French Origins. The Basset Hound originated in France and is believed to be a descendant of the St. Hubert's Hound and the Basset Artesien Normand.
Hunting With Hounds
During the Middle Ages hunting was very popular among noblemen in France. One particular nobleman, Francois Hubert (656-727), had a passion for hunting. He loved all aspects of the hunt including horses, hounds, and the pleasures of the chase. It is believed that he kept and bred a number of hounds.
Legend has it that Hubert converted to Christianity due to a life changing event that occurred while he was hunting on Good Friday. Apparently, a stag appeared before him with a gleaming cross above its head and a voice reproached him for hunting and a life of excess and sin.
After this event, Hubert studied the priesthood and was later appointed Bishop of Liege. He founded a monastery in the Ardennes region of Belgium. Although he devoted himself to God, some accounts say that he hunted and kept dogs for the rest of his life. Others believe that he never hunted again.
After his death, the Abbots of St. Hubert continued to breed his strain of hounds. Subsequently, Hubert was canonized and was designated as the Patron Saint of Hunters by the Church. The monks named the hounds bred at the monastery the St. Hubert's Hound in his honor.
It is widely accepted that the St. Hubert's Hound, similar to the present-day Bloodhound, is an early ancestor of many hound breeds that exist today including my favorite, the Basset Hound.
Over many centuries, the St. Hubert's Hound was bred with other French hounds. Eventually, hounds with short legs and low set bodies were produced. The first use of the word "Basset" in describing a breed of dog with short legs can be found in early French text written in the sixteenth century. Whether these early Basset Hounds were the result of a genetic mutation or selective breeding is unclear. But, the French found them to be quite useful as part of the hunt. They could easily follow a scent through thick brush in the forest and flush game out into the open to be killed by the hunter(s).
After the French Revolution (1789), the common man, who usually hunted on foot, favored these slower moving hounds that were adept at tracking small game.
As the slower moving hound became more popular, the French utilized selective breeding to produce many distinct Basset breeds. Due to their lower set bodies, these hounds could keep their nose to the ground for long periods of time while relentlessly following the scent of their prey under brush in thick forests. They were bred primarily for stamina, not speed.
The Basset Artesien Normand, one of the breeds that was produced, is one of the lesser known of the six different breeds of Bassets that exist today and is still popular in France. It is considered to be an ancestor of today's Basset Hound.
Many traits of the early French Bassets that were bred for hunting endure in the Basset Hound breed that many of us have as pets today. Therefore, if you're considering a Basset Hound or if you already have one, understand that they have some inherent behavior and traits that one must choose to accept and live with.
First and foremost, the Basset Hound is a hunting dog. Specifically, it is a scent tracking dog, i.e. it hunts with its nose. As a matter of fact, the Basset's nose is second only to the Bloodhound in its tracking ability.
Due to its strong desire to follow its nose, the Basset Hound can easily wander off and get lost if left unattended in an unfenced back yard. Read my about page for a story about the lost hound that my husband found. Additionally, the Basset may ignore your commands if it gets caught up in following an interesting scent.
I found early on, that it was hard to walk with my Basset on a leash because instead of walking with me, he was always sniffing the ground and pulling me in the direction of a scent that he wanted to follow. When he was trained to heal, it became much easier to walk with him. But, I still like to give him a chance to pull me around and follow his nose since that's what he likes to do.
Basset Hounds were bred to hunt in packs. Therefore, they are very social and affectionate. Most enjoy the company of other dogs, pets, and family members and may even get lonely if frequently left alone for long periods of time.
Finally, Bassets were bred for stamina, not speed. Despite having great endurance, they do not make good running companions. So if you're looking for a dog to keep you company on a long run or jog, don't get a Basset Hound.
By learning about Basset Hound origin and history, I have gained a better understanding of my Basset Hound, Hunter. I hope that the Basset Hound origin information presented here has helped you gain a better understanding of this special breed.
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The Basset Hound is a man made dwarf. But, a single evolutionary event is the source of this breed defining characteristic.
My dog, Hunter!
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