The Bloodhound is a large scent hound originally bred for hunting deer and wild boar. It is widely believed that it descends from hounds once kept at the abbey of St Hubert in Belgium, where it was first bred by monks in 10000 A.D. This as not been proven though and it is possible it originated in France, the home of many modern hounds.
From 1200 the monks of St Hubert annually sent several pairs of black hounds as a gift to the king of France, these were dogs of mixed breeding, and they are thought to be the ancestors of many modern dogs, these include the Bloodhound and the modern Grand Bleu de Gascogne. These gifts were not always appreciated, King Charles IX preferred his white hounds and wrote that the St Huberts were suitable for people with gout to follow, but not for those who wished to shorten the life of a hunted animal. He described them as pack hounds of medium stature, long in body but not well sprung in the rib, and lacking in strength.
By the end of the reign of king Louis XIV (1715) the St Hubert had become rare, D’ Yamville, master of the royal hounds stated that by 1788 those sent by the St Hubert monks, once highly prized, had degenerated and out of the six to eight dogs sent annually, very few were kept.
During the French Revolution of 1789, the monks of St Hubert stopped sending their annual gift, and hunting in France decreased until after the Napoleonic wars. When hunting grew in popularity again in the 19th century, huntsmen had so many breeds to choose from and showed little interest in the St Hubert.
The first references to Bloodhounds in the U. K, first appear in the 14th century, it is often claimed they were brought over from Normandy by William the conqueror, though there is no evidence to support this. What is certain is that it was the Normans who brought hounds from Europe to the U. K, but whether they included the Bloodhound itself, rather than just its ancestors is a matter for dispute.
In the 16th century John Caius (English physician and co-founder of the Gonville and Caius college Cambridge.) wrote one of the most important single source pieces in the history of the Bloodhound. He described it as having hanging ears and lips, whose use in the game parks to follow the scent of blood gives it its name, its ability to track thieves and poachers by their foot scent is second to none.
The earliest report of a Bloodhounds trailing abilities in operation comes in the 1600s from philosopher Robert Boyle, he describes how a Bloodhound tracked a man for seven miles, along a route frequented by many other people, and found him in an upstairs room of a house.
It is not accurately known when Bloodhounds were first exported to the U. S, during the American Civil war Bloodhounds were used to track runaway slaves, but it is uncertain whether these were the genuine purebred Bloodhounds of today. After 1888 when English breeder Edwin Brough brought three of his Bloodhounds to exhibit at the Westminister Kennel club, more purebred Bloodhounds were brought from Britain and bred in the U. S, today the U. S, as more Bloodhounds than anywhere else in the world.
The male Bloodhound should weigh 54-65kg (119-143lb) and the female 49-57kg (108-126lb), with a height of 64-72cm (25-28in) for the male and 58-66cm (23-26in) for a female, the average lifespan of the Bloodhound is 7-12 yrs.
Typically the coat of the Bloodhound is hard and composed solely of fur, with no admixture of hair, acceptable coat colours are black, tan, liver and red.
Compared to other purebred dogs, Bloodhounds suffer an unusually high rate of Gastrointestinal ailments, with Gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat), bloat being the most common. They also suffer from eye, ear and skin ailments, so these areas should be inspected regularly.
The Bloodhound is a gentle breed, but because of its strong tracking instinct it can be strong willed, making it difficult to train and handle on a leash. When trained and socialised properly, they have an affectionate and even tempered nature with humans, making them an ideal family pet.