Basset Hound

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
 
Photo of adult Basset Hound

The Basset Hound is a medium sized, short-legged breed with a placid and affectionate temperament and an extremely good nature. It was originally bred in France to track animals during hunts over long distances and was later introduced to Great Britain and refined further. Today the Basset Hound is largely kept as a companion due its extremely good temperament. The breed has a short coat, which is easy to care for, although breeding for excessively wrinkled skin has predisposed them to skin problems and dogs with overly exaggerated skin folds should be avoided.

The Basset Hound should be docile and is patient, making it exceptionally good with children. It also gets along well with other pets. The breed is usually willing to please which means that training is not normally a problem. Although not a particularly energetic breed, the Basset Hound should still be given plenty of exercise, as this is important to counteract the breeds’ propensity to become obese. The breed can also suffer from some health problems so selecting a healthy family line is also important when choosing a puppy.

About & History

The Basset Hound is a medium sized, short-legged breed which belongs to the scent hound group. The breed was originally developed toward the end of the 1500’s in France by monks to hunt rabbit and hare where it’s exceptional ability to follow scents through dense foliage was its most prized characteristic. At first the breed was called the St Huberts, after its founder. After the French Revolution, the Basset Hound became popular with peasants who hunted on foot and needed a slower, shorter legged hound. Other variations of the hound also evolved and this was when the name Basset began to be used.

In the 1860’s, the Basset Hound was first introduced to Great Britain as a gift to Lord Galway. Lord Galway, together with Lord Onslow and Everett Millais further refined the Basset Hound by crossing it with other breeds, such as Bloodhounds and Beagles and the first breed standard was produced. Numbers of Basset Hounds saw a dramatic drop during the First World War and the closure of the breed club in the 1920’s. In the 1930’s, there was a small come back, only to be halted again by the Second World War. In the 1950’s, the Basset Hound saw a revival of its popularity.

Today, the Basset Hound is largely kept as a companion, although there are a small number of owners which continue to use them for hunting.

Appearance

Basset Hound Large Photo

The Basset Hound has four colour combinations that are accepted for registration with the UK Kennel Club. All of these contain some white:

  • Lemon & White
  • Red & White
  • Tan & White
  • Tricolour

Basset Hounds are medium sized, sturdy dogs with short legs, which should measure between 33-38 cm at the withers. Their necks should be reasonably long and strong with a dewlap, but this should not be overly exaggerated. The breed should have shoulders that are not too heavy leading to short but strong front legs, with plenty of bone. The Basset Hound should have a long, deep body but there should be some distance between the chest and the ground to allow dogs to move over all types of terrain. The back should be wide and flat without being overly long, leading to strong muscular back legs. Some wrinkles of skin are acceptable on legs, however, these should not be excessive.

The Basset Hound should have a domed head which narrows slightly towards the end of the muzzle, but not to the extent that it appears pointy. Some wrinkling of skin on the brow is acceptable but this should in no way be excessive or affect the dog’s eyes. The jaws should be strong with a scissor bite. The Basset Hound should have round, dark eyes, with a calm expression. The ears are very distinctive, low-set and long. They should be narrow and fine in texture and just slightly longer than the distance to the end of the muzzle.

Despite its short legs the Basset Hound should move with a powerful, effortless gait, covering a good amount of ground. The back legs should drive the movement forward and toes should not be dragged on the floor.

Character & Temperament

The Basset Hound has an extremely good temperament and is a placid and affectionate breed that is generally easy to train. The breed is extremely kind and patient with children and gets on well with other animals, as well.

Basset Hounds are playful and outgoing and not especially prone to suffering from separation anxiety, but as with all dogs should not be left alone for long periods of time. The Basset Hound is not typically used as a guard dog, due to its short-legged stature and character.

Trainability

Photo of Basset Hound puppy

The Basset Hound is good natured and generally willing to please, which means that training is not usually an issue. They do, however, have a great ability to pick up scents due to their original use for tracking and can become distracted easily.

This means that it is essential to train recall from a young age to avoid problems. House-training is not typically an issue when given plenty of access to outside space, be it a garden or on walks.

Health

The Basset Hound has an average lifespan of around 11-12 years. It is classed as a Category 2 breed by the UK Kennel Club, with various specific points of concern. These are:

  • Large amounts of loose skin and subsequent effects on the conformation of the eyelids.
  • Ears which are excessively long.
  • Hairless patches or evidence of scars from previous skin problems.
  • An excessively deep body and/or skin which makes contact with the ground.
  • An imperfect bite.
  • Obviously overweight dogs.
  • Any evidence of skin problems in skin folds.

Participation in the following schemes are mandatory for UK Kennel Club Assured breeders as the breed can also suffer these conditions:

  • Gonioscopy – Gonioscopy tests for glaucoma. The Basset Hound can suffer from primary closed angle glaucoma, which has been shown to have a genetic factor. This abnormality means that fluid cannot drain from the eye as normal and causes a build up of pressure, eventually causing pain and blindness.

Although not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that breeders also follow the following advice and participate in the subsequent schemes:

  • Elbow Dysplasia – Elbow dysplasia is an abnormal development of the elbow joints, which eventually leads to osteoarthritis which is painful. There is a large genetic component to the condition. Ideally dogs with a score of 0 should be used for breeding purposes.

Basset Hounds can also be affected by several other health problems, some of which include:

  • Entropion – This condition is when the eyelids turn inwards toward the eye and irritate the surface of the eye. Often surgery is necessary to permanently resolve the problem.
  • Ectropion – Ectropion is where eyelids turn outwards, causing the eye to become drier than usual. This can lead to complications and ultimately damage to the cornea, which is painful and can affect vision. Treatment involves the use of drops and ointments to try and stop the eye from drying out, and serious cases require surgery.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease – This condition is where the intervertebral discs found between the vertebrae herniate and cause compression of the spinal cord. This compression leads to neurological signs and even paralysis if severe. Treatment options depend on the severity, but in many cases surgery is needed.
  • Skin Problems – The often excessive number of skin folds found on the Basset Hound predisposes it to problems with skin infections. Air is unable to reach areas of skin in the folds and this allows bacteria to build up and cause infection and inflammation. Treatment ultimately revolves around good hygiene and regular cleaning of skin folds, attempting to reduce levels of bacteria.
  • Ear Infections – The Basset Hounds extremely long ears and narrow ear canals predispose the breed to ear problems, as air cannot circulate easily. This allows bacteria to proliferate more easily and cause infections, which can be painful and irritating.
  • Hip Dysplasia – This condition is when the hips develop abnormally and can include both developmental and abnormalities, ultimately leading to joint problems in older dogs. X-rays of the hips are scored by experts using a scoring system where the maximum score is 106 for both hips combined. The lower the score, the fewer the signs of hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is transmitted genetically but can also be influenced by environmental factors in the Basset Hound.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Basset Hound should be exercised for at least an hour a day. The breed is prone to becoming overweight, so although they may not seem as energetic as some other breeds, it is important that dogs are exercised adequately. The Basset Hounds origins as a working dog that covered large distances when hunting, mean that it has stamina and should be kept fit for this purpose. Therefore some time off the lead is ideal, although not essential.

Grooming

Basset Hounds have a short, smooth coat, which does not require any specialist grooming. The breed does shed but occasional brushing at home should be sufficient to stop hair being left around the house. The Basset Hound often has extra skin, and this may mean that some dogs suffer from skin problems, especially in between skin folds, which are not exposed to sufficient air. Keeping these areas clean can help to prevent infection and irritation. The breed also has very long ears, preventing air getting into the ear and this means that they are predisposed to ear infections. Ears should be checked regularly and if needed cleaned, although always under veterinary guidance.

Famous Basset Hounds

The Basset Hounds distinctive look has inspired several characters in popular culture. Some of the following are examples of well known Basset Hounds:

  • Axelrod from the Flying ‘A’ Service Station adverts.
  • Cleo from the television series The People’s Choice.
  • Dog from the series Columbo.
  • Flash from series The Dukes of Hazzard.
  • Quincy from the television series Coach.
  • Fred from the film Smokey and the Bandit.
  • Fred from the comic strip Fred Basset.
  • Lafayette from the film The Aristocats
  • Rover from the film Rover Dangerfield.
  • Pokey from the original television series Lassie.
  • Socrates from the television series Judging Amy.
  • The Basset Hound used to advertise Hush Puppies shoes.
  • Droopy from the Droopy cartoons by Tex Avery.

Cross-Breeds

There are numerous Basset Hound crossbreeds, some of which include:

  • Bagel Hound – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Beagle
  • Basschshund – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Dachshund
  • Basset Retriever – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Golden Retriever
  • Bowzer – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Schnauzer
  • Bassetoodle – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Poodle
  • Bassug – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Pug
  • Baskimo – Cross between a Basset Hound and an American Eskimo Dog
  • Bassador – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Labrador Retriever
  • Basselier – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Bully Basset – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Bulldog
  • Basset Shepherd – Cross between a Basset Hound and a German Shepherd
  • Hush Basset – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Cocker Spaniel
  • Bagel Hound – Cross between a Basset Hound and a Beagle

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