References to bloodhounds first appear in English writing in the early to mid 14th century, in contexts that suggest the breed was well established by then. It is often claimed that its ancestors were brought over from Normandy by William the Conqueror, but there is no actual evidence for this. That the Normans brought hounds from Europe during the post-Conquest period is virtually certain, but whether they included the Bloodhound itself, rather than merely its ancestors, is a matter of dispute that probably cannot be resolved on the basis of surviving evidence.
Bloodhounds weigh from 36 to 50 kg (80 to 110 lbs), though some individuals weigh as much as 72 kg (160 lb). They stand 58 to 69 cm (23 to 27 inches) high at the withers. According to the AKC standard of the breed, larger dogs are preferred by conformation judges. Acceptable colors for bloodhounds are black, liver, tan, or red. Bloodhounds possess an unusually large skeletal structure with most of their weight concentrated in their bones, which are very thick for their length. The coat typical for a scenthound is hard and composed of fur alone, with no admixture of hair.
This breed is gentle, but is tireless when following a scent. Because of its strong tracking instinct, it can be willful and somewhat difficult to obedience train and handle on a leash. Bloodhounds have an affectionate and even-tempered nature with humans, making excellent family pets. However, like any pet, they require supervision when around small children.
Bloodhounds in a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey had a median longevity of 6.75 years, which makes them one of the shortest-lived of dog breeds. The oldest of the 82 deceased dogs in the survey died at the age of 12.1 years. Bloat took 34% of the animals, making it the most common cause of death in Bloodhounds. The second leading cause of death in the study was cancer, at 27%; this percentage is similar to other breeds, but the median age of death was unusually young (median of about 8 years). In a 2013 survey, the average age at death for 14 Bloodhounds was 8.25 years.