We are all familiar with the clichéd movie scene: a felon escapes from a high-security prison and is pursued by hounds with their noses buried in the ground, hot on the fugitive’s trail. The best dogs used for real life police tracking is the bloodhound, sometimes called the St. Hubert hound or the Flemish hound.
Bloodhound noses are so accurate that they not only catch their prisoners, but can convict them as well. Although many other dog breeds such as the German shepherd can be trained for police work and tracking, only the bloodhound’s nose is allowed as evidence in many courts of law. Police use bloodhounds as bomb detection or drug detection work, for search and rescue missions and to track fugitives.
The Nose Knows
A bloodhound has a sense of smell estimated to be 60 times greater than that of a German shepherd. If a bloodhound is taken to a crime scene, that dog can detect what scents are at the scene and matching them to suspects or to suspicious objects such as a homemade bomb. Unlike other dog breeds, bloodhounds can pick up a trail that is more than 48 hours old.
A bloodhound’s face is designed to bring in as much scent as possible to the nose, from the long, drooping ears to all of the wrinkles around the face. Even the sagging lower eyelids help to push scent particles to the nose. Another reason for the bloodhound’s amazing scenting abilities is that he keeps his nose and face moist, which is better to pick up scent. This means that the bloodhound is a champion drooler.
One Slight Problem
Bloodhounds were also chosen by police in England for work because of their huge size and intimidating appearance. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, is said to have based his Hound of the Baskervilles on a police bloodhound. Male bloodhounds can tip the scales at 90 pounds (41 kilograms). When in a playful mood, bloodhounds may not know their own strength.
Bloodhounds were so eager to meet escaped prisoners that they would knock them down – but not to bite like a German shepherd or even to hold in place until the master arrived like a bullmastiff. Bloodhounds wanted to play. They wanted affection, food and good times. Bloodhounds bay and posture but do not bite. It was this gentle trait that lead many police forces, including Scotland Yard, to mostly replace bloodhounds with German shepherds.
“The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs, Dog Breeds & Dog Care.” Dr. Peter Larkin & Mike Stockman. Hermes House; 2005.
“Human Scent as Trace Evidence.” Alvenh Channe. British Columbia Insttute of Technology; 2006. http://www.sfu.ca/~achanne/research/human_scent.html
Animal Planet. “Breed All About It: Bloodhound.” http://animal.discovery.com/videos/breed-all-about-it-bloodhound.html