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the search for a dog
bloodhound on a beach

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Hound Group (American Kennel Club), Scenthound Group (United Kennel Club)
  • Height – 23 to 27 inches
  • Weight – 80 to 110 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Short, smooth coat
  • Coat color – Black and tan, liver and tan, or red. This may include small white patches on the chest, feet, or tail.
  • Exercise needs – Regular
  • Intelligence – High 
  • Barking – Very vocal
  • Life span – 10 to 12 years
  • Temperament – Easygoing, reserved, inquisitive, and independent
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – Europe

👉 No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but some are better than others for allergy sufferers.

Bloodhound fun facts

  • A bloodhound named Trumpet won the Best in Show title at the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. He’s the first of his breed to do so. He bested a French bulldog, a German shepherd, a Maltese, an English setter, a Samoyed, and a Lakeland terrier to win the honor. 
  • The breed’s name does not mean “blood-seeking hound.” It means “hound of pure or noble blood,” hinting at the steps taken to preserve their lineage. 
  • Testimony of a bloodhound’s manhunt is upheld in most courts of law. They are the only breed of dog for which this holds true.
bloodhound puppy

Bloodhound temperament and characteristics

You don’t own a bloodhound so much as your bloodhound owns you. Lovers of the breed refer to themselves simply as “bloodhound people” and take the responsibility of having a bloodhound very seriously. 

Bloodhounds are noble and dignified. Their large folds of skin often hide their eyes, giving them an almost solemn look. But underneath all those folds is an intelligent and affectionate animal who loves unconditionally. When socialized at an early age, they are good with children and enjoy the company of other dogs. It’s important to introduce visitors to your bloodhound the proper way. Have them approach from the front, extend a hand for your pup to smell, and be patient.

Common bloodhound health problems

There are a handful of conditions for which bloodhounds are predisposed. In some cases, these are genetically passed, like in the case of hip dysplasia. In other cases, it’s the the bloodhound’s stature that has made it more likely to develop a condition. This is specifically true with bloat, also referred to as gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV. Like other breeds, bloodhounds can acquire other health issues in the eyes, heart, and other systems naturally as they age. 

Look for a breeder who goes through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to certify the knees, hips, and elbows of their breeding dogs. The eyes can be certified by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. 

  • Eye problems. Cherry eye, entropion, and ectropion are all common eye problems that affect Bloodhounds. These can be painful for your pup, so it’s important to pay attention to signs of discomfort like pawing, discharge, or redness.
  • Skin conditions. The folds of the bloodhound’s skin trap moisture and create a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria to thrive. The overgrowth of these organisms causes an infection within the skin folds, a condition called skin fold dermatitis. The skin often appears moist, red, and may have an odor. 
  • Hip dysplasia. This is an inherited disease due to the femur not sitting snugly within the hip joint. Instead the femoral head is partially or completely out of the joint and grinds against the pelvis which leads to pain. Lameness, bunny hopping gait when running, and reluctance to run, jump, and go up or downstairs are common symptoms of hip dysplasia. This condition is diagnosed with a physical exam and x-rays of the pelvis. As a large breed, maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for managing any symptoms of hip dysplasia. Surgery may also be needed to prevent chronic discomfort.
  • Bloat. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) or bloat occurs when the stomach fills with air and fluid and twists on itself. The twisted stomach cuts off the blood supply to other organs. Signs of bloat include a distended abdomen, decreased appetite, vomiting, and restlessness. This condition can quickly become fatal, so take your pup to the emergency vet at the first sign of distress.

Costs of caring for a bloodhound

The cost of treating or managing any of the above conditions can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. And in the case of severe hip dysplasia where surgery may be necessary, you can expect to shell out as much as $10,000 if a total hip replacement is needed. Health insurance or a pet savings account are great ways to reduce out-of-pocket expenses and you’ll reap the most benefits if you sign up early.

History of the bloodhound

The exact ancestry of the bloodhound as we know it today is a bit of a mystery. There is some evidence to suggest a scenthound like the bloodhound existed as far back as the third century in the ancient Mediterranean. Some tales mention St. Hubert hounds, another potential predecessor to the bloodhound that was named for the church where it was bred. There are also tales of bloodhound-type dogs being imported by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and owned by English dignitaries in the 12th century. 

According to legend, the bloodhound as it exists today was developed in Western Europe during medieval times. Monks from the monasteries of France and England worked to preserve and enhance the bloodhound’s scenting ability through careful breeding. And this was a task they took very seriously. 

Back then, kings, princes, and bishops would use bloodhounds in packs or singly on a leash to hunt deer or track down missing people. Today, they remain the original “sleuth hound” with impressive noses that can follow a scent trail for miles over harsh terrain. Their noses have no technological equal, boasting nearly 300 million olfactory receptors – that’s 40 times more sensitive than a human’s nose. That’s also why they’re commonly called “a nose with a dog attached”.

In fact, every part of the bloodhound contributes to its ability to track or trail for hours on end. The long ears and hanging jowls stir up and trap scent particles. Their bodies are solid, long, and often described as “rectangular.” This means they stand over more ground, making them more stable on difficult terrain. Beneath all those folds are a muscular neck and shoulders, a broad chest, and powerful legs. Their smooth, velvety coat glides through brush and briars, and even their feet are purpose-built with short toes and thick padding.

Their love for following scent trails begins to show when they are just weeks old and only grows from there. They’ve become a popular search and rescue breed for law enforcement, and the results of their manhunts are admissible as evidence in many courts of law. The most successful bloodhound in recorded history was Nick Carter, an early 20th-century tracker who was recognized for more than 650 finds. One of those finds required him to successfully pick up and follow a 12-day-old trail.

bloodhound looking at the camera

Caring for your bloodhound

By the time you bring an 8-week-old bloodhound puppy home, they’ll already weigh around 30 pounds. That’s a lot of puppy to manage and it might feel overwhelming at first. Make sure you’ve taken steps to puppy-proof your home, paying extra attention to anything you’ve left lying around. Bloodhounds are notorious for eating things they shouldn’t. And don’t forget to schedule their first trip to the vet to keep them up to date on vaccinations

Exercise 

Despite their large size and generally sleepy demeanor, bloodhounds actually need a fair amount of exercise. Remember, they’re purpose-built to track scents for as long as needed and have been known to walk for hours to do so. Your bloodhound will benefit from daily walks as well as off-leash time where they can be free to smell about the yard. However, they’re not great at noticing roads or potentially dangerous situations, so always keep them inside a fenced yard or on a leash when out for walks. 

Attention is key to bonding with your bloodhound. They love spending time with their humans, sitting on laps, and giving hugs. Exercise is just another way to build this bond even stronger.

bloodhound hunting

Grooming 

The bloodhound coat is smooth, short, and dense and sheds up to two times a year. Grab a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt, or a hound brush to help remove the shed hair. Brushing promotes new hair to grow and distributes nourishing skin oils that will keep the coat healthy. 

You’ll want to bathe your bloodhound regularly to reduce their odor which can be caused by moisture and bacteria trapped in the folds of their skin. Inspect between the loose folds often and keep these areas clean and dry to prevent infections of the skin from forming. 

Nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing are all important grooming habits to have for your bloodhound. Daily walks will help keep the nails short, but plan on trimming the nails at least once a month. Their long, floppy ears can trap dirt and debris pretty quickly, so make sure you’re checking and cleaning them weekly with a routine ear cleaner. Aim for weekly teeth brushing as well to keep their teeth healthy and their breath smelling fresh. 

Diet and nutrition 

There are no special dietary restrictions with this breed. Your bloodhound will thrive on a balanced diet of high-quality, commercially made large breed dog food, fed at the appropriate serving size for their age. You can always consult your vet for help with portioning to avoid overfeeding. Obesity, especially in larger breeds, can lead to – or worsen – joint problems.

Training your bloodhound

Bloodhounds are trainable and adaptable, but also stubborn and independent. It’s imperative that you start training as early as possible and it will be helpful if this is not your first experience training a dog. Puppy obedience classes and group training are good choices for this breed, too, if you’re not ready to take on the task yourself. 

The key to training bloodhounds is a firm but kind hand and lots of positive reinforcement. But, it will pay off in the long run as bloodhounds can become set in their ways quickly.

bloodhound on a leash

Breeds similar to the bloodhound

Now that you’ve read a bit about the bloodhound’s history, temperament, and care needs, is this the right breed for you? Even if you are sure, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Labrador retriever. If you want the loyalty of the bloodhound without the stubbornness, a Labrador retriever may be a better choice. They’re great with kids, dogs, and just about everybody, plus they’re among the easiest of dog breeds to train. 
  • Saluki. With its ancient lineage, the saluki’s noble stature mirrors that of the bloodhound. Evidence of this breed dates all back to 329 A.D. in Egypt. 
  • Dachshund. Dachshunds are all hound but in a petite body. They share similarities with the bloodhound in nearly every category, from trainability to grooming to exercise needs, but may be a better choice for apartment dwellers or those with smaller yards.

Frequently asked questions

Is a bloodhound a good family dog?

When socialized from an early age, bloodhounds are great companions for families with children and other dogs.

Are bloodhounds vicious?

It’s a common misconception that their name comes from a scent preference or even a lust for blood. However, the name bloodhound actually hints at a noble, pure, and aristocratic lineage that’s been well preserved throughout the centuries.

Why do bloodhounds stink?

The loose folds of the bloodhound’s coat are great at trapping moisture which can cause bacterial and/ or yeast infections to develop. These infections can create an odor. Check the folds regularly and clean them daily with an antibacterial or antifungal wipe to minimize risk for infection.

How much do bloodhounds cost?

The cost of a bloodhound puppy can vary based on location and demand. Expect to pay $500–$700 on the low end all the way up to $5,000 for a purebred bloodhound.

What is the temperament of a bloodhound?

Bloodhounds are described as independent, stubborn, and stuck in their ways, but they’re also loyal, loving, and patient. These good qualities (plus early socialization and training) make them a top-50 breed in popularity in the United States.