Basset Hound

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

Basset Hound
Red and white Basset
Red and white Basset
Country of origin
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 6 Section 1 #163 Stds
AKC: Hound Stds
ANKC: Group 4 (Hounds) Stds
CKC: Group 2 - Hounds Stds
KC (UK): Hound Stds
NZKC: Hounds Stds
UKC: Scenthound Stds

The Basset Hound is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family. They are scent hounds, bred to hunt 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" meaning, literally, "rather low."


Basset hounds commonly have large, outward-pointing feet, as seen in this typical specimen from Illinois
Basset hounds commonly have large, outward-pointing feet, as seen in this typical specimen from Illinois

These dogs are around 33 to 38 cm (13 to 15 inches) in height at the withers. They usually weigh between twenty and thirty kg (45 and 65 lb). They have smooth, short-haired coats. Although any hound colour 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), and lemon and white. Some Bassets are also classified as grey, or blue, however this colour is considered rare and undesirable.

They have long, low-set 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. The tail should also be tipped in white. This is so they are easily seen when hunting/tracking through large brush or weeds. The breed is also known for its hanging skin structure, which causes the face to have a permanently sad look; 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 on short legs. They were originally bred by the French to have achondroplasia, 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.


The basset hound is known for its comical mannerisms and gentle disposition.
The basset hound is known for its comical mannerisms and gentle disposition.

The Basset Hound is a very calm and companionable breed. They are an especially loyal breed known for their pleasant disposition and emotional sensitivity. Around strangers, Bassets are friendly and welcome the opportunity to make new friends. For this reason they are an excellent pet for families with children and other pets. In fact, it is recommended that since Bassets are "pack" animals, if the Basset must be left alone on a daily basis during the daytime while the family is away, a second pet in the family will keep a Basset out of "trouble". Bassets hate to be alone.

While Bassets love food and may be less energetic than some breeds, they will exercise regularly if given the chance. Most Bassets enjoy activities that use their natural endurance, like long walks or hikes. They also enjoy tracking games that let them use their powerful nose.

Like other hounds, Basset Hounds are often difficult to obedience train. Many Basset Hounds will obey commands when offered a food reward, but will "forget" the training when a reward is not present. Bassets are notoriously difficult to housebreak. Training and housebreaking are not impossible, however, and can be accomplished with consistency and patience on the part of the owner.

The breed has a strong hunting instinct and will give chase or follow a scent if given the opportunity. They should be trained in recall; failing that, they should be kept on a leash when out on walks.

Bassets might howl or bay rather than bark when they want something or to suggest that they think something is wrong. They also use a low, murmuring whine to get attention, which sounds to many owners as though their Bassets are "talking."


Basset Hounds are an aristocratic breed of French lineage, a descendant of the St. Hubert's Hound, a dog similar to the present-day Bloodhound. Friars of St. Hubert's Abbey in medieval France desired a shorter-legged dog, capable of following a scent under brush in thick forests, as hunting was a classic sport of the time. Both Bassets and St. Hubert's Hounds were bred to trail, not kill, their game. Bassets were originally used to hunt rabbits and hare. The first application of the word "Basset" to a breed of dog can be traced to an illustrated text on hunting written by Fouilloux in 1585.

Early French Bassets closely resembled the Basset Artésien Normand, which is still a breed today though it is not recognized outside of France. 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 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.

Health and care

Tricolour Basset
Tricolour Basset

In comparison to other breeds, the Basset Hound is an especially healthy breed, but there are some illnesses to which they may fall prey.

They are a deep-chested breed, and are therefore prone to bloat. Many bloodlines are genetically prone to glaucoma, luxating patella, and ectropion (" cherry eye"). Young Bassets occasionally develop panosteitis. Older Bassets occasionally develop Von Willebrand disease. Long dogs on short legs can easily develop back pain, especially if excessive weight is already a concern. Hip dysplasia can be a problem in Bassets. Due to the breed's short legs and large mass, Bassets may be susceptible to arthritis as they grow older. Also, the life expectancy for an average Basset usually lies between 8 to 12 years of age, but there are extreme cases where they live beyond 14 years old.

As Basset Hounds often overeat, feedings should be regulated to prevent weight gain. Long ears are prone to infection if not cleaned regularly. The pronounced haw of the eyes can become dry and irritated.


Training is a touchy topic when dealing with the Basset Hound breed. Gentle and patient training is the most effective form of training. Trainers must be persistent with the breed in order to achieve a well mannered dog. The Basset has the tendency to become stubborn by listening to their nose, rather than their master. Owners need to make the training process lively and entertaining to allow the Basset to learn more pro-efficiently.

Popular culture

In 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 pop culture.

Basset Hounds have had prominent roles in movies and television. Some bassets have been featured in comic strips and cartoons. Examples inlude 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.

Basset Hounds in films include Fred, the companion of Cledus in the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit and Gabriel, Bateau'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 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, Quincey, from Coach, Sam from That's So Raven 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. Basset Hounds are occasionally referred to as "Hush Puppies" for that reason. The dog used in the photos was named Jason. A Basset Hound also serves as the companion to the lonely Maytag Man in Maytag appliance advertisements. In the 1990's, a handsome red/white basset hound called SIGMUND featured in a several advertisements including one for Domestos bleach.

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