Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Hound Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 11 inches to 2 feet, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 80 to 110 pounds
Life Span: 11 to 15 years
When we think of the Bloodhound, the images that come to mind range from the baying mantrailers in such films as Cool Hand Luke to a lazy hound sunning himself on the front porch of a home in a sleepy Southern town.
The mantrailer is the more accurate image, but it also presents a somewhat false picture of the breed. The Bloodhound is indeed single-minded on the trail, but what many people don't realize is that once he's found his quarry, he might lick the person to death, but he'll never attack.
This wrinkled hound is gentle and affectionate, but he's far from lazy. He can follow a scent trail for miles and will always prefer that to sleeping on the sun porch. Expect to commit to long walks every day if you live with a Bloodhound.
The Bloodhound belongs to a group of dogs that hunt together by scent, known as Sagaces, from the Latin, which is the same root as the word "sagacious," referring to the qualities of keen discernment and sound judgment. Those words are certainly descriptive of the Bloodhound's powers of scent.
Originally used in medieval Europe to trail boar and deer, modern-day Bloodhounds have found careers as mantrailers for police departments and search and rescue organizations. So skillful are they that their "testimony" is considered admissible in a court of law. He can be a family dog, too, but he requires a high level of care.
It's not everyone who can live with a large dog who slings slobber, exudes a distinctive houndy odor, wants nothing more than to follow his nose, wreaks destruction in puppyhood, has endless energy and endurance, and is the definition of the word stubborn. If you can, you'll find the Bloodhound to be kind, sensitive, and tolerant of children and other animals. With the right family, he's a dog of great character who brings much joy and laughter.
- This is a very active breed, not the lazy dog you may have seen portrayed on The Beverly Hillbillies. Bloodhounds are working dogs and need long daily walks or runs.
- Bloodhounds are not suited for apartment living. They do best in a home with a large fenced yard.
- Bloodhounds are pack dogs and will enjoy the company of other dogs. A cat will do in a pinch.
- Bloodhounds slobber and shed. Keep baby wipes or hand towels on hand throughout the house, and brush them weekly or more often if needed.
- Bloodhounds love and are extremely tolerant with them. Teach children how to treat a Bloodhound properly and supervise play between them. Bloodhounds may be too large for toddlers; they can knock them down with a single swipe of the tail.
- Bloodhounds need a fenced yard. This is not an option but a necessity. If they come across an interesting scent, they will follow it, head down, nose to the ground, eyes covered by their wonderful ears, oblivious to traffic and other dangers.
- For the same reason you need a fenced yard, you need to walk a Bloodhound on leash.
- Known for their stubbornness, Bloodhounds need an owner who is firm, loving, and consistent. A Bloodhound who is mistreated or feels he is mistreated will pout and hide. Bloodhounds do well with positive reinforcement training.
- Bloodhounds are prone to recurring ear infections. Routinely check their ears and clean them on a regular basis.
- Bloodhounds will chew and swallow the most unimaginable items, from rocks and plants to batteries and TV remotes.
- When they're not following a trail, Bloodhounds prefer to live indoors with the family.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
Dogs that hunt by scent have been known for millennia. Reports of dogs that "discover and trace out the tracks of the animal" date as far back as the first century AD. It was in medieval Europe, however, that the dogs began to be developed into the scenthound we know today as the Bloodhound.
The first actual reference to the breed by that name was in a poem by Sir Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, titled William of Palerne (1350). It depicts a dog, called a Bloodhound, as a careful hunter who is on the trail of two lovers disguised as bears.
From that poem, we can deduce that the name Bloodhound was a familiar word in the English language. The name comes from the dogs' status as an aristocratic breed kept by noblemen and abbots; in other words, it was a "blooded" hound.
These early scenthounds were known as St. Hubert hounds, bred by the monks of St. Hubert's Abbey, and they were the ancestors of today's Bloodhounds. During his life, Francois Hubert (656-727) was a passionate hunter who made it his life's work to breed dogs capable of following old, or cold, trails, an occupation he maintained even after retiring to a monastery following the death of his wife.
After his death, he was canonized and became the patron saint of hunters. In France, you will still hear Bloodhounds referred to as St. Hubert hounds.
For several centuries after Hubert's death, his hounds flourished. William the Conqueror took them to England when he invaded in 1066. They were highly prized gifts among monarchs and nobles. Elizabeth I, a noted huntress, kept packs of St. Hubert hounds, and Shakespeare described a dog that could only have been one in his play "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
But a thousand years after their beginning, the St. Hubert hounds were brought low by the French Revolution. With the aristocracy fled and the chateaus in ruins, the great hunts were no more.
Fortunately for the breed, they were still prized in England, not only for the skills in the hunt, but also for their ability to track down wrongdoers. The first written record of Bloodhounds tracking thieves and poachers was in 1805, although stories of their use for that purpose date to the 16th century.
They also benefited from three Victorian-era trends: the rise of dog shows, the new status of dogs as companions, and a society that loved anything exotic or unusual. They had as well the patronage of dog-loving Queen Victoria, who entered one of her Bloodhounds in a dog show in 1869.
England is where the modern Bloodhound was developed, but the breed had also made its way to America in colonial times. In a letter, Benjamin Franklin expressed an interest in acquiring some Bloodhounds to track down marauding Indians.
Through no fault of his own, the Bloodhound's reputation took a whipping during the Civil War, thanks to the breed's depiction as vicious beasts in Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Interest in them waned until 1888 when three English Bloodhounds competed in the Westminster Kennel Club show. Wealthy Americans took an interest in them and began breeding them again, producing some very fine dogs.
Today, the Bloodhound is employed primarily by law enforcement agencies as a mantrailer or for search and rescue work. They are an uncommon breed, ranking 45th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.
The male Bloodhound stands 25 to 27 inches tall and weighs 90 to 110 pounds; females are 23 to 25 inches and 80 to 100 pounds.
The dignified Bloodhound is a study in contradictions. He's docile yet stubborn, determined but not quarrelsome, affectionate but somewhat shy with people he doesn't know. When it comes to training, he's sensitive to kindness or correction, but he still wants to do things his way.
He can sniff out the slightest hint of a trail, but as a watchdog or guard dog, he's poor, given his love of people. Some Bloodhounds can be vocal, barking up a storm when they're excited. Others are nice and quiet.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Bloodhounds need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Bloodhound puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Bloodhounds are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Bloodhounds will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Bloodhounds, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Elbow Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It's thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog's elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, or weight management or anti-inflammatory medication to control the pain.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone and may produce signs that include infertility, obesity, mental dullness, and lack of energy. The dog's fur may become coarse and brittle and begin to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be managed very well with a thyroid replacement pill daily. Medication must continue throughout the dog's life.
- Ectropion: Ectropion is the rolling out or sagging of the eyelid, leaving the eye exposed and prone to irritation and infection. If ectropion is severe, it can be corrected surgically.
- Entropion: This defect, which is usually obvious by six months of age, causes the eyelid to roll inward, irritating or injuring the eyeball. One or both eyes can be affected. If your Bloodhound has entropion, you may notice him rubbing at his eyes. The condition can be corrected surgically if needed when the dog matures.
- Epilepsy: This seizure disorder, which can be hereditary, acquired, or of unknown cause, can be managed with medication, but it can't be cured. A dog can live a full and healthy life with the proper management of this disease.
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat): Commonly called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs, especially if they're fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large amounts of water rapidly, or exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in his stomach, and blood flow to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is drooling excessively, and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. If you notice these signs, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
- Fold Dermatitis: This skin infection is caused by friction or trapped moisture in the folds of the skin. The signs of fold dermatitis are redness, sores, and odor, usually on the tail, face, lips, vulvar folds, and any fold on the body. The treatment for Fold Dermatitis can vary depending on the area that is affected but it can include surgical removal of the folds or amputation of the tail in the case of fold dermatitis on the tail. It can also include topical ointments, antibiotics. The best means of treatment is to properly maintain your dog's coat and subsequent folds to prevent the condition.
Bloodhounds should be indoor/outdoor dogs who have frequent interaction with their people. They are best suited to homes with large fenced yards. Many are escape artists and require fences at least six feet high. Underground electronic fences will not contain a Bloodhound. His desire to follow a scent is far stronger than the fear of a momentary shock.
It was once said that Bloodhound people always have one arm that's longer than the other. That's because this breed is a strong puller, thanks to his nose dragging him forward as he follows a trail. Your Bloodhound can learn to walk nicely on a leash, and he must be leashed when outside the yard to prevent him from taking off to find the source of an interesting smell.
Bloodhounds need long daily walks and are capable of going for miles. If you live in the country or enjoy hiking, this is the breed for you. They can make great jogging buddies. You may also wish to train your Bloodhound for search and rescue work or tracking tests.
Like all breeds, a Bloodhound puppy's exercise should be limited until he reaches physical maturity. The rule of thumb is 5 minutes for every month of age; therefore, a 3-month-old puppy should be exercised for only 15 minutes a day, a 4-month-old for 20 minutes, and so on. Know your dog's signs of fatigue.
Bloodhound puppies are nosy, curious, and into everything. Crate training is highly recommended. Not only will it keep them out of trouble and save your belongings from destruction, it's an excellent aid to housetraining. This breed is easily housetrained, but a crate will help him learn to control his bladder and bowels.
Your adult Bloodhound is just the right height to go counter-surfing, so keep food well out of reach. A swipe of his long, tapering tail can clear a coffee table. You might want to put breakables elsewhere.
Bloodhounds of all ages are chewers and will chew on anything that smells good or looks interesting. Be diligent in letting your Bloodhound know what's okay to chew and what isn't. He still might eat your lawn furniture, but if you've provided him with plenty of chew toys and exercise, he's somewhat less likely to do so.
When it comes to training, Bloodhounds are highly intelligent but independent, with a "What's in it for me?" attitude. Be consistent in what you permit or don't permit, or your Bloodhound will constantly test whether you really mean what you say. Be patient and use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise and food rewards.
Keep training sessions short, about 15 minutes, and always end them when your Bloodhound has done something well and you can praise him for it. Give firm but gentle corrections, never harsh verbal or physical punishment. Most important, remember this bit of advice: Never tell a Bloodhound what to do, ask him.
Recommended daily amount: 4 to 8 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Bloodhound in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Bloodhounds are messy eaters, so you may want to tuck the ears into a snood before mealtime. Choose water dishes with a narrow diameter to help keep the ears from dragging in them.
Bloodhounds are prone to gastric torsion, also known as bloat. Factors that contribute to bloat include eating a large meal and then drinking large amounts of water, heavy exercise directly before or after a meal, giving food in raised feeding dishes, and stress. Keep these things in mind when you feed your Bloodhound.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Bloodhound's coat is loose and thin to the touch. Around the neck and head, it hangs in deep folds. As the head hangs down, the skin falls into loose, pendulous ridges and folds, especially over the forehead and sides of the face. These wrinkles, combined with the loose, pendulous skin beneath the neck and throat (known as the dewlap) and the long, sweeping ears, help funnel scent from the ground up to the Bloodhound's nose and hold it there.
Bloodhound colors are black and tan, liver and tan, and red. The darker colors are sometimes interspersed with lighter or badger-colored hair (a mixture of white, gray, brown, and black) or flecked with white. You may see a small amount of white on the chest, feet, and tail tip, known as the stern.
Brush your Bloodhound weekly, or more often if you prefer, with a rubber hound mitt. He sheds seasonally, and during that time you may want to use a shedding blade to remove excess hair. Remember that his skin is thin and be gentle.
Clean his wrinkles daily to prevent bacterial infections. Wipe them out with a damp washcloth and then dry them thoroughly. Do the same for the flews (the hanging part of the upper lip) after every meal.
A Bloodhound's ears seem to be specially designed for trapping dirt and breeding yeast and bacteria, making them prone to infection. Clean them weekly with a solution recommended by your veterinarian. Hold the ear up so you can see the ear canal. Squeeze in a large amount of ear cleaner, lower the ear flap, and gently massage the liquid into the ear. You will hear a swooshing sound, and your Bloodhound will probably moan with pleasure.
Now take a cotton ball and wipe the debris outward from the outer ear canal. (Don't insert it any further than the first knuckle of your finger.) Let the dog shake his head and repeat the wipedown with a clean cotton ball. Every time your Bloodhound shakes his head, it pulls out more debris from deep within the ear canal. Repeat the wiping until the cotton ball is no longer dirty. Never dig around in the ears with a cotton swab; you could easily damage them.
If your Bloodhound's ears develop an infection despite your best efforts, have your veterinarian test the dog to determine the cause of the infection. Then he or she can prescribe the most effective antibiotic to clear it up.
The Bloodhound's need for ear care can be a big deterrent for some prospective owners and is something you should take into consideration. If you don't have time to properly care for a Bloodhound, including the time it takes to ensure clean ears, then this breed may not be for you.
The only other grooming a Bloodhound needs is dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Bloodhound's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
Begin accustoming your Bloodhound to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
Children And Other Pets
Bloodhounds love children. That said, they are large, active dogs and can accidentally knock a toddler down with a swipe of the tail. They're best suited to homes with older children.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
In general, Bloodhounds are quite friendly with other dogs, although a few have issues with small dogs. They usually get along fine with cats, although your cat may not appreciate being slobbered on.
Bloodhounds are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Bloodhounds in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Bloodhound rescue.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Bloodhound.