Sabueso Español

The Sabueso Español is of course the Spanish Bloodhound. Not a griffon, but many Spanish griffons, especially the Grifón Astur-Cántabro, have vestiges of Sabueso in them. Bloodhound is the English denomination of this type of dog, and the name has nothing to do with blood, tracking down the bloody trails of wounded animals, but it is rather because this dog is deemed to be ‘a hound of pure or noble blood‘. And noble they are indeed! Bloodhounds have a amazingly gentle character that makes them very suitable as a family dog that can live with kids, cats and is friendly to anyone who visits the home.

The Spanish Bloodhound is one of the oldest breeds of the scent hound group, and presumably closely related to its Celtic primogenitor, the Segusii hound –of which all French griffon breeds are said to be descendents of eventually. Often they are found together with griffons in the hunt for wild boar, but they have also been used in the creation of the Griffon Astur-Cantabro, the griffon type that you will most often come across in Spain.

The Sabueso, the Spanish Bloodhound is less known that the regular Bloodhound, the breed that was developed in Great Brittain. This is the Bloodhound you see as the sleuthing hound in movies, like Sniffer, the bloodhound who belongs to sheriff Bob in the American movie Air Buddies, and in the British series Sherlock, in which a bloodhound botches a search because he has other things on his mind… Sounds familiar yet?

The British Bloodhound was derived from French Hounds imported from Brittany, and/or the St. Hubert Hound, which was the breed that was kept the monks in a Belgian monastery around the 10th century. Both these breeds, of course, go back to the Celtic Segusi Hound. It is very well possible they ended up in Belgium via the Merovingians of the 5th century who were based in Belgium and whose empire stretched out until the Pyrenees, or somewhat later by the Frankish armies of Charlemagne that brought them back from France during their military campaigns against the Moorish invaders.

But these are different branches of the bloodhound family and the Spanish Bloodhound is a different story. Nobody really knows exactly when this breed arrived on the Iberian peninsula, perhaps it came along with one of the (Celtic) tribes that inhabited Spain from the Bronze age on what would make it a more ancient breed than his northerly brothers, or perhaps they came indeed from the Segusi via trade or kinship… Who knows.

All we know that the breed was first mentioned in the Libro de la Montería de Alfonso XI in the 14th century. In The Hunting Book,, Alfonso X describes what they look like, their character and how to breed them, among other things. In the centuries that followed more extensive descriptions of the Sabueso Español and how they were used in hunting would appear in books. Although they could be used for all kind of game, they were mainly used for brown bear and wild boar hunting, but also to find the places where bears, foxes and wolves had their hide outs.

Sabuesos are not griffons, simply because they are short haired. ‘Griffon’ comes from the French, where it means ‘long haired’. As said, they have been used to create Griffon Astur-Cantabro, in which their morphology can often be recognized. The Sabueso Español is a medium-sized dog with a height of around of 52–57 cm (20-22 inches) for males, and around 48–53 cm (18-21 inches) for females. Their body is longer than their height, so often it is assumed “there is some basset in there”… Their ears are long and their noses and feet are big. The coat is short, easy to maintain and has a nice shine. The colours are white, lemon, orange, or red-brown with white spots in all sizes. Black and tan or even tricolor can also be found (perhaps due to the mixing in with some of the Swiss ‘Laufhunde’, like the Jura Laufhund, or due to local varieties that go back a long time.) And just like all the other Griffons and the Hubertus Bloodhound, their bark is truly epic!

As King Alfonso X! already noticed, they have a good character and they have a great endurance and they are very ‘andierega’, meaning they can walk for a long time. It is true that they can easily walk and sniff out a trail for hours on end. But they also like to laze around a lot! At home they are among the laziest, they love to sleep, cuddle and snooze, preferably on a soft bed. They like daily walkies and to sniff out smells, trails and trees in the park. Take them occasionally for a long walk on the beach, through the woods or the countryside and they should be fine. Remember that hunting dogs do not go on a hunt every day, but only a few times a year!

Sabuesos are good with anyone who comes in the house. When a stranger enters the home, they will lift an eyebrow to see who’s there and go back to snooze. As they have a gentle and sensitive character, they are naturally gentle with children, with cats and any other animal that is part of the household. They are good with other dogs but will not necessarily feel the need to play with them. Not that they do not appreciate other dogs to be around — they love it. But they rather will look at them frolicking around from the side. However, they usually do like being around their own kind, to sniff out things together and dribble around for a bit. As with Griffons, it is best to keep them always on leash, because every so often they’ll decide that to follow their noses is the most important thing on earth right now and they’ll just trot off…Sabuesos like to use their brains, they are smart dogs. Teaching them all sorts of tricks is possible, although not always as they can be stubborn too. Make them use their nose to find treasure is a good way to exercise them. Man-trailing, trailing and nosework are good options. Some like retrieving balls and toys. Obedience, fly-ball and agility are probanly not so much their thing.

There are many Sabuesos in Spanish shelters, usually with little chance to be ever adopted in Spain – while they have the sweetest character one can wish a dog to have. But the people in Spain do not adopt hunting dogs, because there is this false idea that they are not suited for living with a human family. How wrong can they be about the noble, sweet-tempered Sabueso Español with that somewhat melancholic gaze…

Usually Sabuesos adapt really fast to living with a human family, but sometimes they need a bit more time, as they are sensitive souls and have not always been treated as kindly as they deserve.