Basset Hound

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog … ,” he sang, while looking directly at Sherlock. According to Wikipedia, Sherlock was a Basset Hound wearing a top hat and the singer, on the Fred Allen television show on July 1st, 1956, was Elvis Presley.

Bassets certainly are one of the breeds of hound dogs, dogs bred to hunt by scent. In fact, only the Bloodhound, the ancestor of the Basset, has a more sensitive sense of smell. The Basset apparently evolved through a genetic form of dwarfism that led to the breed’s short legs. In fact, the name Basset comes from the French word bas, meaning low. Again, according to Wikipedia, the addition of the ending et changes the meaning to rather low.

But its short legs do not mean that the Basset is a small dog. In reality, a Basset is really a big dog who happens to have short legs. Still, these hush puppies only stand about 12 to 15 inches high at the shoulder, and sometimes seem to think of themselves as lap dogs. If you aren’t careful you might find yourself with 45 to 65 pounds of loving dog trying to cuddle in your lap!

Those short legs both serve the Basset well and cause him some problems. They keep his nose close to the ground for ease in following a scent, and they also prevent him from moving so fast that a hunter can’t keep up with him. On the other hand, they aren’t big enough to support his normal sized body for long in water, so swimming is not for Basset Hounds. And he shouldn’t jump off tables (or laps) because his legs and joints may not support his landing, and he can easily be injured.

As with his legs, much of the rest of the Basset is designed to help him hunt. His heavy, loose skin around the face, which sometimes makes him look sad, and his long velvety ears both tend to drag along the ground, trapping the scent he is following. And he has a fairly long tail which he holds upright when tracking, helping hunters find him in the bush.

According to Dogtime a picture of a Basset Hound showed up in 1585 in France. The breed appeared in England in 1866, was shown in an English dog show in 1875, and the United Kingdom Kennel Club recognized Basset Hounds in 1882. The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that Marquis de Lafayette first brought Basset Hounds to the United States as a gift to President George Washington to use in his hunting expeditions. However, the AKC itself did not formally recognize the breed until 1916.

They certainly are good small animal hunters, but do hush puppies make good pets? The Dog Breed Information Center seems to think so, claiming that the “Basset Hound is sweet, gentle, devoted, peaceful and naturally well-behaved. They fit into family life well. The dog is mild but not timid; very affectionate with its master and friendly with children.” They even adapt well to apartments, although they can become quite lazy (and overweight) without enough exercise. They are pack animals, and get along well with other pets (even cats, if they meet them at a young age). Housebreaking sometimes requires a bit of patience though. The Basset’s coat also works for indoor living as it is easy to groom, being short and smooth (and possibly of several different colors). They live about 10 to 12 years, and, if you breed them, will have usually six to eight (hush) puppies.

Even though they adapt to indoor life, Bassets do want exercise. They’ll play outdoors for hours, but it is not safe to leave a Basset Hound outdoors unwatched, particularly in urban areas. They are hunters, and if they pick up an interesting scent they will follow it doggedly (how else would they follow it?), to the point of tracking directly in the path of moving cars. A Basset can get so focused on tracking that he might not even hear his master’s voice. But next week (October 1-7) is National Walk Your Dog Week, and a good walk on a leash should do just fine. Then hound and master can go home, and the hush puppy can lie down while the master puts on his Hush Puppies and relaxes.

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