Bloodhound Dog Breed Profile

The bloodhound is a giant scent hound that has been used to track people since the Middle Ages. It was initially bred for hunting deer and wild boar.

It’s known to French speakers as “Le Chien de Saint-Hubert” and is thought to be descended from hounds initially kept at the Abbey of Saint-Hubert in Belgium.

Le Chien de sang is a more literal French term for a bloodhound.

The capacity of this breed to detect human scents across long distances, even days afterward, is legendary.

Its excellent sense of smell is combined with a strong and tenacious tracking instinct to create the ultimate scent hound, which police and law enforcement agencies employ all over the world to track escaped inmates, missing persons, and lost pets.

Table of Contents

Scientific Classification

Kingdom                Animalia
Phylum    Chordata
Class   Mammalia
Order  Carnivora
Family  Canidae
Genus Canis
Scientific Name Canis lupus


Bloodhounds range in weight from 36 – 72 kg (80 – 160 lbs). At the withers, they stand 58 – 69 cm (23 – 27 inches) tall.

Conformation judges prefer larger dogs, according to the AKC standards for the breed. Black, liver, and red are all acceptable colors for bloodhounds.

Bloodhounds have an extraordinarily massive skeletal structure, with most of their weight concentrated on their thick, long bones.

The coat of a scent hound is firm and made entirely of fur, with no mixture of hair. 


When pursuing a scent, this breed is kind and persistent. However, it can be stubborn and tough to obey and handle on a leash due to its high-tracking instinct.

Bloodhounds are lovely family pets since they are friendly and even-tempered with humans. 


Bloodhounds were available in a variety of colors until at least the 17th century. However, the color spectrum has narrowed in recent years.

The most common colors include black and tan, liver and tan, and red. White is common on the breasts, and it can even show up on the feet.

The primary categories are genetically determined by the action of two genes that are prevalent in many species.

One creates a black and brown alternating pattern (liver). A hound with the black allele (variant) from either parent has a black nose, eye rims, and paw pads, as well as a black saddle if it has one.

The other allele dampens black pigment and is recessive, so both parents must inherit it.

The second gene controls the coat pattern. It can produce animals with no saddle, saddle-marking, or a primarily dark (black or brown) pigmented coat with tan lips, brows, fore-chest, and lower legs. These are known as “blanket” or “full-coat” types.

Dennis Piper proposed five alleles for the pattern-marking gene in a groundbreaking study published in 1969, resulting in variants ranging from the red or saddle-less hound through three forms of increasingly more assertive saddle marking to the ‘blanket’ type.

A more recent study connects the variance to three different agouti gene variants. 


Bloodhounds have an abnormally high rate of gastrointestinal problems compared to other purebred canines, with gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloat) being the most common kind of gastrointestinal disease.

The breed also has an abnormally high incidence of eye, skin, and ear problems.

These areas should be checked for symptoms of developing problems regularly. Bloat is the most common ailment and the biggest cause of mortality in bloodhounds.

Owners should be especially mindful of the indicators. The breed’s thick coat makes it easy for them to overheat.


In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, bloodhounds had a median lifespan of 6.75 years, making them one of the shortest-lived canine breeds.

The oldest of the 82 dogs who died in the survey was 12.1 years old. Bloat killed 34% of the dogs, making it the leading cause of mortality in bloodhounds.

Cancer was the study’s second-biggest cause of death, accounting for 27% of deaths. This ratio is comparable to other breeds, although the median age of death was particularly young (median of about eight years).

For example, the average age at death for 14 bloodhounds was 8.25 years in a 2013 survey. 


According to folklore, the St. Hubert Hound was first raised by monks at the Saint-Hubert Monastery in Belgium around AD 1000; its likely origins are in France, home to many current hounds.

It is known to be the ancestor of the extinct Norman hound and the Saintongeois, as well as the contemporary Grand Bleu de Gascogne, Gascon Saintongeois, Ariegeois, Artois Normande, and the bloodhound.

It’s been speculated that it was a mixed-breed dog with a wide range of characteristics. It’s unclear whether they came from there or what their ancestors were, but the monks of the Abbey of St. Hubert have been sending numerous pairs of black hounds to the King of France as a gift since before 1200.

Unfortunately, in the royal pack, they weren’t always well-liked. Charles IX, who reigned from 1550 to 1574, favored his white hounds and the larger Chiens-Gris, writing that the St. Huberts was excellent for those with gout but not for those who wanted to shorten the life of the hunted animal.

He described them as medium-sized pack hounds with a lengthy body, ribs that were not well sprung, and a lack of strength. Jaques du Fouilloux, writing in 1561, described them as having a robust physique but a weak mind.

The bloodhound has become widely disseminated abroad, but in tiny quantities in most nations, with the United States having the highest number.

Nevertheless, imports and exports and increasingly artificial insemination have kept the world population of bloodhounds as common breeding stock, with slight variation in type between countries, following the introduction of the breed from Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Bloodhounds were popular subjects for artists such as Edwin Landseer and Briton Riviere in the late 1800s. The dogs pictured are similar in appearance to modern Bloodhounds, demonstrating that the breed’s core trait predates current dog breeding.

Landseer’s canines, on the other hand, have fewer wrinkles and whiskers than today’s canines.

Origin issues

The bloodhound was assumed to be an English or Anglo-Scottish dog of uncertain lineage for most of its history or, more recently, a dog descended from St. Hubert.

Only in the 19th century was it alleged to be St. Hubert himself, most notably by Le Couteulx.

Raeachae and lizards of the generic sagax type with dangling ears and lips are seen in medieval hunting art, but they lack the bloodhound’s defining traits.

According to 16th-century accounts of St. Hubert as a short-legged, medium-sized dog, the Norman hound, which was much larger than St. Hubert, was the bloodhound’s principal European predecessor.

Others, like the sleuth hound, the Talbot Hound, the dun hound, and the Southern Hound and pack hounds, are thought to have played a role in its composition.

Some authors question if specific breed ancestry can be determined beyond the last few centuries.

According to Le Couteulx and D’Yauville, St. Hubert was altered significantly via mixed breeding and maybe degraded before disappearing, but the bloodhound that replaced it retained its original character. Nonetheless, images from the 16th century show that the bloodhound has evolved significantly.

In ancestry and type, the modern St. Hubert is the English Bloodhound. National and regional varieties of hounds, terriers, spaniels and other breeds have been recognized as independent breeds in general, with several regional breeds of hounds in France in particular.

The bloodhound’s identification as a St. Hubert makes it an outlier in this regard. Whether the Bloodhound is Belgian or British in origin is ultimately impossible to prove historically.

It depends on whether two related animals with different traditions, histories, and types are considered separate breeds or varieties of the same one.


‘Bloodhound’ is a word that dates back to the 15th century. According to most recent reports, its etymological meaning is ‘dog of pure or noble blood.’

This is based on a 19th-century idea by Le Couteulx de Canteleu, which successive writers have warmly and uncritically endorsed.

It might be because it exonerated this unquestionably good-natured dog from allegations of bloodthirstiness.

Nobody since Le Couteulx has given any historical evidence to back up this claim. Furthermore, the phrase comes from ‘blooded hound’ is unfounded, as the expression does not appear in early English, and the word ‘blooded’ in this sense did not emerge until the late 16th century.

Before that, the term ‘bloodhound’ was used to refer to a ‘hound for blood’ or a ‘blood-seeking hound.’ In the 16th century, John Caius, one of the most knowledgeable men of his day and interested in etymology, proposed this interpretation.

It is backed up by many historical linguistic data, which can be found in places like the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The fact that the first use of the word ‘blood’ to refer to good breeding in an animal predates the first use of the word ‘bloodhound’; that other similar uses, such as ‘blood horse’ and ‘bloodstock,’ appeared centuries later.

And that derogatory uses of the word ‘bloodhound,’ which any suggestion of noble breeding would sadly weaken, appeared as early as c. 1400.

According to some early sources, hounds were said to be interested in blood, and the bloodhound was used to track down a wounded animal.

Despite the lack of early usage or historical evidence to support the current interpretation, the earlier explanation must be accepted as valid.

Scenting ability

The physical qualities of a bloodhound account for its ability to follow a scent trail that has been left for several days; the olfactory bulb in dogs is around 40 times larger than the olfactory bulb in humans in total brain size with 125 to 220 million olfactory receptors.

As a result, the olfactory senses of dogs are 40 times more sensitive than those of humans. The olfactory sense has almost 300 million receptors in some canine breeds, such as bloodhounds.

While the bloodhound’s nose is on the ground, the large, long pendent ears serve to keep the wind from scattering nearby skin cells.

Also, the shawl, or folds of wrinkled flesh under the lips and neck, help catch stray scent particles in the air or on a nearby branch as the bloodhound scents them, reinforcing the scent in the dog’s memory and nose.

However, not everyone thinks that long ears and loose skin are functional, and some see them as a disadvantage.

Human Trailing

There are numerous examples of bloodhounds successfully tracking traces that are several hours or even days old.

The longest was a family discovered dead in Oregon in 1954, more than 330 hours after missing.

The bloodhound is typically used to track a fugitive’s or lost person’s scent, which is derived from a scented piece. This could be anything from a piece of clothing to a vehicle seat to a recognized footprint.

Many hounds will follow the scent track a long way away from the quarry’s actual prints, allowing them to cut corners and get to the end of the trail faster.


Initial training is widely considered to make the experience enjoyable for the puppy or young hound to maintain its enthusiasm.

For example, short trails on a family member who the puppy observes fade away, at first remaining visible and then disappearing, might be used to begin training.

Then, despite being familiar with the runner’s scent, it can be given a scent item to sniff and instructions to follow. The tracking harness can also be added, which is worn shortly before the trial begins and removed once the path is completed.


Police can use canine identification to aid their investigations, and evidence of identification is recognized in some courts.

Jumping up and placing its paws on the subject’s chest is the most common technique of recognition. However, identification will not be necessary for the instance of a missing person or a known fugitive.

But, in the example of a potentially hostile, possibly armed criminal, a Bloodhound handler will not want his dog to approach the quarry at the risk of injuring his dog.

Many hounds at the end of a trail exhibit no interest in the person they’ve been following, making it difficult to train them to recognize them.

Bloodhound Pack

Though there may have been groups in different regions or other times, the medieval bloodhound was predominantly a leash hound. Until the 19th century, a single hound or a brace was used in deer parks to locate a deer’s gun.

However, by the mid-nineteenth century, two packs had emerged: Thomas Neville’s, who hunted in the New Forest area, and the Lord Wolverton’s. 

These hunted semi-domesticated deer (‘carted deer’) were recaptured and returned home after being brought to bay. Lord Wolverton’s hounds were thought to be difficult to train to hunt as a pack since they preferred to follow the scent on their own.

Several packs existed briefly around the turn of the 20century, following either deer or the ‘clean boot’ — individual human scents without any additives like animal blood or aniseed.

Since WWII, there have been other packs, notably Eric Furness’s Peak Bloodhounds, which are a hybrid between a Dumfriesshire Black, Tan Foxhound, and a Peak Bloodhound.

Noteworthy Bloodhound

Bloodhound masters have generally maintained a level of out-cross breeding in their packs since then to improve speed and agility while maintaining Bloodhound type. The clean boot is hunted by these groups, who are trailed by a field on horseback.

The paradigm of the trailing bloodhound is a Bloodhound named Nick Carter, and the tremendous notoriety this dog gained may be the foundation of the sizeable Bloodhound-related legend.

Captain G. V. Mullikin of Lexington, Kentucky, owned and handled Nick Carter, credited with more than 650 findings, including one that required him to follow a trail that was 300 hours old(12 days old).

The first Bloodhound champion was Mr. T. A. Jennings’ Ch Druid, dubbed ‘Old Druid.’ He was born in 1857 and later purchased by Emperor Napoleon III for his son, Prince Eugene Louis Jean Joseph, and sent to France.

Images of him, Cowen’s Druid, and a bitch named Countess can be found in a rare book from 1865 in the British Library and maybe the oldest photographs of Bloodhounds to have survived.

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