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The Basset Hound is a member of the hound family. They are scent hounds and were originally bred for hunting small game. The only dog breed with a better sense of smell is the bloodhound. The white tip to the tail and the common blaze (white stripe down the face) are to help hunters find their dogs whilst hunting in long grass.
The Basset Hound originated in France and is descended from a pack bred by St Hubert of Belgium. The word Basset first appeared in an illustrated hunting text written by Jacques du Fouilloux in 1585. The dogs in Fouilloux's text were used to hunt foxes and badgers. It is commonly believed that the Basset type originated as a mutation in the litters of Norman Staghounds, a descendant of the St Hubert's Hound. The first Bassets were imported into Britain in the 1870s. It is believed the modern heavier Basset was first conceived by artificial insemination with a French hunting Basset and a Bloodhound in the 1890s.
An adult male Basset will normally weigh between 25-34kg (55-75 pounds) and be 30cm - 38cm tall (12”-15”). An adult female will normally weigh between 20-29kg (45-65 pounds) and be 28cm - 36cm tall (11” – 14”) although this is not a hard and fast rule. Some Bassets are naturally petite and some much bigger. The traditional French style Bassets with the slimmer frame and longer legs will weigh less than the big heavy show dog type.
The Basset’s short legs are due to a form of dwarfism (more on that later). Don’t be fooled into thinking they cannot steal food put out of reach, their long body can easily reach worktops. Bassets have the densest bone structure of any dog breed and should always be supervised around water. Although some bassets are keen swimmers most do not enjoy being out of their depth in water. (even bath water!)
The Basset Hound has a short-haired coat which is long, smooth and soft and sheds all year round. Prepare to become very good friends with your vacuum cleaner. A deshedding tool such as a FURminator is a good investment. Occasionally you might see a long haired Basset. According to the Kennel Club this is an undesirable variation. Although I had the pleasure of having a cuddle with one once and I found it to be most desirable. Basset colours are normally black, tan and white tricolour or tan and white or lemon and white bicolour. A blue colour is occasionally seen but can often come with a genetic skin condition called Colour Dilution Alopecia and is therefore considered undesirable.
The most common words you hear when describing Bassets are stubborn and stupid. I disagree; single minded and strong willed would be a much better, and kinder, description. Bassets love to sniff, so make sure you allow extra time on your walk to allow them to become acqainted with every tree, lampost and blade of grass on your route. If you try and move them along before they are ready be prepared for resistance. You would be surprised how heavy a Basset can make himself if he doesn’t want to move! Some say to never let a Basset off their lead as if they get a scent they will be off. In my experience this has never been an issue, but every dog is individual. They are very food driven and will usually come back for a bit of sausage or some other tasty morsel.
Bassets are pack dogs and love company. They love children and make excellent family pets but you might consider having two (or more…) as they love to cuddle up together. They are the ideal dog as they are happy to do whatever you want to do. They will lie next to you watching the telly all day long but if you want to go for a long romp in the woods just say the word and they are there with their lead.
Bassets are notoriously difficult to train. If you can master sit and stay then give yourself a big pat on the back. House training can take longer than with other breeds but persevere and you will get there. And as mentioned already, they are very food driven so try and involve treats in your training regime. If you do decide to go to a dog training class make sure the trainer uses a positive reinforcement style, your Basset will respond much better this way.
Bassets are not always into playing in the normal dog way. They rarely fetch sticks or play ball but they do enjoy wrestling and like having toys to chew. Kongs are an excellent choice as you can fill them with liver pate or peanut butter. Make sure you choose a strong one though as Bassets are strong chewers.
Bassets have very long ears that due to their shape do not allow air to circulate inside them. They need wiping daily with an ear cleaner to prevent ear infections. If your Basset’s ears hang in their food bowl you may consider buying or sewing them a snood for meal times, using a spaniel bowl or just holding their ears back for them while they eat. If you have more than one Basset you might consider feeding them in separate rooms and food aggression can be common (being such greedy dogs) and some owners find it easier, and safer, to separate their dogs at meal times.
Bassets, due to their deep chest, are prone to bloat, or gastric torsion. This is a very serious condition which left untreated can be fatal. The symptoms include excessive drooling, dry retching, difficulty breathing and swollen stomach. If you suspect your dog has bloat you need to get them to a vet within half an hour. Once the stomach has fully turned it can be fatal. To avoid bloat you should not leave the water bowl down at meal times, water large pieces of kibble down with warm water or gravy to avoid large pieces of food swelling in the dogs stomach and do not exercise or excite your dog for one hour after they have eaten. Feeding several small meals a day rather than one large is also helpful. I advise you to read up on this fatal illness yourself to fully acquaint yourself with it.
The Basset Hound's short stature is due to a genetic condition known as Osteochondrodysplasia (meaning abnormal growth of both bone and cartilage). Dwarfism in dogs is traditionally known as Achondroplasia. Dachshunds and Bulldogs are also classified as Achondroplastic. This condition does not affect the dog, however they are more prone to bone conditions and it is not a good idea to cross breed Bassets with other breeds.
Basset puppies should not be allowed to jump down from a height, due to how low they are to the ground. Because of a basset's build (short stubby legs and low to the ground), if they fall too far, they can hurt their hips, injure their spine or break a leg. If a puppy sustains one of these injuries, the damage can be permanent.
You should not walk a Basset puppy too far, no more than a short trip round the garden for the first eight or nine months, then gradually increase the distance. Over exercising a young hound can cause bone abnormalities.
Bassets are prone to eye infections due to their droopy eyes. Wipe this area daily with a damp cloth to prevent infection. Also yeast infections in the folds around the mouth are common so wipe their mouth after eating and drinking.
The average life span for a Basset Hound is 11-12 years, although it is not unknown for them to live much longer.