A Brief History of the Breed
Basset Hounds in the Show Ring
The Basset, for its size, has more bone, perhaps, than nearly any other dog.
The skull should be peaked like that of the Bloodhound, with the same dignity and expression, nose black (although some of my own have white about theirs), and well flewed. For the size of the hound, I think the teeth are extremely small. However, as they are not intended to destroy life, this is probably the reason.
The ears should hang like the Bloodhound's, and are like the softest velvet drapery.
The eyes are a deep brown, and are brimful of affection and intelligence. They are pretty deeply set, and should show a considerable haw. A Basset is one of those hounds incapable of having a wicked eye.
The neck is long, but of great power ; and in the Basset a jambes torses the flews extend very nearly down to the chest. The chest is more expansive in the Basset than even in the Bulldog, and should in the Bassets d jainbes torses be not more than two inches from the ground. In the case of the Basset a jambcs demi-torses and jainbes droites, being generally lighter, their chests do not, of course, come so low.
The shoulders are of great power, and terminate in the crooked feet of the Basset, which appear to be a mass of joints. The back and ribs are strong, and the former of great length. The stern is gaily carried like that of hounds in general, and when the hound is on the scent of game this portion of his body gets extremely animated, and tell me, in my own hounds, when they have struck a fresh or cold scent, and I even know when the foremost hound will give tongue.
The hind-quarters are very strong and muscular, the muscles standing rigidly out down to the hocks.
Basset a Jambes Torses
The skin is soft in the smooth-haired dogs, and like that of any other hound, but in the rough variety it is identical with that of the Otter-hound's.
Colour, of course, is a matter of fancy, although I infinitely prefer the 'tricolour', which has a tan head and black-and-white body.
Aquarium Westminster Show 1886
From The Illustrated London News, May 18, 1886.
Note: Basset hounds, a basset griffon vendee and dachshunds were shown together in the early shows.
Bassets are divided into two distinct breeds the Basset Français and the Basset Allemand, which is the German Dachshund. So let us put this latter aside without further ado.
Now the Bassets Francais are divided into two classes the Basset a poll ras (smooth-coated), and the Basset d poll dur, more commonly known as the ' Basset Griffon.' From Cassell’s Illustrated Book of Dog.
Louis Wain 1887 illustration from the Kennel Club Dog Show at the Crystal Palace, London, England
This print, taken from a magazine published in 1888, was intended to portray the "standard" for the breed. On the reverse is a cutting from the magazine, written by the Secretary of the Basset Hound Club at that time, explaining the reasons why it was considered to be appropriate to describe the ideal breed type in the form of a picture rather than in words.
1890 illustration by Louis Wain of basset hounds in a dog show at the Crystal Palace, London, England.
I have now several clever Bassets a jambes torses (wholly crooked fore legs) in my mind's eye, and their general description would be about as follows: Height, between loin, and 15in. at shoulder; longish barrels; very crooked fore legs, with little more than an inch or two of daylight between the knees; stout thighs; gay sterns; conical heads; long faces; ears long enough to overlap each other by an inch or two (and more sometimes) when both were drawn over the nose; heavy-headed rather, with square muzzles; plenty of flews and dewlap; eyes deep set, under heavy wrinkles; fore paws wide, and well turned out; markings, harepied and white, black tan and white, tan and white, black with tan eyebrows, and tan legs and belly, etc. in short, all the varieties of hound markings will be found among them....
I hope that, in breeding Bassets for hunting purposes, owners will not neglect the heavy and somewhat ungainly appearance that they should have, and gradually get them higher on the leg and lighter in bone and body; by so doing they may increase the speed, but they will lose the endurance, and they will in time be nothing better than deformed Beagles.
I have already noticed a tendency in this direction in packs. If Bassets are not fast enough for a man, let him by all means keep Beagles instead. You cannot expect a Clydesdale to go as fast as a thoroughbred, nor would you think of breeding them to do so. Keep each to his real work: both are good, but their style may suit different tastes.
Basset Hounds as Pets
Queen Alexandra with her grandchildren and dogs, in a painting by Frederick Morgan and Thomas Blinks of 1902. This shows the Queen outside the kennels at Sandringham, surrounded by a variety of dogs including a Borzoi, two collies and two basset hounds.
Basset Hounds in America
Below is given the standard and scale of points of the Basset Hound :
Head 25 Coat 10
Neck and chest 10 Color 10
Fore legs and feet 15 Size and symmetry 15
Ribs and loin 10 Hind quarters and stern 10
■ Head — resembling that of the Bloodhound in shape and dignity of expression, long, rather narrow, and well peaked, with little or no stop. Jaws long, strong, and level; teeth rather small. Nose usually black; but some good ones have had considerable white about theirs. Mouth well flewed. Ears long, large, and soft, hanging like the softest velvet drapery. Eyes are a deep brown, very expressive, rather deeply set, and showing a good deal of haw; expression affectionate, intelligent, and good-humored, though occasionally reflective and melancholy.
■ Neck and chest — The neck is long, but very powerful, with flews extending nearly to the chest. The chest is well developed, overhanging, and extending to within nearly two inches of the ground
■ Forelegs and feet — The shoulders are of great power. Legs very short, and turning inward at the knees; and the feet, which appear to be a mass of joints, considerably bent out.
■ Ribs and loin — The back and ribs are strongly put together, and the former is of great length.
■ Hind quarters and stern — The hind quarters are very strong and muscular, the muscles standing out, and clearly defined down to the hocks.
■ Coat — The skin is soft, and the coat smooth and close, though moderately hard and very weather-resisting in quality, and when the dog is in condition, showing a beautiful natural gloss.
■ Color — The tri-color, which has a tan head and a black and white body, is much preferred; but they come in all the varieties of white and black-and-tan.
■ Size and symmetry — Bassets come in all sizes, from nine to twelve inches at shoulder and at from twenty-six to forty-eight pounds in weight and over. The best size is say about eleven or twelve inches at the shoulder and about forty to forty -five pounds in weight. The Basset has more bone in proportion to his size than any other breed, and his symmetry is an important point in his make-up.
No especial care is necessary in preparing Basset Hounds for the show bench, further than ordinary attention to health, condition, and coat. These dogs usually "show up" well on the bench, and rather appear to enjoy their outings at shows.
Basset Hounds are by all odds superior to Beagles for rabbit-shooting, beating them in nose, tongue, and staying powers. Their powers of scent are marvelous; and so well do they indicate their excitement by their waving stems, that as the scent becomes warmer and warmer one can tell almost exactly the moment when they are about to open on it. Their clear, deep, bell-like notes are far sweeter than those of any other Hound, and when they are hidden in cover, tell exactly what they are doing. When once heard, the clear ring of their notes is never forgotten. Their short, crooked legs seem almost incapable of being tired, and their natural pace is about seven miles an hour. For hunting on foot they are as superior to Beagles as for being shot over on rabbits, but their value renders a pack of any size out of the question. The scratch pack that the members of the Basset Hound Club kept, showed very good sport.
Basset Hounds have the best of tempers. I have never known of one to attempt to bite, except in the case of puppies when being punished for some misdemeanor or other, and then they did it from fright more than from ill nature. In fact, their disposition is a trifle too mild and inoffensive for a sporting dog; although they run game with the utmost keenness, and when their quarry is standing ''at bay" they will give tongue with the utmost fierceness, usually showing no desire to go in for blood, even in the case of a rabbit. In the latter case they would usually play with it as though it were a puppy, if left to themselves. Against other dogs, too, they seldom try to defend themselves.
Webmaster Note: The pictures and text on this page are posted here purely educational purposes. The webmaster feels that providing a history of Basset Hounds is important for the education of those who visit this website.
While this page was expanded in the first half of 2015 there are plans to continue the expansion with more details on the history of Basset Hounds. Perhaps additional pages will need to be added in the future. I have contacted a person with vast numbers of pictures and one who is much more knowledgable on the history of the breed than I am to assist with this task.
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Dogs on display at the 1891 Cruft's dog show
Crufts dog shows enjoyed royal patronage from the start. Queen Victoria's collie, Darnley II, and two of her pomeranians won prizes at the 1891 show. King Edward VII also entered dogs prior to becoming King.
Crufts' royal connection continued in 1897 when the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) entered six dogs, including the prince's lapland sledge dog. All six won prizes. In 1893, Tsar Alexander III of Russia sent eighteen Borzois to compete, and from 1916 King George V entered his Labrador Retrievers regularly. Every British monarch since has been involved in some way.
Queen Victoria also entered some of her basset hounds at Crufts as shown in the illustration above. The year of this painting is unknown.
According to the Basset Hound Club (UK) the Basset as we know it today arrived officially in Great Britain in 1866. Basset and Belle were imported from the well-respected kennels of Count le Coulteux de Canteleu, a famous French hound enthusiast. Their new owner, Lord Galway, described them:
They were long, low hounds, shaped much like a Dachshund, with crooked forelegs at the knees and with much more bone and longer heads than on Beagles. They were not the dark tan colour of Dachshunds but the colour of Foxhounds with a certain amount of white about them. Lord Galway's letter to Major C. Henseltine (who's later packs of basset hounds are shown above) that year is the first occurrence of the name "basset hound" in British literature and the first time it was applied to a specific breed . This is considered by many to be the first introduction of pure-bred basset hounds to England and their continued breeding on a scientific basis began.
As stated in the FCI Standaed for Basset Hounds, " The Basset was reputedly bred by monks in France in the Middle Ages to hunt in heavy cover and is able to hold its nose close to the ground. Though closely related to the entire family of French Bassets the breed was developed to perfection in Britain."
Two Bassets and a Briquette-sized wire hound from Le chien; historie naturelle, races d'utilite et d'ageement by Eugene Gaylot in 1867
Bassets shown by Pierre Pichot in 1863
Hunting with Basset Hounds in Great Btritin.
This section is under construction.
A Basset engraving from Oeuvres Completes De Buffon published in France 1830 - 1832
Bassets from Buffon's book on natural history 1797
Eng/Am CH Walhampton Andrew - 1925
This section is under construction.
Hunting with basset hounds is a comparatively new feature in British field sports. It dates back little farther than fourteen or fifteen years, and, in fact, may be said not to have been really established on a businesslike footing until the Messrs. Heseltine began to hunt regularly in the year 1891. It is not a sport which, for various reasons, is ever likely to oust beagles or harriers from their ancient popularity. In the first place, bassets are much more difficult to get hold of and more expensive to buy. In the second place, although they have wonderful noses and are most determined workers, they are, from their very conformation, exceedingly slow, and take several hours, usually from two to three, sometimes even more, to wear down their quarry. This style of hunting, although to the chosen few who love hound work before anything else most interesting to watch, is, to the average modem sportsman, inclined to be tedious, and most men would, therefore, prefer to take their pleasure with a faster type of hound. Still, bassets have come to stay ; they are now growing far more numerous than they were a dozen years ago ; many fanciers have become greatly attached to them ; there are a Basset Club and a Stud Book, and each season, among the list of packs of hounds hunting in these islands, there are to be found two or three packs of these bizarre-looking, but wonderfully handsome, hounds.
Before the year 1875, the basset hound was practically unknown in England. He had flourished for ages upon the Continent, chiefly in France and Belgium, as well as, to a lesser extent, in Austria and Germany, where he had been employed for various purposes connected with sport. But in England, prior to that year, the Earl of Onslow was, I believe, the only person who had ever kept bassets in this country. Lord Onslow had, in fact, a kennel of these hounds before the late Sir Everett Millais, who was, next to him, the earliest introducer of them, appeared on the scene. These had been presented to Lord Onslow by the Comte Tournon de Montmelas. In 1875 Sir Everett (then Mr.) Millais first exhibited one of these hounds, the celebrated " Model," which is still often referred to as a typical hound of this curious breed. The basset became quickly a fashion. Sir Everett Millais did much to encourage fanciers, and even wrote a monograph on the new importation,* and before very long — by the year 1883 — this hound had acquired so much of fame and repute as to demand a Club of its own, as well as a place in the Kennel Club Stud Book. Since that time, the march of the basset has, among connoisseurs who can afford the luxury of a new and somewhat expensive fashion, been a triumphant one. In 1883 there were but ten entries of these hounds in the Kennel Club Stud Book, In 1896 there were no less than ninety bassets entered at the Kennel Club Show.
Yet, although the basset has thus achieved a not inconsiderable triumph in a comparatively short period, he is still a somewhat scarce commodity, caviare to the general public. A certain number have seen him on the show benches, or walking abroad with his master ; few have watched him at work in the hunting-field. In appearance, the basset hound looks somewhat like a handsome foxhound — with long ears, deepish flews, and a somewhat old-fashioned type of head — set on extremely squat legs, the fore-legs, especially, being much bent inwards. As to the conformation of the legs, they give, at first, the impression of this hound having some kinship with dachshunds and the old English turnspit. But, as a matter of fact, they are totally distinct. The dachshund is a terrier, while the basset is a pure hound of very ancient descent.
On the Continent this race was, apparently, used very largely for shooting purposes, hunting the country for different kinds of game, and driving it to the guns posted in various positions. In the Ardennes, a bigger breed seems to have been used for driving wolves, boar, and roe ; this is the rough-coated kind, previously referred to. But in various districts this useful hound was, and is, employed for aU kinds of sport, including badger, vermin, and even truffles. A good truffle-hound is, of course, a real treasure. The basset is a most courageous beast and takes readily to the chase of wolf, which ordinary hounds are said to be not very keen about. It is even stated that a well-bred basset will hunt a wolf single-handed, which, considering his inferior size, must be taken as evidence of very high mettle.
The following exerpts from Hare-hunting and Harriers Chapter XVIII - Sport with Basset Hounds by Henry Anderson Bryden (1854 - - 1937) gives a good accounting of early hunting with Basset Hounds in England.
When these hounds were first used for hunting hare in this country, it was quickly discovered that, although they had wonderful noses and were infinitely persevering, they had certain drawbacks which required correction. They are inclined, as I have shown, to dwell too much on the line, and are somewhat too independent, and they are rather easily frightened by the whip. Still, within the last ten years they
The Walhamtopn Packhave shown excellent sport. I find, from my " Field " lists of hounds, that in 1895-96 three packs of bassets were hunting, viz., the Walhampton, the Wintershill, and the Wolvercote. In the next season there were four, viz.. The Walhampton, the Wintershill, the Delapre, and Mr. Moss's.
In 1897-98 the Wintershill dropped out, and the Highworth were added to the other packs. In 1898-99 three packs remained hunting — the Walhampton, the Delapre, and the Highworth. In 1899-1900 the Walhampton apparently held the field alone, to be joined in 1900-01 by the Stoodleigh and the Knowlton. 1901-02 saw two packs again hunting — the ever-faithful Walhampton and Mr. E. H. M. Denny's, the latter hunting from Chiddingstone Castle, Kent — the Knowlton and the Stoodleigh having retired. The Knowlton, it is to be noted, were mastered and hunted by Miss Gladys Peto, to whom two sisters and a brother acted as whippers-in. During the season, 1902-03, the Walhampton and Mr. Denny's were joined by a new pack, the Reepham, hunting near Lincoln.
The Walhamtopn Pack
The Walhamton Pack - The Kill
From these particulars it would seem that many people have tried hare-hunting with bassets for a short time, usually a season or two, and have then abandoned it. Whether they found that the sport was somewhat slow, or that these dwarf hounds required more time and patience in their education than they could afford to give them, it is beyond me to say. Probably both reasons led to their abandonment, after a brief trial. In some few instances, no doubt, the pack was started as a mere passing fad or fashion, the owner having acquired a few couples of these hounds and wishing to see how they would behave themselves in the field.
The Walhamton Pack - The KillThe Walhampton pack, as will be seen, have alone remained constant, season after season, to the sport which they inaugurated in 1891. They have been invariably mastered and hunted by the Messrs. Heseltine, Mr. Christopher Heseltine acting as Master, and Captain Godfrey Heseltine having usually carried the horn, except during his absence on service in South Africa.
Major Heseltine's Basset Hound pack is shown below in photographs from Hutchinson's Dog Encylopedia from 1935.
Mr. Everett Millais's Basset Hound Model
by Mr. C. B. Barber
CH. Grims Wishful -1936
THE Basset Français, or the Basset Hound, as he is known to us, is undoubtedly one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and has existed in France in exactly the same type that he does today for many centuries. The French, however, have kept no systematic records of sports and sporting dogs, and it is only within the last few years, since the English have taken up the breed, that the history of the Basset Hound has been collected and written.
They were down to the seventeenth century known in France as Chiens d'Artois, but since then this name has been transferred to and used only to designate the large Picardy Hounds, and the breed under discussion has been given the name of Basset.
The Basset Français and the Basset Allemand, or, as he is better known, the Dachshund, had undoubtedly a common origin; but the Basset Hound of today has maintained all the characteristics of a true Hound, whereas the Dachshund has some of the attributes of a Terrier.
The Basset was reputedly bred by monks in France in the Middle Ages to hunt in heavy cover and is able to hold its nose close to the ground. Though closely related to the entire family of French Bassets the breed was developed to perfection in Britain. He is a dog capable of hunting his natural prey, the hare, persistently at a relatively slow pace over prodigious distances.
The following page of illustrations from the ILLUSTRATED SPORTING AND DRAMATIC NEWS - March 1884, titled "A DAY WITH THE BASSET HOUNDS AT CAMBRIDGE." shows the scenes of hunting with Basset Hounds in their early days in England some examples of the breed and a little humor as well.