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· THE BASSET HOUND
ALTHOUGH of comparatively modern introduction into England the basset hound represents one of the most ancient breeds in Europe. It is, moreover, a type that has undergone but little change for some centuries, for you may see, interworked on the tapestries of the Middle Ages, a species of dog that bears a marked resemblance to the subject of this section. The late Sir Everett Millais, P.R.A., has always been regarded as a leading authority on the breed ; and although he was not actually the first to import it, he was the first to systematically breed the basset, to popularise the fancy, and to compile the Stud Book issued by the Basset - Hound Club — a most useful publication for breeders, which Mrs. Tottie, another noted fancier and authority, has corrected and written up to 1900.
There exist many species of the basset - hound, although the varieties in England are, in practice, confined to two—the smooth and the rough. But in France, Austria, and Germany there are numerous types peculiar to the different districts. The name itself merely means “dwarfed,” and a basset-hound is in nomenclature and practice a dwarfed hound. It was evolved from the Chiens Courant, or running hounds similar to our own, designedly and by selection and skilful breeding. The object sought after was to
obtain a hound with the hunting instincts and abilities of the fleeter dogs, but with its powers of running restricted, so as to enable it to serve sportsmen who followed the game a-foot; and this has made it the most useful and popular dog with the enthusiasts who indulge in la chasse on the Continent, and to whose genius in venery it is admirably suited.
The basset-hound does not appear to have received its present designation until about the end of the sixteenth century, being known previously to that as the chien d'Artois; but the gradual process of its evolution must have been going on before that date. It is not improbable that the basset Français shares with the basset Allemand, or dachshund, a common origin ; but in the process of development the latter has been crossed with the terrier type, and has lost some of those marked characteristics of the true hound which remain the very soul and core of the basset-hound fancier's admiration. The dachshund will be dealt with in its own place, whilst this article is confined to that species of dwarf dog which is purely French.
In France there are many types of the basset, for they are divided into smooth (basset Français) and rough (basset Griffon), and these again are subdivided into straight-legged (basset à jambes droites), halfcrooked - legged (basset à jambes demi - tortues), and crooked-legged (basset à jambes tortues), so that there are six families, without going into more minute distinctions. But in England we know only the smooth and the rough, the former being crooked-legged, and the latter half-crooked, or nearly straight.
The basset is a hound of an unorthodox build, for whilst the body is of full dimensions, with colour, conformation, and head all hound-like, the legs are mere apologies that elevate the chest less than three inches