hunters to control vermin.

Bloodhound Fun Facts:

  • Although they are large dogs they can squeeze through very small holes

  • The term 'Bloodhound' doesn't refer to their trailing ability- it is from when early breeders wanted to preserve their blood lines.

  • Their signature floppy ears have a use - to waft sent up from the ground closer to their nose.

  • They have 300 million scent receptors in their nose (humans have only 5 million).

  • They can also be known as a 'Sleuth Hound'

Bloodhound History

It is thought that Bloodhounds were first developed in France during the 12th Century by the monks of Abbey St Hubert and were then called St Hubert Hounds, which changed to 'Bloodhound' in the 14th Century.

They were first seen in England around the 13th century and were descendants from those bred in France. It is thought that a Bloodhound was used to track Robert The Bruce and William Wallace when they fled, and were known as Sleuth Hounds because they were so highly skilled at tracking being man or animal on Scottish Borders in the 16th century.

With the help of enthusiasts, the breed was saved from being wiped out, although during WW1 and WW2 the numbers fell dangerously low again. Bringing the numbers back again involved importing dogs into the UK from France and other European Countries. Today, they are once again highly prized for their tracking abilities.

Although many people may think that these dogs are droopy dogs that only want to sleep and plod along, they are actually very energetic dogs that need at least 2 hours of exercise per day. They are better suited in a country home with a large garden and high fences to keep them from escaping, because if they get scent of something they are interested in they are likely to follow it as far as they can. Some hounds are very vocal when following a trail and 'cry' when hunting, which is a long howl / barking until they reach the end of the scent, on the other hand some hounds remain quiet when hunting.

Hound Trials in Britain

Bloodhound Working Trials, first held in 1898, take place in Britain four times a year, under Kennel Club rules. They are run over farm land by permission of the landowners. A line-walker (runner) is given a map, and sets off to follow a course marked on it, leaving a scent-article ('smeller') attached to a flag marking the beginning of the trail. A hound and its handler start a set time later, and try to follow his trail, while the judge, equipped with a copy of the map, follows behind assessing their performance.

When each of the entered hounds has completed a trail, he picks a winner. There are a series of 'stakes' of increasing difficulty, the simplest being 1 mile long, ½ an hour cold, and the hardest 3 miles long, 2 hours cold. On winning a stake, a hound moves up to the next one. Hounds may work unleashed if they have passed a test showing they will not bother farm stock, especially sheep. Special prizes are on offer for identification and voice ('speaking to the line'). The best hounds may be invited to take part in special stakes, the most difficult being 3 miles long, 24 hours cold.

To find out more about Bloodhound trials click here.

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