It occurred to me that while many of you may recognize Bentley as a Basset Hound, you may
not know very much about his breed. When most people think of the Basset, the first image that comes to mind is the old 1960’s Hushpuppies advertisements. Their tagline was “Hushpuppies are dumb.” Let me start by saying that is simply not true; at least for the breed. The shoes might be kind of dumb, but that is another story. Basset are definitely not dumb. Sure, they can be stubborn and think very hard about a command before they decide whether or not it’s worth their time to obey. When I tell Bentley to do something, I can see him pondering if the reward is worth his effort. Sometimes he thinks it is and sometimes he doesn’t. That’s not because he isn’t intelligent; he is just a free thinker!
Bentley was an adorable puppy ♥
So, who came up with the long-eared, short-legged hound? Just like the Coneheads from Saturday Night Live, they’re from France. The name Basset comes from the French word “bas” which means low. It is believed they are descendants of the St. Hubert Hound, the ancestor of today’s Bloodhound. Bentley’s sense of smell is second only to the Bloodhound. This is great unless you are trying to walk at a brisk clip. His nose often leads us to a complete standstill while he enjoys a good long sniff. This is why it is important to always keep him leashed. A Basset can pick up a scent and will follow it with total disregard to such dangers as traffic and getting lost.
The first recorded mention of a Basset Hound was in an illustrated book about hunting; La
Venerie written by Jacques du Fouilloux in 1585. They were used to track rabbits, hare, deer, and other game that can be trailed under the brush in thick forests. Bassets were first popular with the French aristocracy, but after the French Revolution, they became hunting dogs of commoners. They were popular because their slow gait made it possible to follow their dogs on foot. Commoners did not have access to horses, so this made the Basset an ideal hunting companion.
|Photo from La Venerie by Jacques du Fouilloux|
Lord Galway imported a pair of Basset Hounds to England in 1866 and they produced a litter of five pups. He didn’t show them, so they remained relatively obscure. Then, in 1874, Sir Evert Millais imported a Basset Hound named Model from France. He promoted the breed in jolly old England and started a breeding program with Lord Onslow and George Krehl. For his contribution in gathering publicity for the Basset Hound, Millais is considered the “father of the breed” in England. He first exhibited his dogs at an English dog show in 1875, but it wasn’t until he helped make up a large entry for the Wolverhampton show in 1880 that the public started to notice the breed. A few years later,
Alexandra, Princess of Wales kept Basset Hounds in the royal kennels. In 1882, the Kennel Club in England accepted the breed and two years later, the English Basset Hound Club was established.
"Hold that thought Mom. I'll get back with you!"
Even though the Basset came to America in colonial times, they didn’t gain prominence until the early 20th century. The American Kennel Club began registering Basset Hounds in 1885, the first one was a dog named Bouncer. It still wasn’t until 1916 that the A.K.C. formally recognized the breed. Bentley is registered with the Continental Kennel Club.
"Personally, I think that I make a perfect best friend."
The year 1928 was a major turning point in the breed. That year Time magazine featured a Basset Hound on its front cover to accompany a story of the 52nd Westminister Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. The feature was written through the eyes of a Basset puppy. That was the beginning of the popularity of the lovable dogs. They were ranked 41st among the 155 breeds registered by the A.K.C. in 2013.
I hope that you enjoyed learning a little bit about the history of Bentley’s breed. Please let me know in your comments. I’d like to feature some information on the Basset Hound in a series of Monday posts. Future articles will include the standards, the pros and cons of ownership, training, health, and other interesting facts that will help you decide if a Basset Hound would make a perfect best friend for you.
You can see Bentley's personal infographic explaining how he uses his "Basset Houndness" to his advantage here.