Where The Nose Goes: The Bloodhound

February 6, 2015


The dog with more facial skin-folds than you can count. A canine with a genetic makeup allowing its nose to reign supreme in all things smelly in its four-legged kingdom. And, with four-billion olfactory receptors compared to our five-million, it’s no wonder their nose knows. At this point, I could only be alluding to one breed of canine in particular—the bloodhound.

Ancient Origins
Tracing its roots back to Belgium more than a millennium ago, the bloodhounds were “crafted” by the monks of St. Hubert. And, once the breed was of notable quality, they then began entering the Western European market, where they were often labeled as Flemish hounds. However, it wasn’t too long till they crossed the pond―and became the poster child for working class dogs. Bloodhounds seemed to have found their niche in the States, gathering an almost religious following and becoming the corner-stone race for numerous dog breeds; American coonhounds, Swiss Jura Hounds, Brazillian Fil Brasileiros, and Bavarian Mountain hounds all have genetic foot-prints that trace back to bloodhounds. And, since being recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885, the breed’s racked-up numerous “Champion” nods.

Black, Tan, Red―And Once White
Today’s bloodhounds all phenotypically express (physically show) various tints of the titled colors: black, tan, and red. The breed’s dorsal coloration is often enveloped in a black cloak with the tans, tinted with a subtle maroon, then cascade down the animal’s body. Simplicity is a beautiful thing, no doubt. But, at one time in the breed’s history, completely white specimens once existed. Called Talbot hounds, they were once something of medieval royalty, highly regarded for their sheer-white coat and regal presence. While the color variety didn’t have much longevity, the genetics that contributed to the color mutation are still found in today’s tri-colored Basset hounds and white boxers.

Follow Your Nose
Bloodhounds have quite a few biological quirks that allow them to be the alpha-and-omega of scent-tracking dogs. Aside from their literally billions of olfactory receptors that I earlier mentioned, they also possess an enormous olfactory space—over 50 in sq, to be exact. We mere humans garner a similar type of “fresh bread in the oven”—at a comparatively diminutive 2 in sq. Now imagine how much better the wafting scent of heated complex carbs would smell.

Wrinkly face, No Distractions
Those copious wrinkles and droopy ears aren’t just adorably quirky—they’re functional too. When any said bloodhound comes across a scent they’ve been tracking, they’ll lower their heads, placing their noise directly on the scent trail. And it’s at this moment when those anatomical assets come into play. Those facial folds and sagging ears, in the presence of gravity, lower to shield the canine’s nose from outside stimuli, allowing the bloodhound to focus solely on the tracking scent. It’s this noise-to-scent prowess and pleasing demeanor that’s allowed bloodhounds to become an icon among the working class dogs.



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