The bloodhound is one of our most ancient and historic breeds, recorded in Britain from about 1300, though it may have appeared much earlier. Its ancestors came from France and are believed to have included hounds of a type once bred by the monks of St Hubert's Abbey, in what is now Belgium. It was typically used on a leash to seek out a suitable deer or a wild boar which was then hunted by the pack. It needed a particularly keen nose for this work. It was also used to find animals which had eluded the hunt, possibly bleeding which is probably how the 'dog for blood' got its name, or perhaps its keenness to follow a scent was seen as showing a particular eagerness for blood. From the earliest times it was also used to track man.
According to medieval stories it was used to follow both Robert the Bruce and William Wallace when they were fleeing their enemies. In Scotland it was called the sleuth hound and it was used by both sides to seek out cattle thieves and raiders ('reivers') on the Scottish border, up to the end of the sixteenth century. Anyone refusing entry to the sleuth hound in pursuit of a thief was held to be an accomplice to the crime.
In the seventeenth century the great chemist Robert Boyle recorded a trial of a bloodhound in which it traced its quarry for seven miles along busy paths and found him in an upstairs room. It appears in literature, for instance in border ballads and the works ofSir Walter Scott, and in paintings notably by Landseer. It survived principally because it was kept by the owners of deer parks, to seek out deer for the gun, and later there were a few packs, hunting either the human scent or deer.
It almost died out in Britain during the second world war. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was exported in quite large numbers, relative to the total population, especially to north America and Europe, and these exported lines have been returning in recent years in the form of imports. For more information visit the following links: