The Bloodhound is an old breed, very intelligent and active as well as sweet-natured. He’s known for working in search and rescue as well as law enforcement, and he also makes a wonderful family pet.
When you think of the Bloodhound, you probably recall movies involving prison breaks, where bloodhounds were used to hunt down escaped convicts. If you’re of a certain age, or if you simply love vintage comedies, you might think of Duke, the Bloodhound that was Jed Clampett’s faithful companion on the TV series, The Beverly Hillbillies.
The Bloodhound actually goes both ways, as a working dog and a companion animal.His gentle nature makes him well-suited to either role, since bloodhounds are not attack dogs. Once the Bloodhound locates his quarry by means of his powerful sense of smell, he simply waits for the humans to come along with handcuffs.
If you’re not crazy about gallons of slobber, the Bloodhound might not be the right dog for you. However, if you want a companion that’s good with kids and other animals and loves to snuggle, he could be a perfect choice.
Scent hounds have been known practically since the beginning of recorded history, and Bloodhounds were used in Europe in Medieval times to hunt deer and boar. The first known reference to the Bloodhound, by name, was in a poem entitled “William of Palerne,” by Sir Humphrey de Bohun, the Earl of Hereford. The poem was written in 1350 and tells the story of a Bloodhound that is on the trail of two runaway lovers who have disguised themselves as bears.
The name “Bloodhound” is believed to have been derived from the fact that the dogs were kept by nobility – “blooded” hounds, in other words.
The earliest scent hounds were bred by the monks at St. Hubert’s Abbey. Francois Hubert was passionate about breeding dogs that could follow even old, cold trails, and he continued to do so after retiring to the monastery. Following his death, he was elevated to sainthood and became the patron saint of hunters. Bloodhounds are still known as “St. Hubert Hounds” in France.
Even after Francois Hubert’s death, his hounds continued to be bred, and William the Conqueror brought them to England in 1066 when he invaded the country. They became highly prized amongst the monarchy and the nobility, and in fact Queen Elizabeth I was known to have kept packs of the hounds to use for hunting.
In France, the breed took a bit of a hit during the French Revolution, but their popularity continued in England. Tales of their ability to hunt and to track down criminals were ubiquitous during the 16th century.
When you read my “Breed of the Week” posts, you probably notice frequent references to Queen Victoria. She was extraordinarily fond of dogs, but unlike the current British Monarch, Elizabeth II, who focuses on one breed (the Corgi), Victoria was a keen supporter of many breeds, the Bloodhound included. In fact, she is known to have entered a Bloodhound in a competitive dog show in 1869.
The Bloodhound was also known in Colonial America. Benjamin Franklin was of the opinion that Bloodhounds could be useful for tracking Indians. This probably didn’t help the reputation of these gentle dogs any more than did the novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which they were depicted as vicious animals. It wasn’t until 1888 that they regained popularity, mainly due to the presence of the breed at the Westminster dog show.
Even today, the Bloodhound is not all that common in the United States, ranking at #45 among the 155 AKC-recognized breeds.
The Bloodhound is a sizeable dog, with males weighing 90-110 pounds and standing 25-27 inches at the shoulder. Females weigh 80-100 pounds, and stand 23-25 inches.
The Bloodhound is typically docile but can be stubborn. He is affectionate but can be a bit aloof with strangers. A Bloodhound always responds best to positive reinforcement when it comes to training, and will have his feelings hurt if you speak sharply to him. Although the Bloodhound has a very intimidating bark, he’s not much of a watchdog – he’s likely to just try to kiss a burglar to death.
Temperament can be affected by several factors, including heredity, socialization, and training. When choosing a Bloodhound puppy, look for one that’s playful, curious, and willing to approach you and be picked up. You don’t want one that’s overly timid, nor do you want one that’s bullying his littermates. Look for one that’s basically middle-of-the-road.
Also, when you’re choosing a Bloodhound puppy, be sure that you can meet the mother. You want to be sure that she has a nice temperament. Meet the father, too, if you can, but don’t count on it being possible. It’s possible that the female was taken off-site, or even out of state, to be bred.
Socialize your Bloodhound early, getting him used to as many different people, other dogs, sounds and sights as you can. This will help him to grow up to be a stable, well-rounded dog.
Bloodhounds are usually healthy but can be prone to some health conditions. Here are the most common.
1. Hip Dysplasia
This is an inherited condition. With hip dysplasia, the thighbone doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket. Some dogs display no symptoms at all, while others may become lame in the hind legs. The condition does not become apparent until a dog is at least two years old, so you won’t be able to identify it early on in your Bloodhound puppy. Responsible breeders, however, will not breed a Bloodhound before hip dysplasia can be ruled out, so expect your breeder to show you proof that the parents are free of the condition.
If you do happen to end up with a Bloodhound that has hip dysplasia, keep in mind that the condition can be made worse by injuries due to falling or jumping, or by too-fast growth due to a high-calorie diet. The condition can often be treated with medication. In rare cases, surgery may be needed.
2. Elbow Dysplasia
This is another inherited condition. It’s believed to be caused by the three bones that comprise the dog’s elbow growing at different rates, and it can cause lameness. It can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, weight management, and/or surgery.
This is a rolling or sagging of the eyelid that causes the eye to be overly exposed, and prone to infections and irritation. In severe cases, it can be surgically corrected.
This is another disorder of the eye, in which the eyelid rolls in toward the eyeball, irritating or injuring it. Once the dog matures, it can be corrected surgically.
This is a condition caused by thyroid hormone deficiency. It can result in lethargy, mental dullness, obesity, and infertility. It’s not curable, but it’s easily managed with a thyroid replacement pill every day for the duration of the dog’s life.
This is also called gastric dilation, and it’s a life-threatening condition that usually affects dogs that are large and deep-chested. It’s caused when the stomach fills with air or gas and twists so that the dog can neither vomit nor belch. If your dog is drooling more than usual, retching without vomiting, and has a distended abdomen, suspect bloat and get him to the vet immediately. If you don’t, his blood pressure will drop, he will go into shock, and he will die.
This is a seizure disorder that can’t be cured but can be managed using medication.
8. Fold Dermatitis
This is a skin infection that sometimes afflicts dogs that have a lot of skin folds. Symptoms are redness, sores, and odor. Fold dermatitis is most common around the tail or face, but can occur anywhere. Usually, it can be treated with antibiotics and topical ointments, but in severe cases, it can require amputation of the tail or excision of the skin folds. The best way to deal with fold dermatitis is prevention – in other words, keep your dog’s skin folds clean and dry.
There is no guarantee that your Bloodhound will ever develop any of these disorders, so don’t worry. They’re just things to keep in mind.
Care and Feeding
Bloodhounds need a fair bit of exercise and do best in homes where they have access to a large, fenced-in yard. The fence should be at least six feet high since Bloodhounds are notorious escape artists. Don’t waste your money on an underground electronic fence, because a Bloodhound will quite willingly accept a shock if he catches a scent that he wants to follow.
It’s also important to train your Bloodhound to walk properly on aleash, since Bloodhounds are very strong. If he catches a scent, you could easily end up pulled off your feet.
Bloodhounds thrive on lengthy, sustained exercise, so if you like to jog or hike, you’ll do very well with a Bloodhound. At the very least, take your Bloodhound on a couple of long walks every day.
When it comes to Bloodhound puppies, though, don’t go overboard on the exercise until he’s fully mature. Ideally, a bloodhound puppy should get 5 minutes of exercise each day for every month of his age. So, exercise a two-month-old Bloodhound for 10 minutes, a 3-month-old for 15 minutes, and so on.
Like all puppies, Bloodhound puppies are curious and can be destructive. They’ll chew on just about anything, so make sure your Bloodhound has plenty of toys to keep him entertained. If you have to be out of the house for a bit and can’t take your puppy with you, it would be best to crate him while you’re gone. Make sure to leave toys in the crate, though!
Given the Bloodhound’s long tail, it would probably also be advisable to keep any breakables off low surfaces like coffee tables until he outgrows the “puppy rambunctiousness.”
As to feeding, adult Bloodhounds will require between four and eight cups of quality dog food each day, spread over two meals. Since this is a breed that is prone to bloat, it’s not a good idea to feed just one meal a day or to free feed your Bloodhound.
Obviously, there’s quite a range between four and eight cups, so keep an eye on your dog’s weight. If you stand facing your dog’s rear end and look down at him, you should be able to see a waist, and when you run your hands along his sides, you should be able to feel his ribs without pressing in too hard. If you can see his ribs, he’s not getting enough food. If you can’t feel them, he’s getting too much. Scale the portions up or down accordingly.
Also, keep in mind that it’s pretty much a given that a very active dog is going to need more food than one that isn’t all that active.
Coat and Grooming
The Bloodhound has a thin, loose coat with a lot of wrinkles, particularly at the sides of the face and on the forehead. He also has a dewlap under his neck. The coat can be red, black and tan, or liver and tan. Sometimes, you might see a few flecks of white, or badger-color (a mix of black, brown, gray and white).
You can get by with a weekly brushing using a rubber hound mitt. Bloodhounds are seasonal shedders, so you may want to brush more often during the shedding period. Remember to be gentle though, because Bloodhounds are thin-skinned.
In order to prevent infections, clean your Bloodhound’s wrinkles every day using a damp cloth. Then dry them thoroughly. Also, clean the flews (this is the hanging portion of his upper lip) following each meal.
A Bloodhound’s long, floppy ears can trap dirt, and form a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. This can lead to infection, so clean his ears once a week using a veterinary-approved solution. Squeeze in a good amount of cleaner, lower the dog’s ear flap, and massage the liquid in gently. Then wipe out any debris, moving from the inside part of the ear flap to the outside. Don’t insert anything into the ear canal. Continue wiping until you no longer see any dirt.
If your Bloodhound does develop an ear infection, consult your veterinarian to determine a course of treatment.
Other than the ears (and a Bloodhound does need a lot of ear care, so be sure you’re okay with that before committing to the breed), all you really need to do is trim his nails and brush his teeth. If his nails are clicking on hard surfaces, it’s time for a trim. As to tooth brushing, ideally you should do it every day. If you can’t, then at least try for a couple of times a week. Dogs are every bit as prone to cavities and gum disease as humans, so good oral hygiene is important. You should also have his teeth checked by your veterinarian regularly – once a year is best, but every two years will probably do.
Kids and Other Pets
Bloodhounds love people, and children are no exception. It’s doubtful that your Bloodhound would intentionally harm a child, but keep in mind that a Bloodhound is a very big, very active dog, and even a swipe of his gigantic tail could knock down a small child. You might want to put off getting a Bloodhound until your kids are big enough and old enough to withstand such accidents.
Keep in mind, too, that even the sweetest, gentlest dog can react impulsively if he gets his ears yanked, or if he’s awakened out of a sound sleep. Make sure your kids know how to treat dogs respectfully, and don’t leave kids and dogs together unsupervised.
Bloodhounds are also generally good with other dogs, although they tend to prefer those that are close to their own size. They’re also typically good with cats.
The Final Word
The Bloodhound is a strong, noble breed that is very active and intelligent. He’s well suited to owners who want an athletic companion, but at the end of the day, he’ll be perfectly happy to snuggle up and enjoy quiet time with kids or adults. The Bloodhound’s sweet nature makes him suited even for novice dog owners, so if you’re looking for a large, loving family dog, the Bloodhound is a perfect choice.