Basset Hound

Breed At A Glance

Classification
Hound

Personality
Sweet, gentle and relaxed

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
12-15 inches

Average Weight
40-65 lbs

Coat Color
Varies, usually a combination of brown, black, red and/or white

Coat Length/Texture
Short, firm and smooth

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

General Temperament

Basset Hounds are a friendly and affectionate breed, and welcome making new friends. The Basset’s peaceful and devoted nature makes them ideal for families with children or other pets. Even though they are generally relaxed, they can be quite excitable when meeting new friends, especially other dogs. Bassets crave companionship and hate to be alone; in fact, they can get into mischief if left alone on a regular basis. In this case, it is suggested that a second pet may help keep them out of trouble.

Like many other hounds, the Basset has keen, often admirable, problem-solving skills. They have been known to find their way into (or out of) spaces or rooms that don’t seem feasibly accessible, or to gain access to food that their owners assume is adequately secured. And their short stature can be deceiving; Bassets are surprisingly long and can reach things on table tops that dogs of similar heights cannot. They also love food more than the average dog, and will often howl, whine or whimper (described as “talking” by some owners) to get what they want.

Bassets are generally considered to be a “lazy” breed, often preferring to lounge in their favorite spot on the couch or cozy up to their owners for some affection. Although they are less energetic than many other dogs, they enjoy activities that utilize their natural endurance, such as long walks or hikes. They also enjoy scent games (as well as listening games), which utilize their natural hunting talents.

As a hunter, the Basset can trail, flush, and even retrieve game. Their sense of smell is second only to the Bloodhound’s. This breed has a strong hunting instinct and will give chase or follow a scent if given the opportunity. For this reason, thorough and consistent training is very important. Bassets can be stubborn and have a “what’s in it for me?” mentality, and therefore can be difficult to train, but will usually obey when given a food reward. They are also notoriously difficult to housebreak, but this can be achieved with consistency and patience from the owner.

Breed History

The Basset Hound dates back to the middle ages, when French monks mixed a variety of hounds to produce a dog that could hunt low to the ground, following the scent of rabbits or deer over trails. The low set provided for a slower moving hound that could be followed by humans on foot during hunts. This form of hunting was a popular sport for French aristocrats for hundreds of years. Bassets were dispersed throughout the country during the French Revolution, resulting in widely varied appearance in the breed from region to region.

It is believed that President George Washington received a pair of Bassets as a gift from Lafayette. Later in the 1800’s, Bassets were exported to England, eventually reaching the United States.

Body Structure and Composition

Basset Hounds were bred to have achondroplasia, also known as dwarfism (the word “Basset” comes from the French word “bas,” which means “low”). Their short legs are in striking contrast to their long and heavy bodies. They have long, pendulous ears and powerful necks, with much loose skin around their heads that forms wrinkles, all of which helps traps scent around the face and aids in their abilities as a scent hound. These drooping facial features also give them a “sad” expression, although this is by no means a reflection of the breed’s natural temperament.

Medical Information

Luckily, the most common medical issues the Basset Hound faces can be controlled by lifestyle and grooming by the owner. Due to their love of (and sometimes incessant begging for) food, Basset Hounds have a strong tendency toward obesity, which can cause musculoskeletal conditions. These include, but are not limited to, spinal disc problems, arthritis, and hip or elbow dysplasia (when the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the joint socket). It is important for owners to closely monitor their Basset’s caloric intake, and be sure to give them ample exercise time. Controlling the dog’s eating habits can also help to control flatulence, a non-threatening although rather bothersome condition.

The Basset Hound’s long drooping ears make this breed especially susceptible to ear infections. Regular cleaning will help, and care should be taken to keep the dog’s ears out of their food bowl or from being dragged extensively on the ground. Also, young children should be taught to not tug on dog’s ears. The skin around a Basset’s eyes can droop dramatically, exposing the eye and eye socket tissues to infection.

Glaucoma, which often leads to partial or total blindness, is caused by an increase of fluid pressure within the eyeball and is sometimes a problem for Basset Hounds. Primary glaucoma is inherited. Secondary glaucoma is caused by an injury or other physical mishap. The early signs of glaucoma include a dilated pupil, cloudiness within the cornea and/or an increase in the size of the blood vessels in the white portion of the eye. Once the onset of glaucoma occurs, treatment should begin promptly – in a matter of days or, in some extreme cases, even hours.

Other medical issues that can be a problem for Bassets include Von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD), caused by a deficiency or abnormality of the factor that assists in normal blood clotting and can result in excessive bleeding, and Gastric Dilation Volvulus, or GDV, also know as bloat/torsion, which is an emergency condition in which excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by excess gas.

Bassets shed constantly, and regular brushing can help household cleanliness, although the potential owner should be prepared to live with some amount of dog hair. They also tend to drool, so it might help to keep a cloth or paper towel handy. Toenails may need to be trimmed regularly if the dog does not exercise on a regular basis.

Anecdotal Information

In 1956, Elvis appeared on “The Steve Allen Show” wore a tux and crooned “Hound Dog” to a basset hound sitting on a stool. Things went well for Elvis, if not for the hound, which, Presley later recalled, was “peeing and I didn’t know it.”

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