The Basset Hound, also known as the Badger Dog or simply as the Basset, is an old, aristocratic scentdog that has become one of the most well-known of all canine breeds. Gentle, kind and distinctive in appearance, the Basset is a loyal and affectionate pet and an easy keeper. The American Kennel Club registered its first Basset Hounds in 1885. The breed is a member of the Hound Group and is most well-known for its stubby but sturdy little legs, long low body, drooping ears and liquid brown eyes. The word basset is derived from the French adjective bas, which means "low thing," "short" or "dwarf." Basset Hounds have one of the best noses in the Hound Group, being second only to the Bloodhound. They are friendly, solemn and polite dogs, not prone to dramatic displays of either affection or excitement. Bassets are one of the most popular breeds in the United States and world wide.
The ideal Basset Hound should not exceed 14 inches at the withers; heights over 15 inches are considered a disqualification under the American breed standard. Bassets typically weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. Their short coat sheds frequently, but regular brushing can keep shedding under control. The many folds in their skin, if unattended, can become infected and irritated. Their pendulous ears require special attention.
The Basset Hound was developed in the late 1500's by the Friars of the Abbey of St. Hubert in northern France, as part of a selective breeding program to produce a low-set, slow-moving and highly intelligent hound that could be followed on foot rather than only on horseback. Bloodhounds were no doubt prominent in its ancestry. These dogs were bred to track rabbits, fox, squirrels, pheasants and deer, and eventually raccoons and badgers, using their keen sense of smell. They apparently even hunted wild boar and wolf. Their short legs and tight coat made them especially useful in thick brush, and they hunted equally well in packs or alone. Hunting was popular among French royalty during the 16th through 19th centuries, and Basset Hounds were favored in the kennels of aristocrats and other nobility. However, even commoners who did not own horses favored the Basset, which developed a special niche among hunting hounds.
By the mid-19th century, the two preeminent breeders of Bassets in France were producing dogs of slightly different types. M. Lane was breeding hounds with broader skulls, shorter ears and rounder, more prominent eyes. His dogs typically were lemon and white in color and tended to knuckle-over in front. Count Le Couteulx was breeding hounds with narrower heads, domed top-skulls and a softer, more sunken eye. His hounds also had a more prominent jaw and a down-faced look with more exaggerated facial expression. The Le Couteulx hounds also were tri-colored, making them more recognizable and more highly sought-after. In 1866, Lord Galway brought the first pair of Le Couteulx Basset Hounds to England. This pair produced a litter of five puppies in 1867, but they were not widely promoted. In 1874, Sir Everett Millais imported another French Basset Hound, named Model, to England. Using Model in a selective breeding program and with the help of Lord Onslow and George Krehl, Millais became known as the "father of the Basset Hound breed" in England. He exhibited the first Basset in England in 1875. However, it was not until 1880, when Millais coordinated a large Basset Hound entry for the Wolverhampton dog show, that public attention finally focused on the breed. Several years later, the Basset's popularity in England grew when Queen Alexandra brought the breed into her royal kennels.
George Washington reportedly owned one of the first Basset Hounds in the United States, which was given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette after the American Revolution. Starting in 1883, imports of Bassets contributed to the bourgeoning popularity of the breed in America, particularly among sportsmen who valued their talents for hunting rabbits. The Westminster Kennel Club first recognized and held a class for the Basset Hound in 1884. The English import, Nemours, made his debut at that show and completed his AKC championship in Boston two years later. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Basset Hound in 1885. The breed continued its popularity into the 20th century, with a Basset puppy being prominently displayed on the cover of Time Magazine in 1928. The Basset Hound Club of America was founded in 1935 and became the national parent club for the breed in the United States. This breed remains a capable companion to hunters and an ideal family pet. It also excels in field trials, pack hunting, obedience and tracking. The Basset Hound retains its reserved nature and resonant voice.
The average lifespan of the Basset is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, back and joint problems, bloat/torsion, cardiac disease, skin conditions, ear infections, eyelid and eyelash problems, glaucoma, intervertebral disk disease and von Willebrand disease. While they are generally a healthy breed, Basset's ears need to be cleaned and cared for or they can develop ear infections. Their droopy eyes also need to be wiped daily to keep dirt and dust from accumulating in the fold and predisposing them to developing eye infections.
With their droopy eyes, long ears and short stature, basset hounds can sometimes look like sad, old men. In truth, they are active, affectionate and loyal, and because of their pack nature, get along well with people and other pets, making them an ideal family companion. Bassets will welcome rumpus playing with children, but will sit quietly on the lap of an adult when it's time to relax for the evening. Basset Hounds may bark to sound an alert that someone is nearing the home, but once they greet a guest, will quietly return to their favorite sun-bathing spot on the floor.
Basset hounds need exercise. Not as much as a larger-breed dog, but they are prone to weight problems if they do not get enough outside activity. Their short stature is misleading – a basset hound can weigh as much as 60 pounds, so they do need plenty of time to stretch their legs every day. A family home with a yard to run and play in is ideal for a this breed, but apartment dwellers who are committed to walking their dog regularly and visiting a dog park for play ,can raise a healthy, happy Basset as well.
Training a Basset can be a challenge. Some consider this a sign of low intelligence, but the truth is they are highly intelligent and independent, making them resistant to obedience. This independent nature can make them immune to discipline, and their lack of a desire to please people makes positive reinforcement training difficult. Basset hounds love to eat, so training with treats and a lot of patience will yield the best results. They will walk all over a meek trainer, so a confident nature is important when training a basset hound.
Bassets are hunting dogs with a keen sense of smell. If a basset picks up a scent, he will tune everything else out while he tracks the smell and will not respond to his owner's desperate attempts to call him home. For this reason, it is best to keep basset hounds on a leash or in a fenced-in area.
Basset Hounds are often referred to as "clown" dogs. They do their own thing, in their own time, and this can often lead to humorous interactions. They are not aggressive to people or other dogs, and despite their desire for independence, are truly pack animals who love the company of others.
Bassets bark and howl when they are bored. Before leaving a Basset Hound for a long period of time, owners should be sure to exercise their dog to tire him out, and leave him with plenty of chew toys and activities while gone. Bassets will also bark and howl when they sense something is wrong, and often during thunder storms.
Despite the challenges of training a Basset Hound, with a gentle hand and a little bit of patience this breed makes an ideal pet for families of all sizes and ages.
The Basset Hound possesses in marked degree those characteristics which equip it admirably to follow a trail over and through difficult terrain. It is a short-legged dog, heavier in bone, size considered, than any other breed of dog, and while its movement is deliberate, it is in no sense clumsy. In temperament it is mild, never sharp or timid. It is capable of great endurance in the field and is extreme in its devotion.
The head is large and well proportioned. Its length from occiput to muzzle is greater than the width at the brow. In overall appearance the head is of medium width. The skull is well domed, showing a pronounced occipital protuberance. A broad flat skull is a fault. The length from nose to stop is approximately the length from stop to occiput. The sides are flat and free from cheek bumps. Viewed in profile the top lines of the muzzle and skull are straight and lie in parallel planes, with a moderately defined stop. The skin over the whole of the head is loose, falling in distinct wrinkles over the brow when the head is lowered. A dry head and tight skin are faults. The muzzle is deep, heavy, and free from snipiness. The nose is darkly pigmented, preferably black, with large wide-open nostrils. A deep liver-colored nose conforming to the coloring of the head is permissible but not desirable. The teeth are large, sound, and regular, meeting in either a scissors or an even bite. A bite either overshot or undershot is a serious fault. The lips are darkly pigmented and are pendulous, falling squarely in front and, toward the back, in loose hanging flews. The dewlap is very pronounced. The neck is powerful, of good length, and well arched. The eyes are soft, sad, and slightly sunken, showing a prominent haw, and in color are brown, dark brown preferred. A somewhat lighter-colored eye conforming to the general coloring of the dog is acceptable but not desirable. Very light or protruding eyes are faults. The ears are extremely long, low set, and when drawn forward, fold well over the end of the nose. They are velvety in texture, hanging in loose folds with the ends curling slightly inward. They are set far back on the head at the base of the skull and, in repose, appear to be set on the neck. A high set or flat ear is a serious fault.
The chest is deep and full with prominent sternum showing clearly in front of the legs. The shoulders and elbows are set close against the sides of the chest. The distance from the deepest point of the chest to the ground, while it must be adequate to allow free movement when working in the field, is not to be more than one-third the total height at the withers of an adult Basset. The shoulders are well laid back and powerful. Steepness in shoulder, fiddle fronts, and elbows that are out, are serious faults. The forelegs are short, powerful, heavy in bone, with wrinkled skin. Knuckling over of the front legs is a disqualification. The paw is massive, very heavy with tough heavy pads, well rounded and with both feet inclined equally a trifle outward, balancing the width of the shoulders. Feet down at the pastern are a serious fault. The toes are neither pinched together nor splayed, with the weight of the forepart of the body borne evenly on each. The dewclaws may be removed.
The rib structure is long, smooth, and extends well back. The ribs are well sprung, allowing adequate room for heart and lungs. Flatsidedness and flanged ribs are faults. The topline is straight, level, and free from any tendency to sag or roach, which are faults.
The hindquarters are very full and well rounded, and are approximately equal to the shoulders in width. They must not appear slack or light in relation to the over-all depth of the body. The dog stands firmly on its hind legs showing a well-let-down stifle with no tendency toward a crouching stance. Viewed from behind, the hind legs are parallel, with the hocks turning neither in nor out. Cowhocks or bowed legs are serious faults. The hind feet point straight ahead. Steep, poorly angulated hindquarters are a serious fault. The dewclaws, if any, may be removed.
The tail is not to be docked, and is set in continuation of the spine with but slight curvature, and carried gaily in hound fashion. The hair on the underside of the tail is coarse.
The height should not exceed 14 inches. Height over 15 inches at the highest point of the shoulder blade is a disqualification.
The Basset Hound moves in a smooth, powerful, and effortless manner. Being a scenting dog with short legs, it holds its nose low to the ground. Its gait is absolutely true with perfect coordination between the front and hind legs, and it moves in a straight line with hind feet following in line with the front feet, the hocks well bent with no stiffness of action. The front legs do not paddle, weave, or overlap, and the elbows must lie close to the body. Going away, the hind legs are parallel.
The coat is hard, smooth, and short, with sufficient density to be of use in all weather. The skin is loose and elastic. A distinctly long coat is a disqualification.
Any recognized hound color is acceptable and the distribution of color and markings is of no importance.
Height of more than 15 inches at the highest point of the shoulder blade.
Knuckled over front legs.
Distinctly long coat.
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Sources: American Kennel Club