The Origin of the Basset Hound
The Basset Hound originated in France in 1585 and is a descendant of the St Hubert hound. The St Hubert hound was developed by the abbots of the St Hubert monastery located In the French forest region of the Ardennes. They were described as being black and tan with heavy heads, long ears, long bodies and short, heavy legs. These hounds had very good noses to follow a scent and deep musical voices. The long ears helped them in hunting by acting as a sort of “fan”, blowing the scent up from the ground towards the dogs’ noses. (Just like the Basset Hound we know today!) St Hubert hounds were popular throughout France and were crossed with bloodhounds. The name “Basset”, came from the French – “bas”, meaning “low-set”, there are early reports of a hound that stood less than 30cms high. Hunters on horseback used the dogs bred by the abbots for hunting deer, boar, wolves and stag. While the short-legged type, was kept for hunting smaller game on foot, through undergrowth. In France the Basset Hound developed into three main types: smooth coated, half rough coated and the rough coated. Each type had its own followers who preferred the straight-legged type, or full crook. Hunting was a tradition in France, so many of these short-legged hounds were to be found in the kennels of the wealthy land owners, which as a result of the French Revolution were then given to the poor. We have evidence that King James IV of Scotland imported Bassets, which were used to rout game, driving the animals into the open, the hunters would then release their fast, sight hounds which would run down and catch the animal. Shakespeare mentions their type in “A Midsummer Nights Dream” here is what was said about the Basset Hound.
“My hounds are bred out of a spartan kind
so flew,d so sanded and there heads are hung
with ears that sweep away the morning dew ,
crook kneed , and dew-lapt like Thessalian Bulls
slow in persuit , but matcht in mouth like bells
each under each.
It is not until the 1800’s that the Basset as we know it today can be traced. Sir Everett Millias imported a basset known as “Model” from France, and it is after this when interest in the breed began in Britain. The Basset Hound Club was founded in 1883 to encourage the showing and hunting of the basset. This club also had royal followers and the club grew in members .However after WW1 the hunting packs had weakened and as a result the Club wound up in 1922.It is only due to a very few over enthusiastic Basset lovers that the Basset Hound remained in Britain during this time.