Bloodhounds are champion sniffers, but how do all of those flopping folds and jiggling jowls function? Meet the dogs who smell with their ears!
Bloodhounds are champion sniffers — even by dog standards. Although every dog is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, there is some truth to the affectionate description of Bloodhounds as "noses with dogs attached." The Bloodhound's entire body is designed to make it better at finding and following smells.
Their fellow "scent hounds" — Basset Hounds and Coonhounds — also have powerful noses and great reputations for tracking scents. A quick look at these breeds reveals a few other common features like long ears, droopy jowls, and lots of wrinkles.
Why Do Bloodhounds Have Long Ears?
Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, and Coonhounds have several things in common, but their long, droopy ears are among the most distinctive. You might think that a dog with such large ears would have great hearing — and you would be right. But Bloodhounds and their cousins also rely on their ears for smelling.
If you look closely, you may notice that the Bloodhound's ears are set lower on its head than most other dogs' ears. This makes them hang down lower and look even longer than they really are. The ears of Basset Hounds and Coonhounds also hang low, so when these dogs are following a trail, their dangling ears drag along the ground.
Dragging ears act like dust-brooms for scents, stirring up any of the invisible particles that make up a scent trail and then sweeping those scent particles up toward the dog's powerful nose.
What's with the Wrinkles?
Basset Hounds get their distinctive droopy look from their low-hanging jowls and from loose folds of skin below their chins, referred to as a dewlap. Coonhounds also have a dewlap, and their jowls are loose, but not quite so droopy. Bloodhounds have it all — droopy jowls, dewlap, and big, loose wrinkles around the face and neck. All those wrinkles may be adorable, but they are also an important part of how these hounds actually work.
When the dog's ears catch scent particles and sweep them upward, some of those particles get trapped by wrinkles around the dog's neck and face, which lets the dog carry around a handy scent reference for the trail he is following.
The next time someone asks you, "Why do Bloodhounds have long ears?" you can tell them, "The better to smell you with, my dear!"