The Basset Hound is a French breed, developed to track rabbits and other small, slow game that were followed by hunters on foot, rather than on horseback.
They are closely related to the Bloodhound, with both breeds thought to be descended from the well regarded Hubert Hound. Historically, many French hound breeds had a long legged version, and a short legged version. The short version was known as “basset”,from the French word “bas”, meaning “low down”. Both the Bloodhound and the Basset Hound share similar physical features: long pendulous ears and sad droopy eyes. They also both have an extremely well developed sense of smell.
Basset Hounds were exported to the United Kingdom in the mid 1800’s, and from there they made their way to the United States in 1883. They were then recognized by the AKC in 1885.
The Basset Hound is an unusual looking dog. Their heavy set body, weighing up to 50lb (23kg) is carried on very short legs. In spite of their weight, these dogs are only about 15 inches, or 38cm tall.
The most common color in the Basset Hound is the tricolor (black, tan and white) but they do also come in red and white, honey and white, and lemon and white. Their coat is short and smooth, and their skin is loose over the underlying muscles.
A characteristic feature of the breed is their extremely long ears. These will touch the ground when the dog is following a trail with their nose. They were thought to stir up the scent to make it easier for the dog to detect. Loose skin on the head plus droopy lower eyelids give them quite a mournful expression.
The Basset Hound is a gentle and affectionate dog, which makes them well suited to family life. They are ideal companions for children. They can be quite lazy, and will be happy to spend hours lying at your feet or beside you on the couch.
These dogs are noisy at times. Like other hounds, they will howl and bark when they are trying to catch your attention. They also have a deep rumbling whine which can sound like they are actually talking. However, they are not aggressive, so aren’t much good as a watchdog.
Because of their strong instinct to hunt and chase, the Basset should not be allowed off leash unless in a safe and secure environment. If they pick up a scent, they will follow it, and won’t hear you calling them back. This can lead to injury. Even on a leash, be prepared to let your Basset smell things as they walk along. They will enjoy their walk so much more if they can satisfy their natural urge to sniff.
Most of the health problems of the Basset Hound can be attributed to their extreme physical characteristics.
Their large ears prevent air circulation in their ear canal, which can lead to ear infections. These can be persistent, and difficult to clear up.
Droopy lower eyelids, known as ectropion, allow the accumulation of dust in the eyelid, and exposure of the eyeball to irritants in the environment. This may lead to chronic irritation and discomfort. If a dog suffers from frequent bouts of conjunctivitis, they can have an “eyelid tuck” where the lower eyelids are surgically tightened. This will slightly affect their appearance, but will be better for the health of their eyes.
The folds of skin around the Basset’s face and mouth can trap moisture, and develop secondary infections. Watch for any sign of reddening or itching around the skin folds, which can be early indicators of a problem.
These dogs have a long body suspended between short legs, so they are at great risk of intervertebral disc disease. In this condition, the shock absorbing disc between the bones of their spine is damaged and ruptures, and puts pressure on the spinal column. The result is severe back pain and even paralysis.
Being a deep chested dog, in spite of their short stature, the Basset is also prone to bloat, a dangerous swelling of the stomach which usually occurs after a big meal or drink of water. To prevent this, feed your Basset several small meals a day, and avoid exercise straight after mealtimes.
Speaking of food, don’t give your Basset too much. Because they aren’t an active breed, they can easily become overweight. This can increase the risk of problems with their back and the joints of their short legs. Keep your Basset lean and they will not only live longer, but their health will be better.
These dogs don’t need a great deal of upkeep. They only need bathing when they are dirty, and their short coat just needs a regular once-over with a grooming mitt to remove any loose hairs. However, you will need to wipe their face and eyes every day, to keep the skin folds clean and prevent them becoming infected.
Their exercise requirements are low, but they will still enjoy a stroll around their neighborhood. This will give them the chance to explore the multitude of scents that are left by surrounding people and their pets.
There are many advantages to owning a Basset Hound. Their sweet nature makes them everybody’s friend. They are low maintenance, and don’t need a big investment of time and money to keep them physically and mentally in good shape. They are well suited to apartment living, because they aren’t very active indoors.
These dogs will happily share your life for up to 12 years.