The Basset Hounds that we all know and love today have lineages that descend from England in the mid to late 19th century. However, the Basset breed actually started (as best anyone who has delved into it can check) long before, and in France, of all places. This was in the 16th century. Now, I know what you’re thinking … how is it possible that such a magnificent and flawless breed of dog as the glorious Basset Hound had its origins in France? I have to confess that it makes things a bit more complicated for me emotionally, as I loathe that smug nation, which has been (joking, more or less), BUT …
My love for Bassets wins every time!
The AKC officially deemed Bassets “worthy” in 1885 when they recognized them. I guess they didn’t realize that Basset Hounds were born perfect and are therefore beyond the nitty-gritty like being “recognized” by the almighty AKC (oooh!). But I have learned to forgive those human errors.
You might be wondering why the French invented such a funny looking breed of dog. The answer is pretty boring, actually (just like most French things … ok, enough!). The nobles of that time liked to hunt. A lot of. But the French countryside featured a lot of dense scrub and thicket. Hunters’ prey (deer, rabbits, etc.) routinely escaped to a nearby refuge. Hunters did not like being blocked by mere animals.
Enter Monsieur Basset Hound (say it like this: Misssssssure Bass-ay Ound). Developing a breed of dog that could smell and hear almost anything across the nation, and that would fearlessly cling to the thickest brush, became essential. Being close to the ground made them more efficient hunting machines.
So now you know why Bassets are funny. But isn’t the way they look the reason you find them adorable and cuddly? * NOTE: If you DON’T find them adorable and cuddly, stop reading now. I’m serious. Leave.
Basset Hound Characteristics
The name “Basset” is a play on the French word for ‘low’ – bas. The English, intelligent devils that they are, combined that word with the English word that indicates how something is placed: “set.” Outcrop. Low game hounds. Great, huh?
Basset Hounds generally come in combinations of the following colors: brown, black, white, and red. The so-called ‘tri-colors’ are the most common today (brown, black and white).
Fast! What is the first thing that comes to mind when you visualize a Basset Hound? Long ears, of course! Do you know why they were bred to have such ridiculously long ears? Do. Okay, I’ll tell you about it. It was NOT primarily to improve your hearing (the common myth). It was about catching the scent of the prey.
Imagine if you walked with your head about 12 inches off the ground the entire time. Now imagine having ears that almost drag the ground. The ears move back and forth with each step. In addition to never dating, you would also pick up a lot more of each scent in the vicinity with those tremendous lobes.
For a hunting dog, a finely tuned ability to pick up faint odors equates to the success of the master. And now you know why Bassets have those signature ears. You must promise that you will use this information only for good … never for bad.
The story continues …
Basset Hound temperament
When you imagine the daily activities of a Basset Hound, what do you see? Most people imagine a lazy, sprawling machine for sleeping and eating. And that’s pretty accurate for most Bassets. Every once in a while, some mutant Basset appears who actually goes delusional and thinks he’s a Jack Russell Terrier, all connected and full of energy. But those guys are few and far between, thankfully.
In terms of getting along and playing well with others, the Basset Hounds are among the best. It goes back to its young, again. They are pack animals by nature, so docility among the herd was an especially advantageous and highly sought after trait. Yes, individuals will vary, but you have a much better than 50-50 chance of raising a low-key, unpretentious pet with this breed. And this includes how he gets along with other dogs. Males and females share this trait.
There is a vicious rumor that Bassets are difficult to train because they are stubborn and strong-willed. Defamatory! Okay, actually, that’s true. But no one is perfect, and I bet you weren’t exactly the model kid! So stop being so judgmental, tall and powerful lady or sir.
Among Basset trainers, you hear this phrase a lot: “Bassets are easy to train, as long as you try to get them to do what they wanted to do in the first place.” That’s the closest thing to a platitude you’ll find in the dog universe. If you adopt a Basset with the intention of turning him into an obedient little soldier, prepare yourself for years of frustration. Be glad that he is loyal and allows you to feed him and give him lots of toys. Enough talk.
Some tips for the basset
First, you need to keep Basset Hounds on a diet practically from the time they grow up until they die. This is much easier said than done, as any Basset owner will attest. They have faces that only ask to be given treats for any action, including waking up, looking around, yawning, and the other major accomplishments of a typical Basset day. Resist that urge!
Basset Hounds are heavy by nature, and it’s very easy to make it worse if you don’t follow a fairly strict diet. Obesity in dogs leads to canine diabetes at an alarming rate (as do humans). This breed is particularly susceptible, so be careful. A daily walk is also an excellent idea.
Stick with the health spiel for one more minute – clean your Basset’s ears often! Their enormous size makes them an ideal breeding ground for all kinds of nasty little critters indoors; And the exterior tends to collect dirt, food from the bowls, and water (turning dirt and food scraps into a squishy mess). It is not exactly hygienic.
Finally, never, under any circumstances, allow a Basset Hound to run loose outside without a fence that is well maintained. They are specialized hunters, bred to find their way in (and out) of small openings. And they are smart. That’s a potentially lethal combination for your pet, especially if it lives near roads. A Basset believes he has a right to be in the middle of the road if the smell got him there. To hell with vehicles! There is no need to endure that kind of tragedy. Keep your Basset INSIDE (or at least behind a fence with no possibility of escape).