Gascon Saintongeois

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Gascon Saintongeois
Jérôme BARDIAU /

The Gascon Saintongeouis is a little-known breed that deserves to be more talked about. This large hound has a reputation in his native France for being keen to please, calm, and affectionate. He’s a chunky specimen, but in an elegant French way with long floppy ears and a wrinkled air about him.

Originally a hunting dog that was kept in packs, the Gascon Saintongeois has a strong hunting instinct, which is his only flaw, since he’s over eager to regard other household pets as prey. Sadly, the Gascon Saintongeois is a rare breed with low numbers remaining within his home stronghold of France.

About & History

The story of the Gascon Saintongeois starts with a now extinct breed, the Saintongeois hound. Going back to the 18th century and the upheaval of the French Revolution, there was much suffering and killing. Sadly, this also decimated the numbers of the Saintongeois, a hunting dog kept by aristocrats.

Only three Saintongeois dogs survived the Revolution, consisting of one female and two male dogs. These precious specimens were in the possession of Baron Carayon-LaTour of Chateau Virelade who felt the weight of responsibility to preserve the breed.

To do this, the Baron mated the dogs with a similar type of dog, the Grand Blue de Gascognes that belonged to another French baron. That first generation of puppies excelled both their expectations and a new ‘hybrid’ consisting of Saintongeois and Gascognes were born… appropriately named Gascognes Saintongeois.

This new breed took characteristics from both parents and excelled as a hunter of roe deer. Those who could afford it, kept the packs of Gascognes Saintongeois for this purpose. However, that was in the early 19th century and it has taken until 1993 for this rare breed to be acknowledged by the United Kennel Club.


Gascon Saintongeois Large Photo
Jérôme BARDIAU /

Think of a typical hound and the chances are a picture pops into your mind. You probably see a largish dog with a long muzzle, a large black nose, he probably has a wrinkled face, and almost certainly has pendulous ears. Well, this is pretty much what a Gascognes Saintongeios looks like. The breed is fairly sturdy with heavy bones, but in a lean athletic way. He has a deep chest and tucked up waist, giving an overall impression of heft and presence. Notably, the Gascon Saintongeois is well-muscled, especially over the shoulders, and looks powerful.

His features err to the droopy side with long dangly ears and pendant lips. True to form, he has a distinct black nose, which is most often seen sniffing. He holds a long, elegant tail high and slightly curved as if a sabre. The Gascon Saintongeois has a short, dense coat, designed to protect his skin against briars and thorns. The coat is usually white, spotted with black, with tan markings on his eyebrow that give him a quizzical look.

Character & Temperament

What makes for an ideal dog? For a start, the dog needs to be loyal and loving, easy to train, and reliable. Well, the Gascon Saintongeois ticks all these boxes and more. The breed’s hunting prowess mean that he’s brave and courageous, but importantly for the pet owner, he lacks an aggressive edge. The Gascon Saintongeois is variously described in glowing terms as being calm, mild, gentle, and endearing. But this isn’t limited to his owner. After all, most dogs regard their owner with affection. He’s also generally accepting of most people, including children, and considered reliable and slow to anger.

The one downside of this people-friendly leaning is that the Gascon Saintongeois doesn’t like to be left alone for long periods of time. He gets lonely – simple as that. And, to fill the long empty hours, he’s highly likely to howl or dig. Either way, it’s bad news for the neighbours or your back yard. As a breed used to being kept in packs, the Gascon Saintongeois is hard-wired to get along with other dogs. So, for the dog lover who yearns after filling the house with dogs, then the Gascon Saintongeois could be just the fellow.

However, that hunting instinct does have its disadvantages, especially when it comes to furry pets from other species. The Gascon Saintongeois can’t tell the difference between a beloved cat and a deer, and as a result, is going to chase them. So, a great pet the Gascon Saintongeois may be, but make sure it’s not a ‘mixed species’ household or fur will fly.

But a word of caution: Like all dogs, the Gascon Saintongeois learns a lot in early life. He needs to be properly socialised whilst a young puppy in order to reach his full, laid-back potential. Never take a good character for granted, because a poorly socialised puppy may grow up fearful and anxious, which can turn to fear-biting.


Key words when thinking of the Gascon Saintongeois is ‘eager to please’. This dog loves to make you happy, which makes him the perfect candidate for reward-based training. Whereas other intelligent breeds often carry the caveat of being self-willed or having an independent streak, this isn’t the case for the Gascon Saintongeois.

Reward-based training works on the principle of praising the dog when he behaves well, and ignoring or distracting the dog from bad behaviour. Treats are frequently used as a lure, to teach the dog an action, such as sit, down, or lie. Then when the action is completed, the dog is praised. For the eager to please Gascon Saintongeois, he simply can’t get enough of this great one-to-one chance to spend time with their owner.


The Gascon Saintongeois is considered a healthy breed that is linked to few hereditary health problems. Whilst this is excellent news, before we get too carried away, it should be noted that this is a rare breed.

When numbers of a specific breed are low, then the statistics for illness are going to land at the bottom of the chart. This doesn’t mean the dog is automatically guaranteed good health – just more that there aren’t enough dogs to draw any conclusions.

The anatomy of this droopy-eared dog do make him more likely to suffer from conditions, such as ear infections and bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV).

Ear Infections

The trouble with droopy ears is they cover the entrance to the ear canal. This causes two problems. First, a warm moist microclimate develops in the ear canal, which favours bacterial and yeast infections. Second, grass awns can be swept inside and remain undetected until the dog has a head tilt and constantly scratches the ear.

To avoid these scenarios, after each walk, check the ears for foreign bodies. It’s easy to spot a grass awn in the outer part of the ear and remove it, but this can require sedation once it’s tracked deeper.

Also, check the ears weekly for the presence of a discharge or bad smell. Whether or not to routinely clean ears is a matter of debate. But if the dog’s ears tend to be naturally waxy, then cleaning with a good cleaner once a week can reduce the risk of yeast infections.


The wide deep chest of the Gascon Saintongeois places him at increased risk of bloat. This potentially life-threatening condition happens when the stomach flips over on itself. This seals the stomach off which means gas has no way of escaping.

The stomach, distended with gas, puts pressure on major blood vessels. This, along with a build-up of toxins mean a dog rapidly goes into shock and collapses. Immediate surgical attention is required if the dog is to recover. Prevention is better than cure. Always rest the dog immediately after eating, and wait 90-minutes before exercise.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Having started out as a dog kept in packs in a kennel; the Gascon Saintongeois can cope with outdoor life provided he’s given appropriate and adequate shelter. However, this works best when he has the companionship of other dogs, which also keeps him warm.

For the indoor pet, the Gascon Saintongeois does need quite a bit of space and definitely needs access to a large fenced yard. Plenty of exercise is essential rather than optional. Remember, these are an active breed capable of hunting all day. A Gascon Saintongeois needs a minimum of two, one-hour exercise periods a day, so take up an active outdoor activity, such as hiking or jogging, and the dog can accompany you.


That short dense coat is designed to protect the Gascon Saintongeois from vegetation, and also from wind, water, and sun. As such, the coat is practically self-cleaning and natural oils make it virtually waterproof.

As such, the Gascon Saintongeois never needs to visit a grooming parlour, but will benefit from regular brushing. Not only will this remove shed hair, but the massaging motion conditions the skin and helps spread those natural oils.

Famous Gascons Saintongeois

Such is the rarity of the Gascon Saintongeois that he’s even elusive on social media. However, for the Gascon Saintongeois super-fans out there, check out this Facebook group.


As an endangered breed, it is more appropriate to maintain the bloodline by breeding Gascon Saintongeois together, rather than outbreeding to create a hybrid.

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