An interpretation of the Bloodhound standard by Anne Legge

Note: I have bred Bloodhounds since 1980. I am approved as a mentor and an AKC judge of Bloodhounds. I have also done AKC Tracking and Obedience and American Bloodhound Club Mantrailing and am an approved Mantrailing judge for all levels. This interpretation is entirely my own and does not bear the sanction of the parent club. Quotations from the standard are followed by my comments in italics.

General Character – The Bloodhound possesses, in a most marked degree, every point and characteristic of those dogs which hunt together by scent (Sagaces). He is very powerful, and stands over more ground than is usual with hounds of other breeds. The skin is thin to the touch and extremely loose, this being more especially noticeable about the head and neck, where it hangs in deep folds.

The Bloodhound is a large scent hound who gives the impression of great strength and endurance. Bone and substance are essential – do not reward light bone. He is not square but rectangular (“stands over more ground”), with the length in the ribcage rather than the loin. Every aspect of the Bloodhound is functional: the sturdy legs, the angulation, the well knuckled up feet give the hound resilience and endurance; the long ears and the dewlap and flews stir up the scent particles; fine loose skin on the face falls forward to hood the eyes; loose skin on the body enables the hound to slither through brush and briars. (My vet calls them “unbandageable.”)

Height – The mean average height of adult dogs is 26 inches, and of adult bitches 24 inches. Dogs usually vary from 25 inches to 27 inches, and bitches from 23 inches to 25 inches; but, in either case, the greater height is to be preferred, provided that character and quality are also combined.

Weight – The mean average weight of adult dogs, in fair condition, is 90 pounds, and of adult bitches 80 pounds. Dogs attain the weight of 110 pounds, bitches 100 pounds. The greater weights are to be preferred, provided (as in the case of height) that quality and proportion are also combined.

The wording is confusing because a “mean” and an “average” are not the same. Height and weight figures are expressed as guidelines, not requirements. The standard does not say “the bigger, the better.” Rather, if character, quality, and proportion are equal, the greater heights and weights are to be preferred. Today’s Bloodhounds may be somewhat taller and heavier than the figures in the standard. Bear in mind, however, that they are worked in harness and on lead, pulling the handler behind, and that they may need to be assisted over walls and fences.

Expression – The expression is noble and dignified, and characterized by solemnity, wisdom, and power.

Noble and dignified, never bold (probably due to a round eye rather than the diamond shape caused by the droop and drag of loose skin). Of course, the drooping lids also cause ectropion and entropion, which are breed problems. Some hounds have a dark mask across the eyes which produces a hard expression, not the soft, pleading look characteristic of hounds.

Temperament – In temperament he is extremely affectionate, neither quarrelsome with companions nor with other dogs. His nature is somewhat shy, and equally sensitive to kindness or correction by his master.

I would use the word “reserved” rather than shy. Let’s not put the stamp of approval on shyness. They are certainly sensitive to kindness and correction. Because of the hood of skin, some hounds do not see very well and some are very sound sensitive. Also, some are surface sensitive – you would think the duct tape on the mats was a barrier. Be sure to approach Bloodhounds from the front, let them smell your hand, and speak to them. Be confident, not tentative, but please don’t be rough. You don’t need to grab the skin and wave it around to know it is there.

Head – The head is narrow in proportion to its length, and long in proportion to the body, tapering but slightly from the temples to the end of the muzzle, thus (when viewed from above and in front) having the appearance of being flattened at the sides and of being nearly equal in width throughout its entire length.

Along with bone and substance, the head is the hallmark of the Bloodhound, and about one-third of the standard addresses the head, neck, and furnishings. Narrow in proportion to length and large in proportion to the body, the head is about the same width throughout and appears flattened at the sides. Certainly, the head must complement the rest of the dog. A bulky male can carry a broader head if the length is there. Some breeders breed for an exaggeratedly long and narrow head. My observation is that over time this leads to a more refined, lighter boned animal – not a desirable tendency.

In profile the upper outline of the skull is nearly in the same plane as that of the foreface. The length from end of nose to stop (midway between the eyes) should not be less than that from stop to back of occipital protuberance (peak). The entire length of head from the posterior part of the occipital protuberance to the end of the muzzle should be 12 inches, or more, in dogs and 11 inches, or more, in bitches.

Note that the standard says “nearly in the same plane.” Do not penalize a Roman nose, which frequently appears in a hound with a long muzzle.

Skull – The skull is long and narrow, with the occipital peak very pronounced. The brows are not prominent, although, owing to the deep set-eyes, they may have that appearance.

The long, narrow, pointed back skull is very much prized.

Foreface – The foreface is long, deep, and of even width throughout, with square outline when seen in profile.

A square lip is very desirable, not a snipey muzzle. Bitch heads in general are not as imposing as dog heads, but when you find a good one, reward it.

Eyes – The eyes are deeply sunk in the orbits, the lids assuming a lozenge or diamond shape, in consequence of the lower lids being dragged down and everted by the heavy flews. The eyes correspond with the general tone of color of the animal, varying from deep hazel to yellow. The hazel color is, however, to be preferred, although seldom to be seen in liver-and-tan hounds.

Darker colored dogs often have a coffee bean colored eye that I would not describe as “hazel,” but we are getting into semantics here. The brown nose and lighter eye color give the liver and tan hounds a completely different expression.

Ears – The ears are thin and soft to the touch, extremely long, set very low, and fall in graceful folds, the lower parts curling inward and backward.

Ears should be set below the eye and are often lower. Nicks, cuts, “honorable wounds” should not be penalized.

Mouth – A scissors bite is preferred, level bite accepted.

Wrinkle – The head is furnished with an amount of loose skin, which in nearly every position appears superabundant, but more particularly so when the head is carried low; the skin then falls into loose, pendulous ridges and folds, especially over the forehead and sides of the face.

I have discussed the function of the superabundant skin on the head and neck. There is no justification for festoons of skin on the hindquarters and thighs, which may predispose to skin problems. Some hounds have very thick skin, but the thin, velvety skin is desirable.

Nostrils – The nostrils are large and open.

The reason for this is obvious. I like a really big nose.

Lips, Flews, and Dewlap – In front the lips fall squarely, making a right angle with the upper part of the foreface; whilst behind they form deep hanging flews, and being continued into the pendant folds of loose skin about the neck, constitute the dewlap, which is very pronounced. These characteristics are found, though in a lesser degree, in the bitch.

Again, form follows function.

Neck, Shoulders, and Chest – The neck is long, the shoulders muscular and well sloped backwards; the ribs are well sprung; and the chest well let down between the forelegs, forming a deep keel.

Don’t let neck skin fool you about neck length and shoulder layback. As a handler I always pulled the skin forward to emphasize the neck and shoulder. There will be 2 or 3 fingers width between the shoulder blades because this is a dog that works with its nose on or near the ground. When the head goes down, the blades move closer together and there must be room for this. Demand a good shoulder, but also demand the rear angulation to balance it. The endurance required in the Bloodhound’s work calls for a deep chest with plenty of room for heart and lungs. You may not find this depth of chest and body in a young dog, but it should come with maturity.

Legs and Feet – The forelegs are straight and large in bone, with elbows squarely set; the feet strong and well knuckled up; the thighs and second thighs (gaskins) are very muscular; the hocks well bent and let down and squarely set.

I would look for flexibility in the pasterns, and I love a short, well defined hock.

Back and Loin – The back and loins are strong, the latter deep and slightly arched.

The slight arch is felt rather than seen. Fault a weak or dippy topline. Some young dogs are high in the rear. A word about bitch underline: bitches who have been bred or are in season or in a false pregnancy (rather usual than not in Bloodhounds) will likely have a “dust ruffle,” a fold of skin hanging down underneath. This may give the illusion that the bitch is overweight or short in leg. Don’t let it fool you. A mature Bloodhound, female or male, will not have a “tuck up” but will be deep in the loin area as well as the chest.

Stern – The stern is long and tapering, and set on rather high, with a moderate amount of hair underneath.

Gait – The gait is elastic, swinging and free, the stern being carried high, but not too much carried over the back.

A gay or squirrel tail detracts from the total picture. Demand a fit, athletic animal with a well balanced, coordinated gait. Going away, the Bloodhound may move wide for the first few steps, but when in gear should move neither close nor wide. There should be no wasted motion, no hackney gait, no paddling, no crossing over.

Color – The colors are black and tan, liver and tan, and red; the darker colors being sometimes interspersed with lighter or badger-colored hair, and sometimes flecked with white. A small amount of white is permissible on chest, feet, and tip of stern.

Note that coat length and texture are not addressed in the standard because they are not relevant to the Bloodhound’s function. You will find lots of variation in coats – color, length, waviness – don’t worry about it. Black and tan varies from full coated black like a black and tan coonhound to a tan dog with very little saddle. Red varies from tawny to deep red and may have black points (eye mascara, muzzle, ear tips, a trace down the back). Liver and tan varies from light mocha to deep chocolate brown. All these variations are acceptable.

This article first appeared in the AKC Gazette several years ago and is reprinted with permission of the author.

Disclaimer: This article is provided by the American Bloodhound Club purely as the personal opinion of the author for informational purposes only. The American Bloodhound Club, it's members and the author make no warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this information or will be liable for any loss, damages, claims or injury that accompany or result from any use of this material. This article may not be copied or distributed without the inclusion of this disclaimer.