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THE DERIVATION OF THE WORD ‘BLOODHOUND’


ONE OF THE STRANGEST THINGS anywhere in the history of dogs is surely the way people’s view of what the word ‘bloodhound’ originally meant has changed.  If you read almost any book or article on the bloodhound published in the last half century or so you will read that the name originally meant ‘dog of pure or noble blood’.  Up till the late 19th Century it had always been assumed that it meant, roughly, ‘blood-seeking dog’ or ‘dog that follows a blood-trail’. 

The new explanation seems to have first been suggested by Count Le Couteulx de Canteleu, for instance in Manuel de Vénerie Française  (1890), when he says the St Hubert hound had been preserved in Britain “sous le nom Chien de Sang (c’est é dire de pur sang) - ‘blood-hound’.” [under the name of dog of blood (meaning of pure blood) ‘bloodhound’] Had Le Couteulx been right, the meaning ‘dog of pure blood’ would have reinforced his argument that the bloodhound had been kept pure in Britain. 

The reasoning is explained more fully by Edwin Brough, in The Bloodhound and its Use in Tracking Criminals  (1902):
As regards the name bloodhound, the Count Le Couteulx believed that when fox-hunting in something like its present form was instituted it was found that the sleuth-hound was not fast enough for the purpose and the present fox-hound was evolved from various material, and that about this time it became usual, speaking of the old hound of the country, to call him the bloodhound, meaning hound of pure blood, (as we should speak of a blood horse), to distinguish him from the new hound or Foxhound.