The American Book of The Dog

The American Book of The Dog

The Basset Hound

By Lawrence Timpson

THE Basset Français, or the Basset Hound, as he is known to us, is undoubtedly one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and has existed in France in exactly the same type that he does today for many centuries. The French, however, have kept no systematic records of sports and sporting dogs, and it is only within the last few years, since the English have taken up the breed, that the history of the Basset Hound has been collected and written.

They were down to the seventeenth century known in France as Chiens d'Artois, but since then this name has been transferred to and used only to designate the large Picardy Hounds, and the breed under discussion has been given the name of Basset.

The Basset Français and the Basset Allemand, or, as he is better known, the Dachshund, had undoubtedly a common origin; but the Basset Hound of today has maintained all the characteristics of a true Hound, whereas the Dachshund has some of the attributes of a Terrier.

The Basset Français is divided into two strains, the smooth-coated and the rough-coated; the former coming originally from the province of Artois and the latter from Flanders. Both these strains are divided again into three classes:
  1. the crooked-legged {Basset a jambes torses}
  2. the half crooked-legged {Basset d jambes demi-torses} and
  3. the straight-legged {Basset a jambes droites).
In France, all crooked-legged dogs are spoken of by the people generally as Bassets, the same as in Germany such a dog would be called a Dachs; so the term sometimes conveys as little (or still less) significance as the word Terrier does with us.

The six classes of the Basset Français that I have named all have their respective admirers; but for the purposes of this article I shall only take and describe as the Basset Hound the smooth-coated Artois strain, with crooked legs, as it is the type generally preferred and recognized.

All the six classes have a general similarity to one another. The rough-coated strain, or Basset Grifon (or Griffon), as they are called, correspond more closely to the English Otter-hound in coat and coloring, have more courage and worse tempers, and are much less desirable as pets than the smooth-coated strain. The half crooked-legged variety are lighter in build than the crooked-legged; and the straight-legged ones are much lighter and faster still, approaching, in the smooth-coated strain, more nearly to the English Beagle.

All friends of the Basset Hound owe a great debt of gratitude to the Count le Couteulx de Canteleu. He has for some years gone to great trouble and expense collecting all the information possible about the history of this ancient breed, in which he justly takes such a patriotic pride, and in obtaining the best specimens in existence in France, breeding them, and establishing the breed again in public favor. It is directly from him, or through him, that most of the English breeders have obtained their dogs. He is one of the few French noblemen of today who love and devote themselves to sport for sport's sake, living the life of a grand-seigneur on his magnificent estate.

The history of the Basset Hound in England begins in 1874, when Mr. Everett Millais first saw one in the collection at the Jardin d' Acclimation at Paris. He was so taken with the looks of the breed that he purchased and imported Model, whom he showed that year at Wolverhampton. Lord Onslow was, I believe, the next one across the channel to take this breed up, commencing in 1875 to form his little pack, which had so many merry little runs in the neighborhood of Guildford. Mr. Millais was forced, a few years later, to give up breeding and go abroad, on account of ill-health (Editors note: He moved to Australia), and Lord Onslow, for some reason, broke up his pack at the same time. About this time Mr. Krehl joined the ranks of the Basset Hound men, and the subsequent popularity and success of the breed in England is owing in a great part to his energy.

In February, 1883, at a meeting of the principal English breeders at 25 Downing Street, London, the Basset Hound Club was formed, for the purpose of encouraging the breeding of Basset Hounds for exhibition and for hunting purposes. The following members were enrolled:
Messrs. Blaine, Munro, D. C. Crake, G. R. Krehl, W. P. AUeyne, H. B. Watson, H. Wyndham Carter, G. Barton, H. Blackett, C. Collett, A. Masson, E. Durant, C. Blackburne, and A. Krehl. Count le Couteulx de Canteleu was elected president, and Lord Onslow and Mr. G. R. Krehl, vicepresidents; Mr. G. R. Krehl, honorary treasurer; Mr. H. Wyndham Carter, honorary secretary; and Messrs. W. P. Alleyne, E. Durant, H. B. Watson, G. R. Krehl, and H. Wyndham Carter, a committee.

It was proposed to form a pack for hunting, with its headquarters at Maidenhead — Mr. Alleyne, who was elected huntsman, kindly consenting to allow the club the use of his kennels there.

Ch. Nemours
Champion Nemours. Owned by the Maizeland Kennels, Red Hook, N. J.
About this time, too, Basset Hounds came into royal favor, as Mr. Krehl presented a brace of puppies — by Jupiter — to H. R. H. the Prince of Wales for his use in Scotland for rabbit-shooting, which gift His Royal Highness was graciously pleased to accept, sending Mr. Krehl, as a mark of his appreciation, a scarf-pin in the design of the Prince's Plumes, and the initials "A. E." set in brilliants. In 1883, Mr. Chamberlain purchased Nemours from Mr. Krehl, and brought him out to America for the Maizeland Kennels. To Nemours belongs the honor of being the first Basset Hound brought to America, except, perhaps, the brace by Jupiter that the late Lord Aylesford brought out about the same time to use for rabbit-shooting on his ranch near Big Springs, Texas.

In the following spring, 1884, the Westminster Kennel Club kindly made a class for Basset Hounds at the New York Show, and Nemours made his bow to the American public. The subject of our illustration, Champion Nemours (E. K. C. S. B., 14068), owned by the Maizeland Kennels, was got by Champion Jupiter (12152), out of Vivien (13340). He was whelped March 21, 1883, and was bred by Mr. George R. Krehl, Hanover Square, London. His winnings are: First, New York; first, Philadelphia; first, National Breeders' Show, 1884; first and two specials. New Haven; first, Boston; first. New York, 1885; second. New York; champion, Boston, 1886; first, New York, 1888.

The first to follow Lord Aylesford' s and Mr. Chamberlain's lead and import Basset Hounds to America, was Mr. C. B. Gilbert, of New Haven, who, in 1886, brought out Bertrand, by Bourbon, and Canace, by Jupiter. He has since bred a brace of good puppies out of them — Jose and Juan. The only others that have been imported and exhibited here, as yet, are Babette, by Merlin, who made her debut at New York in 1889, being shown by Mr. Charles Porter, of Philadelphia, and Mr. Cornelius Stevenson's Chasseur, by Farmer, who appeared at New York this year. I trust that soon these beautiful little Hounds will receive the attention they deserve from American fanciers and sportsmen.

Basset Hounds are by all odds superior to Beagles for rabbit-shooting, beating them in nose, tongue, and staying powers. Their powers of scent are marvelous; and so well do they indicate their excitement by their waving stems, that as the scent becomes warmer and warmer one can tell almost exactly the moment when they are about to open on it. Their clear, deep, bell-like notes are far sweeter than those of any other Hound, and when they are hidden in cover, tell exactly what they are doing.  When once heard, the clear ring of their notes is never forgotten.  Their short, crooked legs seem almost incapable of being tired, and their natural pace is about seven miles an hour. For hunting on foot they are as superior to Beagles as for being shot over on rabbits, but their value renders a pack of any size out of the question.  The scratch pack that the members of the Basset Hound Club kept, showed very good sport.

Basset Hounds have the best of tempers. I have never known of one to attempt to bite, except in the case of puppies when being punished for some misdemeanor or other, and then they did it from fright more than from ill nature.  In fact, their disposition is a trifle too mild and inoffensive for a sporting dog; although they run game with the utmost keenness, and when their quarry is standing ''at bay" they will give tongue with the utmost fierceness, usually showing no desire to go in for blood, even in the case of a rabbit. In the latter case they would usually play with it as though it were a puppy, if left to themselves. Against other dogs, too, they seldom try to defend themselves.

Puppies are rather hard to rear, especially in a cold climate, but the old dogs are very hardy. Even among the best-bred specimens, the teeth are sometimes very small, unusually many in number, and the lower jaw shorter than the upper. Basset Hound puppies are most whimsical-looking little beggars, and their big bright eyes have the softest, dreamiest expression imaginable.

There is something of an Old World air about a Basset Hound; his appearance has something quaint and mediaeval in it. It makes one think insensibly of old tapestries representing a grand chasse at the forest court of one of the old Valois kings at Fontainbleau, where the Basset Hound undoubtedly "posed", not only in his sporting capacity, but as the pet of the great ladies, who probably held him in as high favor as the ladies of Elizabeth's court did Basket Beagles.

Below is given the standard and scale of points of the Basset Hound :
  Value      Value
Head  25   Coat 10
Neck and chest  10   Color 10
Fore legs and feet 15   Size and symmetry 10
Ribs and loin 10   Hind quarters and stern 10
      Total 100
  • Head — resembling that of the Bloodhound in shape and dignity of expression, long, rather narrow, and well peaked, with little or no stop. Jaws long, strong, and level; teeth rather small. Nose usually black; but some good ones have had considerable white about theirs. Mouth well  flewed. Ears long, large, and soft, hanging like the softest velvet drapery. Eyes are a deep brown, very expressive, rather deeply set, and showing a good deal of haw; expression affectionate, intelligent, and good-humored, though occasionally reflective and melancholy.
  • Neck and chest — The neck is long, but very powerful, with flews extending nearly to the chest. The chest is well developed, overhanging, and extending to within nearly two inches of the ground
  • Forelegs and feet — The shoulders are of great power. Legs very short, and turning inward at the knees; and the feet, which appear to be a mass of joints, considerably bent out.
  • Ribs and loin — The back and ribs are strongly put together, and the former is of great length.
  • Hind quarters and stern — The hind quarters are very strong and muscular, the muscles standing out, and clearly defined down to the hocks.
  • Coat — The skin is soft, and the coat smooth and close, though moderately hard and very weather-resisting in quality, and when the dog is in conditioij, showing a beautiful natural gloss.
  • Color — The tri-color, which has a tan head and a black and white body, is much preferred; but they come in all the varieties of white and black-and-tan.
  • Size and symmetry — Bassets come in all sizes, from nine to twelve inches at shoulder and at from twenty-six to forty-eight pounds in weight and over. The best size is say about eleven or twelve inches at the shoulder and about forty to forty -five pounds in weight. The Basset has more bone in proportion to his size than any other breed, and his symmetry is an important point in his make-up.
No especial care is necessary in preparing Basset Hounds for the show bench, further than ordinary attention to health, condition, and coat. These dogs usually "show up" well on the bench, and rather appear to enjoy their outings at shows.

The American Book of the Dog (inside frontispiece 

Complete title:
The American Book of the Dog.
The origin, development, special characteristics, utility, breeding, training, points of judging and kennel management of all breeds of dogs.

George O. Shields (editor) with others

1891, Rand McNally & Co., Chicago & New York

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