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The Basset Griffon VendÃ¨en is a small scenthound native to the VendÃ¨e region of France where bramble prevails and a short, agile yet sturdy hunting dog is required. The Basset is so good at its job it is still used for hunting in France today.
The Basset (the word 'basset' simply means 'short legged') belongs to a group of four Griffon VendÃ¨en breeds: the largest is the Grand Griffon VendÃ¨en, next is the Briquet and the Basset is further subdivided into the Grand Basset and the Petit Basset.
The Griffon VendÃ¨en breeds are thought to descend from the rough-coated hunting dogs introduced to France, or Gaul as it was then known, by the Romans. The keeping of packs for hunting was very common and its popularity grew over hundreds of years.
Known as the Sport of Kings, many members of the French aristocracy bred their own hunting hounds with those belonging to the Royal household - known as the 'Royal Races' - and specialist breeds were developed, in isolation from one another, to perform particular duties dependent on their geographical location.
Other examples of these hounds include the de Bretagne, de Artois and de Gascogne. The Basset was used primarily for hunting rabbit, hare and sometimes foxes in the thickets of the VendÃ¨e.
Average height to withers: 12.5" - 15.5" (petit); 15.5" - 17" (grand)
Average weight: 15-20 kg;
A rough-coated hound, the Basset is a short, stocky animal with a slightly scruffy appearance. Their double coat is designed to keep out the worst of the weather, while the fur on the legs and face is often quite a bit softer. Frequently the hair on the face can resemble a beard and moustache, giving the dog a unique, yet very appealing visage. They usually boast very long eyelashes which add to their allure!
The Basset has a domed skull and like most hounds, they have drop ears - although these are not as long as those of other breeds. The tail is held upright and tapers towards the end with a white tip.
The breed's colours are almost always white with patches of grey (grizzle), lemon, black or red.
This dog is commonly referred to as 'The Happy Breed' as it is a cheerful, energetic, intelligent and loving extrovert. However, like all scenthounds, he will soon forget about you if there's a trail to follow and this 'selective deafness' can cause one or two problems.
The hounds are also known to 'give voice' frequently and will join in howling along with other dogs, music or its owners. They will sometimes also howl if left alone so your dog should be trained to accept separation, at least for short periods.
Though they certainly aren't a 'yappy' dog, their bark seems very loud for their diminutive stature and even the shyest Basset will say hello to another dog with a little bark. They also have a tendency to be boisterous, and while they are great family dogs that show little or no aggression, they can play bite so care should be taken when around small children.
The hunting instincts of this little dog must not be underestimated, and while it was never bred to kill, merely to flush prey out of the brambles, it will be easily distracted in the home by birds, cats and other small animals and will readily give chase.
Most Bassets do make excellent companion animals and if properly acclimatised when young, will accept and live with cats relatively harmoniously. As with other scenthounds, the Basset should be kept on a lead when in open spaces - any hint of a trail and he will be off, with no thought for his owner or his safety. The Basset is naturally athletic and boasts speed and stamina - particularly if he identifies a scent.
One thing to certainly bear in mind with the Basset is that its appearance and demeanour - particularly its erect tail and his extrovert tendencies, can be misinterpreted by other breeds as dominance. All owners should be aware if this as it may lead to arguments occasionally. Like most hounds, the Basset can also be stubborn and may not respond well to training.
All dog breeds have ailments that are particular to their type and the Basset Griffon VendÃ¨en is no exception. These illnesses can include epilepsy, ear infections, hyperthyroidism, skin problems, ear mites and excessive wax.
Life expectancy stands at around 12.7 years and a Kennel Club survey found that frequent causes of death include cardiac problems, cancer and old age. The KC also states that the breed seems to display a higher-than-average life expectancy for a dog of its type.
These cheeky dogs have lots of energy so daily walks are a must - up to two hours per day is recommended, on lead of course! Their coarse coats do need brushing, but not daily. Two or three times a week should help keep matting and tangles at bay. Stripping the coat is also a must, although this can be done at home with a stripping tool. Stripping doesn't need to be done any more than two or three times a year.
Claws should be trimmed regularly and as they are prone to ear mites and infections, an ear-cleaning routine should be established at an early age. The Basset is renowned for its slightly scruffy appearance so there really is no need to 'over groom' your hairy friend.
An unfussy eater, the Basset can be fed good-quality commercial food in quantities that are appropriate for its weight and activity level. He also delights in plenty of activity with his human friends so interaction is an absolute must.
There are many good breeders of the Basset in the UK and many of them show their dogs to a very high level. If you are thinking about purchasing a Basset Griffon VendÃ¨en, the Kennel Club can provide details of breeders, as can the Pets4Homes website. It is also possible to give a home to a rescued Basset and there are specialist organisations that arrange adoptions for these fantastic dogs.