This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
He who attempts to discover the origin and trace the history of anyone of our breeds of dogs, beyond a comparativly few generations, will, in most or all cases, speedily find himself in a fog, tossed on a sea of doubt, driven hither and thither by the conflicting evidence of the writers he consults, who seem to emulate each other in the meagreness of the information they give and the vagueness with which they convey it. To this the bloodhound is no exception, and it is, perhaps, wiser to accept the in evitable, and frankly admit that we know very little about the origin o this or any other breed, for at best we can but guess at the most probable rom the very insufficient data at our command to form any certain opinion. This is certainly a wiser and more dignified course than, as many are disposed to do, prate about this, that, and the other breed being the original dog of the British Islands. Of one thing I feel very certain, that, could we go back, say, a thousand years, and select a hundred of the finest specimens then living, and bring them as they then were into competition with their descendants of- to-day, say, at an Alexandra Palace show, the whole century of them would be quickly sent out of the ring as mongrels; they would stand no more chance than a herd of our ancient wild cattle would against a dairy of shorthorns.
Such, at least, is my opinion, and if anyone disputes it, let him prove me wrong. The first printed book touching on dogs that we have is the "Book of Huntynge," by Juliana Barnes, and the list of dogs given by her does not include Bloodhounds, but it does the Lemor and Baches, both of which were dogs that ran their game by scent, and the former was probably the nearest approach to our notions of a hound, and was used to trace the wounded deer, etc, the name Lymer being taken from the fact of his being led in leash. No doubt at this date, and for a long time previous, English hounds were being modified by crosses from imported dogs brought in by the Norman conquerors from France, whence they originally came from the East, and the slow hunting hounds of that day have, by various commixture, produced for us the varieties we now recognise.
MRS. S. A. HUMPHRIES' BLOODHOUND "DON" (K.C.S.B., 6853). Sire Roswell (K.C.S.B., 58) - Dam Flora, by Rufus (K.C.S.B., 61) out of Hilda (K.C.S.B., 4032).
Dr. Caius mentions the bloodhound as "the greatest sort which serves to hunt, having lips of a large size, and ears of no small length." In Turberville's "Book of Hunting" there are a number of dogs portrayed, all of the hound type, and with true hound ears, whereas, in the "Book of St. Albans," printed a century earlier, the dogs represented have much smaller ears, and thrown back, as the dogs are seen straining on the slips, greyhound-like. Turberville has a good deal to say about hounds. If he is to be credited, the progenitors of our modern dogs originally came from Greece, and the first of them that reached this country were landed at Totnes. It was the custom at that time to range the dogs according to Colour; of these, white and fallow, white spotted with red, and black were most esteemed. White, spotted with black or dun, were not so much valued. The best of the fallow were held to be those with their hair lively red, with white spots on the forehead, or a white ring round the neck; and of those it is said "those which are well joynted and dew-clawed are best to make bloodhounds," clearly showing, as passages from all the old writers could be quoted to do, that the term bloodhound was applied to the dog because of the work set him, and that, in fact, where hounds are spoken of the bloodhound is included.
Black hounds, called St. Hubert's, are described as mighty of body, with legs low and short, not swift in work, but of good scent. The following couplet shows that the St. Hubert hounds were highly thought of:
My name came first from holy Hubert's race, Soygllard my sire, a hound of singular grace.
Turberville says "the bloodhounds of this colour prove good, especially such as are 'cole' black." The dun hounds are much nearer in colour to our modern dog; these were dun on the back, having their legs and fore-quarters red or tanned, and it is added the light tanned dogs were not so strong.
Gervase Markham, who was a very copious writer, follows Turberville pretty closely. His description of a Talbot-like hound would, in many respects, stand for a modern bloodhound, although certainly not in head,. on which point I fancy he has not expressed his meaning very clearly. He says, "a round, thick head, with a short nose uprising, and large open nostrils; ears exceedingly large and thin, and down hanging much lower than his chaps, and the flews of his upper lips almost two inches lower than his nether chaps; back, strong and straight; fillets, thick and great; huckle bones, round and hidden; thighs, round; hams, straight; tail, long and rush-grown, that is, big at the setting on, and small downwards; legs, large and lean; foot, high knuckled and well clawed, with a dry, hard sole.
From all this, and much more that might be quoted, I gather that whilst the dun and tan, that is, the black saddle back and tan legged dogs, most nearly agree in colour with our bloodhound, it is a mere accident of selection, although that may have been influenced by that coloured dog showing more aptitude for the special work he was put to, and certainly the colour is admirably adapted to a dog used for night work, as he was; and this reminds me that Dr Caius tells us these dogs were kept in dark kennels, that they might better do night work. The practice would assuredly defeat its object.
When the bloodhound was first used to track fugitives I have never been able to discover; the first written notice of such a thing I am acquainted with occurs in "Blind Harry's Life of William Wallace," the Scottish patriot, as the following lines, which have been so frequently quoted by writers on the bloodhound, show: