The Basset Hound is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family. The Basset is a scent hound that was originally bred for the purpose of hunting hare. Their sense of smell and ability to ground-scent is second only to that of the Bloodhound. Basset Hounds are one of 6 recognised basset-type breeds in France. The name Basset is derived from the French word bas, meaning "low", with the attenuating suffix -et, together meaning "rather low". Basset Hounds are usually bicolours or tricolours of standard hound colouration.
Bassets are large, short, solid and long, with curved sabre tails held high over their long backs. An adult dog weighs between 20 and 35 kilograms (44 and 77 lb). This breed, relative to size, is heavier-boned than any other.
This breed, like its ancestor the Bloodhound, has a hanging skin structure, which causes the face to occasionally look sad; this, for many people, adds to the breed's charm. The dewlap, seen as the loose, elastic skin around the neck, and the trailing ears which along with the Bloodhound are the longest of any breed, help trap the scent of what they are tracking. Its neck is wider than its head. This, combined with the loose skin around its face and neck means that flat collars can easily be pulled off. The previous FCI standard described the characteristic skin of the Basset, which resembles its ancestor the Bloodhound as "loose". This wording has since been updated to "supple and elastic".The looseness of the skin results in the Basset's characteristic facial wrinkles. They drool a lot due to their loose flews.
The Basset's skull is characterised by its large dolichocephalic nose, which is second only to the Bloodhound in scenting ability and number of olfactory receptor cells.
The Basset's short legs are due to a form of dwarfism (see: Health). Their short stature can be deceiving; Bassets are surprisingly long and can reach things on table tops that other dogs of similar heights cannot. Because Bassets are so heavy and have such short legs, they are not able to hold themselves above water for very long when swimming, and should always be closely supervised in the water.
The short-haired coat of a Basset is long, smooth and soft, and sheds constantly. Any hound coloration is acceptable, but this varies from country to country. They are usually Black, Tan and White tricolors or Tan and White bicolors. Tan can vary from reddish-brown and Red to Lemon. Lemon and White is less common color. Any hound coloration is acceptable. Some Bassets are also classified as gray or blue - this colour is considered rare and undesirable.
The source of colour is the E Locus (MC1R), which has four alleles: EM, EG, E, and e. The EM, E and e alleles are present in the Basset Hounds. The E allele allows for the production of both red and black pigments, so is present with the majority of colour patterns in Basset Hounds.
Red and Lemon colours are caused by the e allele of MC1R. The e allele is recessive, so red and lemon dogs are homozygous e/e. Lemon dogs are lighter in colour than Reds, but the genetic mechanism that dilutes phaeomelanin in this instance is unknown. No black hairs will be present on either Red or Lemon dogs. If there are any black hairs, the dog is officially a tricolour.
The EM allele produces a black mask on the face that may extend up around the eyes and onto the ears. This pattern is most easily seen on Mahogany dogs, although any Basset colour pattern may express the EM allele, except for "red and white" or "lemon and white" due to e/e.
Many Bassets have a clearly defined white blaze and a white tip to their tail, intended to aid hunters in finding their dogs when tracking through underbrush.
Like all dogs, the Basset Hound's coat is naturally oily. The oil in their coat has a distinctive "hound scent", which is natural to the breed.
The Basset Hound is a friendly, outgoing, and playful dog, tolerant of children and other pets. They are extremely vocal and famously devoted to tracking.
Basset Hounds have large pendulous ears (known as "leathers") that do not allow air to circulate inside them, unlike other breeds with erect or more open ears. Their ears must be cleaned inside and out frequently to avoid infections and ear mites.
According to the Basset Hound Club of America, the height of a Basset should not exceed 14 inches or 36 cm.
The Basset Hound's short stature is due to the genetic condition osteochondrodysplasia (meaning abnormal growth of both bone and cartilage). Dwarfism of this type in most animals is traditionally known as achondroplasia. Basset Hounds, Dachshunds and Bulldogs are a few of the dog breeds classified as Achondroplastic. This bone growth abnormality may be a predisposing factor in the development of elbow dysplasia seen in the breed, which leads to arthritis of the elbow joint.
Other health issues
In addition to ear problems, basset hounds may be susceptible to eye issues. Because of their droopy eyes the area under the eyeball can collect dirt and become clogged with a mucus.
Basset Hounds are prone to yeast infections in the folds around the mouth, where drool can collect without thoroughly drying out.
Overweight Basset Hounds develop many serious health issues, including bone and joint injuries, Gastric Dilatation Volvulus and paralysis.
The only recent mortality and morbidity surveys of Basset Hounds are from the UK: a 1999 longevity survey with a small sample size of 10 deceased dogs and a 2004 UK Kennel Club health survey with a larger sample size of 142 deceased dogs and 226 live dogs. See Mortality and Morbidity below.
Median longevity of Basset Hounds is about 10.3 years in France and 11.3 years in the UK, which is a typical median longevity for purebred dogs and for breeds similar in size to Basset Hounds. The oldest of the 142 deceased dogs in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey was 16.7 years. Leading causes of death in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey were cancer (31%), old age (13%), gastric dilatation volvulus (11%), and cardiac (8%).