The lovable, droopy-eyed, Basset Hound might be most recognizable to you as the mascot for Hush Puppy Shoes, but Basset Hounds are so much more than that. This breed is a marvel of genetics that work together to make them the perfect companion for hunters on foot in the field.
Origin and History
By and large, Basset Hounds are believed to be genetic mutations descended from the legendary St. Hubard's hounds; St. Hubard himself being no less than the patron saint of the hunt.
Bassets, like many of today's hound breeds, can trace their origins back to France, where it was common to find both a tall, and a short version of each breed to serve different purposes in the hunt. In fact, the word Basset actually means "low-set," in French, and Basset Hounds are the short-legged counterpart to the much taller Bloodhounds.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) began registering Basset Hounds in 1885, but the breed was not officially recognized until 1916.
Although you might not realize it, Basset Hounds are perfect for tracking and flushing game.
The Basset's dwarfed legs are one of their strongest assets, keeping them low to the ground in search of rabbits and other small game. With such short legs, this breed tends to move at the perfect pace for human companions to keep up with them on foot.
The Basset's impossibly long ears serve a greater purpose than just being one of the most recognizable physical characteristics of the breed. As they drag along the brush, they actually help capture game scent and funnel it toward the Basset's marvelous olfactory system in their long muzzle. This gives them a great advantage in tracking potential game.
The Basset's long tail is held erect and makes a good flag to help hunters keep track of their dogs through the brush, which is usually tall enough to conceal most of the body when these hounds are seriously on the trail.
As previously mentioned, this breed is short on leg, and should be no taller than 14 inches that the shoulder. The back should be longer than the dog is tall, and individuals should carry very deep chests.
Bassets are deceptively heavy for their body size, ranging about 60 pounds on average.
Basset coats are short, smooth, and come in three basic color combinations, although the AKC breed standard says all hound colors are permissible.
Typical combinations include:
- Black, red, and white
- Red and white
- Lemon and white
Bassets are a fairly congenial breed and enjoy being part of a family. They aren't especially territorial, so they normally get along well with other pets in the home. In fact, a single Basset will be a bit lonesome without any companionship.
Be aware, though, that these hounds do show a stubborn streak from time to time and behave quite independently when something particularly catches their interest. In some cases, Bassets have been known to catch a scent trail and take off following it, much to their owner's chagrin.
Being one of the premier scent hounds, Bassets excel in tracking events and field trials, putting their natural talents to the test. Some individuals have also done well in obedience trials, but these dogs aren't really designed to handle hurdles. They do, however, perform the long down quite well and love to practice this particular exercise around the house.
Bassets can be self-reliant and often have their own ideas about things. Positive reinforcement and consistency are crucial when training this breed. When a Basset isn't treated properly, they become more defiant and less likely to listen to what you have to say. Maintaining their interest through treats and praise goes much further. Keep in mind, treats shouldn't comprise more than 10 percent of your dog's overall caloric intake.
Basset Hounds require 30 to 60 minutes of light to moderate activity every day. Basset Hounds require exercise to remain happy and healthy, both mentally and physically. They aren't a breed that can go on long, lengthy jogs or perform extensive exercises. To much activity can damage their joints and lead to other serious health complications. Short walks and play are recommended.
Basset Hounds are a hardy breed overall, but there are some genetic disorders present in the breed that prospective owners should be aware of.
- Canine Hip Dysplasia: When the ball and socket of the hip joint doesn't fit properly.
- Von Willebrand's Disease: An inherited blood clotting disorder affecting both dogs and people.
- Luxating Patella: A condition that causes the kneecap to become dislocated.
- Glaucoma: Pressure in the eye increases to abnormal levels that may lead to blindness.
- Thrombopathia: A genetic disorder that results in blood lacking platelets, leading to issues with clotting and bleeding.
- Hypothyroidism: An endocrine disorder that doesn't allow the body to produce enough thyroid hormone.
Basset Hounds have an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years. Some Basset Hounds have lived up to 17 years.
Brush your Basset's coat weekly to control shedding. A shedding tool is ideal for this, but a regular soft brush works, as well. Because the Basset's coat is short, it doesn't need trimming, but without regular brushing, shed hair may quickly get out of control.
Bathe Bassets as needed and take care to wipe around their eyes on a daily basis. The breed's third eyelid - known as the haw - is typically droopy, and as a result they can experience eye irritation. Check their eyes and clean as necessary, taking care to be gentle. You may need a special cleaning solution from your veterinarian if the problem persists. The breed's loose jowls also mean you will have to occasionally deal with drool, so keep a towel handy for that, too.
Keep nails trimmed unless dogs are allowed sufficient outdoor exercise to help wear their nails down. It's also a good idea to check those flowing ear flaps now and then for signs of damage. Although the Basset doesn't require an excessive grooming regimen, staying ahead of these tasks will help your pet remain happy and looking their best.
Fun Facts About the Breed
Bassets aren't usually in the spotlight, although their name is well-known. Most dog lovers know what the Basset looks like, but there are some facts that you may be unaware of:
- Bassets were bred from bloodhounds by French nobility to be used as hunting dogs that could get to smaller areas.
- Bloodhounds are known to be the dog to find if you're looking for a scent hound, but Basset Hounds come as a close second.
- A Basset Hound named Victoria was elected co-mayor of Concord, Ontario, in 2011.
- Their ears need to be cleaned often as they often drag the ground.
Purchasing or Adopting a Basset Hound
If you're looking for a Basset Hound puppy, a good place to start is the Basset Hound Club of America. They have a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders and what to expect. The AKC Marketplace also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $600 to $1,000, although dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $1,500.
If you would prefer a rescue dog, you can begin by searching PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue. You can also review breed-specific rescues:
- All Cherished Bassets: A New York based rescue organization located in Buffalo offering Basset Hounds and mixes of all ages.
- Guardian Angel Basset Rescue: A nonprofit organization serving Illinois, Indiana and the St. Louis, Mo. area.
- Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue: A nonprofit Basset rescue offering bassets and mixes of all ages; adopts to homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and surrounding areas.
- Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California: This organization is dedicated to rescuing and fostering hounds in the Southern California region.
Is this the Breed for You?
If you're looking for the next great agility dog, or a pet who will run alongside you while you bike, a Basset is not a good fit for your lifestyle. If, on the other hand, you want a loyal, loving companion who still has a mind of their own and speed isn't an issue, a Basset can make a wonderful companion. If you also happen to enjoy a bit of outdoor sporting, then the wonderful Basset Hound just might be the perfect fit. Bassets are at their best when they are allowed to do what nature has designed them to do.