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If believers in the ‘pure-bred’ hypothesis could find historical linguistic evidence they might be able to present some sort of a case  Such evidence might be: an early (say 14/15th century) example of the word being used where the meaning in mind clearly includes the idea of pure breeding, as well as reference to the dog; or other compound words of the same date where ‘blood’ refers to good breeding; or any early instances other than in compounds of ‘blood’ referring to good breeding in animals rather than humans; or a discussion of the derivation earlier, or obviously better supported by evidence, than the one by Caius/Fleming 1576, which is the earliest I know, and which tells us that the name came from the hound’s ability to follow a blood-trail.  Such discoveries, even if they were made, would not get rid of the evidence I have put forward, and the most that could then be said would be that the two views each had some support.

As it is, the ‘pure bred’ explanation is a non-starter, and it is time we heard the last of it.


In 2006 a version of this study was sent to the editors of the OED, and was acknowledged as ‘very full and helpful’, with the added comment that it would be years before the entry for ‘bloodhound’ could be revised.  In March 2012 the OED on line produced a revised version which updated the entries for ‘blood’ and all related words.  For the first time it gave a suggested etymology for ‘bloodhound’ : ‘apparently so called from its use in tracking (wounded) game.’ Though the meaning ‘of pure or noble breeding’ is pursued in connection with many other words involving ‘blood’, it is not referred to in connection with ‘bloodhound’  Clearly the editors have found nothing to make such an interpretation historically plausible.