There is little known about Bloodhound origins, but some authorities say the breed was known around the ancient Mediterranean. In his “Historia Animalium,” the third-century scholar Aelian mentions a hound of unrivaled scenting powers, so intensely devoted to his work that he could not be pulled off the trail until his quarry was found. The Bloodhound, then, appears to be oldest extant hound that hunts by scent and is a contributor to the development of subsequent hound breeds.
Bloodhounds as we know them were perfected in Western Europe about a thousand years ago. Credit for the careful development of the breed goes to high-ranking members of the Pre-Reformation church. In medieval times, when even bishops rode to hounds, many prominent princes of the church maintained packs of hounds on the grounds of the well-funded monasteries of England and France. So careful were the monks charged with executing the bishop’s breeding program that their hounds came to be known as “blooded hounds” —“blooded” meaning “of aristocratic blood.”
During the centuries since, the noble Bloodhound has earned a reputation as a man-trailer without equal. Police departments around the world have relied on these muscular, single-minded hounds to follow the scent of humans—maybe a criminal, or a lost child, or a confused senior. An assignment might last all day and night, over hills and through swamps, but Bloodhounds won’t give up until they follow the trail to the end. Even in these days of high-technology, no scenting device yet invented is as accurate as the Bloodhound nose.