Why Bloodhounds Make Great Trackers
When you picture a Bloodhound in your mind’s eye, the first word you think of may be “droopy.”
Their ears hang down. Their lips drop down below their mouths. Their wrinkly skin hangs in folds. Even their eyes look sad and are often red-rimmed.
Television and movies seem to depict Bloodhounds in one of two ways. Jed Clampett’s dog, Duke, on the old “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV series was a Bloodhound. He spent most of his time lying around, looking bored and somewhat forlorn.
The other common depiction is of Bloodhounds hot on a scent, pulling their handlers behind them as they track someone down. Is either accurate?
Amazing Scent Hounds
Actually, the second portrayal, the one of a dog on a mission, is closer to the Bloodhound’s heart. Any dog can be a couch potato for a while, but Bloodhounds actually enjoy being active.
And what they love to do most is hunt and find. Which is fortunate, since they are somewhat tailor-made for tracking.
Most people know that a dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than a human’s (https://www.thehonestkitchen.com/blog/what-your-dog-smells/). A human’s nose has around 5 million scent receptors. That seems like a respectable number until you compare it with a German Shepherd, who has around 225 million, or 45 times as many as a human. But Bloodhounds win out as the champion sniffers of the canine world with 300 million smell receptors, a third more than the German Shepherd.
What about those ears?
Everything else about the Bloodhound seems to lend itself to follow its nose. His ears drag on the ground, sweeping odors to his nose. Even his wrinkly facial skin helps collect odors and funnel them to his nose. His heavily muscled neck and shoulders make it possible for him to sniff the ground for long periods of time, and over many miles, without getting tired.
When a Bloodhound gets a scent to follow, his mind is able to separate all the odors into a well-defined scent image. The Bloodhound can hone in on that scent and separate it from all the competing odors, the same way a person can find a familiar face in a crowd.
Bloodhounds also have an excellent temperament for the job. For the most part, they get along well with people and other dogs. They enjoy tracking things down. They are extremely focused and can be stubborn about following a scent to its source. And they also don’t bite, which make them a favorite for tracking down children and others who are missing.
So why aren’t more Bloodhounds police dogs? Primarily because unlike German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and other dogs commonly used by police forces, Bloodhounds are really only good at one task: tracking things down. Although they certainly possess the ability to sniff out drugs, they don’t enjoy it because there’s no tracking involved. Either they smell the drug or they don’t. And like humans, Bloodhounds do a better job if they enjoy the work. They also don’t have quite the right temperament to be guard dogs.
Is every Bloodhound a natural tracker? Every Bloodhound has the physical ability to smell well. But like any other talent, it must be developed: a Bloodhound needs proper training and plenty of practice to become an outstanding and successful people-finder.