This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
ALTHOUGH many writers have endeavoured to find the origin of the bloodhound in the Talbot of ancient days, there is no reason to believe that the former had as great a connecting link with the latter as the foxhound and other hounds, of both this country and of the Continent. We have been told of black Talbots, others white in colour, some tawny, whilst pied, or brown white and tan, specimens have repeatedly been alluded to. No doubt from these our ordinary hounds have sprung; but the heavier and more powerful bloodhound must have arisen from some other source. What that source was there is no means of finding out satisfactorily, and the origin of the bloodhound, like that of most other varieties of the dog, is likely to remain an unknown quantity.
In many particulars the modern hound resembles his progenitor of several hundred years ago, not in appearance perhaps, but in character and in aptitude for his peculiar kind of work, the latter at one period of our history being of a particularly useful character. He has been much used as a cross to improve the olfactory organs, the voice, and the size and strength of other hounds, particularly of otter hounds and foxhounds ; but he has always had admirers who kept him for his own sake - because of his handsome and noble appearance, and because he was faithful and affectionate. Others encouraged him because he bore a vulgar and undeserved character for ferocity not attained by any other breed of dog.
Doubtless his name - "bloodhound," or sleuth-hound - had a great deal to do with this, especially as he had obtained a reputation for ability to find a man, be he either thief, political offender, or otherwise, by hunting the scent or line of his footsteps, as another hound would hunt the fox or hare, saving and excepting that he would not worry and attempt to eat his quarry. Having run him, as it were, "to ground," he would be contented with "baying" his man until his capture came to be effected. Certain authors, to gratify their own ends, or serve their own purpose, have repeatedly drawn upon their imagination in detailing, with an exactness worthy of a better cause, horrible scenes between bloodhounds and their "prey," ending in the death or serious injury of the latter. These stories originally arose from the "Southern States" of America when slavery was rife, and it is now positively stated that the hounds kept by the slave owners were not bloodhounds, but half-bred foxhounds - Virginian hounds - which were quite as loth as our modern hounds to attack a human being, although they might have hunted him to a tree or other place where he had taken refuge. Slaves, as a fact, were too valuable to be indiscriminately worried by bloodhounds, as some sensational writers have told us was of everyday occurrence.
The natural instinct of the bloodhound is to hunt man rather than beast. As a puppy, he may put his nose to the ground and fumble out the line of any pedestrian who has just passed along the road. Other dogs will, as a rule, commence by hunting their master, the bloodhound finds his nose by hunting a stranger. There are old records of his being repeatedly used for the latter purpose, whether the quarry to be found were a murderer or poacher, or maybe only some poor gentleman or nobleman whose political belief or religion was not quite in conformity with that of those bigots who happened to rule over him.
Early in the seventeenth century, when the Mosstroopers (but a polite name for Scottish robbers) invested the border counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, and Westmoreland, it was found that the ordinary means of arrest and punishment were insufficient to stop the raids of the thieves, so special provision was made that should, if possible, put an end to their depredations. The Scots were fleet of foot and active, and it was believed that the employment of bloodhounds would strike terror into the hearts of the marauders. The latter were to be pursued "with hot trod fragrant delect, with red hand (as the Scots termed it), with hound, and horn, and voice." Surely such a hunt as this was exciting enough, and the hard-visaged borderers would have little compunction in allowing their hounds to give full vent to their savagery.
The following is a copy of a warrant issued in September, 1616, to the garrison at Carlisle, giving orders as to the keeping of "slough dogs:"
Whereas upon due consideration of the increase of stealths, daily growing both in deed and report among you on the borders, we formally concluded and agreed, that for reformations therefor, watches should be set, and slough dogs provided and kept according to the contents of His Majesty's directions to us in that behalf prescribed; and for that, according to our agreement, Sir William Hutton, at his last being in the country, did appoint how the watches should be kept, when and where they should begin, and how they might best and most fitly continue. And for the bettering of His Majesty's service, and preventing further danger that might ensue by the outlaws in resorting to the houses of Thomas Routledge, alias Balihead, being nearest and next adjoining to the Marshes (he himself having also joined them - as is reported), order and direction were likewise given, that some of the garrison should keep and reside in his the said Thomas Routledge's house; and there to remain until further directions be given them, unless he the said Thomas Routledge shall come in and enter himself answerable to His Majesty's law, as is most convenient .... and that you see that slough dogs be provided according to our former directions, as this note to this warrant annexed particularly sets down.
The slough dogs to be provided and kept at the charge of the inhabitants, were as follows:
Beyond Eske, there is to be kept at the foot of the Sarke one dog; by the inhabitants the inside of the Sarke to Richmond Clugh, to be kept at the Moate one dog; by the inhabitants of the parish of Arthured, above Richmond's Clugh with the Bayliffe and Blackquarter, to be kept at Baliehead one dog.