A bloodhound (also known as the St. Hubert hound) is a large breed of dog that was bred specifically to track human beings by scent. It is famed for its ability to follow scents hours or even days old over great distances. Its extraordinarily keen nose is combined with a strong and tenacious tracking instinct, producing the ideal scenthound, and it is used by police and law enforcement the world over to track escaped prisoners, missing persons, and even missing animals.
This breed is a gentle dog which is nonetheless tireless in following a scent. Because of its strong tracking instinct, it can be willful and somewhat difficult to obedience train. Bloodhounds have an affectionate, gentle, and even-tempered nature, so they make excellent family pets. However, like any large breed, they require supervision when around small children because they can knock them over with their bulk. Bloodhounds are also characterized by a stubborn "what's-in-it-for-me?" attitude, a likely cause (in conjunction with their size and propensity for excessive drooling) for the high rate, in comparison with other breeds, of bloodhounds given up for adoption once full-grown.
The bloodhound was, according to legend, first bred ca. 1000 AD by monks at the St. Hubert Monastery in Belgium; its origins are likely in France, home of many of modern hounds. Its excellent tracking skills were drawn on in breeding other scenthounds, such as the English Foxhound, American Foxhound, Coonhound, Swiss Jura Hound, Bavarian Mountain Hound and many others.
During the late 19th century, bloodhounds were frequent subjects for artists such as Edwin Landseer and Briton Riviere; the dogs depicted are close in appearance to modern bloodhounds, indicating that the essential character of the bloodhound predates modern dog breeding. However, the dogs depicted by Landseer show less wrinkle and haw than modern dogs.
The bloodhound's physical characteristics account for its ability to follow a scent trail left several days in the past. Under optimal conditions, a bloodhound can detect as few as one or two cells. The bloodhound's nasal chambers(where scents are identified) are larger than those of most other breeds. The large, long pendent ears serve to prevent wind from scattering nearby skin cells while the dog's nose is on the ground; 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.
A common misconception is that bloodhounds are employed in packs; while this is sometimes the case in England, in North America bloodhounds are used as solitary trackers. When they are on a trail, bloodhounds are usually silent and do not give voice as other scenthounds.
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