Basset Hounds are often recognized for their gentle, lazy disposition and their big brown eyes and long ears, but these dogs have a lesser-known history as hunting dogs. In 7th century France, hounds were being bred in different strains to produce hunting dogs for various purposes. One of the strains was the Basset Hound, which was bred to have short legs and a good sense of smell.
These Basset Hounds were used to hunt small game, especially rabbits, by sniffing them out and driving them into an open location where the hunters could see them. In the 19th century, the Basset Hound was first introduced to the United States, and the breed became recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. Today, Basset Hounds are ranked 36th by the American Kennel Club.
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Characteristics of the Basset Hound
Here is all you need to know about the appearance and personality of the beloved Basset Hound.
Basset Hounds are short at about 14” tall, but the breed is considered medium sized given that the dogs can weigh between 40-60lbs. Their backs tend to be long and they have a large head and body given their very short legs. These dogs have short, smooth hair and they are typically white with black, tan, or brown spots. The face of a Basset Hound is extremely recognizable, with large brown “puppy-dog” eyes, a long snout with a large nose, and extremely long ears that hang down from the side of the head. The Basset Hound is known for having the droopy hound dog look thanks to the wrinkled skin around the face, the long ears, and droopy eyes. The intentional breeding designed to maximize the Basset Hound’s capabilities for hunting has left us with a lovable and friendly canine whose looks match its personality.
Basset Hounds are laid-back and good-natured dogs who are friendly with everyone and everything. Children are no obstacle for these dogs as they are sociable and kind, though, as with any dog, it is important to teach children about the proper behavior around the animal. Basset Hounds love company due to their history of being pack dogs, making them great with cats, dogs, and other animals in the house. Despite all their friendliness, Basset Hounds are also incredibly smart and can learn to be master manipulators by using their big eyes and tail wags to get treats. They also learn to use their body language to get out of trouble when they break the rules, which may happen if they are bored or left alone for too long.
Given the Basset Hound’s long history as a hunting dog, these dogs are still programmed to follow their nose when they catch a smell. This makes them great for finding dropped food in the kitchen, but also means they need to be watched and secured whenever they are outside. An electric dog fence could be a great option to keep them from following a scent outside of the yard. Basset Hounds are relatively low energy, meaning they are suitable for a smaller home or apartment as long as they receive regular walks and exercise. Interactive dog toys are a great option for Basset Hounds to help expel energy, utilize their intelligence, and keep them from getting bored.
Caring for Basset Hounds
With their sweet disposition and unique builds, Basset Hounds require specific care. Here is what you need to know.
Given the large body and short legs of a Basset Hound, it is incredibly important to keep them at a healthy weight. Basset Hounds should be fed a high-quality dry food twice a day based on their size and weight. These dogs are prone to obesity meaning they should receive veterinary supervision, frequent exercise, and treats should be given sparingly. Basset Hounds will likely beg for table scraps with their puppy-dog eyes, but human foods should not be given as they may be toxic or bad for the dog. Fresh, clean water should always be made available for the dog.
Basset Hounds can be lazy dogs, however they were originally bred as athletic dogs with great stamina. Because of this, Basset Hounds are healthiest and happiest when they receive long walks every day so they can stretch their short legs and sniff their surroundings. In addition to walks, Basset Hounds may enjoy playing with interactive toys or puzzle toys. Basset Hounds love spending time outdoors where they can sniff, so an electronic dog door could be a great option for them to let themselves out. Keep in mind that Basset Hounds need a fenced in yard so they do not follow a scent outside of the property. Since Basset Hounds have such short legs, they may struggle to jump or climb stairs, so these activities should be kept at a minimum.
Having a mellow and friendly personality means that Basset Hounds respond well to kindness and consistency when training. Basset Hounds can also be extremely independent and may become stubborn if punished or treated harshly. Since these dogs tend to be food motivated, treats can be used as a reinforcement when training, although they should be given sparingly due to the breeds susceptibility to obesity. The best method to training a Basset Hound is to start young, even as early as 8 weeks old, and to socialize the puppy through training classes or taking them to a dog park.
Basset Hounds can have a variety of health issues, some of which can be controlled through proper breeding. When adopting a Basset Hound, ask the breeder for health clearances for hip/elbow dysplasia, hyperthyroidism, and Von Willebrand’s Disease. Outside of these issues, Basset Hounds may be faced with:
- Gastric Dilation-Volvulus
- Patellar Luxation
- Eyelid or Eyelash Problems
- Intervertebral Disc Disease
- Cherry Eye
- Combined Immunodeficiency
It is also noted that Basset Hounds are susceptible to skin infections where their skin wrinkles and folds, and ear infections due to their long, floppy ears. A medicated shampoo may be a great way to help prevent infection between the skin fold. Despite receiving a breeder health clearance against hip and elbow dysplasia, a Basset Hound can still develop these conditions due to excess weight and use of their small legs. To help prevent these issues, avoid having the dog do any excessive jumping or climbing of stairs, and consider using a dog joint supplement.