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Hunting Bassets - Basset Hound History


Basset Hounds are a breed of French lineage, a descendant of the St. Hubert's Hound, a dog similar to the present-day Bloodhound. Friars of St. Hubert's Abbey in medieval France desired a shorter-legged dog, capable of following a scent under brush in thick forests, as hunting was a classic sport of the time. Both Bassets and St. Hubert's Hounds were bred to trail, not kill, their game. Bassets were originally used to hunt rabbits and hare. The first application of the word "Basset" to a breed of dog can be traced to an illustrated text on hunting written by Fouilloux in 1585.

Early French Bassets closely resembled the Basset ArtÚsien Normand, which is still a breed today. The Basset Artesian Normand is one of the six recognized French Basset breeds. Originating in Artois and Normandy, it dates back to the 1600's. The Basset Artesian Normand looks like a Basset Hound, but lighter in weight. A short, straight legged hound, its body is twice as long as it is high. Its head is dome-shaped and powerful with hairy cheeks. The neck is slightly dewlap and the muscles are smooth with a moderate amount of wrinkles. The chest is round with clearly visible sternum. The coat is very short, bicolor: tan and white, or tricolor: tan, black and white. Breeders prefer white feet.

By the turn of this century, the Basset Artesian Normand was developing into two distinct lines, straight-legged hunters and crocked-legged, droopy-eared companion and show dogs. French breeder Leon Verrier developed today's standard, which blends attributes of both varieties. The Artesian Basset needed straight legs that would neither hinder his speed nor drain his energy in order to work in unruly terrain, brush and briar. The breed was recognized in 1911.

Because many short-legged dogs from this time were called Basset and record-keeping from this time was sparse, it is difficult to speculate which of these breeds have bloodlines in common with today's Basset Hounds. It is commonly believed that Marquis de Lafayette brought Basset Hounds to the United States as a gift to George Washington.

In France, basset hounds achieved noticeable public cultural popularlity during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852-1870). In 1853, Emmanuel Fremiet, "the leading sculptor of animals in his day" exhibited bronze sculptures of Emperor Napoleon III's basset hounds at the Paris Salon. Ten years later, in 1863, the Basset Hound reached international fame at the Paris Dog Show. At that time there were two common Bassets, those with a rough coat (Basset Griffon) and those with smooth (Basset Franšais). The dogs were further classified by the length of their legs. The two popular Basset breeders at this time were M. Lane and the Count Le Couteulx.

In 1866, Lord Galway imported a pair of Le Couteulx Bassets to England, but it was not until 1874 that Basset Hounds were widely introduced there by Sir Everett Millais. The Kennel Club accepted the breed in 1882 and the English Basset Hound Club was formed in 1884. The American Kennel Club first recognized Basset Hounds as a breed in 1885. In 1935, the Basset Hound Club of America was organized in the United States. The current American breed standard was adopted in 1964.

Further reading, The Early History of the Basset Hound in England, 1874-1921.


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