The Basset Hound are quaint-appearing dogs are of very ancient descent, and have existed in France in exactly the same type that they present today for centuries. They are essentially hunting dogs, possess marvelous powers of scent and wonderful voices, their clear, bell-like notes surpassing in sweetness those of any other hound, and when once heard are never forgotten.
For hunting on foot they are claimed to be superior to Beagles, their short, crooked legs almost incapable of becoming tired. Their natural pace is about seven miles an hour.
Basset Hounds have the best of tempers. In fact, their dispositions seem to be almost too mild and inoffensive for a sporting dog, although when trained to follow wounded game, for which purpose they are most useful, they take up a trail with the utmost keenness and will never give up until it is brought to bay, when they give tongue fiercely, but show no desire to go into close quarters.
The late Mr. Dalziel has said of this breed: “Basset Hounds have excellent tongues for their size. They are willing workers, and when in good training and condition will hunt every day and thrive on it. They are clever at their work, and when game is missed when breaking covert, often succeed in `ringing’ it back within gunshot. As a breed the Basset Hound is highly prized, being, perhaps, the purest in existence in France. They bring large prices and many could not be bought on any terms. They are employed in hunting roebuck, deer, wild boars, wolves, foxes, hares, and rabbits, but where trained to enter on only one species of game will keep to it exclusively. They move slowly and allow plenty of time for the shooter to take his vantage station, hence their popularity in the estimation of shooters. They work best in small woods, furze fields, and the like, for they do not drive their game fast enough for work in the large forests. The latter are usually cut by streams and deep ravines set with rocks and boulders, which the short, crooked-legged hound surmounts with great difficulty, and while eventually they will bring their game out, the long time which they take to do so would seriously tell against the sport. It is therefore more practical to run them in the smaller coverts, where their voices can readily be heard through the hunt, directing the shooter to the proper posts of vantage.
In build the Basset is long in the barrel and is very low on his pins; so much so that when hunting he literally drags his long ears on the ground. He is the slowest of hounds, and his value as such cannot be overestimated. His style of hunting is peculiar insomuch that he will have his own way. Each hound tries for himself, and if one of them finds and “says” so, the others will not blindly follow him and give tongue simply because he does, as some hounds accustomed to work in packs are apt to do. On the contrary, they are slow to acknowledge the alarm given, and will investigate the matter for themselves. Thus under covert Bassets following a trail go Indian file, and each speaks to the line according to his own sentiments on the point, irrespective of what the others may think about it. In this manner it is not uncommon to see the little hounds when following a mazy track cross each other’s route without paying any attention to one another; in short, each of them works as if he were alone. This style I attribute to their slowness, to their extremely delicate powers of scent, and to their innate stubborn confidence in their own powers. Nevertheless, it is a fashion which has its drawbacks, for should the individual hound hit on separate tracks of different animals, unless at once stopped and put together on the same one, each will follow its own find, and let the shooter or shooters do his or their best. That is why a shooter who is fond of that sort of sport rarely owns more than one or two of these hounds. One is enough, two may be handy in difficult cases, but more would certainly entail confusion, precisely because each one of them will rely only on the evidence of his own senses.
In selecting puppies, look for length of head and a narrow skull, with prominent occipital bone; foreface deep and square, ears long and low-set, long body, deep chest, big quarters, and plenty of bone.
The chief points to look for in the selection of Basset Hound puppies at two to four months old and after, are: Very long head; narrow skull, showing occipital bone well developed; deep, square foreface; long, loose ears, set on low; great bone; long body; big quarters; deep chest.
The following description will act as a guide to breeders and exhibitors:
GENERAL APPEARANCE.-That of a large hunting hound of classic mien, with the Bloodhound type of head, the dog being merely dwarfed in the legs.
HEAD.-Long, very narrow, with occiput well developed, and showing no perceptible “stop” or indentation below the temples; muzzle deep, square at the end, and with heavy-hanging flews.
EYES.–Rather small, sunken, and almond.-shape, showing the haw with a soft pellucid expression and reposeful dignity.
EARS.-Very long, set on low, soft and velvety, and folding as in the Bloodhound. NECK.-Muscular and strong, but free from coarseness, with dewlaps well defined.
BODY.-Long, large, flat on back; ribs well sprung, and loins broad and powerful, with strong and powerful quarters.
SHOULDERS.-Sloping and laid well back. CHEST.-Deep, not broad, showing breast bone well developed.
TAIL.-Moderate in length, carried in sickle fashion and slightly “feathered” or fringed with longer hair on the underneath side.
LEGS.-The forelegs should be short, crooked at the knees, with large, strong, broad feet, turning slightly out. The dog must be perfectly sound on his legs-that is to say, he must not “knuckle over,” which is a fatal blemish. He can scarcely have too much bone, owing to the abnormally large body his limbs have to support.
COAT.-In the smooth variety the coat should be short and dense, the skin thick, yet free from coarseness; on the contrary, a certain amount of “quality” should be manifest, indicating high breeding. In the rough variety the coat should be about an inch and a half in length, and harsh to the touch.
COLOR.-The color should be distributed in patches upon a white body, as in the Foxhound, and the same colors are admissible, viz., black-andtan, hare-pied, or any recognized hound color.
VALUE OF POINTS.-Head (skull, eyes, muzzle, occiput, flews), 20; ears, 10; neck, dewlap, chest, and shoulders, 10; forelegs and feet, 15; back, loins, and quarters, 10; stern, 5; coat and skin, 10; color and markings, 10; character and symmetry, 10. Total, 100.