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from the ground, and the straightness we associate with perfection in our hounds, by a queer topsyturveyism, is exchanged for a knock - kneed front. From an artistic point of view an otherwise beautiful hound is deprived of all its symmetrical proportion. Thus a famous early importation, called Model, whilst only 12 inches high at the shoulder, was nearly 44 inches in length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, and a body girthing 25 inches round the chest was set but 2 inches from the ground. This grotesque proportion will be better estimated by a glance at the illustrations.
Of course there was a “method in this madness." In the opinion of the late Sir Everett Millais the necessity for a slow-running hound to suit the restricted opportunities of the chase arose when the pursuit of smaller ground game and rabbits had to suffice for the generations to whom deer and boar were denied by their extinction, or their preservation by kings and nobles. The smaller game required a slower hound, and a slower hound opened new vistas of sport for folks who could not afford to ride on horseback. The most practical way to restrict speed was the elementary one of restricting length of leg; the shortest-legged hounds were selected for interbreeding, and by the evolution of species a most useful and practical deformity was arrived at. To this day the basset-hound is most popular with and useful to the French sportsman. Moreover, they have a fascination all their own, and the basset-fancier is a dog devotee of an extraordinarily earnest and enthusiastic description, with whose susceptibilities you must not trifle when you are commenting on and criticising his favourites.
The first basset-hounds imported into England came as a present to Lord Galway in the beginning of the Seventies, and from him passed to Lord Onslow They were of a famous strain, known as the Le Couteulx hounds, bred by the Comte le Couteulx at his estate near Etrepagny, in France. But the variety did not attract any serious attention until Sir Everett Millais became interested in it, and in the year 1874 imported a fine hound called Model, which, with another, Fino de Paris, were considered the two best in France. In 1877 Lord Onslow imported another dog and bitch from the Le Couteulx kennels, and from this small beginning the English fancy has been developed. In 1880 basset-hounds were exhibited for the first time at a show in this country ; by 1886, at the Dachshund and Basset-Hound Show at the Aquarium, no less than 120 specimens of the breed were benched, and as in the meantime the late Mr. G. R. Krehl had imported Fino de Paris, the cult started with two of the acknowledged best dogs in the breed. But the concomitant result of this natural increase from such a small original stock was in-breeding, and although this stamped type, especially in the case of Fino de Paris' numerous progeny, it also introduced abnormal delicacy of constitution, a distressing mortality from distemper, impotency in the dogs, and barrenness in the bitches. Moreover, there was a deterioration apparent in size and bone, and so, after nearly twenty years, Sir Everett determined to introduce an out-cross in order to obtain better stamina.
His selection fell on the bloodhound as the best allied species, and the experiment that followed was an exceedingly interesting one. There was no mating of the hounds, but a litter of puppies was artificially germinated in the bitch by a process called “insemination” — a scientific experiment more marvellously
striking than any in horticulture. By these extraordinary means twelve whelps were created, which favoured the basset in conformation and the bloodhound dam in colour. The progeny were bred back to a pure basset, and in the third generation the descendants regained all the basset characteristics, and were indistinguishable from pure specimens of the breed. They also regained the bone and size that had been sacrificed to type by in-breeding. In the fourth generation, to complete the interest of the unique experiment, there was one case of “avatism ”—a whelp born that “threw back” to the bloodhound great-grandparent in colour. Scientifically thought out and preconsidered, and successfully carried through, this famous experiment is certainly the most interesting in the whole history of dog-breeding. The only regret that remains is that the benefit attained does not appear to have been permanent, or to have cured the evils it was meant to cope with to a very great extent.
Although in France chiefly, if not wholly, used for driving out game to the gun, in England the basset has been annexed for the chase, and a few packs established for hare-hunting. They take their time over the run, and the linked sweetness long drawn out may last as long as a fashionable comedy ; but, slow and sure, like the tortoise of the tale, does oftentimes accomplish its ultimate end, and I fancy a hare coursed by basset-hounds must eat uncommonly tender.
Apart from speed bassets are everything that can be desired in hunting hounds. Stay—I forgot! They have, on occasions, to be lifted over obstacles in the field; and though it is a libel to say that if you started them between the lines of a railway they would, by that wall-like obstacle, be confined to the iron track, it is none the less true that in many crises they
are checked, if not checkmated, in their endeavours, unless the helpful hand assists them at places which their peculiar anatomy cannot negotiate.
On the other hand, there are compensations in their delightful music, in their keen powers of scent, and in their indomitable perseverance; and since you can keep in touch with them with the minimum of exertion required in any hunting field, they afford a fine objectlesson and an interesting illustration of the hunting methods and abilities of a true hound.
With regard to the type of the breed as it exists to-day, the following are the observations and notes of some of the leading fanciers :
MR. GEORGE MUSSON (Hon. Sec. of the Basset Club).-I am satisfied with type. There is, however, an opinion amongst hunting men (which I do not share) that the basset should be bred somewhat more on the leg to increase speed. The result of in-breeding is the cause of the comparatively little interest at present exhibited in the breed. Dozens of people have kept bassets in my experience of twenty years, and their ill success in breeding, and serious losses through death from distemper, etc., have caused them to give up the breed. Bassets are in very few hands now. These hounds require more attention in breeding than most dogs. I have kept none other for years, and have been fairly successful. They require little exercise, and are quiet, contented dogs. Their great characteristic is their wonderful scent in hunting.
MR. CROXTON SMITH.—I do not think the present-day hound is as good as the best of ten years ago ; but, taking an average, I do not think there is much of which we can complain. In one respect there is a decided improvement ; unsound hounds can no longer win on the bench, and we have done away with the reproach that hounds incapable of working are awarded prizes. The basset is a fascinating little hound, capable of great attachment to its owner. Those who use them for hare-hunting are loud in their praise. There is no doubt that they give excellent sport, and their music is nearly equal to that of the bloodhound. A gentleman who uses a couple in Natal finds them better than any other breed of hound for driving small deer out of the bush to the guns,
CAPTAIN HESELTINE. — Sufficient attention is not given by breeders to the body, back, loins, legs, and feet of the modern hound. It is absurd that nearly 75 of the point values should be credited to head and hide. The Walhampton basset hounds are kept entirely for the sport which they show in pursuit of the hare to an unmounted field. Very steep banks or very deep ditches may check the pack, but the hare usually runs her smeuse, or under a gate, and where she goes the pack seldom requires assistance to follow; they will get through almost any smeuse in the thickest fence. On a fair scenting day they keep the field, running their best pace for an hour.
MR. CLAUDE MORRISON.- There is a tendency to sacrifice type for soundness in limb. If one is breeding a hound simply for speed, there are other breeds which will suit the purpose. But the basset-hound was not bred for pack-hunting, but for tracking game in the forest, and so allowing the sportsman to keep up with him. In assessing the points of the hound I should consider the most important to be the general type, viz.—Head properties, lowness of body and crook, and length of body; after that soundness. Colour should not make any difference either way. My “ideal” basset-hound is Ch. Queen of the Geisha, with the exception that she is too high on the leg, and, for a bitch, a trifle thick in skull; otherwise she is perfect, and in addition a nice-coloured hound. The present-day basset-hound wants an out-cross every fourth generation to keep up stamina, as practically all our best dogs are of the “Forester” strain, and unsoundness follows on too much in-breeding. But as that is the only strain we have got to go on to preserve type, we must stick to it, and out-cross occasionally. As a pet and a companion the bassethound has scarcely an equal. Rather timid by nature, he can fight, when aroused, with larger dogs than himself. Personally I fancy the breed for its faithfulness and independence.
MRS. A. F. STANTON considers the modern dogs too in-bred. Their fascination lies in their beautiful voices, grand expression, and heads; also they hunt most perseveringly, and are altogether such sporting dogs. They make the most delightful house companions, and no hound can be more faithful.
The following is the Standard of Points of the smooth basset-hound (drawn up by the late Mr. Krehl, I believe), and published by the Basset-hound Club in their book :