The Basset Hound is a short-legged hound. One of six recognized Basset Breeds in France, they are scent hounds, originally bred for the purpose of hunting rabbits and hare. Their sense of smell for tracking is second only to that of the Bloodhound.The name Basset is derived from the French word bas, meaning “low”, with the attenuating suffix -et, together meaning “rather low. The Basset Hound’s short stature is due to a genetic condition known as Osteochondrodysplasia (meaning abnormal growth of both bone and cartilage). Dwarfism in dogs is traditionally known as Achondroplasia. Basset Hounds, Dachshunds and Bulldogs are a few of the dog breeds classified as Achondroplastic.
Their short stature can be deceiving; Bassets are surprisingly long and can reach things on table tops that other dogs of similar height cannot. Because Bassets are so heavy and have such short legs, they are not able to hold themselves above water for very long when swimming, and should always be closely supervised in the water.
The Basset Hound is sweet, gentle, devoted, peaceful and naturally well-behaved. It fits into family life well. It is mild but not timid; very affectionate with its master and friendly with children. It can be a bit stubborn with meek owners and needs a firm, confident, and consistent owner who displays natural authority over the dog. Bassets like to do tricks for food. Bassets are known to be a vocal breed. They might howl or bark when they want something, or to suggest that they think something is wrong. They also use a low, murmuring whine to get attention, which many owners say is their Basset “talking” to them. This whine is also used by the hound to beg (for food or treats) and varies in volume depending on the nature of the individual hound and length of time it has been begging.
Housebreaking is often difficult, but they do well with positive reinforcement and patient, gentle training. With proper training, they can be obedient, but when they pick up an interesting smell, it’s sometimes hard to get their attention, as they like to follow their noses and may not even hear you calling them back, therefore only allow your Basset off lead in safe areas.
Bassets are large, short, solid and long, with curved sabre tails held high over their long backs. Everett Millais, founder of the modern Basset Hound, is quoted as saying “Oh, he’s about 4 feet long and 12 inches high.” in reference to his French basset. An adult dog weighs between 20 and 35 kilograms (44 and 77 lb).
This breed, like its ancestor the Bloodhound, is known for its hanging skin structure, which causes the face to occasionally look sad; this, for many people, adds to the breed’s charm. The dewlap, seen as the loose, elastic skin around the neck, and the trailing ears which along with the Bloodhound are the longest of any breed, help trap the scent of what they are tracking. Its neck is wider than its head. This combined with the loose skin around its face and neck means that flat collars can easily be pulled off. The looseness of the skin results in the Basset’s characteristic facial wrinkles. The Basset’s skull is characterised by its large dolichocephalic nose, which is second only to the Bloodhound in scenting ability and number of olfactory receptor cells.
The short-haired coat of a Basset is long, smooth and soft, and sheds constantly. Any hound coloration is acceptable, but this varies from country to country. They are usually Black, Tan and White tricolours or Tan and White bicolours. Tan can vary from reddish-brown and Red to Lemon. Lemon and White is less common colour. Some Bassets are also classified as gray or blue – this colour is considered rare and undesirable.
They usually have a clearly defined white blaze and a white tip to their tail, intended to aid hunters in finding their dogs when tracking through underbrush.
The earliest-known depictions of short-legged hunting dogs are engravings from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Mummified remains of short-legged dogs from that period have been uncovered in the Dog Catacombs of Saqqara, Egypt. Scent Hounds were used for hunting in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
The basset type originated in France, and is descended from the 6th century hounds belonging to St Hubert of Belgium, which became known as the St Hubert’s Hound around 1000AD. St Hubert’s original hounds are descended from the Laconian (Spartas) Hound,one of four groups of dogs discerned from Greek representations and descriptions. These scent hounds were described as large, slow, ‘short-legged and deep mouthed’ dogs with a small head, straight nose, upright ears and long neck, and either tan with white markings or black with tan markings. Laconian Hounds were reputed to not give up the scent until they found their prey. They eventually found their way to Constantinople, and from there to Europe.
The first mention of a “basset” dog appeared in La Venerie, in 1585. The dogs were then used to hunt foxes and badgers. It is commonly believed that the Basset type originated as a mutation in the litters of Norman Staghounds, a descendant of the St Hubert’s Hound. These precursors were most likely bred back to the St. Hubert’s Hound, among other derivative French hounds. Until after the French Revolution around the year 1789, hunting from horseback was the preserve of kings, large aristocratic families and of the country squires, and for this reason short-legged dogs were highly valued for hunting on foot.
Basset type hounds achieved noticeable public cultural popularity during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852-1870). 1863 at the first exhibition of dogs held in Paris, basset hounds attained international attention. The controlled breeding of the short haired basset began in France in the year 1870. From the existing Bassets, Count Le Couteulx of Canteleu fixed a utilitarian type with straight front legs known as the Chien d’Artois, whereas Mr. Louis Lane developed a more spectacular type, with crooked front legs, known as the Basset Normand. These were bred together to create the original Basset Artésien Normand.
French bassets were being imported into England at least as early as the 1870s. While some of these dogs were certainly Basset Artésien Normands, by the 1880s line breeding had thrown back to a different heavier type. Everett Millais’, who is considered to be the father of the modern Basset Hound, bred one such dog, Nicholas, to a Bloodhound bitch named Inoculation through artificial insemination in order to create a heavier basset in England in the 1890s. The litter was delivered by caesarean section, and the surviving pups were refined with French and English bassets. The first breed standard for what is now known as the Basset Hound was made in Great Britain at the end of 19th century.
The basset is more likely to suffer from problems with ear, eye and back problems as well as a few hereditary problems. Owners can help by not overfeeding as extra weight places too great a load on the legs and spine. Being overweight leads to paralysis in Bassets. As they are prone to bloat, it is also wise to feed them two or three small meals a day instead of one large meal. If they do eat a large meal keep an eye on them for several hours for any signs of bloat.
Basset’s large pendant ears (known as “leathers”) do not allow air to circulate inside them, like other breeds with erect or more open ears. This can result in infections and ear mites if their ears are not kept clean and dry. If their ears are allowed to dangle on the ground or in food on a daily basis, they may develop chronic and potentially fatal ear diseases. Young puppies trip over their long ears and may bite their ears accidentally if they dangle in their food. This can lead to infection if they break the skin. Regular cleaning of the inside and outside of the ears, including the removal of excess ear wax, is necessary to prevent infections.
Basset Hound puppies, or very old dogs, should not be allowed to jump down from a height, due to how low they are to the ground. Because of a basset’s body build (short stubby legs, low to the ground), if they fall too far, they can hurt their hips, injure their spine or break a leg. Many aging bassets have been euthanized due to such injuries. If a puppy sustains one of these injuries, the damage can be permanent.
In addition to ear problems, basset hounds may be susceptible to eye issues. Because of their droopy eyes, the area under the eyeball will collect dirt and become clogged with mucus. It is best to wipe their eyes every day with a damp cloth. This helps to lessen the build-up and prevent eye irritation.
Basset Hounds are prone to yeast infections in the folds around the mouth, where drool can collect without thoroughly drying out. Wiping the area with a clean, dry towel and applying talcum powder can minimize this risk.
The only recent mortality and morbidity surveys of Basset Hounds are from the UK:a 1999 longevity survey with a small sample size of 10 deceased dogsand a 2004 UK Kennel Club health survey with a larger sample size of 142 deceased dogs and 226 live dogs.
Average longevity of Basset Hounds in the UK is about 11.3 years,which is a typical average longevity for purebred dogs and for breeds similar in size to Basset Hounds.The oldest of the 142 deceased dogs in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey was 16.7 years. Leading causes of death in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey were cancer (31%), old age (13%), bloat/torsion (11%), and cardiac (8%).
Among the 226 live Basset Hounds in the 2004 UK survey, the most-common health issues noted by owners were dermatologic (e.g., dermatitis), reproductive, musculoskeletal (e.g., arthritis and lameness), and gastrointestinal (e.g. bloat/torsion and colitis).Basset Hounds are also prone to epilepsy, glaucoma, luxating patella, thrombopathia, Von Willebrand disease, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.