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.
About the groud they set on breid and length A hundreth men, chairgit in arms Strang, To keep a hunde that they had them amang, In Gillisland there was that Brachall bred, Sikyr of seen,, to follow them that fled. Sae was she used in Eske and Liddesdale, Quhile she gat bluid nae fleeing might avail.
But this sleuth brache, quilke sekyr was and keen, On Wallace fute followit sae felloune fast Quilk in thar sicht thai prochit at the last.
In the traditions of the peasantry of the west of Scotland many stirring stories of the "hair-breadth 'scapes" of Wallace and Bruce from bloodhounds still live, and some of them at the present moment come up fresh to the writer's mind, although they have lain buried for many years.
In the wars in Ireland bloodhounds were used in a manner reflecting little credit on the dominant power, and their scenting powers and ferocity have, in later times, been used to hunt down the unfortunate slaves in Cuba and elsewhere. For a stirring account of the employment of over a hundred of these dogs in hunting down revolted negroes in Jamaica, I refer the reader to the "Sportman's Cabinet."
In our own country they were long bred and trained to track border raiders, and a most exciting chase it must have been through those wild moorlands, as all who have read Scott, even without having visited the scenes he so wall depicts, will say. The words of eulogy on the dead Richard Musgrave, pronounced by "the stark moss-trooping Scott," William of Deloraine, who, By wily turns and desperate bounds, Had baffled Percy's best bloodhounds, will arise in every reader's memory, but they will lose nothing by repetition here:
Yet rest thee, God! for well I know I ne'er shall find a nobler foe In all the northern countries here, Whose word is snaffle, spur, and spear. Thou wert the best to follow gear; 'Twas pleasure, as we looked behind, To see how thou the chase could wind, Cheer the dark bloodhound on his way, And with the bugle rouse the fray. I'd give the lands of Deloraine Dark Musgrave were alive again.
In later times the bloodhound has been used successfully in tracing poachers. Meyrick, in his useful little work on dogs, gives an interesting example of a successful poacher hunt, and he was often used for tracing thieves, and as an instance of this, so late as the beginning of the present century, the Thrapstone Association for the Prosecution of Felons - a class of institution now almost obsolete - kept a trained bloodhound for the tracking of sheep stealers. The description of the dog so employed, as given by Somerville in "The Chase," is inimitable in its graphic force. No one not thoroughly acquainted with hounds could have worked every detail into so telling a picture:
Soon the sagacious brute, his curling tail Flourished in air, low bending, plies around His busy nose, the steaming vapour snuffs Inquisitive, nor leaves one turf untried, Till conscious of the recent stains, his heart Beats quick; his snuffling nose, his active tail, Attest his joy; then with deep opening mouth, That makes the welkin tremble, he proclaims Th' audacious felon; foot by foot he makes His winding way, while all the listeiing crowd Applaud his reasonings: O'er the watery ford, Dry sandy heaths, and stony barren hills; O'er beaten paths, by men and beasts disdained, Unerring he pursues; 'till at the cot Arrived, and seizing by his guilty throat The caitif vile, redeems the captive prey. So exquisitely delicate is his nose.
Somerville is not the only poet who has paid tribute to the wonderful powers of this king of hounds. Tickell, in his poem on hunting, says:
O'er all the bloodhourd boasts superior skill, To scent, to view, to turn, to boldly kill.
The following quotation from Dr. Caius (temp. 1550) as to the use of bloodhounds may prove suggestive, and enforce the arguments I have repeatedly used in favour of the extraordinary scenting powers of this noble hound being again utilised as a thief taker. Burglaries, especially in rural and suburban districts, never were more rife; the capture of the thieves is often due to some happy accident, but capture and detection of the perpetrators of these crimes too rare. The use of well trained bloodhounds would, I am persuaded, prove most valuable in lessening this class of crime, because of the absolute certainty with which they could be trained to track the felon, even when put on the scent hours after the deed had been committed.
The dog was probably first used to trace deer stealers when the stringent forest laws of the Norman kings were in force, and after-wards his aptitude for the work was used for extended purposes. That may be merely conjecture, but Dr. Caius seems to strengthen the idea; he says they "do not only chase the beast while it liveth, but being dead also by any manner of casualty make recourse to the place where it lieth, having in this point a sure and infallible guide, namely, the scent and savour of the blood sprinkled here and there upon the ground, for whether the beast being wounded doth notwithstanding enjoy life and escape the hands of the huntsman, or whether the said beast, being slain, is conveyed clearly out of the park (so that there be some signification of bloodshed), these dogs with no less facility and earnestness than avidity and greediness, can disclose and bewray the same by smelling, applying to their pursuit agility and nimbleness, without tediousness, for which consideration of a singular speciality they deserved to be called sanguinarius bloodhounds.
And albeit, peradventure it may chance that a piece of flesh be subtlely stolen and cunningly conveyed away with such provisos and precaveats as thereby all appearance of blood is either prevented, excluded, or concealed, yet these kind of dogs, by a certain direction and an inward assured notice and privy mark, pursue the deed doers through long lanes, crooked reaches, and weary ways, without wandering away out of the limits of the land whereon these desperate purloiners prepared their speedy passage; yea, the nature of these dogs is such, and so effectual is their foresight, that they can bewray separate and pick them out from an infinite multitude and an innumerable company, escape they never so far into the thickest throng, they will find him out notwithstanding he be hidden in wild woods, in close and overgrown groves, and lurk in hollow boles apt to harbour such ungracious guests.