The Basset Hound traces its origins back to pre-revolutionary France (around the 1500s) when low stature hounds were commonly used to hunt rabbit. The name is derived from the french word “bas,” meaning “low.” By the 1800s, The Basset Hound breed had made its way to England where it became quite popular as both hunting and companion dog.
Basset Hounds are known as a chondrodystrophic breed which indicates that they have very short legs in comparison to the size of their trunk. This low rider trait is also seen in Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis and other breeds, that is the result of a genetic mutation that expresses as a form of canine dwarfism. While it creates a unique look and gait that is appealing to many dog enthusiasts, chrondrodystrophic breed characteristics are less than ideal from an orthopedic standpoint. Their short legs generally make them rather slow and prone to injuries and angular limb deformities (see Disease Predispositions below).
Basset Hounds make up for their slowness with an extremely keen sense of smell, believed to be second only to the Blood Hound. This makes them invaluable prey trackers. While a Bassett Hound is hardly ever going to be able to catch a rabbit, it most certainly can sniff one down.
Basset Hounds have characteristically long ears, droopy faces, and often have deep facial folds (see Disease Predispositions for health issues that may arise from this.
Height: 1-2 feet at the shoulders
Weight: 50-70 pounds
Exercise Requirement: Daily walk will suffice
Life Span: 10-12 years
Basset Hounds are very affectionate dogs, will give a lot of love, but require a lot in return. With most Basset Hounds weighing in north of 50 pounds, while they may not technically lap dogs, they do not accept this and will snuggle up with anyone that will have them.
They are highly intelligent and intuitive dogs, but do not think for one moment that this translates into ease of training. Basset Hounds are notoriously stubborn and resistant to training, so obedience training should start early and be engaged in often. For dog owners that do not have training experience, a professional dog trainer is advised. House training also often presents a challenge for Basset Hounds.
For some Basset Hounds, the hunting urge is still strong, which my encourage them to wander off following their nose if not effectively confined or restrained. Training will go a long way toward preventing the tendency to wander.
Basset Hounds love to eat, so food intake must be regulated. It is not uncommon to see obese Basset Hounds as the result of owners not gauging their food intake…they will generally eat as much as you will offer them.
Basset Hounds thrive best with a yard to roam free in, but can adapt to apartment living, provided they have ample walks to provide exercise and fulfill their passion to sniff. They are not effective watch dogs. While they may bark at the sight of an intruder, they are most likely to great the intruder with a warm welcome rather than discourage their presence.
As Basset Hounds age, it is important for owners to encourage exercise. Middle to senior aged Basset Hounds tend to be very lazy and would otherwise be content laying on the couch all day.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.