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The Bloodhounds are on the Trail!

By Amy Fernandez

Bloodhounds are this week’s canine media stars thanks to the most sensational jailbreak in recent history. America has been riveted on the tiny upstate town of Dannemora, NY where two convicted killers checked themselves out of Clinton Correctional, New York’s largest maximum security prison, one week ago.

Since then, false leads have sent this massive manhunt ricocheting from Philadelphia to Mexico. Despite official reassurances, it was pretty clear no one had a clue where to focus the search. Then they brought in the Bloodhounds and within hours they got a hit. Consequently, efforts have been narrowed to a five mile densely wooded area east of the prison.

Bloodhounds are good that way. Their reputation as the penultimate scent hound dates back to Classical Greece where they were celebrated for their unprecedented ability to follow cold trails. It is theorized that returning crusaders brought Bloodhound ancestors to Europe from the Middle East around approximately 1000 A.D.  Within 200 years, this stock emerged as the limer, the Medieval leash hound.

The Benedictine Monks of St. Hubert are credited for perfecting the Bloodhound prototype. Its unerring nose and mellow voice earned international acclaim and became the foundation for countless scent hound breeds in subsequent centuries. In deference to this Belgian legacy, FCI continues to classify the Bloodhound as the Chien de St. Hubert.

The breed suffered a precipitous decline following the demise of grand European hunts.  Dog shows led to a slight revival in the 19th century, but not much. It was hanging on by a thread by the late 1800s when the Metropolitan Police enlisted London’s sole remaining Bloodhound breeder, Edwin Brough, to aid their desperate search for Jack the Ripper.

Part of the problem stemmed from misperceptions surrounding a name that traditionally signified its pureblooded, noble heritage. Unfortunately, subsequent misinterpretation resulted in wildly inaccurate fictional portrayals of the breed as bloodthirsty and ferocious, and an undeserved reputation that rivaled historical mention of its uncanny scenting powers.

In America, the breed was a staple ingredient in countless regional scent hound strains for centuries. It ranked among the first wave of official AKC breeds, but its popularity floundered for decades. The breed’s first AKC BIS didn’t happen until 1936 and it didn’t place in Westminster’s Hound Group until 1941. Bloodhound fortunes began to turn after World War II as K-9 units became a staple feature of police departments throughout the country.

The famous bloodhound Nick Carter can be credited for much of that resurging reputation.  His breeder/owner/handler, Lexington, KY police Captain Volney Mullikin brought the breed to national attention in the early 1900s for his efforts to reestablish the Bloodhound as the premier trailing hound. His team’s exploits tracking criminals and solving cases became a national sensation, culminating Nick Carter’s 650 successful finds, including one celebrated success following a cold trail 105 hours old.

Of course, the amazing stories confirming the Bloodhound’s uncanny talent are endless. Quite possibly, the next one may come from Dannemora.

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Posted by on Jun 15 2015. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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