Detective Bloodhounds

One of the most misreported police initiatives, with regards their investigation into the crimes now known as the Jack the Ripper murders, was the suggestion that bloodhounds might prove useful in attempting to hunt down the perpetrator of the atrocities.

Time after time, you will read accounts of how Sir Charles Warren demonstrated his sheer incompetence with several mishaps concerning the bloodhounds. They were released, so one oft touted misrepresentation of the facts goes, and they promptly hunted down none other than Sir Charles Warren himself. He set them loose, goes the narrative of another account, and they promptly got lost in a London fog.

Whereas it cannot be denied that these anecdotes bring a degree of levity to the case, the stark fact remains that neither of them are true, albeit they have found their way into ripper mythology where they remain firmly rooted in many accounts on the crimes!

The bloodhounds used in the trials.
The Bloodhounds. From The Illustrated London News, 20th October 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The idea of using bloodhounds was not Sir Charles Warren’s but, rather, it had been suggested to him by the Home Office.

Warren was sceptical that bloodhounds could be of any use in the hunt for the killer and questioned how dogs could be expected to trace the killer without either a piece of his clothing or a sample of his blood from which to acquire his scent?

Furthermore, he argued, even if they had the aforementioned items to go on, how effective would their sense of smell be on streets and pavements that hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people might have been walking on all night long?

His reservations not withstanding, he did agree to hold trials to test the effectiveness of the dogs and, it must be said, he was sufficiently impressed with the results to give orders that, in the event of any further murder, the body must not be touched until bloodhounds could be brought and put on the scent of the killer.

This is one of the reasons why there was a delay at the scene of Mary Kelly’s murder, between the time when the police actually arrived at the scene, and the time at which they went into her room at 13 Miller’s Court.


The Illustrated London News published an article on the bloodhound trials in an article that was published on October 20th 1888.

It read:

“Sir Charles Warren, the chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, on Tuesday. Oct. 9, witnessed in the park a private trial of two bloodhounds, the property of Mr. Edwin Brough, of Wyndyate, near Scarborough.

The two bloodhounds are released.
The Bloodhounds Are Released. From The Illustrated London News, 20th October 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


That gentleman had been communicated with by the Metropolitan Police as to the utility of employing bloodhounds to track criminals, and came to London, bringing with him the fine animals named Champion Barnaby and Burgho.

Burgho is nearly two years younger than his kennel companion; he is a black-and-tan, powerful, well-formed, and well-grown; his head measures 12 in. in length and he is one of the fastest hounds Brough has ever bred.

Burgho has been trained from a puppy to hunt “the clean shoe” – that is to say, follow the trail of a man whose shoes have not been prepared in any way by the application of blood or aniseed, so as to leave a strongly-marked trail.

Barnaby has been similarly taught; but his training was not commenced until he was twelve months old.

The hounds have been accustomed to working together, which is a considerable advantage in following a trail.


Mr. Brough stated that his system of training the hounds is as follows :-

When they are puppies, four or five months old, he gives them short runs of about 100 yards to begin with on grass and up wind.

To encourage the young dogs, everything is made as easy for them as possible.

The man whom they are going to run is always someone whom they know, and he caresses and fondles the puppies before he starts.

The dogs are allowed to see him start, and the quarry gets out of sight as quickly as possible and conceals himself.

The trainer, who must know the exact course the man has taken, puts the puppies on the line, and encourages them by voice and gesture to follow up the trail.

It is quite likely at first that some of the litter, perhaps all of them, will not put their noses down or understand what is required of them; but the trainer takes them along until they reach the man, and he rewards them with some dainty.

This is repeated, until very soon the hounds know what is required of them, and once started on the trail work for themselves.

The difficulties are gradually increased, but not until they are twelve months old can the animals be taught to go across country.

Eventually, they can be trained to cross roads and brooks, and when they are at fault, say by overrunning the line, they will make their own casts and recover the track.

The bloodhounds following a trail.
The Bloodhounds on the Trail. From The Illustrated London News, 20th October 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Mr. Brough tried Barnaby and Burgho in Regent’s Park early on Monday morning, Oct. 8.

The ground was thickly coated with hoar frost, but they did their work well, successfully tracking for nearly a mile a young man, who was given about fifteen minutes start.


They were tried again in Hyde Park at night, when it was dark, and the dogs were hunted on a leash.

They were again successful in performing their task.


At seven o’clock next morning a trial took place before Sir Charles Warren, when half a dozen runs were made, Sir Charles Warren in two instances acting as the hunted man.

In every instance the dogs hunted persons who were complete strangers to them, and occasionally the trail would be crossed.

When this happened the hounds were temporarily checked, but either one or the other would pick up the trail again.

Sir Charles Warren running across the park.
Sir Charles Warren Acting As Quarry. From The Illustrated London News, 20th October, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


In one of the longest courses the hounds were checked at half the distance; Burgho ran back, but Barnaby, making a fresh cast forward, recovered the trail and ran the quarry home.

The hound did this entirely unaided by his master.

In consequence of the coldness of the scent, the hounds worked very slowly, but they demonstrated the possibility of tracking complete strangers on whose trail they had been laid.”


Of course the image of Sir Charles Warren acting as the hunted man in the bloodhound trials proved an irresistible one to his press adversaries; and when, around October 19th 1888 a report that originated with the Press Association, but which gained widespread circulation in newspapers all over the country, suggested that, at least one of the trials, had not gone as smoothly as those in Regent’s Park and Hyde Park, Warren’s critics were quick to use the mishap to attack him.

On Friday 19th October 1888 The Huddersfield Chronicle was one of many newspapers that carried the following report:-

“A Press Association Woolwich correspondent says the bloodhounds hired by Sir Charles Warren were out for practice at Tooting on Thursday, and were lost.

Telegrams have this afternoon been sent to all metropolitan police stations to the effect that, if they are seen anywhere, an intimation is to be sent immediately to Scotland Yard.”

Sir Charles Warren on a horse looks down at the bloodhounds.
From The Illustrated London News, 20th October 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Of Course, such a misfortune proved manna from heaven to Warren’s avowed critics on The Pall Mall Gazette and they took up the cudgel of the lost bloodhounds, and they set about him with it in their issue of 19th October 1888:-


“We learn this morning that the bloodhounds recently acquired by Sir Charles Warren for Scotland-yard are missing, and that like the murderer whom they have been set to catch they are now “wanted” by the police.”

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? [“Who will guard the guards themselves?”] is a very old question; what Sir Charles Warren is now asking, is, “who will track the trackers?”

No formal warrant of arrest, we understand, has as yet been made out; but we are informed that notification has been sent to all the police stations of the disaster, and that all constables have been instructed to “apprehend all vagrant bloodhounds, and bid them stand in the name of Sir Charles Warren.”

In spite of all endeavours, the authorities are, however, still without any clue as to the whereabouts of the missing dogs.

The greatest anxiety prevails, we believe, at headquarters that the arrest of the dogs should be speedily effected…”


Hilarious as the story of the missing bloodhounds is, it is, sadly, not true.

What had happened was that their owner, Mr Brough, had been compelled to return to Scarborough, and he had left the bloodhounds in the care of a friend of his, Mr. W. K Taunton, of 8 Doughty Street.

Shorty afterwards Burgho was sent to Brighton, where he had been entered in a dog show.

Barnaby remained in the care of Mr Taunton, and the plan had been to reunite the two dogs, once the three day show had finished.

However, Sir Charles Warren appeared unable to make a decision on paying Mr Brough for the dogs, and, consequently, he [Mr Brough] insisted that Burgho be returned to him in Scarborough once the show had ended.

He also wrote to Mr Taunton, asking that he return Barnaby; but, for some reason, this wasn’t done.

The to bloodhounds.
The Detective Bloodhounds. From Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 20th October 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


A few days later, Mr Taunton, according to a statement he gave, which was published in The Hull Daily Mail  on 13th November 1888:-

“…received a telegram from Leman-street Police Station asking me to bring up the hounds. It was then shortly after noon and I took Barnaby at once.

On arriving at the station I was told by the superintendent that a burglary had been committed about five o’clock that morning in Commercial-street, and I was to attempt to track the thief by means of the dog.

The police admitted that since the burglary they had been all over the premises.

I pointed out the stupidity of expecting a dog to achieve anything under such circumstances, and after a short time I took the animal home.


I wrote to tell Mr Brough of this, and he wired, insisting that the dog should be sent back at once, as the danger of its being poisoned if it became known that the police were trying to track burglars by its aid  was very great, and Mr Brough had no guarantee against any pecuniary loss he might suffer in the event of the animal being maltreated…”


As for how the story about the bloodhounds being lost in Tooting had got about, Mr Taunton confessed that he was at a loss, stating that he could only account for it in the following way:-

“I had arranged to take Barnaby out to Hemel Hempstead to give the hound some practice.

On that same day a sheep was killed on Tooting Common and the police wired to London, asking that the hounds might be sent down.

At this time I was some miles away from London with Barnaby, and did not get the telegram until my return, and that was late in the evening.

Somebody doubtless remarked that the hounds were missing, meaning that they did not arrive from Hemel Hempstead, when sent for, and this was magnified into a report that they had been lost.

At that time Burgho was in Scarborough.”


However, Mr Taunton was emphatic that the bloodhounds would have been of no use whatsoever in the aftermath of the murder of Mary Kelly.

The Hull Daily Mail, in its report on the 13th November 1888, quoted him as saying:-

“…Under the circumstances in which the body of Mary Jane Kelly was found, I don’t think bloodhounds would be of any use. It was then broad daylight, and the streets were crowded with people. The only chance the hounds would have had would be in the event of a murdered body being discovered like the others were, in the small hours of the morning, and being put on the trail before many people were about.”