The Basset Hounds are the only living descendents of our earliest scent hounds, and as a smooth, short-coated dog, the Basset Hound has a long, heavy body with wrinkly-cute, short stout legs. This Basset form has been developed over centuries for its owners to follow the dog on foot with the dog leading, as they hunt through dense cover for badgers, rabbits, and hares, allowing the hound to hunt with its famous sense of smell.
The head of the Basset is its strong point with a rounded skull and loose-fitting skin, falling in folds around the head. Long soft ears should meet beyond the top of the nose when extended, having the ability to fold, and not look "flat." But it is the eyes, sad brown eyes, which reach the hearts of people, as they are kind with softness and no harsh appearance. Round hindquarters and large paws add to the look of gentleness and make one wonder how such a beautifully powered dog could ever hunt live game, looking like it should be on the lap of its owner as a fluffy lap pet whose only mission in life is to be petted.
Physical characteristics of the breed allow the thick coat to protect the dog from being torn or hurt from bramble bushes during the hunt, or getting caught up in them. All of his features, working together as one, make the Bassett Hound an excellent tracker in its slow and easy meandering way, while it sniffs scent and then trails the find. Stubborn and slow moving, once this dog gets on a trail, it refuses to give up until the trail has disappeared with or without its owners or trainers.
Compared to other breeds, the Basset Hound has a much heavier bone that is in total proportion to its physical size. While it is considered a short dog, once a person tries picking them up they will never make the mistake of calling the Basset a small dog simply because they are low to the ground. This heavy weight is what works with the slow-moving attribute of the dog, as it moves forward with sheer determination, focusing on the scent with its nose to the ground. But once the scent is found, their loud beautiful baying makes the heart pound with excitement and nostalgia for this ancient breed on the hunt once again.
Basset Hound Temperament
The Basset Hound is seen as an especially friendly breed. For this reason they are an excellent pet for children. Although some people believe that Bassets are not particularly intelligent, they are quite smart and display their intelligence with a charming sense of humor. They are known as the "clowns of the dog world". Perhaps people believe that Bassets aren't smart because they "forget" the training when a food reward is not present.
Because Bassets are scent hounds, they should always be on a leash when out on walks. They have a tendency to run, especially after prey, so a leash is very important for their safety.
Bassets are known to be a vocal breed. 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.
The smooth, short-haired coat is easy to groom. Comb and brush with a firm bristle brush, and shampoo only when necessary. Wipe under the ears every week and trim toenails regularly. This breed is a constant shedder.
History says very little about the Bassett Hound until around the 1500s, and it was during this time that it was referred to as a badger hunter. What documentation we have during those early days shows they originated from the old St. Hubert hounds that were the hunting hounds of the abbey of St. Hubert in the Ardennes, the capital of the forests of the High Ardennes and hunting.
These early Ardennes hounds were brought to Britain in 1066 during the Norman invasion, used in packs to hunt stag. The English gave the name Bloodhound to this imported dog, completely transforming this Belgian hunting dog into one the highest quality tracking dog with the most exceptional olfactory organ of any breed known to man. Later on, this breed was mixed with the later-developed Basset Hound to increase the Basset's size.
Once the Basset began to gain popularity, they gathered many admirers from King Edwards VII to Shakespeare. But before then, from the earliest time of its origin until the French Revolution, information about the breed is very sketchy and pretty much undocumented. Dogs were used prior to the war that were shorter-legged and slower paced, but because of the war the dogs became extinct or dispersed.
After the Revolution, the common man took up hunting with guns, using dogs they could follow while on foot. They needed a dog they could keep up with who also had a great scenting ability, and heavy bone for long endurance. With a clearer picture of history and more documentation, it was recognized that the Basset Hound was the dog to answer this need. Due to the dog's slow speed when chasing the prey, it was discovered that the prey was easier to shoot at as it provided an easier target for the hunters on foot.
During these early times, four different versions of the Basset Hound were developed, with the Basset Artesien Normand looking like the present-day Basset. In the 1800s and in the 1930s, the Bassets were crossed with Bloodhounds to increase the size of the dog. From then on, the Basset Hound gradually gained in popularity, with its gentle personality and droll expression winning everyone over.
Even though the Basset Hound is one of the most popular fun-loving breeds for families and affection, they are the worst ones chosen for intelligent and fast training not intelligent, mind you but fast. And a person will never get quick and fast results from a Basset, because they do not want to learn unless they have a good reason to. The trainer or owner needs to show them "why" they need to learn, and make it fun for them to get their attention. And for anyone who has attempted to train a Basset, they will recognize this fact instantly.
Before beginning a strong training schedule with the Basset, respecting the breed may be the first big step to conquer. Once this is done, the wisdom of training this reluctant breed will be made much easier, along with the understanding of how they think and why they do what they do coming into play.
Once the intelligence of the Basset is brought forth, along with recognizing that different rules may need to apply to the particular training style, both the trainer and the "trainee" will be ready to go eagerly and happily. But it will be a challenge and hard work, even with these preliminary steps already accomplished. This breed is stubborn and mule-headed once it is on the hunt. Those who know the breed know from experience that no matter how much the dog loves them, once on a hunt the dog will take off and never turn around to see if they are following. LOTS of patience while maintaining a steady and loving manner will work wonders with any breed, but this breed requires it along with persistence and sheer determination.
The Basset is naturally a pack animal, along with being a "team member" as long as it is fun. Fun desiring, along with being lazy enough to want do nothing but sleep, is where the challenge will come in. The effort to get this breed off the floor or couch, while recognizing it will be fun to do what you want not what the dog wants. To do that, become the alpha dog, the leader, the boss, the one who does the commanding and will not quit. Once this is recognized, the training will begin in a successful direction to develop one of the most wonderful companions known on earth, and one of the most trusting breeds alive.
Because of the extremely long ears of Bassets they are prone to ear disease. If their ears are allowed to dangle on the ground or in food on a daily basis they are capable of developing chronic and potentially fatal ear diseases.
In addition to ear problems, basset hounds may also have eye issues. Because of their droopy eyes, the area under the eyeball will collect dirt and become clogged with a mucus. It is best to wipe their eyes every day with a damp cloth. This helps to lessen the build up and eye irritation.
Basset Hounds can be on the lazy side and can become overweight on their own if allowed to. They need plenty of exercise and a good diet. Obesity is not only a weight issue but because of the strain it puts on the intervertebral disks it can cause back problems.