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Breed history


The most important ancestor for the modern bloodhound was the St. Hubert hound, that dates back to the 7th century. A French hunter (later a monk, a bishop and a saint “St. Hubert”) Francois Hubert bred his own line of hunting dogs in the French Ardennes. After he died, the monks of the monastery continued breeding these dogs. Even today, the November 3rd is celebrated as the day of Saint Hubert.

Originally the St. Hubert hounds were black, but along the years they got small tan markings, which gradually grew larger. William the Conqueror took black and tan St. Hubert hounds to England in 1066. His son continued breeding them in England. The breed was then used for hunting deer. Almost for 700 years the St. Hubert monastery kept sending three pairs of bloodhounds a year to the Kings of France, who further sent dogs to England. The original St. Hubert line was restored until the 19th century.

Another ancestor for the modern bloodhound was the Talbot hound. These were believed to have been born as crosses between the white St. Hubert hounds and other white French hound breeds. These were also exported to England, where they were restored until the beginning of the 19th century, even though they had become extinct in Europe.

Around the 16th century the bloodhound was started to be used more widely for tracking down people, especially catching pouchers and sheep thieves. The trailing ability of the bloodhound was valued very high; these dogs were allowed to trail criminals to their homes. This made the bloodhound as the terror of criminals and to a great deal thanks to this, the amount of crimes decreased.

When the deer hunting changed to fox hunting along the years in England, smaller and faster breeds were bred for this purpose as crosses of Bloodhound and other hound breeds, for example foxhound and beagle. Around this time, the use of bloodhound was changed more to human trailing. Gradually the number of bloodhounds decreased, however.

The breed was saved by the start of the dog show hobby in 1859. The popularity and the number of bloodhounds increased remarkably due to this.

In 1898 the Association of Bloodhound Breeders of England started to promote the trailing use of the breed as a hobby. Even when all the dogs of that age were merely show and companion dogs, it was noticed that the natural scenting ability had not been ruined by decades of breeding for other than hunting purposes. This was the beginning of re-found use of the bloodhound in trailing people.

The first bloodhound came to America sometime before the revolution, the exact time point is not known. Contrary to the common belief, the bloodhound was not used for tracking down escaped slaves in America – notably these dogs were crosses between bloodhounds, Great Danes, mastiffs and other large breeds. During the national war, the bloodhound population decreased in America and started to increase only at the end of the 19th century, thanks to the dog show hobby.

When the bloodhound became nearly instinct in England during World War 2, several bloodhounds were imported from America to England. This helped in restoring the stock in England.

Nowadays the bloodhound is fairly common both in England and in United States. In Europe the number of bloodhound varies from country to another. Mostly bloodhounds are kept as show and companion dogs, but especially in Europe they are also used for hunting to some extent. In United States and also in some other countries the breed is used for trailing lost people and escaped convicts. The obstacle for wider use of a bloodhound by the authorities is mainly the one-sidedness – even when the bloodhound is an excellent mantrailer, he does not posses the will to please his master, a trait that many other breeds have, which makes him a difficult breed to train.

The first bloodhound in Finland was imported from England in 1924, but the Finnish Bloodhound Association was not founded until 1971. The bloodhound population in Finland is mainly based on dogs imported from England, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.