Made popular by the “Hush Puppy” shoe advertisements, the basset hound is one of the most recognizable dogs in the United States. A droopy faced sad looking dog, and loveable but stubborn, the basset is an excellent hunter with scenting ability second only to the bloodhound. Basset hounds have some unique characteristics that set them apart from the rest.
History and Origin
The basset hound is thought to have descended from the old St. Hubert hounds of France. The friars of the French Abbey in St. Hubert needed a dog that could hunt badgers and, through careful and selective breeding, developed the ancestors of the basset hound we know today. Bred to be low to the ground, the dog was called “basset” from the French word “bas” which means low.
The breed was not known anywhere but in France until the mid-1800s. At that point, the basset was imported to England and slowly gained popularity through the world. In 1885, the basset was accepted to the American Kennel Club.
Appearance and Size
The basset is a medium sized dog with long, pendulous ears that puppies tend to trip over. The muzzle is also long and the skin loose and wrinkled. The hair coat is short and comes in a variety of colors – most often a combination of black, brown and white. The legs are short and often quite crooked and angular in appearance with big feet.
To say basset hounds sport a distinctive look is an understatement. With stubby legs, an elongated torso, loose skin, long ears, and a deceptively sad face, bassets truly stand out among the canine masses. It’s no wonder the likeness of these unique hounds is often featured on greeting cards. Despite their short stature, bassets are extremely sturdy, as their leg bones are the heaviest of any breed. Fittingly, “basset” means “low slung” in French – this breed’s country of origin. The adult basset stands around 14 inches at the shoulder and weighs 40 to 50 pounds. But the breed is prone to obesity, meaning that a basset hound can really hack on the pounds.
Bassets are a gentle and loving breed but can be quite stubborn. They are known for having a strong will and, if reprimanded, may even sulk. Bassets are rarely nervous or high strung, and aggression is uncommon. Training a basset is harder than some other dogs due to their strong nose and personality. Getting a basset’s attention to train will take some serious work. But once you’ve put in the time to find the right treat or lure that can get your basset’s nose off the ground and focus on you then these dogs will soak up what you teach them. Basset hounds are highly intelligent and like to have a job to perform. Another struggle that you might contend with during training is over barking or baying. Like most other hounds, bassets have a strong and distinct bay. Without training, this habit could turn irksome.
Home and Family Relations
The basset’s naturally placid and calm demeanor makes him great with children. They may look like lazy dogs, but they are quite energetic and have no trouble keeping up with active children. Though their lack of aggression makes them poor guard dogs, their bark is very penetrating and can scare off potential intruders. But make sure that you keep small hands away from their ears. While a basset will probably lay there and let your child tug on its long, soft ears, they won’t be enjoying it.
Bassets are excellent hunters, and their hunting instincts may take over and distract them from the task at hand. They are commonly used to hunt rabbits in the United States but are also used to flush out badgers, foxes, raccoons, opossums, pheasants, and squirrels. Even though they excel in training as hunters, bassets don’t do too well with obedience. Their stubborn nature takes over. Above all else, they would rather be hunting. See our notes above in the personality section for more insight on training this unusual breed.
Basset hounds require open spaces and plenty of exercise to prevent behavioral problems. Hunter at heart, bassets should not be allowed to roam free. If they see a squirrel or rabbit, they lose sight of everything else and consequently have the potential to get injured, especially when chasing across a busy street. If kept confined to a small area outdoors, the basset will likely dig his way out of the enclosure.
Basset hounds have proven adaptable to nearly any situation. They’re small enough to live in an apartment, yet large enough to qualify as big dogs. They enjoy moderate exercise yet are also content with being lazy. And they make for loyal, loving family members that generally interact well with young children and other pets alike. If your life tends to be unpredictable and you need to maintain a high degree of versatility, then a basset just may be the ideal canine companion for you.
Common Diseases and Disorders
- Intervertebral disk disease is a disorder that affects the spinal disks resulting in pain, difficulty walking and possibly paralysis.
- Gastric torsion (bloat) is a sudden life-threatening illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
- Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness, and arthritis.
- The basset hound is also prone to obesity, ear infections, and bladder stones.
In addition, although these occur infrequently, the following disorders have also been reported:
- Glaucoma is a painful and serious condition that causes pressure within the eye to increase. It can lead to blindness if not treated early.
- Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to lose transparency and can result in blindness.
- Progressive retinal atrophy is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
- Lymphoma is a type of cancer that can occur.
- Wobbler’s syndrome is a malformation of the spine in the neck leading to weakness, staggering and potential paralysis.
- Ventricular Septal Defect – a congenital defect of the ventricular septum of the heart.
- Interdigital Dermatitis (Pododermatitis) an inflammation of the paws involving the feet and nails.
- Malassezia Dermatitis – is a yeast infection of the skin caused by Malassezia pachydermatis.
- Primary Seborrhea causes scaly skin. Some dogs are born with a defect of the normal keratinization of the skin.
- Congenital Hypotrichosis – is a congenital disease causing symmetrical hair loss.
- Temporomandibular Luxation – is a luxation of the temporomandibular joint (jaw).
- Ununited Anconeal Process – is the failure of the anconeal process of the elbow to unite with the ulna, resulting in fracture. This condition can cause lameness and arthritis.
- Discospondylitis is an infection of one or more vertebral discs and their adjacent vertebrae.
- Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
- Ectropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes eversion of the eyelid margin. It most commonly affects the lower central eyelid.
The average lifespan of the basset hound is 10 to 12 years.
We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.