The Basset Hound
is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family. They
are scent hounds, bred to hunt by scent. Their sense of smell for tracking is
second only to that of the Bloodhound. The name Basset derives from the French
word "bas" meaning "low;" "basset" meaning, literally, "rather low." They are
very gentle with children.
It's all about Floyd the Basset Hound
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These dogs are around 33 to 18 cm (13 to 15 inches) in height at the withers.
They usually weigh between 50-70lbs. They have smooth, short-haired coats but a
rough haired hound is possible. Although any hound colour is considered
acceptable by breed standards, Bassets are generally tricolour (black, tan, and
white), open red and white (red spots on white fur), closed red and white (a
solid red colour with white feet and tails), and lemon and white. Some Bassets
are also classified as gray or blue; however, this colour is considered rare and
They have long, down ward ears and powerful necks, with much loose skin
around their heads that forms wrinkles. Their tails are long and tapering and
stand upright with a curve. The tail should also be tipped in white. This is so
they are easily seen when hunting/tracking through large brush or weeds. The
breed is also known for its hanging skin structure, which causes the face to
have a permanently sad look; 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, help trap the scent of what they are tracking.
The Basset Hound is a large dog on short legs. They were originally bred by
the French to have achondroplasia, known as dwarfism. Their short stature can be
deceiving; Bassets are surprisingly long and can reach things on table tops that
dogs of similar heights cannot.
The Basset Hound is a very calm and companionable breed. They are an
especially loyal breed known for their pleasant disposition and emotional
sensitivity. Around strangers, Bassets are friendly and welcome the opportunity
to make new friends. For this reason they are an excellent pet for families with
children and other pets. In fact, it is recommended that since Bassets are
"pack" animals, if the Basset must be left alone on a daily basis during the
daytime while the family is away, a second pet in the family will keep a Basset
out of "trouble". Bassets hate to be alone.
While Bassets love food and may be less energetic than some breeds, they will
exercise regularly if given the chance. Most Bassets enjoy activities that use
their natural endurance, like long walks or hikes. They also enjoy tracking
games that let them use their powerful nose.
Like other hounds, Basset Hounds are often difficult to obedience train. Many
Basset Hounds will obey commands when offered a food reward, but will "forget"
the training when a reward is not present. Bassets are notoriously difficult to
housebreak. Training and housebreaking are not impossible, however, and can be
accomplished with consistency and patience on the part of the owner.
The breed has a strong hunting instinct and will give chase or follow a scent
if given the opportunity. They should be trained in recall; failing that, they
should be kept on a leash when out on walks.
Bassets might howl or bay rather than 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 sounds to many owners as though their Bassets are
"talking." 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.
Basset Hounds are a breed of French lineage, a descendant of the St.
Hubert's Hound, a dog similar to the present-day Bloodhound. Friars of St.
Hubert's Abbey in medieval France desired a shorter-legged dog, capable of
following a scent under brush in thick forests, as hunting was a classic sport
of the time. Both Bassets and St. Hubert's Hounds were bred to trail, not kill,
their game. Bassets were originally used to hunt rabbits and hare. The first
application of the word "Basset" to a breed of dog can be traced to an
illustrated text on hunting written by Fouilloux in 1585.
Early French Bassets closely resembled the Basset Artésien Normand, which is
still a breed today. The Basset Artesian Normand is one of the six recognized
French Basset breeds. Originating in Artois and Normandy, it dates back to the
1600's. The Basset Artesian Normand looks like a Basset Hound, but lighter in
weight. A short, straight legged hound, its body is twice as long as it is high.
Its head is dome-shaped and powerful with hairy cheeks. The neck is slightly
dewlap and the muscles are smooth with a moderate amount of wrinkles. The chest
is round with clearly visible sternum. The coat is very short, bicolour: tan and
white, or tricolour: tan, black and white. Breeders prefer white feet.
By the turn of this century, the Basset Artesian Normand was developing into
two distinct lines, straight-legged hunters and crocked-legged, droopy-eared
companion and show dogs. French breeder Leon Verrier developed today's standard,
which blends attributes of both varieties. The Artesian Basset needed straight
legs that would neither hinder his speed nor drain his energy in order to work
in unruly terrain, brush and briar. The breed was recognized in 1911.
Because many short-legged dogs from this time were called Basset and
record-keeping from this time was sparse, it is difficult to speculate which of
these breeds have bloodlines in common with today's Basset Hounds. It is
commonly believed that Marquis de Lafayette brought Basset Hounds to the United
States as a gift to George Washington.
In France, basset hounds achieved noticeable public cultural popularlity
during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852-1870). In 1853, Emmanuel
Fremiet, "the leading sculptor of animals in his day" exhibited bronze
sculptures of Emperor Napoleon III's basset hounds at the Paris Salon.
Ten years later, in 1863, the Basset Hound reached international fame at the
Paris Dog Show. At that time there were two common Bassets, those with a rough
coat (Basset Griffon) and those with smooth (Basset Français). The
dogs were further classified by the length of their legs. The two popular Basset
breeders at this time were M. Lane and the Count Le Couteulx.
In 1866, Lord Galway imported a pair of Le Couteulx Bassets to
England, but it was not until 1874 that Basset Hounds were widely introduced
there by Sir Everett Millais. The Kennel Club accepted the breed in 1882 and the
English Basset Hound Club was formed in 1884. The American Kennel Club first
recognized Basset Hounds as a breed in 1885. In 1935, the Basset Hound Club of
America was organized in the United States. The current American breed standard
was adopted in 1964.
In North America basset hound picnics and waddles are traditions in many
regions and draw impressive crowds and participations from in some cases
hundreds and thousands of bassets and their owners. For example, The Allentown
Basset Picnic thrived for seven years before becoming Tri-State's Basset Freedom
Fest in 2003. Other major annual basset hound events, including the Buffalo
Basset Bash, the New Orleans Basset Boogie, and the Michigan Basset Waddle,
share many similarities with North American food festivals and even crown king
and queen basset hounds in a manner reminiscent of festival crowning of pumpkin
queens. Of course, other traditions, such as deciding which basset has the best
waddling butt or can keep a towel on its head the longest, are generally unique
to basset hound picnics and waddles. These events also feature a wide variety of
purchasable and usually custom-made items depicting basset hounds and therefore
play a role in raising money for basset hound rescue organizations and boosting
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Pack Hunting On Foot
Hunting with Basset Hounds in a similar fashion as a fox hunt is common in
the Mid-Atlantic States of Maryland, Virginia , New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
There were a number of Basset Hound packs in its original home of England when
the hunting of hares was made illegal by the Hunting Act 2004.
Several private and membership packs exist. Hunting for cotton tails and hare is
the quarry of preference.
Hunting a hound pack requires a staff which consists of a Huntsman and the
Whipper-Ins who are responsible for order and discipline of the pack. A Field
Master is in charge of the field that follows behind observing the hounds work
the covert. Most clubs will hunt in traditional attire of a green jacket and
brush pants. Recognized clubs offer those members who have supported the pack
the opportunity to wear colors on the collar to indicate rank in the club.
These packs are typically of English and French hound blood lines with a mix
of AKC blood lines in some packs.
The National Beagle Club located at the Institute Farm in Aldie, Virginia
approximately 50 miles west of Washington D.C. host spring and fall field trials
for basset hounds. The competition held over a 4-day period with participating
packs hunting in the traditional manner in braces of up to 1 hour and 15
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 dogs
and a 2004 UK Kennel Club health survey with a larger sample size of 142
deceased dogs and 226 live dogs.
Median longevity of Basset Hounds in the UK is about 11.4 years,
which is a typical median 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%), GDV
(=bloat/torsion, 11%), and cardiac (8%).
Among 226 live Basset Hounds in the 2004 UKC 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. GDV
Basset Hounds are also prone to glaucoma, luxating patella, thrombopathia,
Von Willebrand disease, hypothyroidism, patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, and
Basset Hound owners should take particular note of the prevalence of GDV
(gastric dilatation volvulus, also known as bloat or torsion) in this breed
because this emergency condition requires immediate veterinary care if the dog
is to survive.
Excessive weight in a long-backed, short-legged dog exacerbates
Long ears are prone to infection if not cleaned regularly. The pronounced haw
of Basset Hound eyes can become dry and irritated.
Training is a touchy topic when dealing with the Basset Hound breed. Gentle
and patient training is the most effective form of training. Trainers must be
persistent with the breed in order to achieve a well mannered dog. The Basset
has the tendency to become stubborn by listening to their nose, rather than
their master. Owners need to make the training process lively and entertaining
to allow the Basset to learn more efficiently.
In 1928, Time magazine featured a Basset Hound on the front cover. The
accompanying story was about the 52nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at
Madison Square Garden as if observed by the Basset Hound puppy. This prestige is
often seen as the event which made the Basset Hound a popular part of American
Basset Hounds have had prominent roles in movies and television. Some Bassets
have been featured in comic strips and cartoons. Examples include cartoon
character Droopy Dog, originally created in 1943 by Tex Avery, and Fred Basset,
the main character in the comic strip Fred Basset, created by Alex Graham
in 1963. Basset Hounds playing more minor roles include Rosebud the Basselope
from Berke Breathed's comic strip Bloom County and Lafayette, from the
1970 Disney film The Aristocats. The notable webcomic PvP by Scott Kurtz
occasionally features the author's pet Basset Hound.
Basset Hounds in films include Fred, the companion of Cledus in the 1977
movie "Smokey and the Bandit" and Gabriel, Batou's Basset Hound in "Ghost in the
Shell 2: Innocence"; Gabriel is in fact director Mamoru Oshii's real life pet,
and is included in many of his films. In a scene most likely referencing Smokey
and the Bandit, a truck driver has a Basset Hound beside him in American Pie 2.
Basset Hounds are featured prominently in off-beat roles as well - one gets hit
by a car and survives in "The Rage: Carrie 2", and in the film Monkeybone a
Basset has its own nightmarish dream sequence. Finally, Basset Hounds appear in
such other mainstream films as "An American Werewolf in Paris", "Nanny McPhee",
and "Spider-Man 2".
Television programs have used Basset Hounds as characters as well. In the
early days of television, Elvis Presley famously sang "Hound Dog" to a Basset
Hound named Sherlock on "The Steve Allen Show" on July 1, 1956. One of the most
famous Bassets on television was Flash, the dog owned by Sheriff Rosco P.
Coltrane in the 1980s TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard ". A life-sized replica
named "Flush" was used in dangerous situations. Other Bassets on television
include Cleo from "The People's Choice", the Basset Hound named simply "Dog"
from "Columbo", Quincey, from "Coach", Sam from That's So Raven and
Socrates in Judging Amy.
Basset Hounds have also been featured in advertising. The logo for Hush
Puppies brand shoes prominently features a Basset Hound. Basset Hounds are
occasionally referred to as "Hush Puppies" for that reason. The dog used in the
photos was named Jason. A Basset Hound also serves as the companion to the
lonely Maytag Man in Maytag appliance advertisements. Tidewater Petrolium
advertised its Fyling A Gasoline using a Bassett Hound named Axelrod. In the
1990's, a handsome red/white Basset Hound called SIGMUND featured in a several
advertisements including one for Domestos bleach.
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Thanks for your excellent set of recollections :-)
|My maiden name is Bassett. So of course we had Bassets. Our
first one we got when I was around 5, he was a pure bred bi-color
white and tan, registered as Kensington Cedric, and we called him
K.C. He lived to be 10, ultimately, having to be put to sleep to
keep him from suffering through his cancer. When we were kids my
brother and I would play "Mad K.C." we'd run through the yard, K.C.
on our heals, barking madly. Then we'd climb up a tree or on our
swing set or some other higher up place and K.C. would "tree" us.
Sitting below where we were baying like crazy. I'm sure we drove the
neighbors nuts! After K.C. my family took in a friends 1 year old
pure bred tri-color Basset, named Elvis. He had a gold head with
black side burns (thus the name) part of the reason she had to give
him up was cause he was chasing, killing and eating her rabbits (in
the song "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley there is a line "If you ain't
never caught a rabbit, then you ain't no friend of mine" getting
weird isn't it?) and the friend had taught him the command "sing",
to get him to bay and howl. It was so funny! we'd sit there and go
"sing Elvis, sing!" and up would go the nose and oooooowowwwwwww!
lol He died of old age at 12. They were both wonderful dogs. Some
say Basset's are slow (mentally) and hard to train, not very smart.
I disagree. They are very smart. They figure out that if they are
just lazy enough (which they can be) you'll eventually give them the
treat out of exasperation, and they won't have had to do a thing!
My dog Beau is a pure bred Basset Hound, but he has long legs.
Is this common? weezie88