Basset Hounds have waddled their way from being expert scent hounds in medieval France to beloved family pets worldwide. This article explores their fascinating transition, highlighting their historical roles, physical characteristics, and their place in modern families.
The story of the Basset Hound begins in sixth-century France, a time and place rich in hound breed variety. The term “basset”, French for “low”, was used to describe short-legged dogs under sixteen inches tall. These early Bassets, ancestors of today’s Basset Hounds, were bred at the Abbey of St. Hubert in the Ardennes region around 700 C.E., primarily to serve the hunting needs of nobility and royalty.
By the 16th century, the Basset Hound, as we recognize it today, began to take shape. Their unique physical characteristics – notably their “crooked” legs and heavy bone structure – were selectively bred to create a dog that could track prey over rough terrain at a pace allowing hunters to follow on foot. This was particularly valuable for those without the means to hunt on horseback, a privilege reserved for nobility. The Basset Hound’s ability to track small game like rabbits and badgers through dense underbrush made them highly valued among hunters.
Physical Traits and Hunting Abilities
Basset Hounds are characterized by their short, sturdy legs, long and heavy body, and exceptional scenting ability. They are part of the scent hound family, with their sense of smell second only to the Bloodhound. Their low stature allows them to track in long grass and bushes effectively. Despite their seemingly cumbersome build, they are agile and possess the stamina required for long hunting sessions. Their large bone structure, accounting for as much as 25% of their body weight, is the most of any dog breed.
The Transition to Family Pets
As hunting practices evolved and the need for such specialized hunting companions diminished, Basset Hounds found a new role as family pets. Their easy-going nature, friendliness, and patience make them excellent companions, especially in households with children. Despite their hunting heritage, Basset Hounds have adapted well to domestic life, often displaying a gentle and affectionate demeanor. They are social animals, enjoying the company of both humans and other dogs.
Living with a Basset Hound
Despite their laid-back nature, Basset Hounds are quite vocal, often howling and baying, which might be an issue in noise-sensitive living environments. They are adaptable to both indoor and outdoor living, but they prefer spending time indoors, relaxing with family members. When it comes to exercise, they have moderate needs, and their short legs and long backs mean they’re not built for strenuous activities like long-distance running or jumping
While generally healthy, Basset Hounds are prone to certain health issues like hip dysplasia, ear infections, and eye problems such as glaucoma. Their long, droopy ears make them susceptible to ear infections, so regular checks are important. Many owners also consider pet insurance to be prepared for any health-related expenses.
Basset Hounds can adapt well to apartment living as long as their exercise needs are met. However, they can be vocal, known for barking and howling, which might be an issue in an apartment setting. Proper training and socialization can help manage their vocalizations. They are also known to be good with other pets and can benefit from the company if left alone for extended periods.
Living with a Basset Hound is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Their affectionate nature and unique personality make them wonderful companions. However, they do require a dedicated owner who understands and accommodates their specific needs, from exercise to grooming. With the right care and training, a Basset Hound can be a loving addition to any home!