The Basset Hound is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family. They are scent hounds, bred to hunt rabbits by scent. Their sense of smell for tracking is second only to that of the Bloodhound. The name Basset derives from the French word "bas" meaning "low;" "basset" (-et attenuating suffix) meaning, literally, "rather low."
|Basset Hound appearance|
|Build:||Short-legged; proportionally heavier in bone than any other breed of dog|
|Weight:||50-65 pounds (23-29kg)|
|Height:||12-15 inches (30-38cm)|
|Coat:||Short, hard and shiny, and sheds a lot despite the smooth coat.|
|Color:||Any recognized hound color is acceptable|
|Head:||Large and well proportioned|
|Teeth:||Scissors or even bite|
|Eyes:||Brown, soft, sad, and slightly sunken, showing a prominent haw|
|Ears:||Extremely long, velvety in texture, hanging in loose folds, low set, and when drawn forward, fold well over the end of the nose|
|Limbs:||Short, powerful, heavy|
|Feet:||Massive, very heavy with tough heavy pads|
|Life span:||Median 10-12 years|
These dogs are around 36 to 38 cm (13 to 15 inches) in height at the withers. They usually weigh between 35-70lbs. They have smooth, short-haired coats but a rough haired hound is possible. Although any hound color is considered acceptable by breed standards, Bassets are generally tricolor (black, tan, and white), open red and white (red spots on white fur), closed red and white (a solid red color with white feet and tails), Honey And White (honey coloured back, light brown spotty nose and legs, light brown tails with white tip) and lemon and white. Some Bassets are also classified as gray or blue; however, this color is considered rare and undesirable. They have long, downward ears and powerful necks, with much loose skin around their heads that forms wrinkles. Their tails are long and tapering and stand upright with a curve. Some prefer that the tail be tipped in white. This is so they are easily seen when hunting/tracking through large bushes or weeds. The breed is also 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, help trap the scent of what they are tracking.
The Basset Hound is a large dog with short legs. They were originally bred to have osteochondrodysplasia, known as dwarfism. Their short stature can be deceiving; Bassets are surprisingly long and can reach things on table tops that dogs of similar heights cannot. However, because Bassets are so heavy and have such short legs, they are not able to hold themselves above water for very long, and should never be made to swim.
Bassets might howl or bark when they want something or to suggest that they think something is wrong (like a storm is coming). They also use a low, murmuring whine to get attention, which sounds to many owners as though their Bassets are "talking." This whine is also used by the hound to beg (for food or treats) and varies in volume depending on the nature of the individual hound and length of time it has been begging.
A little known fact is that the Basset Hound was bred to hunt. Its short, compressed stature and relatively stubby legs were bred into it to make it harder to get knocked over by brush-sheep, a common enemy when retrieving game fowl. Many people relate the breed to the overweight couch potato, seen in the old Hush Puppy Shoes ads. As hunting has declined in popularity, many Bassets have lost their age-old skills. There are a few groups the promote hunting with bassets. The American Hunting Basset Association and the Basset Hound Club of America has been the most active in promoting the use of Bassets for rabbit hunting.
Hunting with Basset Hounds as a pack is common in the Mid-Atlantic States of Maryland, Virginia , New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Several private and membership packs exist in these states. Hunting for cotton tails and hare is the quarry of preference. There were a number of Basset Hound packs in its original home of England when the hunting of hares (see Beagling) was made illegal by the Hunting Act 2004.
Hunting a hound pack requires a staff which consists of a Huntsman and the Whipper-Ins who are responsible for order and discipline of the pack. A Field Master is in charge of the field (members of the hunt and guests) that follows behind observing the hounds work the covert. Most clubs will hunt in traditional attire of a green jacket and brush pants. Recognized clubs offer those members who have supported the pack the opportunity to wear colors on the collar to indicate rank in the club.
These packs are typically of English and French hound blood lines with a mix of AKC blood lines in some packs. The National Beagle Club located at the Institute Farm in Aldie, Virginia approximately 50 miles west of Washington D.C. host spring and fall field trials for basset hounds. The competition held over a 4-day period with participating packs hunting in the traditional manner in braces of up to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The pack size for each competition varies, from 3 to 7 couple.
Excessive weight in a long-backed, short-legged dog exacerbates musculoskeletal issues.
Long ears are prone to infection if not cleaned regularly. The pronounced haw of Basset Hound eyes can become dry and irritated.
In February 27th 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. This prestige is often seen as the event which made the Basset Hound a popular part of American popular culture.
Basset Hounds have had prominent roles in movies and television. Some Bassets have been featured in comic strips and cartoons. Examples include cartoon character Droopy Dog, originally created in 1943 by Tex Avery, and Fred Basset, the main character in the comic strip Fred Basset, created by Alex Graham in 1963. Basset Hounds playing more minor roles include Rosebud the Basselope from Berke Breathed's comic strip Bloom County and Lafayette, from the 1970 Disney film The Aristocats. The notable webcomic PvP by Scott Kurtz occasionally features the author's pet Basset Hound. Rodney Dangerfield voices a Basset Hound in the animated feature film, "Rover Dangerfield".
Basset Hounds in films include Fred, the companion of Cledus in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit and Gabriel, 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. 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. Finally, Basset Hounds appear in such other mainstream films as An American Werewolf in Paris, Nanny McPhee, and Spider-Man 2.
Television programs have used Basset Hounds as characters as well. 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. One of the most famous Bassets on television was Flash, the dog owned by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the 1980s TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard". A life-sized replica named "Flush" was used in dangerous situations. Other Bassets on television include Cleo from "The People's Choice", the Basset Hound named simply "Dog" from "Columbo", Henry from Emergency!, Quincey, from "Coach", Sam from That's So Raven, Chips from "EastEnders" and Socrates in Judging Amy.
Basset Hounds have also been featured in advertising. 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. In the 1990s, a handsome red/white Basset Hound called SIGMUND featured in a several advertisements including one for Domestos bleach.
In June 2007, a realistic life-size Basset Hound mascot began to make appearances at various nightclubs and music festivals in the UK and across Europe. Ulysses the Basset Rave Hound was photographed with festival goers and famous DJ's at the Renaissance "Wild in the Country" festival, The Big Chill 2008 festival and famous Ibiza super-clubs Pacha, Space and Amnesia. Ulysses has his own fan page on social networking website Facebook entitled "We love Ulysses".
Finally, on Cory in the House, Humphrey, the president's dog, is a basset hound, however Disney channel states it is a blood hound.
The breed has also had at least one notable role in a comic book series. This being Kirby, a basset hound in the PvP series based on the authors real life pet of the same name. Marcela C. owns a Basset Hound named Kandee.
Other early French Bassets closely resembled the Basset Artésien Normand, which is still a breed today. The Basset Artesian Normand is one of the six recognized French Basset breeds. Originating in Artois and Normandy, it dates back to the 1600s. The Basset Artesian Normand looks like a Basset Hound, but lighter in weight. A short, straight legged hound, its body is twice as long as it is high. Its head is dome-shaped and powerful with hairy cheeks. The neck is slightly dewlap and the muscles are smooth with a moderate amount of wrinkles. The chest is round with clearly visible sternum. The coat is very short, bicolor: tan and white, or tricolor: tan, black and white. Breeders prefer white feet.
By the turn of the 20th century, the Basset Artesian Normand was developing into two distinct lines, straight-legged hunters and crocked-legged, droopy-eared companion and show dogs. French breeder Leon Verrier developed today's standard, which blends attributes of both varieties. The Artesian Basset needed straight legs that would neither hinder his speed nor drain his energy in order to work in unruly terrain, brush and briar. The breed was recognized in 1911.
Because many short-legged dogs from this time were called Basset and record-keeping from this time was sparse, it is difficult to speculate which of these breeds have bloodlines in common with today's Basset Hounds. It is commonly believed that Marquis de Lafayette brought Basset Hounds to the United States as a gift to George Washington.
In France, basset hounds achieved noticeable public cultural popularlity 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, the Basset Hound reached international fame at the Paris Dog Show. At that time there were two common Bassets, those with a rough coat (Basset Griffon) and those with smooth (Basset Français). The dogs were further classified by the length of their legs. The two popular Basset breeders at this time were M. Lane and the Count Le Couteulx.
In 1866, Lord Galway imported a pair of Le Couteulx Bassets to England, but it was not until 1874 that Basset Hounds were widely introduced there by Sir Everett Millais. The Kennel Club accepted the breed in 1882 and the English Basset Hound Club was formed in 1884. The American Kennel Club first recognized Basset Hounds as a breed in 1885. In 1935, the Basset Hound Club of America was organized in the United States. The current American breed standard was adopted in 1964.
In North America basset hound picnics and waddles are traditions in many regions and draw impressive crowds and participations from in some cases hundreds and thousands of bassets and their owners. For example, The Allentown Basset Picnic thrived for seven years before becoming Tri-State's Basset Freedom Fest in 2003. Other major annual basset hound events, including the Buffalo Basset Bash, the New Orleans Basset Boogie, and the Michigan Basset Waddle, share many similarities with North American food festivals and even crown king and queen basset hounds in a manner reminiscent of festival crownings of pumpkin queens. Of course, other traditions, such as deciding which basset has the best waddling butt or can keep a towel on its head the longest, are generally unique to basset hound picnics and waddles. These events also feature a wide variety of purchaseable and usually custom-made items depicting basset hounds and therefore play a role in raising money for basset hound rescue organizations and boosting local economies. Often featured at shows and festivals is a world-famous pack of performing basset hounds known as "The Happy Basset Hounds." The trio consist of Eleanor, Annabel and Buster, and they make their home in Texarkana, Ark. The act was formerly headlined by the celebrated Ernest T. Basset, now deceased.