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The Basset Hound is a short-legged breed of dog of the hound family, as well as one of six recognized Basset breeds in France. The Basset is a scent hound that was originally bred for the purpose of hunting hare. Their sense of smell for tracking is second only to that of the Bloodhound. The name Basset is derived from the French word bas, meaning “low”, with the attenuating suffix -et meaning “small”, together meaning “rather low”. Basset Hounds are usually bi-colours or tricolors of standard hound colouration.
In this article, “Basset” (with a capital B) is used to distinguish the modern breed from other basset-type dogs.
Bassets are large, short, solid and long, with curved saber 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 looseness of the skin results in the Basset’s characteristic facial wrinkles. The Basset’s skull is characterized by its large dolichocephalic nose, which is second only to the Bloodhound in scenting ability and number of olfactory receptor cells.
The Basset Hound is a friendly, outgoing, and playful dog, tolerant of children and other pets.
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. This can result in infections and ear mites if their ears are not kept clean and dry
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 the 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.
The earliest-known depictions of short-legged hunting dogs are engravings from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. Mummified remains of short-legged dogs from that period have been uncovered in the Dog Catacombs of Saqqara, Egypt. Scent Hounds were used for hunting in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
The modern Basset Hound was bred to hunt rabbits and hare in France, a country known for its development of many breeds of scent hound. Hunting with a pack of bassets is still not uncommon in France and the UK, although it seldom occurs in the United States.