by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
The most distinguished looking member of the Hound family is, undoubtedly, the Basset. In appearance, he is somewhat of a conglomerate, having the coloring of a Foxhound, the head of a Bloodhound, the running gear of an extra-boned Dachshund, and a long, heavy body. In action he belies his looks to some extent, being considerably more agile than his appearance would indicate.
The breed, an ancient one, flourished chiefly in Belgium and France, and also in some sections of Russia. The Basset Hound originated in France and was developed through crossing the old French Bloodhound on the white Hounds of the Abbots of St. Hubert. The Hounds of St. Hubert were used for hunting in very heavy cover, and a dog which held its nose close to the ground, because of its short legs was preferred. Through selective breeding the shorter leg was intensified and the crooked fore legs of the Basset Hound developed.
The Basset Hound height runs from ten to fifteen inches, thirteen being the average height. The weight runs anywhere from twenty-five to fifty pounds. The Basset Hound is exceedingly heavy in bone and weighs more than what he appears to.
The Basset Hound has never been very popular in this country. Perhaps his rather grotesque appearance militates against him to some degree, but he makes a good gunning companion for one who likes a slow, painstaking hunter. He is used on rabbits and hares but is beginning to find favor as a pheasant dog. In some sections of the country he is used on grouse also and is taught to retrieve. He can be easily taught to tree and makes a good dog for coon, opossum, and squirrel hunting. Of excellent disposition, the Basset Hound readily takes to training. If the dog is worked by a single person he becomes a one man dog.
One of his outstanding characteristics is the Basset Hound's voice. Deep and resonant, his bell-like note makes fine "music" and carries well. The "cry" is fairly heavy in quality and the tonguing of a pack of Bassets will set the welkin a-ring. Another outstanding characteristic is the keenness of his nose. The Basset possesses what is generally conceded to be the best nose in the Hound group with the exception of the Bloodhound's.
For rabbit hunting, or even fox hunting where the fox is shot, many prefer the Basset to all other Hounds. They maintain that his slowness will keep the game on the move without frightening it too much. He will cause it to make smaller circles, and hence will give the gunner a better chance for a shot. In recent years, breeders of Basset Hounds have emphasized the dog's value as a pheasant hunter. It is best to hunt the Basset Hound by himself or with one or more of his own breed. His main value is lost when he is hunted with dogs of greater speed.
In all-around appearance the Basset Hound is a docile, somewhat awkward dog of great dignity. In action he is every inch the workman.
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