The Basset Hound originated in France (the French word ‘bas’ meaning low, therefore ‘low-set’), however the exact development of the breed is unclear. Some authorities believe a genetic mutation occurred in the St Hubert Hound resulting in a short-legged dog that, due to its slower pace, was useful for aiding hunters on foot and that these dwarfed animals were subsequently selected and bred for type over many years. Others suggest an early cross between the Basset Artesien Normand and the Bloodhound which the Basset closely resembles in all but size. First imported into Britain in 1866, there is certainly evidence that, in the late 19th century, Sir Everett Millais introduced Bloodhound into the breed to create the British type of Basset Hound, which is heavier and longer in the head than its Continental counterpart. Used originally to track small game and start it into the open for sight-hounds to run down or for falcons to catch in the days before firearms the Basset has a superb sense of smell said to be surpassed only by the Bloodhound itself. A slow but sure hunter, the Basset’s pendulous ears serve to sweep ground scent towards its nose and it will follow a trail with great stamina and determination, pushing its way though the densest of thickets and brambles. Packs of Bassets are still used for putting up rabbit and hare and sometimes game birds but are more often encountered as show and companion dogs.
Due to his unique appearance, his depiction in cartoons and his association with product advertising, the Basset Hound is one of the most widely recognized of breeds and, due to his nature, very popular as a family pet. He is also one of the most gentle and benign of dogs, friendly to all whom he meets and deeply devoted to his people. His affability usually extends also to other dogs and he would be unlikely to start a quarrel preferring to avoid any sort of confrontation or aggrevation. His hail-fellow-well-met nature makes him a poor guard dog but he will alert to strangers by barking before he goes to greet them and extend the paw of friendship. While he is a relaxed and peaceable fellow and sees no point in the unnecessary expenditure of energy that sleepy appearance is misleading. He can be very playful and has the energy and tenacity to trail quarry over vast distances. This latter trait makes secure fencing essential if he is to be kept safe from being lost, stolen, injured or killed as, once tracking he will follow his nose for miles and will not deviate or stop for a busy road. Being developed as a pack dog he will bond closely with his family and will need a great deal of their company and affection. He will not thrive if he is relegated to a lonely life. He will become miserable, bored and frustrated and will find inappropriate ways to express his discontent and unhappiness. He has a very deep, sonorous voice which is described as sweet and melodious by afficionados but which may not be appreciated by all. For those who can understand and appreciate the instincts of a hound and can accommodate his needs the Basset is an ideal companion.
It should be realized that the Basset is not a sedentary dog and that he needs considerable exercise to prevent him from becoming overweight and to keep his mind stimulated. He may not look like a sporting dog but he has ample energy which needs to be used up and exceptional physical stamina. His construction makes him unsuited to running far at any speed and he should never be considered as a dog to run with, instead he needs long, steady walks every day. Off-lead exercise, unless in a very secure area, is unwise as his nose may lead him to stray into trouble. Being both long-backed and very heavy he should not be required to frequently negotiate stairs nor should he be allowed to jump. Puppies do not need and should not have long walks. Stairs, jumping and rough play must be avoided lest these also cause irreparable damage to their immature bones and joints.
In order that the Basset should become a pleasant household member and acceptable to society basic obedience training is a must. He is a very intelligent dog and can use his soulful expression and natural ingenuity to get his own way. He can be stubborn on occasion and may also give the impression of seriously considering the point of any command before deciding whether or not to respond. His training needs patience, kindness and consistency to bring out the best in him. Motivational training using food rewards is recommended. He is a very sensitive dog and will be crushed in spirit if harsh verbal or physical discipline is used. Such methods will also destroy his trust and respect for his owner. Socialization should be commenced at an early age by introducing the puppy to as many various situations, people, noises, other dogs and animals as possible. These early experiences will enable him to meet whatever he encounters in life with the serene and affable nature that is the hallmark of the breed.
- cervical vertebral instability
- elbow dysplasia
- patella luxation
- intervertebral disc disease
- severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)
- von Willebrand’s disease (VWD)
- eye problems. Susceptible to bloat
Some photographs of the Basset Hound...