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Essentially a scent hound, the Basset Fauve De Bretagne is descended from the now-extinct Grand Fauve De Bretagne, a large hunting hound used in the ancient kingdom of Brittany in France.
Bred to be a useful hunting dog, the basset is the smallest of the Fauve De Bretagne breeds, with the larger Grand now extinct. The middle Griffon is also an exceptionally rare breed - much rarer than the Basset.
It is thought that Basset numbers were so low in France following World War II; the Fauve De Bretagne had to be rescued by using some of the remaining animals and crossing these with other types including the Petit Basset Griffon VendÃ©en as well as the wirehaired Dachshund. The Kennel Club in France however, maintain that this is not the case and that numbers were never small enough to warrant genetic input from other breeds.
Many experts suggest that the Grand Fauve De Bretagne was brought to the UK in the 16th Century to strengthen existing hunting packs in England and Wales. There is little documentary evidence to support this, although hounds that resemble the Grand - particularly in Welsh foxhound packs can still sometimes be seen. Some Otterhounds can also display Grand characteristics, which again appears to support this hypothesis.
Having been on the UK Kennel Club rare breeds list for some time, the Basset finally came off in 2007 after gaining popularity as a show animal and as a pet. The Basset was first registered by the UK KC in 1991.
Average height to withers: 12" - 15"
Average weight: 16 - 18 kg
A small (ish!) but solidly built hound, the breed is reminiscent of the Basset Hound but is finer and has longer legs. Some examples have been known go grow as tall as a Labrador, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
The Basset boasts a rough, dense coat that usually needs stripping, but is perfect for keeping the elements out - essential for a hunting animal. The fur on the ears is usually darker and finer than on the body, the eyes and nose should be dark and the breed standards state they should have no crook in the front legs. The ears should be pleated and reach the nose rather than the floor and accepted colourways include fawn, wheaten and red.
Some examples arrive with black patches which might disappear as the animal gets older. Less frequent are white patches in the fur; neither black nor white areas are accepted according to breed standards. Whether red or fawn, the colour should always be solid notwithstanding the slightly darker ears.
Basset Fauve De Bretagnes are affectionate, playful little dogs which make great pets and are very good with children. However, it must be remembered that they are hunting animals and never really lose their love of the chase. Because of this they may not suit everybody.
They do have the tendency to 'get lost' in the hunt and forget about anything else that may be going on, and can wander off. They are quick and agile enough to worry rabbits so care must be taken regarding if, and when, they are given off-lead time. Any training given can soon be forgotten when there's a fresh scent to follow!
The Basset's breeding has developed a very independent mind so basic training when young will be beneficial, although any owner should not expect total co operation 100% of time!
The cheerful Basset is just about the right size to make a great house dog, although his love of the great outdoors should never be underestimated and a romp in the fields should be a regular occurrence.
An interesting characteristic of the breed is that they can easily convey when they are unsure or nervous as their eyes become clear and their ears move outwards.
The Basset is a robust dog and if cared for properly - including plenty of fresh air - they can live up to 14 years, although 10 years is more likely.
Following a breed survey carried out in 2004, the UK Kennel Club found the most likely causes of death in the Basset are road traffic accidents, cancer, and heart or kidney failure. It's a widely held belief that road accidents occur due to the dog's love of the scent and its tendency to go AWOL.
There are a few health issues that commonly occur within the breed including reproductive problems, ear infections, corneal ulcers and cataracts. Some lines in France and parts of Europe have reported incidences of epilepsy, but so far British lines appear to be largely free of this distressing condition.
The rough-coated Basset will need stripping 2-3 times per year. This can be done at home, but is a relatively simple procedure that can be carried out by a groomer quite cheaply.
The dog should also be given regular and plentiful exercise to keep their weight down and indulge their love of the great outdoors. Care should be taken when out walking and exercise off lead is not recommended due to their pre-disposition for scent trailing. They are also excellent escape artists and will wander if the opportunity arises, so owners must be vigilant when opening doors and when the dog is in the garden. These crafty characters will find their way out of even the most secure area and will happily set off hunting without giving you a second thought!
Bassets should have their diets closely monitored as any excess weight can put unnecessary strain on the bones and joints and could cause arthritis as the dog ages. An overweight dog is also more prone to diabetes, a life-limiting disease that is very expensive to treat.