The basset hound breed was initially developed in France as a hunting dog. Allegedly, the bassets that George Washington used in for hunting after the Revolutionary War were a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette. However, the breed was not exported to England until 1866, and it was not until the early 1880s that English basset hounds began to arrive in the United States.
With a sense of smell second only to the bloodhound, bassets are ideally suited for following a scent trail. Short-legged and slow-moving, basset hounds have always been a favorite for those who hunt on foot since they are easier to keep pace with than some of the faster hounds. Bassets were also good-tempered enough to tolerate being carried on horseback to hunting areas.
Their good nature makes basset hounds a popular choice for families with young children or individuals who prefer a non-aggressive — but not timid — dog. Basset hounds are famous for their patience and tolerance. Although it is always possible for any dog to snap or snarl, bassets are famous for tolerating actions, such as toddlers tugging on their ears, without responding in anger.
Two striking features of a basset hound’s appearance are the long, droopy ears and large, sad-looking eyes. The basset has been immortalized in numerous cartoons, typically portrayed as a comic character or having an extremely “laid-back” attitude and an inactive lifestyle.
The reputation for laziness is not wholly undeserved. Bassets are famous for napping around the clock and ignoring activities around them. However, to keep them fit, they need to be walked regularly. It is during these walks that bassets often display their tracking instincts. They love to follow scent trails, and they will do so during walks. Therefore, basset owners need to have at least some of their dog’s patience.
Basset hounds require little in the way of grooming. Their coats are short and smooth, and they should be brushed periodically. They do not need to be clipped or professionally groomed like poodles, for example.
At shows, the American Kennel Club looks for basset hounds that stand no more than 14 inches high. A basset exceeding 15 inches in height, when measured at the shoulder blade’s highest point, receives a disqualification. A healthy adult basset weighs typically between 50 and 70 pounds.
The tends to be more lenient when it comes to colors and markings, accepting any recognized hound color and color distribution. Primary colors include black, white, brown, tan and red, but bassets can also have lemon, mahogany or blue in their coats. The recognizes white markings, black mask, black markings and ticked for coat patterns. Most bassets have tricolor markings in tan, black and white.
Basset hounds are less prone to genetic health issues than some other breeds. Some bassets can develop back problems, such as arthritis, as they age or if they suffer an injury. However, because bassets love to eat, they can become obese, putting a strain on the back and contributing to or causing some acquired health problems. This same love of food makes it easier to train a basset by rewarding correct responses with a treat, but training should begin at a young age as bassets can become stubbornly set in their ways.
Bassets bond easily with family members, especially children, and they are extremely tolerant of other dogs and even cats. However, this love of family means that a basset will prefer to be inside with his humans most of the time. Lonely bassets can become quite vocal about the situation, emitting mournful howls that travel quite a distance.
For a family with children, it is difficult to find a better breed than the basset hound. They are even-tempered, good-natured, low-maintenance and loyal. These qualities make bassets an excellent choice even in homes without children or any environment where the desire is for a dog that is decidedly not nervous or aggressive. Anyone looking for a pet to become a member of the family should consider purchasing a basset hound puppy.