The bloodhound's nose knows: dogs and detection in Anglo-American Culture

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The figure of the English bloodhound is often portrayed both positively and negatively as an efficient man-hunter. This article traces the cultural, social and forensic functions of the first attempts to use bloodhounds for police investigation, and argues that the analysis of these developments, which took place at the turn of the twentieth century, further our understanding of the diverse practices and cultures of fin de siècle forensics. Arguing that their dogs could trail tracks of human scent, English pedigree bloodhound breeders promoted and imagined novel ways of detecting and thinking forensically, with which they made claims to social authority in matters of crime and detection. Yet, English bloodhounds were unstable carriers of forensic meaning making their use for tracking criminals deeply problematic: for example, the name of the breed itself invoked a long-line of social and cultural associations. In showing this, we can see how the practices of canine forensics had their roots in a complex history, involving genteel leisure, changing cultural understandings of scent, and shifting dog-keeping mores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-208
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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