The Bloodhound is a large hound dog from France with a hardy build, short fur, wrinkly skin, extra-long ears, and an incredibly powerful nose. This breed may bring the laid-back family dog from The Beverly Hillbillies to mind, but these immense, powerful dogs are anything but lazy.
With the strongest sense of smell in the canine world, Bloodhounds are exceptionally skilled trackers—especially when looking for people—and their scenting abilities are so accurate that their findings are even admissible in a court of law. While they're some of the calmest, most even-tempered dogs in the house, Bloodhounds are tenacious when following a trail. With their families, these dogs are affectionate and eager to lounge.
Height: 25 to 27 inches (males); 23 to 25 inches (females)
Weight: 90 to 110 pounds (males); 80 to 100 pounds (females)
Coat: Short, dense, and loose fur with many folds around the face, neck, and ears
Coat Color: Black and tan, liver and tan, or red
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
Temperament: Active, loving, even-tempered, stubborn, gentle
Characteristics of the Bloodhound
Because they're true pack dogs, Bloodhounds have a companionable temperament with other dogs and children. They also have high exercise needs and energy levels, so being left alone for extended periods of time can be detrimental. If your family has a busy schedule and you're away from home for most of the day, the Bloodhound likely is not the right dog for you. This breed does best in homes with large, fenced-in backyards (privacy fences are recommended). Apartment or small-space living is not suitable.
Bloodhounds are active dogs that require plenty of daily exercise, especially when raised as pets. Despite their massive size, these hounds have extremely affectionate and easygoing personalities with the right owners. With proper care, the Bloodhound can become a beloved member of your family.
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History of the Bloodhound
Bloodhounds belong to a group of dogs known as Sagaces that hunt by scent. They were first used in Medieval Europe to hunt wild boar, deer, and other game.
It's believed that the Bloodhound dates back to the first century AD in France, but the first written reference to the breed appeared in a poem by Sir Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. The poem describes a dog carefully trailing a couple dressed up as bears.
Before they were known as Bloodhounds, these dogs were called St. Hubert hounds. Francois Hubert made it his life's work to breed dogs that could follow a cold (or old) trail, and he continued to develop the breed after retiring to a French monastery. Following his death, Hubert was canonized as the patron saint of hunters in France, hence the name St. Hubert hounds.
St. Hubert Hounds were popular among royalty, including William the Conqueror (who brought them to England when he invaded in 1066) and Elizabeth I, who liked to hunt and kept packs of dogs. During the French Revolution, St. Hubert Hound populations decreased in France, but the breed remained popular in England.
The modern Bloodhound breed was developed in England and eventually traveled to colonial America. Their popularity dipped during the Civil War—they had been depicted as vicious animals in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin—but it had a resurgence in 1888 when English Bloodhounds competed in the Westminster Kennel Club show. After the show, many Americans brought Bloodhounds home and further populated the breed in North America.
Today, Bloodhounds are ranked 45th among breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. Along with being family companions, they're often used by police departments and law enforcement agencies as scenthounds to track missing people and suspects.
The Bloodhound's good nature and heartwarming, entertaining personality has made it a cherished breed among hound enthusiasts. However, these high-maintenance dogs don't become their best without plenty of time and effort from their owners. If you think the Bloodhound is right for you, it's best to research and prepare for the proper care that these dogs require.
Bloodhounds are energetic dogs that require at least two hours per day of substantial exercise. Activities like running and hiking are great ways for owners to exercise with this breed. Bloodhounds are capable of walking or jogging for miles, but they're also content to play in the backyard.
These hounds have a tendency to follow their noses and drift away during walks or playtime, so keeping them on a leash or contained in a fenced-in yard is vital. Since the breed is known for being the best scenter of all, your Bloodhound is also the perfect candidate to play nose work games with you. Hide-and-seek, either to find treats or family members, is an especially fun activity that owners can do with these dogs.
Because of the long, deep wrinkles around their faces, necks, and ears, Bloodhounds require consistent grooming and cleaning. Owners should expect to clean wrinkles daily. Wiping them with a damp washcloth and drying them thoroughly can help prevent bacterial infections from forming. Be sure to clean the folds around the mouth after every meal.
Bloodhounds have short, dense coats that should be brushed weekly using a rubber mitt or brush. They shed seasonally and may require additional brushing during this time. Since they have such thin, loose skin, it's important for owners to be careful and gentle when grooming. Like all breeds, you should also brush your Bloodhound's teeth regularly and trim his or her nails as needed.
The Bloodhound's droopy ears often catch dirt, debris, and bacteria, so weekly ear cleaning is mandatory. Ask your veterinarian to provide you with an ear cleaning solution. Administer it to the ear canal once per week, then gently massage the solution into the ear. You can carefully remove any dirt, debris, or wax using a clean cotton pad or cloth. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can damage the delicate inner-ear structures.
Grooming and ear cleaning are extremely important to the Bloodhound's health. If your family can't dedicate the necessary time to caring for this dog's skin and ears, you may want to consider another breed.
Bloodhounds can be stubborn, which may make training difficult. Obedience classes are recommended beginning in puppyhood at about eight weeks of age. The keys to training your dog are consistency and patience; be sure to utilize positive reinforcement with special toys and treats. Methods of punishment are not recommended for this breed, as it can be detrimental to their sensitive nature and lead to fear or anxiety when interacting with you.
Prospective owners should know that Bloodhounds of all ages are chewers, so it's important to establish which items in the house are designated for this in puppyhood. Like other hounds, this breed is also likely to be vocal. Rather than barking, it's known for its loud bay. This is another reason that the Bloodhound is recommended for homes with plenty of outdoor space (and preferably not too close to any neighbors).
Common Health Problems
Bloodhounds are generally healthy dogs, but like most purebreds, they may be susceptible to certain inherited health problems. Responsible breeders strive to maintain high standards by performing medical tests on prospective parents before breeding.
Some conditions commonly seen in Bloodhounds include:
- Ear infections: The Bloodhound's long, droopy ears often catch dirt, debris, and bacteria. Examining and cleaning your dogs' ears frequently can help prevent infections.
- Dermatitis: Like their ears, this breed's facial wrinkles can trap dirt, bacteria, and even food, which can lead to fold dermatitis. Signs of this condition include redness, irritation, sores, and odors, and it most commonly occurs around the tail, face, and lips.
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat): Common in large breeds, Bloat consists of a buildup of gases in the stomach that cause it to twist. Your veterinarian may recommend preventative surgery to tack the stomach down. Early signs include distended abdomen, retching without producing vomit, or excessive drooling.
Diet and Nutrition
Depending on your dog's age, size, and activity level, you can expect to feed him or her between 4 and 8 cups of high-quality dog food divided into two meals daily. Like other large breeds, some owners of Bloodhounds opt to use slow-feeder bowls or feed their dogs several smaller meals each to help prevent Bloat.
Monitor your dog's weight to prevent canine obesity, which can lead to other serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. If you've noticed your dog gaining weight, limit treats and consult your veterinarian about healthy options. Your vet can also help you determine the proper portions and nutrients that your dog needs at different stages of life.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Bloodhound
Bloodhounds aren't for every family. If you're away from the home often or live in a smaller space, a Bloodhound may not be the right pick for you. Unfortunately, many Bloodhounds are purchased from breeders without a clear understanding of the care and time required to raise this breed. For this reason, they can be surrendered to shelters or rescue groups. Contact your local animal shelter or breed-specific rescues to adopt a Bloodhound in need of a forever home.
If you plan to purchase a Bloodhound as a puppy, be sure to do your research and ensure you're working with an ethical breeder. Be on the lookout for common signs of backyard breeding, like unsanitary conditions at the breeding site, multiple litters available at the same time, or unhealthy dogs. You should also be provided with the litter's medical background and allowed to meet their parents. Puppies typically cost between $450 and $1,200, though prices may vary based on pedigree and availability.
To start your search, check out these resources for the national breed club, breed-specific rescues, and the AKC:
Affectionate, loyal, and loving toward family members and other pets
Great for active families
Low-maintenance brushing and bathing
Tend to wander when off-leash or in a non-enclosed area
High-maintenance grooming requirements
Needs considerable daily exercise
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
If you love the Bloodhound, you may also like these similar breeds:
There are plenty of different dog breeds out there that can join your family. With a little research, you can find your next best friend!
Do Bloodhounds Make Good House Pets?
The Bloodhound is known for its calm temperament at home, but this breed also requires extensive daily exercise to stay so laid-back indoors. It's essential for prospective owners to have plenty of outdoor space (safely fenced-in) and provide regular grooming care to keep the Bloodhound happy and healthy.
Can a Bloodhound Be a Guard Dog?
Are Bloodhounds Smart Dogs?
Bloodhounds are incredibly efficient at tracking and finding targets—like animals, missing people, and more—but they are also stubborn. This breed is smart when it comes to performing its job, but training can be difficult.