The Bloodhound, also known as the Chien de Saint-Hubert and the St. Hubert Hound, is the oldest and largest breed of hounds that hunt entirely by scent. It has also been called the Sleuth Hound, Sleughhound, Sleuth Dog, Slot Hound, Slough Dog, Slughound, Sluithound and Sluth Hound. Whatever it is called, the Bloodhound is one of the most docile and gentle of all canine breeds. It is said that “no nose knows like the Bloodhound’s nose.” His unrivaled ability to follow even the faintest scent always ends when he has followed the trail to its logical termination; unlike a police- or military-trained dog, he will not apprehend or hold his quarry and is more likely to lick it than to bite it. The Bloodhound’s tracking ability is so remarkable and reliable that the end-result of his efforts has been accepted as evidence by many courts of law. According to the American Kennel Club, some of the great Bloodhounds in this country have brought about more convictions for police departments than have the best human detectives. One famous Bloodhound in the late 1890s purportedly picked up a trail that was more than 105 hours old, resulting in a conviction. Bloodhounds reportedly have successfully followed trails that are more than 14 days old. They continue to be used by law enforcement and search-and-rescue organizations in their traditional capacities, but they also compete successfully in obedience and in the conformation show ring.
The source of the name of this breed is controversial. Most experts believe that it stems from the extreme care that was taken to keep this breed pure, going back to the twelfth century and even earlier. They came to be called the “blooded hound,” referring to the purity of their pedigree and their ownership almost exclusively by persons of nobility. “Blooded hound” was meant to mean “aristocratic.” Centuries later, a noted English physician and dog-lover offered another explanation for the name, suggesting that Bloodhounds were well-known to follow their prey not only while it was alive but also after death, once they caught the scent of blood.
The average Bloodhound stands 23 to 27 inches at the withers and weighs between 80 and 120 pounds. The taller and heavier animals are preferred, assuming that both overall quality and proportion are maintained. Bloodhounds have thin skin that hangs loosely in deep folds, particularly around the face and neck, resembling an oversized, ill-fitting suit. They are low maintenance dogs that require minimal brushing to keep their short, smooth, water-resistant coats clean. Their long, soft ears do require regular cleaning. Bloodhounds have a uniquely melodious voice that is difficult to ignore, but despite their reputation they do not typically bay or howl throughout the chase.