A Bloodhound Trial is a challenging exercise for your Bloodhound, hunting a specially laid scent over vast areas of land. Bloodhound Trials require the dog to identify the human scent.
What are Bloodhound Trials?
The first Bloodhound Trials, then known as Field Trials, were held in 1898 in Yorkshire. At trials, Bloodhounds hunt or track the human scent, known as 'hunting the clean boot' (a colourful idiom which denotes that scent is laid by a person walking normally, not using a 'drag' to lay a heavy scent). Hounds at Bloodhound Trials work one by one, and not as a pack.
The procedure at a trial is that a 'runner' leaves an article with his/her scent on it, known as the 'smeller', attached to a flag at the start. He/she then walks the 'line' on a route predetermined on a map. The hound is introduced to the smeller at the start of its track. The hound is required to follow the line and find and identify the runner who waits at the end of the line, usually in a line-up of three people.
The best hounds following a strong scent line can work at exhilarating speed, and in the Senior Stake, where hounds always work off leash, the handler, judge and assistants who follow the hound can be hard pressed to run fast enough to keep up.
Hounds are encouraged to 'speak to the line', and there are even awards for the hound speaking best to the line (for example the Brooks Cup in Association of Bloodhound Breeders trials).
Levels of Competition
Each hound at a trial has its own line, if possible starting somewhere near to where the previous line finished. The ground used for a Bloodhound Trial may be agricultural land, moorland, woodland or open hill country. Hounds need to be able to negotiate a variety of terrain and to be able to deal with fences, hedges, ditches, water, road crossings and stone walls. Distractions encountered can include farm workers, tractors, crop spraying, muck spreading and livestock, and of course natural hazards such as game, deer, foxes and hares. A good hound will ignore all other scents and not change from the scent of the 'runner'. For a successful Bloodhound Trial approximately ten thousand acres of land is required.
Bloodhounds work using air scent ('hunting'), rather than following a line of disturbance on the ground ('tracking'), as most other breeds do. This frequently enables them to work at a faster speed than tracking dogs. Find out more... Bloodhounds - Hunting v Tracking.
Hounds compete at ascending levels called 'stakes'. In order, the stakes are:
- Novice Stake - working a line one mile long and at least half an hour cold; once a hound has won a first or second place in a Novice or Junior stake, or first in an Intermediate or Senior stake, it can no longer compete in a Novice Stake.
- Junior Stake - working a line two miles long and at least an hour cold; hounds must have won a first or second place in a Novice stake to enter. They can no longer enter a Junior stake after winning a first or second in a Junior stake or first in an Intermediate or Senior stake.
- Intermediate Stake - working a line two and a half miles long and at least one and a half hours cold; hounds must have gained a first or second place in a Junior stake to enter. They can no longer enter an Intermediate stake once they have won first place in an Intermediate or Senior stake.
- Senior Stake - working a line three miles long and at least two hours cold; hounds must have won first place in an Intermediate stake to enter, and must have been stock tested so that they can be hunted free (off leash).
For more information about competing in Bloodhound Trials, click here.
In addition to the involvement of the two breed clubs, Bloodhound Trial participants are represented by the Kennel Club Working Trials Liaison Council. The Council acts as a channel of communication between the Kennel Club and those who compete in Working Trials and Bloodhound Working Trials. The Council was set up to represent grass-roots opinion within these two related disciplines at the Kennel Club, and to promote a better understanding among competitors of how the Kennel Club functions.
The Kennel Club approves four Championship Bloodhound Trials a year, two in the Spring and two in the Autumn. These four-day or five-day events are run by the two Bloodhound breed clubs - The Association of Bloodhound Breeders and The Bloodhound Club. Trials are held in all parts of the United Kingdom. Advanced stakes with restricted eligibility and veteran stakes are also held annually.