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A Bloodhound (also known as the St. Hubert Hound) is a large breed of dog bred for the specific purpose of tracking human beings. Consequently, it is often used by authorities to track escaped prisoners, missing children, or earthquake victims. It is a scenthound, famed for its ability to follow a scent many days old, over vast distances. It possesses the keenest sense of smell of any breed of dog, as well as an extremely strong tracking instinct. Bloodhounds are one of the most affectionate and friendly breeds of dog, known as "Gentle Giants."
The Bloodhound's physical characteristics account for its superlative ability to follow a scent trail left several days in the past. Humans constantly shed skin cells, as newer cells replace older ones. Under optimal conditions, a Bloodhound can detect as few as one or two skin cells. Odors are identified by scent receptors in a dog's nasal chambers; the larger the chambers, the greater the dog's ability to detect skin cells. The Bloodhound's nasal chambers are larger than those of most other breeds. The large and long pendent ears serve to prevent wind from scattering nearby skin cells while the dog's nose is on the ground, and the folds of wrinkled flesh under the lips and neck, called the shawl, serve to catch stray scent particles in the air or on a nearby branch as the bloodhound is scenting, reinforcing the scent in the dog's memory and nose.
Since the Bloodhound
relies on shed skin cells for its tracking ability, it can only be used
to track living people. If searchers are reasonably certain that the
target has died (as, after the second day or so, in the World Trade
Center attacks), they will use cadaver dogs, frequently German Shepherds.
This breed is a mellow, cheerful, affectionate dog who is nonetheless tireless in slowly and steadily following a scent. Because of its strong tracking instinct, it can be willful, and somewhat difficult to obedience train. However, with the proper amount of time and effort, this can be achieved.
Bloodhounds are extremely loyal companions, and if separated from their masters for long periods of time are known to mourn and stop feeding as a sign of distress. Affectionate, gentle, and even-tempered, they make excellent family pets but, like any large breed, may require supervision when around small children because of the possibility of knocking them over with their bulk.
The coat of the bloodhound is relatively simple in terms of care. The occasional brushing or wiping of the short coat is really all that is required. A few rub downs each week with a wet towel are suggested. This breed should only be bathed when necessary, but owners should be aware that the bloodhound does have a distinct odor which some people may not appreciate. This dog is considered to be an average shedder. Because this breed has a tendency to drool, it is important to clean the facial wrinkles on a daily basis. The ears should be cleaned regularly as well. Daily exercise is very important to this hunting hound, but exercise should always take place on a leash or in a safe, enclosed area to prevent the dog from picking up a scent and trailing it to the end. While the bloodhound does best in the country, it can live in an apartment dwelling as long as enough exercise is provided. This breed can walk for hours, and it would probably enjoy hiking with its owner. It is important, however, not to overtire this breed before they are full grown.
The Bloodhound is prone to hip dysplasia, and is one of the breeds that is the most frequent victims of bloat. Consequently, Bloodhound groups are attempting to concentrate funds for research into bloat at a small number of veterinary schools, in order to increase the likelihood of obtaining valuable results.
While it is difficult to prove the exact time of origin of this breed, it is often thought the bloodhound was found in Mediterranean regions years before the Christian era. In Historia Animalium by Claudius Aelianus of the 3rd century A.D., a dog known for his scenting abilities was described and noted for its determination to stay with the trail until the end. Other sources suggest that the bloodhound was found in Europe many years before the Crusades and that the first examples of the breed were brought there from Constantinople. It is believed that there were two varieties of the bloodhound: in the 8th century a black variety, called the St. Huberts, and later a white variety that was known as the Southern Hound. Other investigations suggest that the black version was also called the Flemish Hound, and the white version was called the Talbot Hound. The black dogs were the ones that were imported into England, and history suggests that William the Conqueror brought the bloodhound to England in 1066. In 12th century England, the elite further developed the breed for pack hunting, and some suggest that the name bloodhound is derived from the term "blooded hounds" - which refers to the noble breeding and pure blood of the breed. It is said that churches and monasteries of this time kept their own packs of bloodhounds. But it is said that the bloodhound breed was developed for use even more fully in America. This breed has been in the United States for over 100 years, and its accuracy in trailing is so impressive that evidence trailed by this breed is admissible in the court of law. The bloodhound was first registered by the AKC in 1885.
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