The Sherlock of Dogs

You may recognize the bloodhound as one of the most commonly used dogs in a search-and-rescue effort.

Known for its keen sense of smell and tracking abilities, the bloodhound is the ultimate expert at sniffing out human scent over great distances—even through water—days after an individual has long disappeared.

Would it surprise you, then, to know that the bloodhound is also called the “sleuth hound”? Quite fitting for this doggy detective.


Some historians believe that the bloodhound, also known years ago as the St. Hubert hound, was bred by monks at the Saint-Hubert Monastery in Belgium around 1000 A.D. Other historians follow the common theory that the breed originates from France, as do many hound breeds.

The breed was initially bred as a hunting companion—its ability to scent wild boar and even humans was known early on; however, the bloodhound was kept on a leash while it tracked its prey until a pack of hunting dogs could move in for the actual hunt.

The earliest account of a bloodhound being used to track a human by its scent is documented in a mid-1600s study conducted by Irish scientist Robert Boyle during which one bloodhound was tasked with tracking down a man it had never before seen or come into contact with. The bloodhound successfully retraced the man’s steps, tracking him through seven very populated miles to his boarding room.

Despite the breed’s keen olfaction, by the end of the 18th century its fate was in dire straits. By the early 1800s, the bloodhound was nearly forgotten, its lineage suffering to near extinction. Due to the efforts of France’s Baron Le Couteulx de Canteleu during the 19th century, more than 300 bloodhounds were bred and re-introduced to the kennel clubs.

Although it is not known exactly when the bloodhound made its way to the United States, there is some speculation that the breed was used to track slaves during the Civil War. In fact, the bloodhound is internationally recognized for its sleuthing success in the United States—not only do law enforcement agencies utilize the bloodhound for its tracking ability—there is even a National Police Bloodhound Association.

Many families will attest to the good-natured personality of their bloodhounds, citing them as wonderful family pets.

Affectionate and usually very even-tempered, the bloodhound is known to be gentle around children, but as with any large-breed dog, supervision is recommended when children are present.

The bloodhound is also a strong-willed dog that benefits from regular training. This is a breed bred to work, so tasking it with routine training or socialization will usually result in a successfully happy, contented dog less likely to act out.

One interesting fact about bloodhounds: The breed has a very loud “voice.” While hunting with a pack, the breed is known to “sing,” “speak,” or “throw their tongue” loudly—otherwise known as a full cry. The breed usually reserves their voices for pack hunting, but are also known to occasionally “speak” when on their own.


The modern day bloodhound is a large dog, weighing anywhere from 110 to 160 pounds and standing up to 27 inches high.

Interestingly, this breed has an unusual factor when it comes to its weight: the majority of its girth comes from its bones, which are unusually thick for their length.

The breed’s fur—a short, firm coat—can be red, black, liver or tan. The bloodhound is well known for its long, draping ears and deep-set eyes. The breed is typically muscular, with shorter legs than one would expect on such a large breed.


While medical conditions are generally uncommon , they are known to occur in the breed. Your bloodhound will not necessarily develop the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

  • Cherry eye: Unlike people, dogs have a “third eyelid” that is located behind the lower lid in the corner of the eye next to the nose. The third eyelid contains a small gland on the surface of the lid next to the eyeball. Under normal circumstances, this gland is not visible and aids in the production of tears. When the gland of the third eyelid enlarges and prolapses, or comes out of its normal position, it swells and creates a condition known as cherry eye. The condition is usually treated surgically by suturing the gland back into its normal position.
  • Congenital subvalvular aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the outflow tract of the left ventricle just below the aorit valve of the heart. This is the most common defect in dogs.
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia are hereditary malformations of the elbow and hip joints most commonly associated with large breed dogs. These malformations cause discomfort and lameness and result in arthritis. X-rays of the elbows and hips when dogs are around two years of age can identify these problems. Your veterinarian should be consulted about treatment options for these crippling conditions.
  • Entropion, inward curling of the eyelid or ectropion, rolling out of the eyelid, is fairly common in the breed. The condition should be corrected surgically to prevent damage to the cornea of the eye.
  • Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by low thyroid hormone production of the thyroid glands. Lack of this hormone causes weight gain, lethargy, poor hair coat, infertility and susceptibility to chronic infections.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca—(Keratitis)KCS is otherwise known as “dry eye.” Inadequate tear flow causes painful eye infections of a chrnic nature. Causes vary from diseases such as distemper or certain medications that reduce tear production. Your veterinarian should be consulted for treatment recommendations if you suspect your dog has this condition.
  • Otitis externa (ear infections) refers to an inflammation of the ear canal, and can be caused by a foreign body in the ear canal, parasites, yeast or a bacterial infection. Bloodhounds have long ears that are more predisposed to ear problems than some other breeds. Cleaning your bloodhound’s ears beginning at a young age will help train your dog to tolerate routine cleanings and help prevent infection.
  • Skin irritation and infection can occur if proper care isn't taken to clean the folds of skin on a bloodhound’s face and body.
  • Stomach bloat or torsion (also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV) is very serious and often deadly condition where the stomach becomes painfully distended, either due to food, water or gas. The distended stomach then has a tendency to rotate twisting off its own blood supply and the only exit routes for the gas inside.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.