Click for Previous Page

WE CANNOT ASSUME that the English speaker the Middle Ages had same resources available to him as we have today  We are familiar with such words as ‘bloodhorse’, and ‘blood-stock’ where ‘blood’ refers to breeding, so it is easy for us to conclude that it does the same in ‘bloodhound’.

However, the OED tells us that while ‘blood’ in the meaning of ‘noble or gentle birth’ occurs from 1393 as applied to HUMAN BEINGS, it does not occur in the same meaning APPLIED TO BRED ANIMALS until 1711.

Likewise there are no compound words (words made up of two other words, as ‘bloodhound’ is) in which ‘blood’ refers to breeding until the seventeenth century  ‘Bloodhorse’ is first cited from 1615 but is generally American, ‘blood-relation’ 1668, ‘blood-relationship’ 1793  ‘Blooded’ meaning ‘of good breed in animals, especially horses’ is from 1776, like ‘blood-horse’ originally chiefly American  ‘Bloodstock’ is first recorded from 1791, and ‘bloodline’ from 1668. 

Thus there is nothing to suggest that the English speaker of around 1300 or before would, or could, have applied the word ‘blood’, especially in a compound, to a hound with the meaning of ‘noble or pure breeding.’ Nor does ‘blooded hound’ appear in early usage, as is suggested in some histories.  If it had, it would have meant ‘dog covered in blood’!