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Britain's first bloodhounds: on the hunt for reivers

Updated: May 17

Bloodhounds were used to hunt wildlife in Belgium, as long ago as 700 AD. But they weren’t recorded in Britain until the 1300s, when they were used in the Borders to track men. Here, they were known as “sleuth dogs” and they were sent after the likes of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence. But the dogs really came into their own from 1400-1600, when they were used to hunt reivers as they made off with their ill-gotten gains.

Bloodhounds play a crucial role in The Trail of Blood. I called my two sleuth dogs “Gryme” and “Egeir”, after a legend that was popular at the time. But I wanted to make sure that my portrayal of the dogs’ abilities was rooted in fact, not myth, so I consulted a modern authority on the breed: Kat Albrecht-Thiessen of the Missing Animal Response Network in the U.S. She was incredibly helpful, in explaining what the hounds could and couldn’t do, as well as giving me some old wives’ to play with. These misconceptions allowed me to mislead some of my characters while making sure the hounds stuck to the science, just as closely as they did to an outlaw’s trail.

Man in 16th century dress with bloodhound in Scottish hills

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