The story of the Basset Hound is as fascinating as the dog itself. This breed, known for its distinctive appearance and gentle demeanor, has a history that takes us back centuries, intertwining with the lives of hunters, royalty, and dog lovers.
Early Ancestors in France
The roots of the Basset Hound trace back to France, connected to the 6th-century hounds of St. Hubert of Belgium. These dogs, believed to be descended from the Laconian (Spartan) Hound, were known for their exceptional scenting ability and were used in hunting. They were described as large, slow, with short legs, and either tan with white markings or black with tan markings, indicating the early traits that would define the Basset Hound.
The Name “Basset”
The first recorded mention of a “Basset” dog appeared in ‘La Venerie’, a hunting text by Jacques du Fouilloux in 1585. The term ‘Basset’ derives from the Latin word ‘bassus’, meaning low, coupled with the French diminutive ‘-et’, illustrating the dog’s stature. These early Bassets were used to hunt foxes and badgers. It’s believed that they originated as a mutation in the litters of Norman Staghounds, which were then bred back to the St. Hubert’s Hound.
Popularity in the 19th Century
During the reign of Napoleon III in the mid-19th century, the Basset Hound began to gain significant popularity. Notable events like the 1863 Paris dog show put the Basset Hound in the international spotlight. This period marked a significant turn in the breed’s development and popularity.
Breed Development in France and England
In France, around 1870, controlled breeding of the short-haired Basset began. Count Le Couteulx of Canteleu developed a type with straight front legs known as the Chien d’Artois, while Mr. Louis Lane developed a type with crooked front legs known as the Basset Normand. These were combined to create the Basset Artésien Normand.
Meanwhile, in England, French Basset Hounds were being imported by the 1870s. Everett Millais, considered the father of the modern Basset Hound in England, bred a heavier Basset by crossing a Basset with a Bloodhound. This led to the development of the breed standard in Great Britain by the end of the 19th century.
The Basset Hound Today
From its early days as a skilled scent hound in France to its current status as a beloved companion dog, the Basset Hound has maintained its charm and appeal. While no longer primarily used for hunting, the breed’s exceptional sense of smell and amiable nature make it a cherished pet in homes worldwide.
This journey from the past to the present showcases the Basset Hound’s remarkable evolution. It’s a breed that not only captures hearts with its endearing looks and personality but also embodies a rich history that adds to its allure. Whether snuggled on a sofa or leisurely strolling in a park, the Basset Hound carries with it a legacy that is as enduring as its unmistakable howl.
Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basset_Hound