Basset Hound origins

Origins of the Basset Hound

Sir Everett Millais, was a prominent English breeder of Bassets, and history acknowledges him as the father of the modern Basset Hound.   Millais was convinced that the Basset Hound originated from larger French hounds, the now endangered Chien d'Artois (Artois Hound) [wiki] and the Chien du Haut-Poitou (Poitevin Hound), and those in turn from the St. Huberts Hound, mentioned earlier. 

Millais further postulated that, through selective breeding, low, crook legged versions of these Hounds were produced, in order to arrive at a slower type of hound, one that was more suited to a hunter hunting on foot.

Millais imported his Bassets from the Le Couteulx kennels - bred from Artois Hounds, whilst other English imports came from the French kennels of Mons. Lane - bred from the Poitevin Hound.  There was some breeding between the Le Couteulx and Lane strains, but the pure Lane strain effectivly disappeared - as they were not bred to each other, so here we will concentrate on the Couteulx Hounds.

Le Couteulx de Canteleu, in Manuel de Vénerie Française (1890), (Manual of French Hunting (1890)),  also praises the Artois Hound.  He reports that the artesien breed of his time was crossbred and difficult to find pure but, in spite of that, it still remained one of the best breeds for hare hunting. He has taken care, however, of placing representatives of the breed in the big kennel of the Jardin d’Acclimatation, so that it would be know by the general public. At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, M. Levoir in Picardy has attempted the re-establishment of the old Artois type without really succeeding.

During that period and until the beginning of the First World War, it was another Picard breeder, M. Mallard, who dominated the raising of the breed. But if he produced very pretty dogs, as witnessed by his numerous awards in canine shows, they were not always in the type conformed with the description given by the old authors. After the second World War, it was believed that the Artois Hound was one of the breeds lost for ever. But at the beginning of the 1970s M. Audrechy, of Buigny les Gamaches in the Somme, has fixed as a task to reconstitue the breed. It is thanks to his efforts and those of Mme Pilat that this breed regains its place amongst the scenthounds.

The book, Dogs of All Nations by Walter Espelin Mason, published in 1915, describes these hounds on pages 57-60. The book also makes a distinction between the Poitou Hound and the Poitevin Hound, but to all intents and purposes the dogs are very similar.

Chien d'Artois - Artois Hound Chien du Haut-Poitou Cien du Haut-Poitou - Poitevin Hound
Chien d'Artois (Artois Hound), Chien du Haut-Poitou (Poitou Hound) and the Chien Poitevin (Poitevin Hound) from the book Dogs of All Nations

Manuel de Vénerie Française

Read online: (in French)