Chapter XLI - The Basset Hound
CLOSELY allied as it is to the Dachshund, the Basset Hound is, thanks both to ths popularity of the former breed and the energy of its own admirers, beginning to take a firm root on English soil. Mr. Everett Millais, of Palace Gate, South Kensington, London, is an enthusiastic admirer of the variety, and has spared neither time nor money in his endeavours to do it justice. As he has kindly provided us with some valuable and practical information on the breed, we think it desirable that his remarks should appear in the earlier portions of the article, as he not only alludes to the introduction of the Basset Hound to the show bench of this country, but also supplements his remarks with dates :
That the Basset Francais and the German Dachshund or Basset Allemand were originally from common ancestors I am not going to deny, but that the Basset Francais has preserved more especially his individuality is undoubted ; inasmuch as while the Basset Frangais, a hound in every sense of the word, reproduces specimens of his own type, the Basset Allemand, or German Dachshund, gives birth to puppies of a hound and also a terrier type in the same litter. Of course this shows the infusion of foreign blood at some period or other, which I hope soon to see eradicated.
That these two different breeds of Bassets are now quite distinct I am sure of. One has only to visit the Jardin d'Acclimatation to see them exhibited as such. In corroboration of my statement I quote a letter by that eminent French author, Mons. A. Pierre Pichot, editor of La Revue Britannique
, member of the committees on French dog shows, and one of the directors of the Jardin d'Acclimatation :
To the Editor of the Live Stock Journal:
The Basset Hounds, which differ in almost every point from the Dachshund, are, on the contrary, of every colour and both rough and smooth, and of these there are still more numerous varieties than of the Dachshund, the Bassets having in my own opinion sprung from the different local breeds of large hounds, and therefore connected with the Vendee, Saintonge, Artois, and Normandy types.
December 3rd, 1875.
I may here mention that the only Bassets yet exhibited in England have been of the Normandy type, a poll, and one of the Vendee type, a Basset Griffon. I have only lately received a letter from a gentleman in Wales who informs me that he has imported a leash of the latter hounds for rabbiting, and so I now hope to see an increase of them, as the only one I mention above is a dog belonging to Mr. de Landre Macdona a very fine specimen, but deficient in leather.
Concerning the first introduction of the breed into this country, my mind goes back to the Wolverhampton Dog Show, 1875, where my first Basset Francais was to make his dtbut. On my arrival I was directed to the Talbot Hotel, as being nearest to the Agricultural Hall. It was late when I got back to the hotel, after seeing my hound chained up under his appointed number, and having dined I descended to the smoking-room, where several gentlemen were taking their ease, and anarchy in the shape of dog-talk presided.
One of the gentlemen commenced to talk to me, and the following remarks took place :
- Showing Terriers ? said one.
- Bulls ?, said another.
- No, a Basset, I replied
- A what ?
- A Basset, I repeated.
- What's he like, said another, winking at the gentleman who sat next him.
- Oh, he's about 4 feet long and 12 inches high.
At this announcement there was a general desire to see the wonderful animal. I replied that I had already taken him to the show, but that I would be only too delighted to show him to them in the morning.
I merely mention this to prove that even the breed of the dog had scarcely reached the cars of those whose duties led them, before other people, in the way of hearing it.
Great was the excitement that day in the canine world when the hound was led into the ring, and at night many were the cups emptied by those who had seen the breed often before, but couldn't exactly remember where.
Amongst Dachshund fanciers the sensation he caused may be gathered from the various letters which appeared shortly after the Wolverhampton show, wherein my hound, weighing then between 50 and 60 Ibs., was pronounced by Dachshund fanciers, from a reported description, to be an overgrown specimen of their particular hobby.
These letters produced no results as to clearing up the doubts, so I determined to exhibit at the forthcoming Crystal Palace show not only my Basset Francais, but also a Dachshund. With the Dachshund I got highly commended, and with the Basset Francais first in the variety class. The following were the remarks on the hound by the Live Slock Journal after the show :
Mr. Everett Millais's Model was likewise amongst the winners (foreign class). This exquisitely pretty little hound was greatly admired, and acknowledged by Dachshund fanciers to be a totally distinct variety.
It was here that the Earl of Onslow, now the largest proprietor of these hounds, first saw a Basset Français. Struck by the singular beauty of the hound (which is a rich tricolour) he procured a pair from France. These, however, being aged, he again procured a couple and a half from Comte Couteulx (1876), viz., Fino, Nest'or, and Finette. All these hounds are of the Normandy type.
This year (1880) at the Crystal Palace the Basset Francais class was entirely composed of the above type, either imported or bred from imported parents, with the exception of two, one of which was Mr. Macdona's (Basset Griffon Vendee type) which I have mentioned before, and the other a tricoloured nondescript ; the Normandy type of hounds belonging to Lord Onslow and myself.
As in Germany anything with crooked legs is called a Dachshund, so in France for the same reason ' the anything ' is called a Chien Basset, for the simple reason that people do not know better. In England it is the same ; the word Terrier is good enough for the whole race, whether pure or mongrel. The other day I smiled on hearing men, who ought to know better, describe a well-known Skye Terrier breeder's team in the Park as Dandic Dinmont pups !
The word ' Basset' is such a large word, that to ask a French sportsman for a Basset would be precisely as putting the same question to him, substituting the word 'horse' for 'Basset'. You might want a cart-horse, a cob, a hack, a racehorse, etc.
In like manner there are various breeds of Bassets.
The word ' Basset,' which means a ' dwarf dog,' is applied to all short and crooked-legged dogs, and those which appear to have had an accident in their puppyhood.
I know many authors put this defect down to rickets, but I believe that these animals have been, like the mole, provided by Nature to do a certain work, which could not be done by those on high and straight limbs.
Bassets are divided into two distinct breeds the Basset Français and the Basset Allemand, which is the German Dachshund. So let us put this latter aside without further ado.
Now the Bassets Francais are divided into two classes the Basset a poll ras (smooth-coated), and the Basset d poll dur, more commonly known as the ' Basset Griffon.'
Both the smooth-coated and the rough-coated varieties are divided into three classes, and are named after the crookedness, if one may so express it, of their fore-paws. The names are as follows : The crooked-legged (Basset a jambes torses) ; the half crooked-legged (Basset a jambes demi-torses) ; the straight-legged (Basset a jambes droites).
So as to make my readers more easily able to distinguish the difference between the Basset a jambcs torses and the Basset d jambes droites, more frequently known as the ' petit chien courant,' let me refer them to the two engravings, reproduced from a well-known French book on dogs used for sport, ' Chiens de Chasse.'
The first engraving is that of the heavy Basset a jambes torses. Mark the high conical head, heavy flews, pendulous cars, and deep-set eyes. There is but one mistake in this drawing, and that is that the chest is not properly developed. It should come down straight to the ankle joints. A small ball may be observed, attached to the hinder hound's neck. This is a ' grelot,' and is put on for the purpose of letting the sportsman know where his hound is when in cover, but not on game.
The second engraving is that of a couple of Bassets & jambes droites. The reader will see at once that the flews have disappeared, and that the hound is of a much lighter build than the Basset a jainbes torses.
Now the variety of these names is very confusing, and for sporting purposes the intending purchaser must exercise his own judgment when making a purchase. Should his ground be flat and easy to get over, then by all means have the long, low, heavy hound with crooked legs ; but should it be of a stony and marshy description, with deep cuttings, etc., then one of the two latter. The rough-coated hounds are of course used for what might be called the hard work.
The Basset, for its size, has more bone, perhaps, than nearly any other dog.
The skull should be peaked like that of the Bloodhound, with the same dignity and expression, nose black (although some of my own have white about theirs), and well flewed. For the size of the hound, I think the teeth are extremely small. However, as they are not intended to destroy life, this is probably the reason.
The ears should hang like the Bloodhound's, and are like the softest velvet drapery.
The eyes are a deep brown, and are brimful of affection and intelligence. They are pretty deeply set, and should show a considerable haw. A Basset is one of those hounds incapable of having a wicked eye.
The neck is long, but of great power ; and in the Basset a jambes torses the flews extend very nearly down to the chest. The chest is more expansive in the Basset than even in the Bulldog, and should in the Bassets d jainbes torses be not more than two inches from the ground. In the case of the Basset a jambcs demi-torses and jainbes droites, being generally lighter, their chests do not, of course, come so low.
The shoulders are of great power, and terminate in the crooked feet of the Basset, which appear to be a mass of joints. The back and ribs are strong, and the former of great length. The stern is gaily carried like that of hounds in general, and when the hound is on the scent of game this portion of his body gets extremely animated, and tell me, in my own hounds, when they have struck a fresh or cold scent, and I even know when the foremost hound will give tongue.
The hind-quarters are very strong and muscular, the muscles standing rigidly out down to the hocks.
Basset a Jambes Torses
The skin is soft in the smooth-haired dogs, and like that of any other hound, but in the rough variety it is identical with that of the Otter-hound's.
Colour, of course, is a matter of fancy, although I infinitely prefer the 'tricolour', which has a tan head and black-and-white body.
The Griffons generally are like the Otter-hounds in colouring.
As to points, in a breed like this it is impossible, unless one had a class for every division. I hope, however, to see at the Kennel Show a class for the Basset Griffon, as well as for those of the poll ras.
Bassets are used for tracking boar, wolves, deer, and turning them out of the woods and copses. They are likewise used for pheasant and general sporting purposes, where game is scarce. To use them in this country would be impossible, but I have done so in Scotland on the hill-sides, where avenues had been cut in the bracken, and very good sport was the result.
Their affection is wonderful to their owner, but strangers they dislike. Their memory is wonderful. When at Lowestoft a friend, who lived in the next house, pushed my old dog from the door-step one day, to come in. Model deeply resented this, and never would allow 'that friend ' in without growling, and turning up his bristles like a clothes-brush.
Basset Hounds - the property of George R. Krehl. Jupiter - Fino de Paris - Pallas
I run mine as Beagles, and many people who have been with them infinitely prefer the sport, as they never run over a scent, and the pace, though a hard trot, is not too fast.
Comte Couteulx, from whom Lord Onslow and I got mine, writes the following in his book, ' History of the French Hounds ' :
"These Bassets have never been well known in England, though an eminent writer asserts to the contrary. It is only within the last four or five years that they have been spoken of as hounds for hunting, and even now they are very scarce in Great Britain".
At the first French dog show in Paris, 1863, many English visitors expressed their astonishment at this type of dog, which was so new to them, though the same general outline is reproduced in the Clumber and Turnspit breeds. In fact, though at the present time several English sportsmen may have in their possession some French Bassets or German Dachshunds (this kind being much used in Germany for hunting the badger), it may be said that these hounds are as new to the English " veneur " as our own existing packs of Gascony and Saintonge hounds.
The Count further goes on to state that the reason of this is the absurd and selfish way that French masters of hounds have (up to the time of his writing) kept secret the fruits of their experience, or, as the Count himself describes it, ' hide their hounds like stolen treasures.'
Mr. Everett Millais having entered so thoroughly upon the subject of Basset Hounds and being the recognised authority on the breed at present in the country, a very few lines from us will suffice to close the chapter referring to this class of dog. From the remarks of Mr. Millais few can doubt the high qualifications of the Basset for recognition as both a sporting and companionable dog, and from what we have learnt concerning him from other sources, we have no doubt but that his good character is a thoroughly well-deserved one. In appearance he is more showy than his relative the Dachshund, though it must be admitted against him that his greater size renders him a trifle less desirable as an indoor pet.
We can thoroughly endorse the above remarks concerning the affection of the Basset towards his master, and are convinced that there is a great future of popularity in store for this very engaging breed.
There is, however, almost the same difficulty before the Basset as a show dog, as there is in the case of his relative the Dachshund. We refer to the two types, the existence of which will always breed dissensions amongst exhibitors, unless one class is provided for Bassets a jambes torses, and another for Bassets a jambes droites.
Believers in one type will find it very trying to be beaten by a dog of the (to them) distasteful shape, and may be disheartened, and therefore possibly retire from exhibiting in future. However, a defeat under such circumstances is not so serious a matter as it would be in the Dachshund classes, where many of the supporters of one type maintain that their dogs are the only true representatives of the breed, and specimens varying materially from them are mongrels.
Amongst Basset breeders the existence of the two types is recognised ; and though a preference may be shown for one of them by any breeder, he must bear in mind that his neighbour's dogs, though differing from his own in formation, may be equally pure Basset Hounds.
Mr. Everett Millais's Basset Hound Model by Mr. C. B. Barber
The illustration, by Mr. C. B. Barber, of Mr. Millais's splendid specimen Model, is, in our opinion, an exact representation of that well-known dog, whose name will never cease to be associated with the introduction of the breed into this country.
Model has won the following prizes amongst others: Twice first Crystal Palace, first Brighton, second Alexandra Palace, second Agricultural Hall, and third Darlington. Such' performances, taking into consideration that he had to be shown in variety classes against dogs of all sorts of breeds, stamps Model as a remarkably successful competitor in the ring.
We append a table of weights and measurements of Mr. Everett Millais's Bassets, Model and Garenne, which he has kindly sent us for insertion.
Editors note: The same table also appears in The New Book of The Dog, published in 1907
|Height at shoulder
|Length of nose to set on tail
|Length of tail
|Girth of chest
|Girth of loin
|Girth of head
|Girth of forearm
|Length from occiput to tip of nose
|Girth of muzzle midway between eyes and tip of nose
|Length of ears from tip to tip
|Height from ground, forefeet
|Note: Lbs to kg to nearest 10g. Inch to cm to nearest 0,5cm. Conversion by basset.no.
As regards a scale of points for judging Bassets, we are of opinion that the scale given in the preceding chapter on Dachshunds
can be used with good results, and therefore refer our readers to that instead of repeating it here.