The Basset Hound is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family, as well as one of six recognized Basset breeds in France; furthermore, Bassets are scent hounds that were 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". Basset Hounds are usually Bicolors or Tricolors of standard hound coloration.
Appearance 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 previous FCI standard described the characteristic skin of the Basset, which resembles its ancestor the Bloodhound as "loose". This wording has since been updated to "supple and elastic". 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 Basset's short legs are due to a form of dwarfism (see: Health). Their short stature can be deceiving; Bassets are surprisingly long and can reach things on table tops that other dogs of similar height can not. 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.
Coat 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 tricolors or Tan and White bicolors. Tan can vary from reddish-brown and Red to Lemon. Lemon and White is less common color. Some Bassets are also classified as gray or blue - this color is considered rare and some consider it 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. Although the lack thereof is not considered to be a fault or disqualification for showing under the American Kennel Club standing.
The Basset Hound is a friendly, outgoing, and playful dog. They are excellent companions for children because of their patient nature and tolerance. They can be extremely tolerant of children and other pets but, like all dogs, they require time and space to relax. A common misconception is that Basset Hounds are "stubborn". In reality, Basset Hounds are extremely food driven and easy to train. Bassets will not respond to punishment-based training, and are therefore described as "stubborn". The fastest way to get to a Basset's heart is through his stomach. Keep training fun and interesting, and offer delicious treats to keep them focused on the task at hand, since that nose can distract them very easily. Bassets are scent hounds. Therefore you cannot expect them to ignore an interesting smell. Unless your basset has a very strong recall, he should be on a leash when out on daily walks to ensure his safety. Even though Bassets are content to sleep most of the day, regular exercise and mental stimulation are necessary for your basset to thrive and stay healthy. A large, fenced backyard and daily walks with opportunity to put their nose to work while on a long lead would be a perfect example of the outdoor and exercise requirements for a basset. Bassets are known to be a vocal breed. They have a wide range of entertaining sounds and a deep howl.
Ears Basset Hounds have large pendulant ears (known as "leathers") that 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.
The Basset Hound's short stature is due to a genetic condition known as Osteochondrodysplasia (meaning abnormal growth of both bone and cartilage). Dwarfism of this type in most animals is traditionally known as Achondroplasia. Basset Hounds, Dachshunds and Bulldogs are a few of the dog breeds classified as Achondroplastic. 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 a 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. Bassets are bred for endurance. They need plenty of exercise and a good diet, free of grains and fillers to avoid potential food allergies and skin conditions. Being overweight leads to paralysis in Bassets. 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 dogs and a 2004 UK Kennel Club health survey with a larger sample size of 142 deceased dogs and 226 live dogs. See Mortality and Morbidity below.
Longevity Median longevity of Basset Hounds in the UK is about 11.3 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%).
Morbidity Among the 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 and colitis). Basset Hounds are also prone to epilepsy, glaucoma, luxating patella, thrombopathia, Von Willebrand disease, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.
History 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.
St Hubert's Hound
The basset type originated in France, and is descended from the 6th century hounds belonging to St Hubert of Belgium, which through breeding at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hubert eventually became what is 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.
France The first mention of a "basset" dog appeared in La Venerie, an illustrated hunting text written by Jacques du Fouilloux in 1585. The dogs in Fouilloux's text were 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). 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 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.
England 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 linebreeding 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. This standard was updated in 2010.
Hunting with Bassets The Basset Hound was bred to hunt. Its keen nose and short stature are suited to small-game hunting on foot, and it particularly enjoys running in a pack. There are a number of groups that promote hunting with bassets. There is a variety of Basset Hound developed purely for hunting by Colonel Morrison that were admitted to the Masters of Basset Hounds Association in 1959 via an Appendix to the Stud Book. This breed differs in being straighter and longer in the leg and having shorter ears.
In popular culture
Basset Hounds have been featured in popular culture many times. Some artists, such as director Mamoru Oshii and webcomic artist Scott Kurtz regularly feature their pet Bassets in their work. On February 27, 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. Many cartoon dogs are based on the basset, such as Tex Avery's Droopy, with several Bassets appearing in animated Disney films. Syndicated comic strip Fred Basset has been a regular feature in newspapers since 1963. There is a basset hound character named Fred in the Smokey and the Bandit movie series. 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. Perhaps the earliest basset TV star was Morgan (1946–1960), who was discovered by Herbie Sanford, the producer of "The Garry Moore Show," on which he appeared frequently. He was also seen on "The Jackie Gleason Show," "Captain Video" (where he played a dog from Pluto), and "The Kyle MacDonnell Show. He also appeared in a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis movie. His last appearance was in a drama, where he co-starred with Tom Bosley. Lassie had a basset friend named Pokey early in the Lassie television series. Other famous TV bassets are the wisecracking Cleo from The People's Choice, Columbo's dog Dog, and the sheriff's dog called "Flash" in The Dukes of Hazzard. Henry from "Emergency!", Governor from "The Governor & J.J.", Quincey, from "Coach", Sam from "That's So Raven", Chips from "EastEnders", Arthur in "Our House" and Socrates in "Judging Amy". Other bassets in film include Fred, the companion of Cledus in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit and its two sequels. A basset, Gabriel, appears as 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 including the 2001's Avalon. 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. In The Cassandra Crossing a basset is airlifted by helicopter off a doomed train allowing officials to identify a deadly plague (and thus becomes one of the few survivors of the all-star cast disaster film). Finally, bassets appear in such other mainstream films as The Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island (where it prominently appears alongside star Ernest Borgnine on the film poster/DVD cover); An American Werewolf in Paris, Nanny McPhee, Spider-Man 2, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and The Smurfs (film). Basset hounds are often used as advertising logos. The logo for Hush Puppies brand shoes prominently features a basset hound whose real name is Jason. Basset hounds are occasionally referred to as "hush puppies" for that reason. A basset hound also serves as the companion to the lonely Maytag Man in Maytag appliance advertisements. Tidewater Petroleum advertised its "Flying A" gasoline using a basset hound named Axelrod. Barney in Wee Sing Lafayette in The Aristocats Toby from The Great Mouse Detective The Dog (The musicians from Bremen)
Civic events In the US, Basset Hound picnics and "waddles" are traditions in many regions and draw impressive crowds and participations from hundreds or even thousands of Bassets and their owners. Most events are held to raise funds for local and regional Basset rescue groups.
Notes a. ^ In this article "Basset" (with a capital B) is used to distinguish the modern breed from other basset-type dogs.