Bloodhound Breed Photo

Bloodhound

Bloodhounds are talented trackers who live by their noses, require dedicated care, and love their humans. Learn more about living with a bloodhound.
Bloodhound
Breed Group
Dog Size
Other Traits
Temperament

Bloodhound

height
  • 23–27 inches
weight
  • 80–110 pounds
life span
  • 10–12 years
breed size
  • large (61-100 lbs.)
good with
  • children
  • families
  • dogs
temperament
  • gentle
  • friendly
  • willful
intelligence
  • medium
shedding amount
  • seasonal
exercise needs
  • medium
energy level
  • calm
barking level
  • infrequent
drool amount
  • high
breed group
  • hound
coat length/texture
  • short
colors
  • black
  • fawn
  • red
  • brown / chocolate / liver
patterns
  • bicolor
  • black and tan
  • liver and tan
other traits
  • tendency to chew
  • strong loyalty tendencies
  • good hiking companion

Bloodhounds are affable, docile dogs when hanging out at home and eager, dedicated trackers when they're on the scent. There's a reason bloodhounds are famous for detective work—they have a keener sense of smell than any other breed of dog.

Owning a bloodhound takes work. As the American Bloodhound Club puts it, "They are big, powerfully built, slobber, and they eat a lot." But if you're willing to put in the effort, you'll be rewarded with a loyal companion who will make you laugh and love you forever. Mournful eyes, wrinkled faces, and long, droopy ears give bloodhounds the appearance of a sleepy old man, endearing them to generations of dog owners.

Appearance

Bloodhounds are such effective trackers because of their wrinkled skin and long, droopy jowls and ears—all features that help intensify scents, says Landa Coldiron, a bloodhound handler in California who specializes in finding lost pets. Even the breed's signature droopy eyefolds play a part: The skin drops down and covers up their eyes when they have their noses to the ground, allowing them to focus their attention on the scent trail.

bloodhound walking in a sunny backyard
Bloodhounds are big, solid dogs. And while they will never make a good running partner, they can keep pace on hikes for miles.
| Credit: dageldog / Getty

Bloodhounds also have incredible endurance; they're able to cover lots of ground for a long time. Male dogs are typically 25–27 inches tall, weighing 90–110 pounds, while female bloodhounds are 23–25 inches tall and weigh 80–100 pounds. Some bloodhounds can get even larger, so be prepared—your little bloodhound puppy is going to get big.

Bloodhounds have eyes that vary in color from deep hazel to yellow, and have a short, dense coat that comes in three standard colors: black and tan, liver and tan, and red.

Not to be confused with a basset hound, bloodhounds are much larger and heavier than their short-legged cousins.

Temperament

Despite the image of the bloodhound lounging sleepily on the porch, this breed is actually quite active. They need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, which means getting outside and letting him put his nose to good use on long walks and day hikes. Bored bloodhounds (especially puppies) will keep themselves busy by chewing, digging, and destroying furniture. 

bloodhound dog looking directly at the camera
All those wrinkles and droops do more than make a bloodhound look adorable. These folds actually help him when tracking a scent!
| Credit: Dixi_ / Getty

"There's a thing that's always stated: 'A happy life for a bloodhound is at the end of their nose,'" says Brenda Wendt, professional conservation detection canine trainer and handler. "It just is. That's what they were bred for; that's why they have all those wrinkles. You have to let them use what they were blessed with."

As social animals, bloodhounds get along with other dogs and even cats. They enjoy being with children, though because of their less-than-average eyesight, Wendt says these large dogs can inadvertently knock over or step on very small kiddos and pets. Like with all dogs, kids should be supervised during puppy playtime and be taught how to interact with pets.

"They're gentle giants for sure," Coldiron says. 

Bloodhounds don't bark often, tending instead to bay (making a long "rooo" sound) when they smell something interesting. 

Just remember that a bloodhound can have a one-track mind. Once he's caught a scent, he's going to be intently focused on that scent—whether it's something in your garbage, a trail leading across the street, or his favorite treats you've tucked away in the pantry.

"You can't hide their food from them," Wendt says. "You can't hide their beloved toys from them. Because they're going to smell it and, if they want to get to it, they can."

bloodhound sitting on a ledge next to the beach
Credit: Elena Yurchenko / 500px / Getty

Living Needs

If you've ever watched "The Beverly Hillbillies," you're probably familiar with the family's dog Duke, a lazy bloodhound who spent his days lounging around the mansion. 

"So many people have a misconception about the bloodhound," Wendt says. "[The show] made that appearance that they're calm and quiet and they just sleep, [but] no. You must allow them to use that nose and you must allow them to go out and investigate the world with their nose." 

Given how large and active bloodhounds are, they do best in a home with a large, fenced-in yard. The fence should be at least 6 feet high and secured underground, because bloodhounds dig—and if they've caught the scent of something interesting, they'll go after it at all costs. 

"They're escape artists," Coldiron says. "They have wanderlust for sure." She recommends making sure that your dog is microchipped and has some kind of ID on them.

pack of bloodhounds sniffing in the grass
Nose-to-the-ground is the bloodhound's go-to stance. These tracking dogs have a sniffer so strong, they're commonly used in search-and-rescue operations.
| Credit: mikedabell / Getty

But just because you have a big fenced space doesn't mean you can just let you bloodhound out to entertain himself, Wendt says. 

"They're familiar with their backyard," she says. "They want different smells. So getting them out and going other places, that's the way that you can tire them. " 

Bloodhounds love the outdoors and enjoy hikes and splashing in water (though they are generally not built for swimming). 

"You have to know what your breed was bred for and what will give them the happiness in their life, and not what, as an owner, you think is adequate," Wendt says. "They're not a dog for a runner, no, because that's not their pace. But if you simply like going out into the woods or on a walking path—fantastic, you've got a good partner at a moderate stride. They have to have that." 

Because of their scent drive, it's important to keep your bloodhound on-leash at all times when outdoors. They could otherwise take off after a scent for miles, and Wendt says their recall is "isn't going to be there." Once they're well-exercised and worn out, bloodhounds will be quiet pups who will happily snooze by your feet during movie night. 

At home, you'll need to make sure food and garbage are secured and that nothing edible is left on countertops—bloodhounds have a reputation as counter-surfers. 

Bloodhound laying on grass in front of a lake
Credit: Jeremy Woodhouse / Getty

Care

Bloodhounds have a short coat, but they will shed once or twice a year. Weekly brushing will help keep hair off of your furniture, and regular bathing will help cut down on the bloodhound's doggy odor.

It's important to wipe their eyes daily with a tissue or cotton pad to prevent crusty buildup and clean out their ears with unscented baby wipes or a liquid ear drying solution. Check the skin folds around his face, too, as water (and kibble bits) can easily get trapped in the folds. 

four bloodhound puppies sitting together in a line
Roly-poly bloodhound puppies need early socialization and consistent positive reinforcement training to grow into well-rounded dogs.
| Credit: Lakshmi3 / Getty

If there's one thing to know about bloodhound care, Wendt says, it's that they drool. A lot. She recommends always having a rag nearby to wipe up the drool that will accumulate.

"If you are persnickety, bloodhounds are not going to be your breed," Wendt says. "They're just not. They drool and when they shake their heads that drool flies everywhere."

Bloodhounds have an independent mind and might not always be the star of the doggy obedience class. However, they are intelligent and can be trained with patience and positive reinforcement.

"You are pretty darn lucky if you can get your bloodhound to sit on command and pretty darn lucky if you can get your bloodhound to [lie] down on command," Wendt says. "Usually, they will 'down' best when they're tired."

They do, however, pick up tracking very easily. In fact, bloodhounds are often used today as search-and-rescue dogs.

Health

Regular grooming is an important part of maintaining your bloodhound's health. Because their skin and ears can easily harbor moisture, it's important to keep an eye out for discoloration, excessive itching, and off-odors in their ears and skin folds—all signs of an ear infection.

You might also notice bloodhounds are prone to having red eyes. That's usually because the bloodhound's skin is so droopy, it pulls the eyelids down and either causes the eyelashes to irritate the eye, or pulls the tear ducts away from the eyes. Talk to your vet to discuss your bloodhound's eye condition and determine the best course of action.

Additionally, bloodhounds are also particularly prone to bloat, also called gastric dilation volvulus. GDV is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the dog's stomach becomes stretched and rotated, cutting off blood flow to the organs. It's important for dog owners to learn the symptoms of bloat and to get their dog to the vet immediately if the condition arises.

copper the bloodhound from Disney's Fox and the Hound
Credit: Courtesy of IMDB

History

The third-century Roman scholar Aelian mentions a hound with unparalleled scenting abilities that some historians say was an early bloodhound. This bloodhound-type dog appeared in Europe long before the Crusades, likely brought over from Constantinople, according to the breed club.

After that, the bloodhound we know today was carefully developed by high-ranking church officials in the monasteries of Western Europe, which is where the name "bloodhound" comes from; they were dogs of aristocratic blood. Early bloodhounds were bred at the Saint-Hubert monastery in Belgium, which is why the dog is called the chien de Saint-Hubert in French.

It's no accident that Saint Hubert is the patron saint of hunters. Bloodhounds were used to pick up the scent of boars and deer during medieval hunts. They've also been used to track down people since the breed's early days: At times, for dark purposes (such as tracking escaped slaves) and at others, for noble ones (like finding lost children).

The modern bloodhound was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885, and is still employed by many police departments and detectives for their scent-tracking superpowers.

Fun Facts