Breeders of purebred dogs speak a language all their own. Wherever they gather, at dog shows, seminars or in chat rooms, words and phrases are used that have very narrow definitions. Their usage makes it difficult for a novice to fully participate in the conversation, and all but impossible for the general public to follow along.

Much of the breeder’s language is derived from domesticated livestock or veterinary science. Veterans who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their own family of purebreds use agricultural and medical terms with confidence. When noted breed authorities get together, the dialog that results can effortlessly span the broadest topics, although the words spoken will often have the narrowest of definitions.

Those words are quite often derived from the breed standards. As guide for both breeder and judge, the standard describes those characteristics of make, shape and behavior that define a breed, distinguishing it from all the rest. Distinctions between breeds can be subtle, so standards use very specific words to illustrate singular traits. These buzzwords become part of every breeder’s dog show dialect, guiding both conversations with peers and decisions made in the whelping box.

The Bloodhound. Photo by Eriklam/

According to legend, the progenitor of the modern day Bloodhound was conceived by the monks of the Saint-Hubert Monastery in the Walloon region of Belgium. Though likely developed in France, the breed has been in existence in one form or another for approximately a thousand years. It is considered one of the oldest scent hounds, reportedly brought to Europe from Constantinople as two separate strains –one black in color and the other white. Bloodhounds were originally used to hunt deer and wild boar.

By the mid 14th century, the breed was known in England, likely as a result of the Norman Conquest. In what form that hound appeared is not exactly known, but the breed as it is recognized today was developed in Britain for use as a pack hound, hunted on horseback.

The Bloodhound’s claim to fame, of course, is its ability to recognize and follow human scent, and to correctly identify a single individual. The breed’s extraordinary sense of smell and tireless tracking abilities have made it popular among police and law enforcement authorities in America for more than a century. Countless missing persons, lost children and escaped prisoners have been recovered thanks to the exceptional tracking and trailing abilities of this affectionate and tenacious hound.

Interestingly, the breed’s name does not refer to its trailing abilities at all, but rather to its status as an aristocrat or “blooded hound.”

A Baggy Suit

As one of the oldest breeds that hunts by scent, the Bloodhound certainly does look the part. Its extremely loose skin gives it the appearance of a lovable, if disheveled, senior citizen. According to the General Character section of the AKC breed standard, “The skin is thin to the touch and extremely loose, this being more especially noticeable about the head and neck, where it hangs in deep folds.” The loose skin creates a memorably unique countenance, especially when the hound is trailing with nose to the ground. In this position, the skin of the head falls into “loose, pendulous ridges and folds, especially over the forehead and sides of the face,” according to the standard.

The Bloodhound’s head exaggerates the skin’s abundance by virtue of its size and shape. It is, according to the standard, “…narrow in proportion to its length, and long in proportion to the body.” When viewed from the front or from above, the head appears to be flattened at the sides. In profile, the length of the head is at least 12 inches in dogs and 11 inches in bitches. This long and narrow head is exceptionally suited for draping the breed’s famous hooded headwear, and helps to give the breed its characteristic solemn expression.

A Well-Developed Dewlap

The abundant wrinkling of the face extends to an exaggeration of the lips and flews. According to the standard, “In front the lips fall squarely, making a right angle with the upper line of the foreface; whilst behind they form deep, hanging flews.” Naturally, this looseness of the skin contributes to the big, jowly appearance and the undeniable mess and slobber that go with it. The Bloodhound is impressive for a wide variety of reasons!

Because the breed works with its nose to the ground, its neck is long enough to prevent fatigue. As on the head, the skin of the neck is pendulous and hangs in deep folds, creating a characteristic dewlap. This feature is “very pronounced,” according to the breed standard, and present in both sexes – though to a lesser degree in bitches.

Stem To Stern

The tail of the Bloodhound is referred to as a stern. This once common word, used to describe the rear section of any object or animal, is primarily a nautical term today.

According to the breed standard, the stern is “set on rather high” and “carried high” as well. Its length is long, in balance with the long neck, and tapers toward the end in a gentle curve, with only a moderate amount of hair underneath.

The stern is most memorable, perhaps, when the hound is on the move. The standard describes the breed’s gait as “elastic, swinging and free.” Well, of course it does! How else would an aristocratic vagabond in ill-fitted vestments be expected to move?

While the Bloodhound may be best known for its legendary looks and its unequalled scenting ability, its triumphant banner of a tail is what proclaims it as one of the dog world’s happiest and hardest-working hounds.