The Grand Bleu de Gascogne (also known as the Large Blue Gascony Hound) is one of the ancient hounds of France dating back at least to the Middle Ages and is one of the foundation breeds from which the descent of most of today’s hounds can be traced. It is suggested that Grand Bleus evolved from the mixing of local chiens courant with dogs brought to France by Phoenician traders. It would seem evident from the appearance of the dog: the long folded ears, the solemn expression, the great voice, that St Hubert Hounds contributed to its make-up. The breed was developed as a trail hound for hunting large game including wolf, bear, boar and deer, and a famous pack was owned by the 16th century King of France, Henry IV. In comparison to others of the hound family the Grand is somewhat slow and methodical on the trail, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in determination, outstanding scenting ability, courage and sheer staying power. The decline in large game hunting brought in its wake a decline in the numbers of Grand Bleus. They are not numerous in their native country and are very rare outside of France.
The character and temperament of the Grand Bleu de Gascogne is perfectly summed up in the words of the Breed Standard: “gentle and kind”. Beneath his elegant appearance and aristocratic demeanour lies a mellow and sociable soul, shyness or viciousness being quite foreign to him. He is generally patient and good with children and, being a pack hound and of a peaceable nature, he tends to get along well with other dogs. He will bond strongly with his family and requires close and frequent human contact. He needs to be accepted and treated as one of the family, to have his place in the house and to be included in as many activities as possible. He will repay such consideration with utmost devotion and loyalty. If exiled to live alone in the kennel he will become depressed, miserable and fail to thrive. He may express his loneliness and misery in destructiveness, escape attempts and long, extremely loud baying. As with all hounds secure fencing is required as a tantalizing scent presents an irresistible temptation to get on the trail. Although he is friendly he will announce the presence of strangers with a formidable voice which will deter intruders. This breed is not recommended for inexperienced owners or for those who cannot provide the necessary companionship and exercise.
With his working heritage the adult Grand Bleu requires a considerable amount of exercise. Long daily walks are a necessity to keep him both physically fit and mentally alert. If a secure area is available for off-lead activities he will appreciate the opportunity for unrestricted running and the investigation of interesting smells. However he is primarily a trail hound with a superb sense of smell and should he take off after wild game he will be deaf to all commands and entreaties to return, so caution is essential when it comes to allowing him off-lead. As with all large breeds care should be taken not to over-exercise puppies and young dogs as permanent damage can be done to immature joints and bones.
This is a large and powerful breed so it is important that basic obedience training is carried out in order that he should respond to verbal control. He is a smart dog with the reputation of considerable problem-solving abilities and a somewhat independent personality. These qualities mean that he may come up with ideas of his own on how an exercise should be carried out, but patience, kindness and consistency will help him to learn to do what is required rather than what he thinks should be done. Positive reinforcement using praise, treats, or games will succeed where harsher methods fail. With a handler for whom he has respect and affection the Grand Bleu is a willing worker but harsh discipline will meet with resistance and the learning process will take ten times longer as the dog’s confidence and trust will be severely undermined. Socialization to introduce new situations, people, places, etc. should be commenced at a young age. This will give him the confidence needed to face life in the human world as a sensible, calm, outgoing adult.
- No known hereditary disorders
- Susceptible to bloat
- gastric dilitation volvulus (GDV)
Some photographs of the Grand Bleu de Gascogne...