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Get to Know the Basset Hound: Sad-Faced but Happy-Go-Lucky!

With one of the best noses of all dogs, the Hush Puppies hound hunts for love and adventure.

 |  Jan 21st 2014  |   1 Contribution


Everybody knows the Basset Hound, the low-slung, good-natured hound with a nose like a GPS. He's a study in contrasts: long ears, short legs; sad eyes, happy tail; couch potato, super sleuth! He's a big dog with stubby legs and a big voice and even bigger personality.

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Basset Hound chasing prey by Shutterstock

More interesting things about Basset Hounds

  • "Basset" dogs were mentioned in the 1500s, but it’s not known if these were Basset Hounds. That’s because the word "Basset" comes from the French "bas," meaning "low thing" or "dwarf," and was used for any dwarf dog in early days.
  • After the French Revolution, commoners took up hunting and needed a hunting hound that was slow enough to follow on foot since they didn't have horses. This was probably the beginning of the Basset Hound as we know it.
  • The Basset Hound is one of six recognized Basset breeds in France.

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Bassets are actually large dogs with short legs. Basset puppy by Shutterstock

  • The breed's short stature is the result of a genetic mutation causing dwarfism. The same mutation is shared by many short-legged dogs. The Basset Hound is actually a large dog with short legs. They typically weigh 45 to 70 pounds.
  • Bassets came to America in the late 19th century and were AKC recognized in 1885.
  • In 1928, a Basset Hound appeared on the cover of Time magazine, raising the breed's popularity as a pet.

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Those long ears drag the ground and help stir up scent. Beagle with blowing ears by Shutterstock

  • The Basset Hound is considered one of the most gifted scenting dogs in the world, second only to the Bloodhound. His long wide muzzle houses a large area for olfactory (scent) receptor cells, and it has the second highest number of these cells of any dog, right behind the Bloodhound.
  • His long ears drag the ground and stir up scent, while the supple, elastic skin around his neck helps trap the scent and funnel it toward the nostrils.
  • The Basset Hound is a member of the AKC Hound group. It is considered a scenthound, a dog that hunts mammals by following scent.

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"Who are you calling a droopy dog?" Sad-eyed Basset by Shutterstock

  • Like most hunting hounds, the Basset is naturally independent and prefers to think for itself. He is prone to wander off following his nose.
  • Most Basset Hounds area combination of white, tan and black, or of just white and tan.
  • Bassets have been featured in several comics and cartoons, notably Fred Basset and Droopy Dog.
  • The Hush Puppies brand shoes dog is the best-known Basset Hound. It became the new company's mascot in 1958, when a photo of a sad-eyed Basset Hound was purchased for $50. The company itself took its name from the Southern food, which was often thrown to dogs to quiet them -- just as the shoes were said to quiet aching feet, or "barking dogs" as they were called.
  • On television, Basset Hounds were owned by Columbo, as well as by Sheriff Rosco in The Dukes of Hazzard.

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Bassets in yard by Shutterstock

  • Elvis Presley sang "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog" to a Basset Hound on the Steve Allen Show in 1956.
  • Owners include Marilyn Monroe, Harry Anderson, Richard Dean Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Rex Harrison, Bob Hope, James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen, Dick Chaney and Anson Williams. Dixie Hall, wife of country music singer Tom T. Hall, was a noted Basset Hound breeder.
  • Three Basset Hounds have won the Hound Group at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, but none has yet won Best in Show there.
  • The Basset Hound is currently the 40th most popular AKC breed, down from 24th most popular a decade ago.

Do you own a Basset Hound? Have you spent time with one? Let's hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you'd like us to write about, let us know that, too!

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier

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