One of the most recognizable dog breeds, the Basset Hound is a favorite among families. Despite their small height, Basset Hounds are powerfully built and have incredible endurance. Their sense of smell is second only to the Bloodhound, which led to their popularity as a hunting dog. They were specifically bred to diligently follow the scent of prey. Nowadays you can find most Basset Hounds joyfully shuffling around their yards, always on the hunt for something to smell. When they are not on the track of a scent, they will happily lounge in the sun or attempt to jump into your lap despite their weight as heavy boned dogs.
Basset Hounds are categorized as a hound dog by the American Kennel Club. They are generally up to 15 inches tall, weigh 40 to 65 pounds, and have a life expectancy of 12 to 13 years. “Basset” comes from the French word “bas,” which means low. This breed may be short or “low,” but they are very muscular and they have heavy bones. Their short legs can be attributed to achondroplasia, which is a form of dwarfism. Their coat colors are usually a tri-color pattern of black, tan, and white. However, they can also have an “open red and white” coat, which is a white coat with red spots, “closed red and white” coat, which means their coat is red with white feet and tail, or a lemon and white coat. Gray (or blue) coats are rare and not desirable because they are associated with genetic problems.
Their charming and lovable faces are characterized by a rounded skull, a large, long muzzle, and loose skin on the face. They have a heavily wrinkled appearance with the loose skin on their face over the brow giving them a sad appearance. Every attribute of the Basset Hound was specifically bred to improve their performance as hunting dogs. Their short legs keep their noses close to the ground to easily catch scents and to move slowly making it easier for hunters to follow them by foot while they are tracking prey. The long, low-set ears drag on the ground to stir up scents, while the loose skin around their faces, the wrinkles, capture scents, creating the optimal hound dog. They have long, straight tails with a white tip at the end so that hunters can easily spot them when they are in tall grass. They also have massive paws with the front feet turning outward slightly to assist them with balancing their wide shoulders.
Originally hailing from France and Belgium in the 1500s, the Basset Hound that we are familiar with today got its start in England in the 1800s where they perfected the breed’s characteristics. The French word “Basset,” which translates to “low thing,” is an apt description of the breed and its small but sturdy stature. Bred to hunt rabbits and other game, Bassets were prized for their ability to sniff out game and trailing it over long distances.
It is believed that the Basset Hound originated in France in the sixth century. Basset Hounds are most likely descendents of the St. Hubert Hound, which is an ancestor of the breed we know today as the Bloodhound. St. Hubert, who is the patron saint of the hunt, sought to develop a new breed of hound to track small prey. It is thought a gene mutation caused the short or dwarfed legs we see today in the Basset Hound. It is possible that these short-legged hounds were originally kept as curiosities but later bred intentionally when their superb tracking abilities were discovered. The first mention of the Basset Hound was found in 1585 in an illustrated hunting book, La Venerie, written by Jacques du Fouilloux.
Basset Hounds were originally popular among the French Aristocracy, but they lost this popularity after the French Revolution. They became hunting dogs for commoners, who could follow the dog on foot while the dog tracked prey, because the common people did not have access to horses. Hunting by horseback was only allowed for kings, aristocrats, and country squires. They were originally used to hunt hares, foxes, and badgers. As a scent hound, they primarily rely on the scent of prey to track, flush it out of hiding spots, chase it down, and corner it for the hunter.
They first arrived in Britain in 1866 when Lord Galway imported a pair from France. However, breeding Basset Hounds in England began in 1874 when Sir Everett Millais imported a Basset Hound from France and started a breeding program. While Lord Onslow and George Krehl also established breeding programs in cooperation with Millais, Millais is known as the “father of the breed.” The breed's popularity grew in England and, then in 1882, the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club of England. Pack hunting with Basset Hounds continues today in France and England.
It is believed that the Basset Hound originally arrived in America during colonial times. However, its popularity in the United States came along in the early 20th century. The American Kennel Club (AKC) finally recognized the breed in 1916. Currently, the Basset Hound is 28th in popularity in the US among 155 breeds registered by the AKC.
Basset Hounds tend to be very amiable and goofy dogs. They enjoy being around people and do well with children. They are a gentle breed with children and other pets. They are a social and loyal breed. Due to their history as pack hunters, they prefer to be in the company of other dogs or other animals and don’t like to be left alone. If they are left alone for too long, they can be destructive and howl. While intelligent, they can be stubborn, and owners may encounter some difficulty while training them. However, the Basset Hound Club of America indicates that what is perceived as stubbornness is more likely an “innate ingenuity.” They also tend to be quite loud with barks that travel long distances if they have caught the scent of something interesting! In fact, their barking is actually referred to as a howl or a bay rather than bark because of their unique voices.
In addition to being known as stubborn, Basset Hounds are a very independent breed. They were originally bred to be scent hounds hunting on their own to follow the track of the hunted animal without becoming distracted. While these traits can make it challenging to train your Basset Hound, they are trainable provided they receive consistent and persistent training using positive reinforcement, such as treats, play, and praise. Beginning socialization when they are puppies will also assist in facilitating training. Socialization as a puppy will lead to a well behaved and well rounded dog as an adult. It is important to expose your puppy to different sights, sounds, people, animals, and experiences as part of the socialization process.
They have a calm, easy going, relaxed, and happy demeanor.. They are fiercely loyal to their human family. They are described to have a pleasant, and friendly disposition. They love to eat, but their slow and deliberate manner around the house makes them prone to weight gain and obesity. While they are calm indoors, they are always alert enough to be good watchdogs notifying you whenever they hear someone at the door or a strange noise outside.
Basset Hounds are capable of living in most environments, as long as their exercise needs are met, and they do not become bored. Since Bassets prefer to be around the company of others, it is best for them to have another dog or other pet to keep them company when their owners are not around. As a calm breed, they will adjust to small living spaces including apartments. They are not outdoor dogs. Living indoors with its human family will make your Basset Hound healthy and happy. While a yard is not necessary to maintain a Basset Hound, they would love a yard to wander about and follow scents. They also do not tolerate extremely hot or cold environments.
The Basset Hound’s coat is smooth, short, and “hard-textured” and repels dirt and water. Despite the short hair of the Basset Hound breed, they still require regular brushing of at least once a week. Regular brushing will keep their excess shedding under control since they shed all year round. In addition to maintaining the Basset Hound’s coat looking its best, brushing is similar to giving your dog a full body massage it can enjoy to keep it healthy and happy. You should use a soft brush or shedding tool for the grooming sessions.
While Basset Hounds do not require extensive grooming, their thick wrinkles, long ears, and tendency to drool does mean that they require a bit of upkeep to make sure they do not develop any skin infections and to help keep their odor under control. The long, droopy ears of the Basset Hound make it susceptible to ear infections. It’s important to check and clean them frequently to avoid infections or irritation. Washing the ear flaps regularly is important since they drag on the ground picking up dirt and debris. Be sure to clean the inside of the ears and the facial wrinkles with a damp cloth and thoroughly dry your dog at least once a week. The Basset Hound will also occasionally need bathing. Their nails need frequent trimming. Trim their nails once or twice a month. You will know your dog’s nails are too long if you can hear them tapping on a hard surface as your dog walks. Also, regularly brushing your Basset Hound’s teeth twice a week will prevent dental and other health problems.
While Basset Hounds are thought to be slow and lazy, they actually love walking outside and spending time with their families. Basset Hounds are not a particularly active breed, but they still need regular, moderate exercise. A moderately brisk walk daily will be sufficient to keep your Basset Hound healthy. The breed was developed to maintain the endurance of a hunt, so long, leisurely walks are best for them. Daily exercise will also help prevent gaining excess weight. As a pack breed, Basset Hounds enjoy the company of other dogs so that walks and play sessions with friends will keep your dog happy and healthy.
Most Basset Hounds are content with a walk where they can sniff to their heart’s content, or a good round of playtime in the backyard. However, it’s important to keep them on a leash because their love of tracking can lead them to wander off without paying attention to their surroundings. Due to their low energy level, most Bassets prefer to nap rather than participate in vigorous hikes up the mountain.
Basset hounds are not good swimmers because they hold two-thirds of their body weight at the front of their bodies. It is important to ensure your dog does not fall into a pool or other body of water.
Basset Hounds can struggle with obesity, so watching their diet is a must as they are prone to back issues if they become overweight. They do well on a high quality diet that is appropriate for their age and energy level. One and a half to two and a half cups of quality dog food divided into two meals a day is recommended to maintain your Basset Hounds health and weight. While treats are great in the training process, moderation should be used because of their propensity to become overweight. Bassets can also get diabetes, so sugar content in food and treats should be monitored. Free feeding, where food is left out all day for your dog to munch on throughout the day, is especially not recommended for this breed. Your Basset Hound should also always have access to clean, fresh water.
Basset Hounds are also prone to bloating; therefore, it’s best to give them two or three smaller meals throughout the day rather than one or two large meals. This will also help you maintain their weight to prevent obesity.
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