PetMD Editorial
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PetMD Editorial
Published: September 12, 2008

The Bloodhound is a large scent hound originally bred for the purpose of tracking and trailing human beings. Often recognized for its long ears and wrinkled face, the Bloodhound has a keen sense of smell and an extraordinary ability to follow a scent -- even scents that are days old. This makes the dog an excellent aid and an important part of a search and rescue team.

Physical Characteristics

With its tail held high and a free, elastic gait, the Bloodhound is noted for its endurance more than its swiftness. Its short and dense coat offers protection from thorny brambles and gives the Bloodhound a dignified and noble appearance. Often recognized for its loose, thin skin, the Bloodhound's wrinkles are found around the throat, head and face, and is said to help capture the scents. The Bloodhound also has long ears that can stir up odors from the ground. The acceptable colors for the Bloodhound include black and tan, liver and tan, or red.

Personality and Temperament

Docile and well-mannered, the Bloodhound is not usually harmful toward humans, remaining calm at home. And while it makes for a great family pet, the Bloodhound may be shy around strangers. It can be difficult to train a Bloodhound at first because of its playfulness, stubbornness, toughness and independence. These characteristics, however, are what make the Bloodhound a tireless trailer and a loyal companion.


Bred to trail under any condition, the Bloodhound does not stop once it’s on a trail. Therefore, being that it needs regular exercise, it should be kept in an enclosed area when outside so that it does not go too far. The Bloodhound's grooming needs are little more than the occasional wiping or brushing of its coat (in order to keep it sparkling), and the cleaning and removal of drool or dirt around its facial wrinkles. This breed can function as an indoor or outdoor dog, provided it has shelter and comfortable, warm bedding.


The lifespan of the Bloodhound is 7 to 10 years. Some major health problems the breed is susceptible to include skin-fold dermatitis, ectropion, entropion, otitis externa, gastric torsion, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and elbow dysplasia. The Bloodhound also suffers occasionally from hypothyroidism.

History and Background

According to legend, the Bloodhound was first bred in two variations: black and white. The blacks, first developed by monks at the St. Hubert Monastery in Belgium around the 8th century, and were later imported into England by William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D. In the 12th century, many English dignitaries began using these dogs as hunting companions, referred to as “blooded hounds,” indicating their noble breeding and pure blood.

In the United States, Bloodhounds were recognized in the mid-1800s, again for its ability to trace a scent -- helping their human masters track criminals or lost persons. (Once the Bloodhound locates a person, it never attacks him/her.) Today, the Bloodhound is considered a great and loyal companion.

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