Chapter XXII - The Basset-Hound
SINCE the time of the gentleman who at one time wrote over the nom de guerre
of "Snapshot", and who is better known to the present generation of doggy men as "Wildfowler", the Basset Hound has, in this country, attained to very considerable numerical strength.
The fact that Mr. Everett Millais, when acting as judge at the show held at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster, in 1886, had 120 entries to deal with, shows that admirers of the breed have not been wanting; and that exhibition was in strong contrast to the time not more than ten years before when Lord Onslow and Mr. Everett Millais were the only exhibitors of these crook-legged, slow hounds, and had to show them in the omnium gatherum class, which may be described as the show committee's finest-mesh net, that secures all the fish and finance that escape the regulation nets.
Though it will be necessary to take a closer view of the Basset in England since his introduction into this country, yet the following remarks, contributed by "Wildfowler" to the original edition of this work, are so interesting that they merit reproduction.
"Snapshot" was a frequent contributor, under that signature, to the Country and was also well known as "Wildfowler" of the Field ; he was the author of numerous canine articles and works, including "General Sport at Home and Abroad", "Modern Wildfowling" etc. His experience with Continental sporting dogs was considerable, which gives weight and value to his article on Bassets. He says:
"Any hound which stands lower than 16 inches (no matter his 'provincial' breed) is called in France and in Belgium a Basset. The derivation of the expression Basset is clear: bas means low ; and, therefore, Basset means low set, a very appropriate denomination as applied to these diminutive hounds".
The vast army of French and Belgian Bassets may be divided into three grand classes viz. Bassets a jambes droites
, ditto a jambes demi-torses
, and ditto a jambes torses
. And in each of these classes will be found three varieties of coats viz. the Bassets a poil ras
, those a poll dur
, and a class half rough, half smooth-coated, which is called half griffon.
The types vary for almost each province, but the general characteristics remain throughout pretty well the same. All well-bred Bassets have long, pendulous ears and hounds heads, but the crooked-legged breeds show always better points in these respects than the straight-legged ones, simply because, when a man wishes to breed a good Basset a jambes torses, he is obliged to be very careful in selecting the stock to breed from, if he does not wish his experiment to end in failure, for, should there be the slightest admixture of foreign blood, the 'bar sinister' will be at once shown in the fore-legs. Hence the Bassets a jambes torses show, as a rule, far better properties than their congeners.
In build the Basset a jambes torses 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, in as much that he will have his own way, and each one 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); but, on the contrary, they are slow to acknowledge the alarm given, and will investigate the latter for themselves.
Thus, under covert, Bassets a jambes torses following a scent go in Indian file, and each one 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, crossing each other's route without paying any attention to one another; and, 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 hounds 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 spoit 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.
I have now several clever Bassets a jambes torses in my mind's eye, and their general description would be about as follows: Height, between loin, and 15in. at shoulder; longish barrels; very crooked fore legs, with little more than an inch or two of daylight between the knees; stout thighs; gay sterns; conical heads; long faces; ears long enough to overlap each other by an inch or two (and more sometimes) when both were drawn over the nose; heavy-headed rather, with square muzzles; plenty of flews and dewlap; eyes deep set, under heavy wrinkles; fore paws wide, and well turned out; markings, harepied and white, black tan and white, tan and white, black with tan eyebrows, and tan legs and belly, etc. in short, all the varieties of hound markings will be found among them.
They have excellent tongues for their size, and when in good training and good condition they will hunt every day, and seem to thrive on it. They are very fond of the gun, and many are cunning enough to 'ring' the game, if missed when breaking covert, back again to the guns until it is shot.
Some of these Bassets are so highly prized that no amount of money will buy them; and, as a breed, it may safely be asserted that it is probably the purest now in existence in France. They hunt readily deer, roebuck, wild boars, wolves, foxes, hares, rabbits, etc., but if entered exclusively to one species of quarry, and kept to it, they never leave it to run riot after anything else. I have seen one, when hunting a hare in a park, running through fifty rabbits and never noticing them. They go slowly, and give you plenty of time to take your station for a shot hence their great value in the estimation of shooters.
They are chiefly used for smallish woods, furze fields, and the like, because, if uncoupled in a forest, they do not drive their game fast enough; and though eventually they are bound to bring it out, yet the long time they would take in so doing would tell against the sport. Moreover, large forests are cut about by ditches, and here and there streamlets, boulders, and rocks intervene, which difficulty the short, crooked-legged hound would be slow in surmounting. He is, therefore, not so often used there as for smaller coverts, where his voice can throughout the hunt be heard, and thereby direct the shooters which post of vantage to take.
As regards the coats of Bassets a jambes torses, there are both rough, half-rough, and smooth-coated specimens, but the last two predominate greatly; in fact, I have but rarely seen very rough Bassets a jambes torses. I saw three once, in the Ardennes. They were very big hounds for Bassets, and were used chiefly to drive wolves, roebuck, and wild boars. They were a poll dur with a vengeance, and, when 'riled', their backs were up like bristles. Of course, in these matters the hunters breed their hounds according to the ground they have to hunt over; and, consequently, in provinces of comparatively easy coverts, such as vineyards, small woods, furze fields, etc., smooth-coated or half rough-coated Bassets are in universal demand. In Brittany, Vendee, Alsace, Lorraine, Luxemburg, on the contrary, wherever the coverts are extensive and very rough, rougher-coated hounds are used; but poll durs are scarce, as far as diminutive hounds are concerned.
Bassets a jambes demi-torses are simply crosses between Bassets a jambes torses and Bassets a jambes droites. They are usually bigger than the former and smaller than the latter, although it must be borne in mind that there are several varieties of Bassets a jambes droites quite as small as the smallest with crooked legs. In short, there are so many subdivisions in each breed that any classification must necessarily be general.
The advantages claimed by the owners of Bassets a jambes demi-torses are these: first, these hounds are almost as sure-nosed as the full-crooked breeds; secondly, they run faster, and yet not fast enough to spoil shooting; thirdly, in a wood with moderate ditches, being bigger in body and higher on the leg than the full-crooked Bassets, they can clear the ditches at a bound, whereas the full jambes torses have to go down into them, and scramble up on the other side.
In points, they are pretty much like their congeners, but already the cross tells. The lips are shorter; the muzzle is not so stout in proportion to general size; the ears are much shorter; the skull is less conical, the occiput being not so pronounced; the body is not so long; the stern is carried more horizontally; the feet are rounder; the wrinkles in the face are fewer; the eye is smaller; and the coat, as a rule, is coarser. The increase in size is also great. I have seen such reaching to fully 16 inches; and I believe they had been obtained by a direct cross from a regular chien courant (fox-hound) with a full Basset a jambes torses. When sire and dam are both good, there is no reason why the progeny should not answer the breeder's purpose, but I confess to a tendency for either one thing or the other, and, were I to go in for fancy for that breed of hounds, I would certainly get either a thoroughly crooked Basset or a thoroughly straight-on-his-pins Beagle.
By the way, a black-and-tan or a red Basset a jambes torses cannot, by any possible use of one's eyes, be distinguished from a Dachshund of the same colour, although some German writers assert that the breeds are quite distinct. To the naked eye there is no difference; but in the matter of names (wherein German scientists particularly shine), then, indeed, confusion gets worse confounded. They have, say, a dozen black-and-tan Bassets a jambes torses before them. Well, if one of them is a thorough good-looking hound, they call him Dachs Bracken; if he is short-eared, and with a pointed muzzle, they cap him with the appellation of a Dachshund. Between you and me, kind reader, it is a distinction without a difference, and there is no doubt that both belong to the same breed. I will, at a fortnight's notice, place a Basset a jambes torses, small size, side by side with the best Dachshund hound to be found, and if any difference in legs, anatomy, and general appearance of the two can be detected, I shall be very greatly surprised.
That the longer-eared and squarer-muzzled hound is the better of the two for practical work there is not the shadow of a doubt; but, of course, if digging badgers is the sport in view, then the Dachshund Terrier is the proper article. But that is not to be admitted.
One cannot breed Hounds from Terriers, whereas one can breed Terriers from Hounds, and therefore the Dachshund Terrier is descended from the Basset a jambes torses. As for Dachshund hounds, they are, in every respect, Basset a jambes torses; at least, that is the opinion I have come to after a great deal of experience. Quarrelling about names is an unprofitable occupation. Never mind the 'Bracken' or the 'Hund,' since the two articles are alike. I say, from the evidence of my senses, that they must come from the same stock, and, since they cannot come from a Terrier pedigree, the Hound one is the only logical solution.
The Basset a jambes droites is synonymous with our Beagle; but, whereas our Beagles rarely exceed 14 inches, it is not uncommon to see some Bassets reaching even 16 inches. In France; still, it should be remembered that then, even among the French, appellations will differ. Thus, a certain school will call 16in. Bassets petits chiens courants (small fox-hounds
), and will deny them the right of being called Bassets, being, in their estimation, too high on the leg. I agree with them.
The characteristics of Bassets a jambes droites are a somewhat shorter face than those with crooked legs ; ears shorter, but broader, and very soft usually; neck a shade longer; stern carried straight up; good loins; shorter bodies, very level from shoulder to rump: whereas the other two breeds are invariably a shade lower at shoulder than at the stern. Some show the os occipitis
well marked; others are more apple-headed; the hair is coarse on the stern; the feet are straight and compact, knees well placed, thighs muscular and well proportioned; in short, they are an elegant-looking, dashing, and rather taking breed as a lot.
But in work there is a world of difference. The crooked-legged ones go slow and sure; the straight-legged ones run into the defect of fast hounds i.e. they go too fast occasionally for their noses; they are not, either, quite so free from riot; but wherever pretty fast work is required, and when the covert requires some doing in the way of jumping drains and scrambling over boulders, etc., then they will carry the day. They are chiefly used for large game, in pretty large coverts, and run in small packs.
For fast fun, exercise, and music, they will do; but for actual shooting, commend me to the Basset a jambes torses. With such a little hound, if he knows you and understands your ways, you are bound to bag, and alone he will do the work of ten ordinary hounds; and, in truth, there are few things more exciting to the sportsman than to hear his lonely, crooked-legged companion, merrily, slowly, but surely, bringing his quarry to his gun.
Some of the pleasantest moments of my life have been thus spent; and once, having shot two wolves that had been led out to me by a Basset a jambes torses, I fairly lifted up the little beggar to my breast and hugged him, and I called him a pet and a dear, and all that sort of bosh, and I thought that in all my life I had never seen a pluckier and cleverer little fellow.
In short, there is no doubt that, for purposes of shooting, Bassets, of whatever breed, are pre-eminently excellent. They run very true, and are more easily taught the tricks of game than full-sized hounds. This I have found out by experience. The average large hound, once in full swing on a scent, runs on like a donkey.
But Bassets seem to reason, and when they come to an imbroglio of tracks, purposely left by the quarry to puzzle them, they are rarely taken in, but, slowly and patiently setting to work, they unravel the maze, and eventually pick up again the wily customer's scent. Hence, for the man who can only keep one or two hounds to be used with the gun, there is no breed likely to suit him better than Bassets, for they are sure not to lose the scent, whatever takes place, and their low size enables them to pick it up when it is so cold that a larger hound would, perhaps, not even notice it.
They have also a good deal of pluck, to which they add a sort of reasoning discretion. To illustrate my meaning, I will give an instance to the point viz. very few hounds of any kind take readily to hunting wolves, and when they do take to it, they hunt in a pack, each hound countenancing the other.
Now, some well-bred Bassets will hunt a wolf singly. I have stated already that I have had myself the pleasure of killing two wolves that were, individually, hunted by one Basset. This, therefore, shows extraordinary pluck on the part of the little hound; for be it known that, as a rule, any hound or dog who comes for the first time on the scent of a wolf forthwith bolts home, or hides behind his master for protection.
On the other hand, Bassets are cautious. When they by chance come near a wolf, or a wild boar, or a stag, or any other wild animal on whom they could make but little impression, but who is, on the other hand, likely to do them an irretrievable injury, they never run the risk, but bay at him from a distance. As long as he chooses to stop they will not leave him; they will resume hunting him as soon as he will start, but they will only run at him when the decisive shot has been fired.
Some Bassets are used for vermin-killing (badger, fox, etc.); others are employed for pheasant-shooting, woodcock-shooting, and partridge-shooting, besides their legitimate employment in hunting ground game.
When used for birds, they are frequently called to, to keep them within range, and, generally, a bell or a small brass greloi is fastened to their collar, that the shooter may know where they are. Some men make their Bassets retrieve, even from water; and most Bassets will go to ground readily to fox or badger.
Finally, some peasants use their extraordinary powers of scent to find truffles. Their training for that sort of business is wonderfully simple. The hound, when young, is kept a day without food, and a truffle being shown to him, the peasant throws it into some small covert, or hides it in stones, or buries it lightly in the ground, and makes the dog find it; when he has done so, he gives him a piece of bread this sort of thing being repeated until the Basset looks readily for the truffle.
He is then taken to those places in the neighbourhood of which truffles are known or suspected to be, and the peasant, pretending to throw away the usual truffle, tells the dog, 'Cherchez / cherchez!' (' Seek ! seek !'), whereupon the little hound, diligently ferreting about the ground, soon comes upon a truffle scent, and begins digging for the tuber. At the first sign of that process the peasant relieves him, and digs out the precious fungus; and so on. There are some other species of dogs also used for that sort of work; but the Basset, owing to his acute power of scent, is mostly preferred by the professional chercheurs de truffes (Truffle Hunters)
. Some of these men, however, use pigs for the purpose.
Concerning those French Bassets which have from time to time been exhibited at our shows, some of them have shown fair points, but none of them have had the very long ears which one will notice with the Bassets in the foresters kennels on the Continent. Moreover, in the classes set aside for Bassets, I do not remember having seen a good Basset a jambes torses, though there were one or two fair specimens of half-crooked and straight-legged Bassets.
If my memory serves me right, the Earl of Onslow's were straight-legged, half rough-coated Bassets, with remarkably short ears. Mr. Millais's Model was a black, white, and tan, smooth-coated Basset, with very fair properties the best I had seen in England so far and a Vendean Basset was a regular Griffon. I forget now the state of his legs, but his coat was just the sort of jacket for the rough woods of Brittany and Vendee.
On the other hand, in the classes for Dachshunds I have seen some first-rate black-and-tan and also red Bassets a jambes torses, all smooth-coated. No doubt, eventually, classes will be set apart for each individual breed, and in such a case there is a very fine field yet open for an enterprising exhibitor wishing to produce Bassets in open court.
FIG. 52. The late Sir Everett Millais's Smooth Basset Model
Since the foregoing was written the Basset (hound) has, by importation and breeding, greatly increased in this country; and to all frequenters of shows this quaint animal, with his short, bandy legs and heavy body, has now become familiar; and a better knowledge of his intrinsic qualities has secured for him admirers, even among those who, on his first introduction, scoffed at him as a deformity, a disproportioned beast, with the clumsy gait and the abnormal strength often found in misshapen dwarfs.
This better acquaintance and closer study of the Basset have compelled a change in the view taken of the breed, and most unprejudiced persons are now ready to admit that these hounds possess characteristics worthy of the admiration of both the sportsman and the dog-lover ; consequently, they are no longer looked upon as when Mr. Millais first exhibited Model, at Wolverhampton, in 1875 as oddities or curiosities, only fit for a place in a museum of the Canida, and, as the rector's wife said of Di Vernon, " of no use in the 'varsal world."
There is reason for believing that the preceding article on the breed, contributed to the original edition of "British Dogs" by "Wildfowler", was a powerful incentive to that study of the Basset which has resulted in its becoming a recognised British breed.
Mr. Everett Millais (who died soon after succeeding to the title on the death of his father) imported Model in 1874, the portrait of which, drawn by Mr. R. H. Moore, from an oil painting by Sir J. E. Millais, R. A., is given with this chapter (Fig. 52).
Mr. E. Millais was at that time under the impression that Model was the first of the breed imported, and that hound was certainly the first of his kind exhibited at an English dog show. It appears, however, from a pamphlet ("Bassets: their Use and Breeding") subsequently written and published by Mr. Millais, and to which it will be necessary to refer on several points, that Lord Onslow possessed, prior to Model's importation, several Bassets, which had been given to him by Lord Galway, who had been presented with them by Comte Tournon, of Montmelas.
These are the first imported Bassets on record; but it would be against fair inference from undoubted evidence to suppose that Bassets, like other French breeds, had not been brought to England centuries ago, although the blood has been absorbed and lost in the flood of other varieties.
At the time, however, that Mr. Millais obtained Model, no other representative of the breed could be found in this country, and his owner, therefore, resorted to a Beagle cross, claiming that in the second generation he was able to show hounds at the Agricultural Hall in 1877 which it was impossible to distinguish from pure Bassets. He gave up this strain when Lord Onslow imported Fino and Finette from Comte le Couteulx, the breeder of Model.
The next great impulse towards popularising these hounds here was, undoubtedly, the importation of specimens from the best French kennels, by "Wildfowler" and Mr. G. R. Krehl; to a remarkable extent by the latter's Fino de Paris, a hound of great beauty and of concentrated pedigree, whose blood runs in the majority of Bassets of the day.
Fino de Paris deserves a few words to himself, so potent has his influence been upon the breed. Mr. Krehl showed excellent judgment in acquiring him in 1880. Mr. Millais, who could have had him at an earlier date, believed him to be Model's brother, but he had the bloodhound type of head to which we have bred since, while Model's was more on the lines of a Foxhound's.
Now we may trace the foundation of the breed as it is today in Great Britain. The union of Model with Lord Onslow's Finette produced Garenne and Proctor. The latter, put to Juno, a bitch imported by Lord Onslow, produced Cigarette, who became the dam of Medore by Champion Bourbon (Fino de Paris ex Guinevere). The alliance of Medore with Fino VI. (a son of Fino V. by Vivien, a granddaughter of Fino de Paris) resulted in the birth of Champions Forester, Fresco, Merlin, and Flora, all names of great moment in the Basset hound world.
The next potent factor in the establishment of the breed in this country came into play in 1883. It is related of certain voyagers that, when in immediate danger of shipwreck, and it was found no one of their number was capable of conducting the devotions suitable to the perilous occasion, a brilliant idea presented itself to one of them, who exclaimed: " Let us make a collection". In the doggy world, when a breed does not prosper as its devotees desire, some one possessed of specimens writes to the newspapers, and says, "Let us form a club"; and, calling a few friends together, a club is formed, and a standard framed to match existing specimens, by which all future dogs of the breed are to be judged.
In 1883, then, the (Editors note: English)
Basset Club was instituted, and the immense increase of these hounds in England is largely due to its influence.
The Club proposed to itself the task of defining the true type, of publishing a full and minute description of the breed, and also a book of pedigrees. A fourth edition of the Stud Book (originally compiled by Mr. Everett Millais) was published in 1900, having been corrected and brought up to date by Mrs. Tottie.
Turning, for the time being, from this part of the subject to a consideration of the uses of Bassets, it will be seen, from "Wildfowler's" contribution, that in France their chief use is in serving the gun, and especially in driving ground game from the coverts to the open glades, rides, or avenues, wherein the shooters take up their position; and although not kept exclusively to that work, yet there is no mention of them being used as we do our Harriers and Beagles.
At the time that Arrian lived hounds corresponding to the modern Basset were used for hunting, as we use the term, many centuries before "villainous saltpetre was digged out of the bowels of the harmless earth" for the making of gunpowder.
Such use of hounds was an absolute necessity of the then existing circumstances; and, no doubt, in times nearer to our own, Bassets were also used to drive game within reach of the bowman's shaft long before the "mimic thunder" of the iron tube roused the echo, as it sounded the death of hare or pheasant.
Bassets are now employed to a considerable extent in hare-hunting in this country, in packs, as Harriers are used, and, in many instances, with marked success.
Mr. Fred. W. Blain, of Bromborough, Cheshire, well known in the earlier days of the breed, wrote to the previous edition of "British Dogs":
"During the past few years the number of Basset-hounds in this country has greatly increased, and I am glad to see that they are growing in favour as sporting dogs. For hare-hunting they are excellent, and for some reasons I think they are preferable to Beagles. They are by no means as slow as most people imagine, and they will go on for hours at top speed, showing great endurance and pluck. Like most delicate-nosed hounds, such as Bloodhounds, Otter-hounds, and the old Southern Hounds, Bassets are inclined to dwell very much on a scent, and to be rather too free with their tongue; they like to work out every inch of the trail, and, as they invariably cast back of their own accord, they hunt best when left pretty much to themselves. They should not be pressed, especially at the beginning, before they are well settled to their work.
It is well known that the formation of a fair pack of Foxhounds is the work of very many years, even with the great number of drafts to choose from. With Bassets, the number a buyer can select from is very limited they vary greatly in size and build, and, of course, in speed; yet some people, having got together half a dozen hounds of all sizes and shapes, never hunted before, and probably bred from parents which for generations have not done a day's hunting, are disgusted because they do not show good sport.
Surely this is unreasonable. A certain amount of time and patience are required before a pack can be formed of, say, eight couple, well matched in speed, and hunting nicely together, but with such a pack splendid results are obtained, and I have heard old Beagle men most enthusiastic in their praise.
On a smaller scale very good amusement and exercise may be obtained with two couple or so, run on a plain rabbit-skin drag, or even merely letting them track their kennelman across country.
Let me advise any one trying Bassets for hunting not to attempt to teach them with the whip and harsh words, as they are very sensitive, and easily frightened, and in some cases never forget a thrashing. Headstrong they certainly are, and fond of their own way but this failing must be put up with; to those who know the breed they are not hard to manage, with a little tact.
I consider that, in making use of Bassets to run as Beagles, we are taking them rather out of their element, and, consequently, it will take time before they can be expected to be perfect at this work. For shooting where the coverts are too dense for beaters,
Bassets in France take the place of our Spaniels, driving everything before them, and making such a noise that neither boar nor rabbit is likely to remain in cover. This was, I think, their original use in France; but in this country game is generally too plentiful and highly preserved for them to be much used.
I hope that, in breeding Bassets for hunting purposes, owners will not neglect the heavy and somewhat ungainly appearance that they should have, and gradually get them higher on the leg and lighter in bone and body; by so doing they may increase the speed, but they will lose the endurance, and they will in time be nothing better than deformed Beagles.
I have already noticed a tendency in this direction in packs. If Bassets are not fast enough for a man, let him by all means keep Beagles instead. You cannot expect a Clydesdale to go as fast as a thoroughbred, nor would you think of breeding them to do so. Keep each to his real work: both are good, but their style may suit different tastes."
Lieutenant Munro was also the Master of a pack, which he regularly hunted, about the same period ; but from a note of that gentleman, quoted by Mr. Millais, he appears rather to have used them to beat rabbits to the gun than as hare-hounds. Lieutenant Munro says:
"Two years ago I had a very good pack of eight couple working hounds, all good hunting, and staunch. If one of my hounds gave tongue, I was certain that there was a rabbit. I used to shoot over my Bassets, and have often killed fifty couple rabbits a day over them. I believe, when bred carefully for this object, they are the best sort of dogs for rabbiting."
Speaking of the same hounds, Mr. Northcote, another well known admirer of Bassets, says:
"He [Mr. Munro] used them for rabbiting. I was delighted with them. Their lovely music, like a Foxhound ; first-rate nose ; and, after finding, keeping together in a pack after one rabbit, however many there were about to me was enchanting, adding considerably to the sport."
Mr. T. Pick, who had the care and management of the Earl of Onslow's Bassets, and who continued to breed these hounds, writing at the time when the Earl of Onslow had just given up the breed, and made a present of most of his dogs to Mr. Pick, said:
"They are the most intelligent dogs in the world. They are very keen hunters, and I have hunted a hare with them, with two inches of snow on the ground, for over two miles. I have also hunted a hare with them for a mile, over a dust-blown field, with a warm sun and a dry east wind, at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Once, when out with a pup a few days under four months old, named Proctor, a rabbit crossed the gravel path, and when the pup came on the scent he immediately gave tongue, and followed up the scent for about 400 yards, when the rabbit got into his hole. That pup had never seen a rabbit, or any other game, in his life before.
I once left a pup named Hector (now belonging to Mr. Ramsay, of Bray) hunting a hare or something, and, as I was in a hurry, I did not wait for him, but went on to Gomshall, a distance of four miles from home, thinking the pup would go home when he had lost me. But when I had just got to Gomshall, which was about one hour after, I heard him following full-cry ; so, after he had missed me, he got on my scent, and hunted me down, though I had crossed over ploughed fields, through very large woods, and through lanes, and on a track that I had never been before. The pup was only eight months old at the time.
The same pup was out with Lord Burleigh's hounds on January 1st, 1881, when only seven months old, and I had the chance of putting him on the scent of a fox, to see if he would hunt him ; and he went off full-cry at once, although he had never seen a fox in his life. I have hunted deer with them ; but the proper game for them is the hare. They seem to hunt more offhand than the Foxhound and Harrier, and they give more music, and are keener than any English hound ; and although they have short legs, they get over the ground very fast they take the scent so very easily, and don't seem to lose time in putting their heads up and down.
I was once out with twelve of these hounds in a strange country to them, and they were hunting a rabbit or something ; but as I had no whipper-in, and as it was late in the afternoon, I wanted to get home, so I ran away from them, thinking that when they could not see me, and found that I had gone, they would leave off hunting rabbits. I ran about a mile across fields, towards home, and after the hounds had their hunt out, and could not find me, being in a part of the country they did not know, they immediately got on my track full cry. When I found what they were doing, I ran as fast as possible to have a good start, but they soon ran me down."
From the opinions and experiences quoted, it is evident that the Basset may be turned to account in many branches of sport; and, notwithstanding some slight discrepancies in the statements, the whole speaks well for the utility of the breed.
Only one more quotation on this head is needed, and it is from the article by Mr. Krehl in "Stonehenge's" (Editors note: pen name of John Henry Walsh)
book "Deer and hares", says this eminently practical follower of the chase, "will actually play before the little hounds, stopping to listen to them coming."
The games the deer and hares play on these agreeable occasions are, perhaps discreetly, not declared. There is no beast of chase that does not use its ears in endeavouring to escape, no matter what the nature of the pursuer.
I have already referred to Mr. Everett Millais' essay on "Bassets: their Use and Breeding", which he subsequently followed up with "Rational Breeding". Mr. Millais has collected a mass of facts, and has so marshalled them as to show, almost to a demonstration, the results certain to follow the mating of Bassets, in certain proportions of blood, of the strains of these hounds then possessed in England. The book is not an inviting one on first dipping into it, but well repays digestion. On first reading it, it will probably appear an enigma; but a closer reading will disclose its sound common sense. The fact is, Mr. Millais has written for those who are supposed to know, and perfectly comprehend every allusion to, the types of hounds he speaks of; but there he is in error: he should have defined his types, in order to make his arguments clear to the uninitiated in Basset mysteries.
In a correspondence Mr. Millais declared that "type cannot be defined more than fashion". "But fashion", replied Mr. Hugh Dalziel, "can be defined; even a male creature, without being a milliner, can define and describe the difference between the type of ladies' head-gear that used to be called a 'cosy', and that irreverently named the 'coal-scuttle', up the long cavern of which those who would osculate had to venture as into a railway tunnel." Mr. Millais says: "Type is as changeable as fashion; were it not so, the Foxhound of to-day would be a very similar animal to what it was 100 years ago, which it is not."
On the question of what constitutes type there is a great diversity of opinion. Mr. Millais preferred a Basset tricoloured, with tan head and black-and-white body; but that is not type: the type that is to say, the generic characters of the Basset, as of the Greyhound, was accurately, and with very considerable detail, described nearly 2,000 years ago, and remains essentially the same.
As to our English hounds, the type has not been altered, but special developments, amounting merely to variations to meet altered methods of using the hounds, and the difference in the enjoyment sought to be derived from them, have been cultivated.
Our Foxhounds of today were formed by selection 100 years ago, to meet new requirements, but the modifications made did not interfere with the essential character of them as hounds. Those only who set up imaginary types to suit their taste as fanciers, of whatever breed, imitate, and may, therefore, be compared to the rulers of fashion in dress and other trivialities.
Mr. Millais was, however, good enough to contribute to an earlier edition of this work his views of the three divisions of Bassets existing in England namely, the Couteulx, or Fino de Paris; the Masson, or Termino; and the Lane holding the term Couteulx Hound, as applied to all our Bassets, to be a most erroneous nomenclature.
It is right, therefore, to present his views here, especially as they supply the great want in his essay, and should always be read, in conjunction with his remarks on breeding, by those interested in Bassets. Mr. Millais wrote:
"When asked, some seven years ago, to write a small article on the Basset for ' British Dogs,' this hound could scarcely be called a British dog, the breed having only just begun to have a footing in England. Since then it has largely increased, and may now safely be classed as a British production. Bassets may be classed in three divisions :
- Couteulx Hounds … … … … … … Smooth-coated
- Lane Hounds … … … … … … … … Smooth-coated
- Griffons … … … … … … … … … … Rough-coated
Of the first two varieties we have many examples at present ; of the third, only one, to my knowledge, has been exhibited in England namely, Ramoneau though the type is common enough at Continental shows. To go into minute particulars of how the Basset has had its origin, or how it has thriven in this country, is not the object of these notes; though it will be necessary, in dealing with the Couteulx Hounds, to show how the two sub-divisions, into which they must now be classed, have come about.
In the first place, before proceeding farther, it must be clearly understood what the terms 'Couteulx' and 'Lane' mean. When Bassets first began to be imported into England I refer, of course, to our present stock, dating back to 1874 our hounds were imported from the kennels of Comte Couteulx le Cantalou, of Etrepagny. After a lapse of a few years a new kind of Basset made its appearance on the show-bench, exhibited by Mons. Louis Lane, of Francqueville, near Rouen.
So far, then, the terms 'Couteulx' and 'Lane' were applied to hounds emanating from the kennels of these two gentlemen. Fresh importations, however, arriving, and no new name occurring to breeders' minds for these hounds, the term ' Couteulx ' has gradually come to mean any hound (smooth-coated) which is not a Lane, though, in truth, our smooth-coated Bassets might, with far greater advantages, be divided into the —
Couteulx … … … … … … Fino de Paris type.
Masson … … … … … … … Termino type.
Lane … … … … … … … … Ramono type.
I will, however, only speak of them as two varieties, the Couteulx and Lane; the former with two subdivisions.
These hounds are exemplified by two types :
- Fino de Paris type.
- Termino type.
Before proceeding to give the differences between the two types, it would be, perhaps, as well to understand how this has arisen. The following small pedigree table will show it :
Although Guinevre and Theo were bred from Fino de Paris stock on the dam's side, they were of quite a different type from Fino de Paris, or any other hound imported from Comte Couteulx's kennels; but they much resembled Bellicent, another of Mons. Masson's hounds imported into this country, which is a proof that this peculiar type is indigenous in his kennels. They must, therefore, have resembled their sire, which belonged to Mons. Masson. Bearing this well in mind, it is very easy to see how these two nearly related but different types have arisen.
On the importation of Guinevre, Theo, and Vivien into this country, the first-named bitch was mated with Fino de Paris. Had Guinevre followed the common rules of breeding, she should have given birth to pups of Fino de Paris type, but she did not; she chose to present one of them (Bourbon) in her own form, the type of Monsieur Masson's kennel, and that which I call the Termino type. The other pup, Fino V., resembled his sire, with the addition of some of his dam's quality.
Bourbon, being mated with his aunt, Theo, thus virtually breeding into the Masson or Termino side of the house, produced Chopette, a bitch excelling even her sire in points which make him so different from his Fino de Paris brother, Fino V. In Vivien we have a bitch of very weak Termino type, so complaisant ' as to throw both types whichever way mated, but who will throw her own, as in the case of Jupiter, a poor type-producer. In this way have arisen the two Couteulx types that we have at present on our show-benches.
Fino de Paris type
- Colour — Rich tricolour hare-pie, lemon, and white. The first object which strikes us is the brilliancy and general evenness of the markings : the tan is deep ; the black, saddle- shaped on the back, running into tan on the buttocks.
- Coat — Thick, strong, and at times crimped even to coarseness ; stern feathered.
- Head — In those unallied to the Terrnino hounds, flattish ; ears set on high and small, but should be domed. In those containing Termino blood, the head is large, well shaped ; ears hung low and of good size, with well-developed flews ; nose slightly inclined to be Roman.
- Eye — Dark, sunken, and showing a prominent haw.
- Bone — Good ; in those not too closely inbred, massive.
- Legs — Torses, demi-torses, droites.
- General Appearance — A fine large hound, of powerful physique.
- Examples — In the first instance, Fino de Paris as a type. In the second, Fino V., VI., Pallas II., Fresco, Forester, Merlin, Clovis, Eve, Texas Fino, Wazir, Aryan, Lselaps, Fancy, Fiddler, Flora.
- Colour — Tricolour (light), lemon-and- white, hare-pie, blue mottled. The tricolour of this hound is far less brilliant than in the preceding type, the tan being no longer so rich, whilst the black is distributed in uneven patches over the body, and, in addition to these markings, the hound is often "ticked," whilst frequently is to be seen a blue mottled appearance,
- Coat — Short and fine ; no crimping.
- Head — Domed, though in many of our best specimens this is not apparent.
- Nose — Strongly Roman, and finer than in the Fino de Paris hounds.
- Ears — Hung very low, and of immense length.
- Flews — Well marked.
- Eye — Dark, sunken, and hawed.
- Bone — Somewhat light, except in one or two specimens.
- Legs — Torses, demi-torses, droites, with an inclination to height.
- General Appearance — A fine, upstanding hound, well put together, and of high breeding.
- Examples — In the first instance, Termino (?), Guinevre, Bellicent. In the second degree, Bourbon, Chopette, Zeus, Beau, Beauclerc, Narcissus, Colinnette, Blondin, Dosia.
- Colour — Light tricolour, lemon-and-white, hare-pie (with ticking).
- Coat — Short, thick.
- Head — Should be domed ; somewhat large and coarse.
- Ears — Long, heavy, broad, and hung low.
- Flews — Well marked.
- Eye — Light.
- Legs — Torses.
- Bone — Enormous.
- General Appearance — A very big, heavy Basset ; coarse and clumsy, with enormous chest development.
- Examples — In the first instance, Ramono II. ; in the second instance, Gavotte, Blanchette II., Champion, Bavard, Chorister, Hannibal.
- Colour — Tricolour, blue-grey, hare-pie, lemon-and-white.
- Coat — Thick, hard, wire-haired, and like that of the Otter-hound.
- Head — Such as that of the Otter-hound, and well flewed.
- Eye — Dark and hawed.
- Ears — Long and pendulous, low hung.
- Bone — Good.
- Legs — Torses.
- General Appearance — A strong, active hound, powerful, and well knit together.
- Example — Ramoneau.
Readers of the foregoing interesting contribution, will readily see that type and fashion could each be defined; for in his article Mr. Millais has described not merely one type of Basset, but (including the broken-haired Griffon) four, and has thereby proved that he had estimated his own ability too modestly.
Perhaps the term "type" is too strong to apply to the slight variations described, which, in fact, amount merely to small differences in features, always showing variations in families. We would say of the Scottish Highlanders, they are of Celtic type; but the term would not be used to describe some minute difference that may have been observable between the Clan Macgregor and the Clan Macdonald.
It is, however, the order of the day, in regard to dogs, to sub-divide with such great minuteness that it is only given to those inspired with the peculiar afflatus of ''the fancy" to appreciate every microscopic difference dealt with.
It has frequently been urged that the points of a dog, of whatever breed, must, if worthy of appreciation, be capable of demonstration in terms comprehensible to every one.
Mr. Millais was certainly not one of those who cannot express in language the differences they distinguish in the animals they judge; and it will be acknowledged that he did good service in plainly stating the distinguishing features of the four varieties of Basset-hounds as they were types fixed in his mind. It is a decided advantage to have the points, or, as the old school of breeders called them, "the properties", of each breed defined.
If the definition proves to be wrong, or capable of amendment in any way, it can be done; but without a written definition we are left to the incompetence of egotists, who claim to be inspired, and able to see a something they call "character," indefinable by them, and invisible to all but themselves and the privileged few initiated in the mystery.
Though it is not difficult to accept Mr. Millais' distinction between the Fino de Paris and the Termino Hounds, the same can hardly be said of his theory of breeding, which appears to rest on an insufficiently solid basis, leaving out of account influences which sometimes assert themselves in a way to all of us inexplicable.
Fino de Paris was bred from brother and sister farther than his grandparents his pedigree is unknown. Termino is said, as a sire, to show more prepotency, stamping the character of his family against odds in favour of Fino de Paris; yet the pedigree of Termino is unknown. To square results, in this case, with the accumulated experiences of breeders, Termino's pedigree, although unwritten, must be the longest, and most free from foreign admixture.
The facts of the case appear to be that Comte Couteulx and Mm. Masson and Lane have each bred his own strain from the same common stock. It is, therefore, going too far to base a system on present results in England of any combinations of these strains, until several more generations of breeding from existing results are seen.
Most of the above has already appeared in earlier editions of this work, but it is of so much interest to present-day breeders that it has been deemed worthy of repetition.
Since the above remarks were penned, the Basset has increased enormously in popularity, both in the field and on the show-bench. Among the successful breeders have been, in addition to those already mentioned, Mrs. C. C. Ellis, who produced a remarkable succession of champions from her kennels, Mrs. Walsh, Mrs. Tottie, Mr. Harry Jones, Mr. F. B. Craven, Mr. G. T. G. Musson, Dr. S. Isaacke, Mr. W. W. White, Major Owen Swaffield, Mr. McNeill, Captain Stone, Mr. G. Ualton, Mr. B. F. Parrott, the Messrs. Heseltine, Mrs. A. N. Lubbock, Miss Wimbush, Mr. C. Garnett, Captain Crowe, Dr. Woodhead, Mr. Roberts, Mr. J. Stark, Mr. C. R. Morrison, Mr. Lord, Prince Pless, Hon. C. B. Courtenay, Mr. Kenyori Fuller, Mr. A. Croxton Smith, and many others. The King and Queen are acknowledged lovers of the showy little hound, and good specimens, mainly bred at Sandringham, are from time to time exhibited by them.
Quite a number of packs, too, exist for the purpose of hare-hunting, and it is pleasing to find that in the majority of instances Masters are breeding to type. One or two attempts have been made to produce a longer legged hound, but the idea has not met with favour, and most Basset-hound men of today will be thoroughly in sympathy with the concluding remarks of Mr. Blain, quoted on a previous page.
Below we give the points and description of the Basset-hound, originally drawn up by Mr. G. R. Krehl, and accepted at a club meeting in 1899 :
POINTS OF THE BASSET HOUND (SMOOTH)
|Head, Skull, Eyes, Muzzle, and Flews
||… … … … … … … … … …
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Neck, Dewlap, Chest, and Shoulders
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Fore Legs and Feet
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Back, Loins, and Hindquarters
||… … … … … … … … … …
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Coat and Skin
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Colour and Markings
||… … … … … … … … … …
|"Basset Character" and Symmetry
||… … … … … … … … … …
- To begin with the Head, as the most distinguishing part of all breeds. The head of the Basset-hound is most perfect when it closest resembles a Bloodhound's. It is long and narrow, with heavy flews, occiput prominent, "la bosse de la chasse" and forehead wrinkled to the eyes, which should be kind, and show the haw. The general appearance of the head must present high breeding and reposeful dignity ; the teeth are small, and the upper jaw sometimes protrudes. This is not a fault, and is called the " bee de lievre"
- The Ears very long, and when drawn forward folding well over the nose so long that in hunting they will often actually tread on them ; they are set on low, and hang loose in folds like drapery, the ends inward curling, in texture thin and velvety.
- The Neck is powerful, with heavy dewlaps. Elbows must not turn out. The chest is deep, full, and framed like a " man-of-war." Body long and low.
- Fore Legs short, about 4in., and close-fitting to the chest till the crooked knee, from where the wrinkled ankle ends in a massive paw, each toe standing out distinctly.
- The Stifles are bent, and the quarters full of muscle, which stands out so that when one looks at the dog from behind, it gives him a round, barrel-like effect. This, with their peculiar, waddling gait, goes a long way towards Basset character a quality easily recognised by the judge, and as desirable as Terrier character in a Terrier.
- The Stern is coarse underneath, and carried hound-fashion.
- The Coat is short, smooth, and fine, and has a gloss on it like that of a racehorse. (To get this appearance, they should be hound-gloved, never brushed.) Skin loose and elastic.
- The Colour should be black, white, and tan ; the head, shoulders, and quarters a rich tan, and black patches on the back. They are also sometimes hare-pied.
POINTS OF THE BASSET HOUND (ROUGH)
|Head, and Ears
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Body including Hindquarters
||… … … … … … … … … …
|Legs and Feet
||… … … … … … … … … …
||… … … … … … … … … …
|"Basset Character" etc
||… … … … … … … … … …
- The Head should be large, the skull narrow but of good length, the peak well-developed. The muzzle should be strong, and the jaws long and powerful ; a snipy muzzle and weakness of jaw are objectionable. The eyes should be dark and not prominent. The ears should be set on low, of good length and fine texture.
- The Neck should be strong, of good length and muscular, set on sloping shoulders.
- The Body should be massive, of good length, and well ribbed up, any weakness or slackness of loin being a bad fault. The chest should be large and very deep, the sternum prominent.
- The Fore Legs should be short and very powerful, very heavy in bone, either half crooked or nearly straight. The elbows should lie against the side of the chest, and should not turn out.
- Hindquarters should be powerful and muscular ; the hind legs should be rather longer than the fore legs, and should be well bent at the stifles.
- Stern. Of moderate length and carried gaily ; should be set on high.
- Coat. An extremely important point. It should be profuse, thick and harsh to the touch, with a dense undercoat. The coat may be wavy.
- Colour. Any recognised hound colour.
- Weight. Dogs from 4olb. to 5olb., bitches rather less.
The Rough Basset should appear a very powerful hound for his size, on short, strong legs. Body massive and good length, without slackness of loin. The feet should be thick, well padded, and not open. The expression should be kindly and intelligent. Any unsoundness should disqualify the hound.
Of recent years an emphatic stand has been made against unsoundness, and hounds that at one time would have won prizes on account of their beautiful type would now be sent out of the ring unnoticed. This is quite the right line to go upon, for the Basset is essentially a sporting hound, and every effort should be made to breed out unsound front legs or weak loins and quarters.
Though many people keep Bassets simply for show purposes or as pets, there is no reason why the working properties should occupy a secondary position in the esteem of the breeder.
Indeed, the writer would almost prefer seeing a sporting breed become extinct than suffer the degradation of being propagated simply for socalled "fancy" points. We should try for a well-balanced hound, beautiful in head, with the pathetic expression which is so much of his charm, short legs, with feet beyond reproach, well-sprung ribs, and deep chest.
Why some people should wish for longer legs it is difficult to imagine. The Basset was never meant for speed, and, rather than take away one of his chief characteristics, those who want a faster pack should take up Beagles instead. The note of the little hound is deep and melodious.
As with so many other varieties, persistent inbreeding for the maintenance of type has resulted in a greater susceptibility to distemper. In order to strengthen the constitution and also get an increase in size, the late Sir Everett Millais made experiments in the direction of a Bloodhound cross, and the results in the third generation were certainly striking. For some reason or other, however, breeders did not lend a ready favour to the idea, and no one has followed it up.
FIG. 53. Mrs Tottie's Smooth Basset Hound Ch. Louis Le Beau.
As a rule, sensational figures are not paid for Bassets, and quite a little excitement was caused at Cruft's Show in 1900 when Mrs. Tottie claimed Mr. A. Croxton Smith's Wantage for the catalogue price of £150. At an earlier day Mr. Krehl obtained a somewhat similar sum. The illustrations (Fig. 53 and 54) show the present-day type of hound.
Bassets vary a good deal in disposition. Some make delightful companions, becoming much attached to master or mistress, while others display a stubbornness which requires considerable humouring. On the whole, it is mainly a question of early training.
FIG. 54. Smooth Basset Hound Ch. Xena bred by Mrs. C.C. Ellis.
In choosing a puppy, select one with plenty of bone and substance. See that the ears are set on low and fold gracefully, instead of hanging flat to the side of the skull.
Beware, too, of those with very narrow heads they are likely to become snipy. The skin should be loose and fine to the touch, and the eyes should be deep set and show some haw, as with the Bloodhound.
The legs should be clean at the shoulder, without any tendency to bow out : the writer prefers them wrinkled down to the feet, which should be large and clumsy-looking for the size of the puppy.