Breed facts: Hound Group

In association with the Kennel Club, Nick Mays provides all you need to know about the breed that’s ‘low-slung but not highly strung’. Find out if a Basset Hound could be your next best four-legged friend.

Basset Hounds are one of the most readily recognisable breeds of dog (although they sometimes get mistaken for Beagles or Bloodhounds), largely because of their expressive, baggy faces, floppy ears and short stature. They make ideal family pets, possessing a gentle, friendly disposition and are intensely loyal and loving to their owners.

Basset Hound

Basset Hound

Breed History
Basset types originated in France, possibly as far back as the 14th or 15th centuries, and were created as a cross between the Bloodhound and the Regular Artésien Normand and the Basset Artésien Normand. The word ‘bas’ in French means ‘low-slung’, which references the hound’s low stature.
They were originally developed as ‘low ground’ hunting dogs, bred to run badgers and foxes to ground, then seize them once they had been dug out. The breed was very popular in France among the gentry and commoners alike. Bassets were first imported to England in 1866 by Lord Galway, ostensibly for hunting, while the first show Basset types were imported eight years later in 1874 by Sir Everett Millais, who was foremost among the breeders who began to develop what we know today as the ‘English’ Basset Hound.

Royal connections
The breed was recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 1882 and the English Basset Hound Club was formed in 1884. Included among the many prominent Basset fans of the day was Her Royal Highness Princess (later Queen) Alexandra, wife of Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. Apparently Princess Alexandra was allegedly the cause of long hairs in the breed when a bitch was mated by a Clumber Spaniel, still causing longhaired ‘throwbacks’ in the breed today. recognised as a top Basset judge as well as breeder, decided to improve the size of his own Basset line by crossing, first to a Beagle and then later to a Bloodhound. This proved to be a shrewd move, because the offspring from this mating found their way into many other breeders’ lines and thus the modern day Basset Hound was finally created. Basset Hounds, although reasonably popular, do not make the Kennel Club’s (KC) top 20 list of breeds. That said, they are not considered to be a rare or endangered breed. In 2008, 1,433 Basset Hounds were registered with the KC.
Bassets have a high profile in popular culture, with many appearing on TV, movies and cartoons, including famous Bassets such as ‘Dog’ in Columbo, Tex Avery’s Droopy and cartoonist Alex Graham’s Fred Basset.

Temperament
The Basset Hound is a naturally friendly breed and make an excellent family pet. Colin Wells, secretary of the Basset Hound Club of Great Britain, says: “They are good with children and can be friendly with other pets, quickly accepting newcomers, as long as they don’t cause any upsets. The Basset Hound is not what you’d call a good watchdog but they are quite vocal, which should deter any intruders who don’t know what sort of dog you have.” Bassets howl or bark when they want something or to attract their owner’s attention to a point of interest or concern. They have quite a wide vocal range – they ‘talk’ – using a low, murmuring whine to get attention, varying in volume and insistence, particularly if begging for food, which is something quite a few Bassets enjoy doing.

5 Basset Hound facts
Height: 33-38cm (13-15ins) at withers. Weight: 23-29kg (50 to 65lbs).

Height & weight

Feeding
Basset Hounds are very food-fixated and have extremely healthy appetites, which can lead to obesity if they are allowed to overeat. Ask breeders for advice on suitable diet. It is recommended that adult Bassets are fed two small meals a day.

Grooming
The short coat of the Basset Hound is easy to manage and a quick brush every day is all that is required, but do dry the long ears when they are wet. A Basset’s slightly drooping eyes can become encrusted with matter, which needs to be removed with cotton wool soaked in warm water. If the eyes appear sore or inflamed, this may be a more serious complaint such as glaucoma, entropian or ectropian, which can sometimes affect the breed. Advises Colin Wells, of the Basset Hound Club of Great Britain: “A red eye often indicates a problem, so seek veterinary advice.”

Health
Basset Hounds are generally robust, healthy dogs who enjoy life. Some are prone to dermatological problems, which can be diet-related, sometimes due to their loose skin which in some specimens is somewhat excessive and undesirable. Good grooming and regular bathing to keep the skin clean can prevent such issues. Eye and ear problems are the most common, due to their long ears, sunken eyes and droopy eyelids, so pay particular attention to keep both clean and check daily for signs of irritation. Responsible Basset breeders are trying to eliminate inherited defects which can sometimes afflict the breed, including epilepsy, luxating patella, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, and are working closely with the KC/BVA Canine Health Scheme.

Lifespan
Around 11 or 12 years.

Did you know? British cartoonist Alex Graham created Fred Basset, based on his own Basset Freida. Fred’s cartoon strip appeared in the Daily Mail and was syndicated in newspapers worldwide.

Checklist

  • Medium size
  • Easy to groom
  • Friendly and loyal
  • Ideal family pet
  • Can be stubborn
  • Quite vocal
  • Town or country living
  • Moderate exercise needs
  • Mixes well with other dogs and pets
  • Highly intelligent and a quick thinker
  • Loves people

Training
Training a Basset is quite hard work, but ultimately extremely rewarding. Bassets are intelligent but stubborn dogs and are quite smell-orientated, often preferring to follow an interesting scent – especially food – than pay attention to commands. The upside of this however is that their natural food fixation means they tend to respond well to treat-based positive reinforcement training methods. Colin Wells comments: “Certainly you need to make the training process lively and interesting – and tasty – to allow a Basset to learn commands readily.”

Exercise
As far as exercise is concerned, Bassets are quite content to be inactive while indoors. They can be happy to live in a ground floor apartment, although this is not ideal, with access outside, although they will like plenty of chewable toys to keep their jaws and brains engaged, otherwise footwear and furniture may suffer. They require plenty of outdoor exercise, and will quite happily spend hours outside playing, going for quite long walks and running around following interesting scents. If you want your Basset to follow a particular course, it is advisable to keep them on a long leash for that part of the exercise, lest they decide to follow a scent or chase a small animal to ground.
Colin Wells has some pertinent advice for the new Basset owner: “Basset Hounds are heavily built and their joints should not be strained while the puppy is still growing. Up to about eight months, a play in the garden or on a soft surface such as grass or the beach and a five-minute walk on the lead on a hard surface is quite sufficient. From eight months it is recommended that walks are no longer than 15 minutes, increasing to 30 minutes at a year of age. “Steps, stairs and allowing on furniture until they are fully mature at 18 months of age are an absolute no-no.” A Basset puppy will soon settle himself into his new home with you and learn his place in the pack. However, his natural stubbornness means that he will ‘try’ you to see if he can elevate his position, maybe above the children, so firm training is necessary. Once your Basset works out his place, he’ll be happy and fit in. In this way you will soon have a reasonably obedient, totally loyal and friendly dog that will dote on you and your family – his ‘pack’.

Where to get a Basset Hound puppy
It is always best to contact the Breed Clubs to enquire whether any members have puppies in your area. If you go to a breeder recommended by a club, you can meet the puppies with their mother – which is always recommended – and ask advice on selecting the ideal puppy for you from experts within the breed. These breeders will also abide by their breed club’s code of ethics. It’s also useful to joi