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
- 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
- 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).
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
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