Description & History

It is generally accepted that the Bloodhound, one of the oldest breeds in the world and the ancestor of all hound breeds in the British Isles, came to England about the time of the Norman Conquest.

The history of the breed can be traced back to the Ardennes in Belgium in the seventh century.

Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hunting, was a nobleman with a passion for the chase before dedicating himself to a monastic life. He is believed to have had a vision in the form of a cross while participating in his favourite sport and because of this took holy orders. In time he became the Bishop of Liege and founded his own monastery. This enabled him to breed his own hounds, which after his death were the named Saint Hubert Hounds by the monks in the monastery.

All scent hounds in the British Isles can trace their roots to either French or Belgian origins. With the introduction of the Saint Hubert Hound by the Normans to English soil, the style of hunting gradually changed, as these hounds would follow and find their prey by tracking and not by using their sight.

The hounds which were brought to England were black (or black and tans) and were used for hunting deer and also to guard pack-animals and the goods which they conveyed to different parts of the country. Another strain of the breed, the Talbots were white and are thought to be the ancestors of the present day pack hounds.

For centuries, until the development of the Foxhound, the the slow methodical Bloodhound was generally accepted by the landed gentry as an ideal hunter. Although it still had its followers, and still does to the present day, it was the new sport of foxhunting which became the more popular of the two pastimes.

The fox had been a pest for centuries and still is to farmers and people who live in the country and keep livestock. The introduction of this new hound, as well as providing a good days sport, also helped to control the fox population.

Unfortunately this saw the gradual decline of the Bloodhound, as far as the sporting activities were concerned, although they were still used by the police and military for tracking criminals and poachers - who helped themselves to game birds and livestock.

In 1997 there are 13 Bloodhound packs which hunt in the British Isles. This activity usually takes place between October and April, and is keenly followed by enthusiasts of the breed.

It is interesting to record that the Bloodhound was one of the breeds which was entered in the first Kennel Club stud book in 1874. The first field trials took place in Yorkshire in 1898.

Rosamund Walters.

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