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Get to Know the Bloodhound, the Famous Tracking Dog

Among all dog breeds, the Bloodhound is Mother Nature's best scenting machine.

 |  Jul 11th 2013  |   5 Contributions

Got scent? Don't look now, but you may have a Bloodhound on your trail. Those droopy ears and sad eyes hide an adventurous personality -- although the Bloodhound's idea of adventure is following a scent trail and finding who put it there. Or maybe just following his nose to the kitchen counter.

Most people know the Bloodhound only as one of a baying pack of tracking dogs hot on the trail of an escaped prisoner -- as seen on TV. And it's true: Among all dog breeds, no dog can compare to the Bloodhound when it comes to following his nose. But while a Bloodhound's life may revolve around his nose, there's a lot more to him than just a scenting machine!

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A sketch of the Bloodhound by a Londoner named T. Kelly, circa 1830. Photo by Biodiversity Heritage Library

 A few bits about Bloodhounds:

  • Those long ears and profuse wrinkles serve a purpose. When the dog is trailing with head down, the ears drag on the ground and stir up scent. Then the wrinkles trap the scent around the nose. As with all dogs, the wet nose also helps scenting by dissolving odor molecules floating in the air and "sticking" them around the nasal opening.
  • Although many people identify the Bloodhound as the prototypical lazy ol' hound dog of the Southern United States, the breed hails from Europe, not America.
  • There's controversy over the name origin. Some say it refers to being "blooded" or "pure blooded," but others argue the term "pure blooded" wasn't in use back in the 1300s when the label "Bloodhound" was first used. Instead, some say the name refers to their ability to track wounded game, and maybe anything with blood. Regardless, it doesn't mean these dogs are bloodthirsty!

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The wrinkles of the Bloodhound are one of their most notable features. Photo by John Leslie

  • The Bloodhound can be confused with the Redbone Coonhound or the Black and Tan Coonhound. But the Bloodhound is a bit heavier and much more wrinkled than either; and of course the Redbone comes only in solid red, and the Black and Tan comes only in black with tan points (like a Doberman Pinscher). The Bloodhound comes in both these patterns, but also can be tan with a dark saddle.
  • Like all dogs with pendulous lips, Bloodhounds can really sling the drool! Bloodhound handlers at dog shows always carry a "drool rag" for drying the dog's lips before the judge approaches.
  • A Bloodhound was a regular cast member of the old television show, The Beverly Hillbillies. Called Duke in the show, he was played by a dog named Stretch.

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Although this Bloodhound may be tired, the breed tends to carry an adventurous personality. Photo by Bruce

  • A Bloodhound named Nick Carter, who was born in 1900, may be the most famous tracking Bloodhound. He is credited with more than 650 finds, including one following a 12-day-old trail.
  • A Bloodhound named Knotty (officially Champion Heatherwood's Knock on Wood) won Best in Show at the AKC Invitational dog show, and also won the Hound group at Westminster. Unlike most show Bloodhounds, Knotty had a liver, as opposed to black, saddle.
  • The author Virginia Lanier wrote a series of novels about Bloodhound man-trailers.

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Due to its pendulous lips, Bloodhounds can often have a lot of drool. Photo by Llima Orosa

  • Sir Walter Scott had a Bloodhound named Nimrod, who killed his cat. He must have misunderstood the "Blood" part of his name.
  • The AKC includes the Bloodhound in the Hound group; some other kennel clubs in which the Hound group is divided include the Bloodhound in the Scent Hound (as opposed to Sighthound) group.
  • In 2012, the Bloodhound was the 48th most popular AKC breed.

Do you own a Bloodhound? Have you ever spent time with one? Let's hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments!

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has been published in various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one JRT. To learn more about Caroline, visit her website.


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