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EARLY HISTORY OF THE BLOODHOUND . .  continued:  Robert Boyle’s Account

Robert Boyle’s Account

IN JESSE, THERE IS AN ACCOUNT which I cannot remember seeing published before in the Bloodhound literature (Harmer mentions it briefly, but with no reference to Boyle), taken from Robert Boyle (1627-1691).  This should be regarded as an absolute classic, in view of its early date, and the eminence of its author, the great scientist, founder member of the Royal Society, author of The Skeptical Chymist, originator of Boyle’s Law.  Although the account is anecdotal, it is in the context of someone showing a scientist’s interest in the nature of scent, and at least a respectable scepticism about the reliability of witnesses.  It is the earliest description I know of a bloodhound trial, and one on a human scent, and confirms the use of Bloodhounds for both man and animal tracking at that time. The standard of performance reflected is quite fascinating, in view of the many more modern instances.
I have had strange answers given me in Ireland, by those who make a gain, if not an entire livelihood, by killing of wolves in that country (where they are paid so much for every head they bring in), about the sagacity of that particular race of dogs they employ in hunting them; but not trusting much to those relators, I shall add, that a very sober and discreet gentleman of my acquaintance, who has often occasion to employ bloodhounds, assures me that, if a man have but passed over a field, the scent will lie, as they speak, so as to be perceptible enough to a good dog of that sort for several hours after. And an ingenious hunter assures me that he has observed that the scent of a flying and heated deer will sometimes continue on the ground from one day to the next following.  On the Strange Subtilty of Effluviums: from Boyle’s Life and Works, by T Birch 1772. Vol. iii, p.674. A person of quality, to whom I am near allied, related to me that to make a trial whether a young bloodhound was well instructed (or, as the huntsmen call it, made), he caused one of his servants, who had not killed or so much as touched any of his deer, to walk to a country town four miles off, and thence to a market-town three miles distant from thence; which done, this nobleman did a competent while after put the bloodhound on the scent of the man and caused him to be followed by a servant or two, the master himself thinking it also fit to go after them to see the event; which was that the dog, without ever seeing the man he was to pursue, followed him by the scent to the above mentioned places, notwithstanding the  . . . . .