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THE DERIVATION OF THE WORD ‘BLOODHOUND’   continued

THE ‘PURE-BRED’ EXPLANATION

THOSE WHO SAY that the correct meaning is ‘pure bred hound’ are, in effect saying that someone probably before 1300 coined the word with this meaning.  Then everyone, in spite of the value they placed upon breeding, immediately forgot this, and used it as though it meant ‘blood-seeking dog’.  Finally, hundreds of years later, a Frenchman, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, realised what the true meaning was! 

I can only assume that this explanation was accepted because people believed what they wanted to believe.  Possibly the status of Le Couteulx and Brough as authorities on the bloodhound (not, however, on etymology!) had something to do with it  Le Couteulx of course had an interest in promoting the idea of pure breeding, because it gave some support to his idea, otherwise far-fetched, that the bloodhound was the St Hubert hound preserved for centuries without change in Britain when it had died out on the continent  Otherwise people must have latched on to it out of a squeamish wish to dissociate the breed from notions of bloodthirstiness.  Also, the idea that a bloodhound in some way ‘hunts blood’, as a foxhound hunts foxes or a deerhound hunts deer, is a fairly natural conclusion for the uninformed to jump to  Perhaps over the years people who believed they knew better have relished their superiority over the ignorant.  Unfortunately for them, however, the ignorant assumption seems to be the correct one.

When I first put forward some of this material, many years ago now, I was a little diffident, thinking that surely there must be some evidence for the ‘pure-bred’ hypothesis, and that someone would come up with it.  But no-one ever has, and I have been able to find none myself.  The reasoning given in the quotation from Brough (above) relies on incorrect assumptions: the word ‘sleuth-hound’ is not an older word than ‘bloodhound’, but a Scottish word of similar date; fox-hunting in its present form, requiring the development of the fox-hound, began centuries later, and the word ‘blood-horse’ is irrelevant, belonging to a totally different period  Obviously Brough did not realise how old the word ‘bloodhound’ is.