The Basset Hound is an old breed originating in France in the 15th century. They were bred as hunters, being dwarfed to make them slower and more manageable on foot. It is certain that they were around in the 16th century as they are even mentioned by Shakespeare. The English took the Basset to heart when they were imported in 1870's by Everett Millais. Queen Alexandra also became a great lover of the breed, having several in her kennels.
Basset popularity had its ups and downs in the 20th century. The lowest point was during the 2nd World War, where numbers fell to an all time low. The survival of the breed is due entirely to Miss Peggy Keevil, who managed to keep a nucleus of good hounds and after the war imported Bassets from France and America to provide much needed fresh blood.
In the 1960's there was an explosion in popularity, mainly due to the Hush Puppies shoes. This was not an entirely happy period for Bassets, as many irresponsible people saw this as a way of making money. Luckily numbers have now stabilised, though there is still a problem with puppy farmers breeding untypical hounds with bad temperaments and selling them to unsuitable homes. If you want a Basset puppy, please make sure you buy from a recognised breeder.
Basset Hounds were prized for their extremely good sense of smell and for following a scent with great persistence. The persistent side of the breed must always be remembered as it still dominates their character.
Bassets are pack animals who are good-tempered affectionate and loyal. They are very sociable, loving the company of both humans and other animals. A Basset regards his owners as members of the pack and it is natural for him to try and work his way up in the pecking order hoping to become the leader. This is tried out in various ways, and part of their charm for many is in their convenient deafness - or stubborn disobedience! They usually don't take 'NO' for an answer the first time - or even the tenth! A Basset is very good at pretending to be fast asleep - but open the oven door when the joint is cooking and he will be there!
Basset Hounds are not usually destructive, and as long as there is a bone or something to chew, he will leave your furniture alone. Some people think they are a lazy breed, but just show them their lead and you will have no peace until they have taken you out and walked the socks off you!
Basset Hounds are a pretty healthy breed, but there a few things that may crop up.
Malassezia Pachydermatis - this is a yeast problem which we have learnt a great deal about and seems to be lessening. There is a good shampoo which keeps it under control.
Eye problems include occasional problems with entropion (where the eyelids turn in), Dry Eye and Closed Angle Glaucoma (Gonioscopy can give a good idea if a hound is pre-disposed to this).
Slipping Patellas (kneecaps) and growth plate damage on front legs (mainly due to Basset puppies being allowed to jump on and off furniture and up & down stairs while their joints are still growing). Also disc problems can occur if a Basset Hound is obese and not exercised.
Gastric Torsion (bloat) - usually happens in older hounds.