Bloodhounds – An Uncertain History

There is little known about the exact origin of bloodhounds. It is thought they were around long before the Christian Era, found throughout the Mediterranean countries. In Claudius Aelianus’ ‘Historia Animalium’ – written in the 3rd century CE – he described a dog with unrivalled scent powers, and resolved to stick to the trail until the quarry was located. It is thought that this was the first actual written description of what we know today as a bloodhound.

What’s in a Name?

It is thought by some that the ‘blood’ in bloodhound comes from the term ‘blooded’. Blooded is a term used to describe a hound of pure breeding. There is, however, a different view. In the 16th Century John Caius – an English physician – described how these dogs were used in game parks to track the scent of blood. It is thought that this activity gave bloodhounds their name. This second account has a lot more popularity and is thought to be the correct one.

The Hound, the Legend

As the legend goes, the St Hubert hound was first bred by the monks at the Saint-Hubert Monastery in Belgium around 1000 CE. In French-speaking European countries, this particular breed is known as Chien de Saint-Hubert. It is agreed that the original St Hubert breed died out in the 19th century, due to excessive inbreeding.

In the later 19th century, French St Hubert enthusiasts imported bloodhounds from Britain, in order to re-establish the St Hubert bloodline. Le Couteulx de Canteleu bred over 300 dogs himself.

Also in the later 19th century, bloodhounds were imported to America from Britain. The hounds were then bred in America. This picked up after 1888 when Edwin Brough – an English breeder – displayed three of his hounds at the Westminster KC show held in New York City.