Basset Hound Breed Guide: Characteristics, History & Care

by Richard Walther, DVM
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Basset Hound Breed Guide
Is a Basset Hound the right dog for you? Find out everything you need to know about the breed, including physical traits, temperament, grooming, training, health issues, and more.

As one of the most popular dog breeds, Basset Hounds are good-natured, loyal, and devoted dogs — characteristics that make them perfect family pets. Don't let their sad eyes and jowly face fool you; these pups might seem somewhat lazy but they can be so much fun!

Read on to find out more about the breed’s characteristics and living with a Basset Hound.

Table of Contents:

Pro Tip: While proper diet, exercise, and healthcare can help maintain your Basset Hound’s health in the best condition, there’s no guarantee that your pet won’t get injured or develop a critical illness. For this reason, it’s advisable to take out pet insurance as soon as you get your Basset Hound in order to provide the best veterinary care and treatment when your pet requires it.

Basset Hound characteristics

Physical traits

Despite their low height (under 15 inches) Basset Hounds belong to the medium-large group of dogs, with weight ranging from 40 pounds for small females to 80 pounds for large males.

Bassets are quite bulky and heavy-boned, with long bodies on fairly short and crooked legs, which gives them a somewhat rectangular appearance. They have large heads, wrinkled foreheads, loose lips, long hanging ears, and sad eyes.

Basset hounds have a short and tight coat. Any coat color is acceptable but the most commonly seen colors are red and white or tricolor.

Temperament

Basset Hounds are very easygoing, friendly dogs who enjoy being in the company of their humans. They’re also great with kids and get along well with other dogs.

These dogs are very intelligent but also quite stubborn, which makes them somewhat difficult to train. Bassets like to dig and many can be serious barkers. If not safely confined, they can wander off following their strong hunting urge.

Average lifespan

The average life expectancy of Basset Hounds is between eight and 12 years. However, with proper care, some members of the breed can live up to 17 years.

The life expectancy of Basset Hounds can be affected by several factors, including hereditary illnesses, regular exercise, nutritional diet, and healthcare. Most Basset Hounds die due to old age or common health conditions, such as gastric torsion and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).

basset hound resting in the sun

Basset Hound care tips

Training

Bassets are quite stubborn and independent, so training them can be a bit challenging. Because they were originally developed to follow a track without distraction, they might seem uninterested in the person giving the commands. In order to be trained, Basset Hounds need a firm hand, consistency, and patience. Early socialization is very important, as well as continued positive obedience training.

Exercise

When it comes to physical activity, Bassets may not be as active as some other dog breeds, but they do require moderate exercise on a regular basis (daily walks should do the trick). Exercise will not only help to keep the dog fit and healthy but will also prevent them from becoming obese. Bassets enjoy canine and human company when outside and can be very playful. They also enjoy hunting and tracking.

Grooming

Even though their coat is short and smooth, Bassets do require regular grooming in order to keep them happy and healthy. Shedding can be profuse but it can be kept under control with weekly brushings.

Basset Hounds also need regular nail trimmings, as well as occasional baths to keep their coat clean and shiny. Brushing your dog's teeth with specially formulated pet toothpaste twice a week is also an important part of Basset care.

Diet and nutrition

Feed your Basset Hound with high-quality dog food in consultation with your vet. Fresh and clean water should always be available and in reach.

Some members of the breed are prone to putting on weight, therefore keep an eye on your pet’s calorie intake. While treats can help with training, they should only be given in limited amounts. If you have any concerns related to your Basset’s diet or weight, be sure to talk to your vet.

Living with Basset Hounds

Originally bred to hunt in packs, Bassets have a need for company and are happiest when their humans spend time with them. If left to their own devices, they can become diggers or nuisance barkers.

Although they might bark, Bassets are not hostile to strangers, which makes them poor watchdogs. Because of the hanging lips, Basset Hounds tend to drool quite a bit, so be sure to keep multiple towels around the home for cleanup.

basset hound running in the grass

Basset Hound breed history

Originally bred in France, Basset Hounds descended from the St. Hubert Hound, the ancestor of the Bloodhound. They were developed when a mutation in the St. Hubert strain produced a short-legged hound. In fact, the French word "basset” translates into "dwarf” or “low”. When their ability to track hare and rabbits in thick forests was noticed, these small dogs started to be bred purposefully for hunting.

Because of their hunting skills, Basset Hounds became very popular among French aristocrats but after the French Revolution, they were also used as hunting dogs by the commoners who didn’t have access to horses and needed a dog they could follow on foot. Bassets arrived in Britain in the 19th century and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885.

Common Basset Hound health issues

Like all dog breeds, Basset Hounds are prone to certain hereditary health issues. Responsible breeders should test for common genetic conditions, including:

Because of the long and droopy ears, Bassets are one of several dog breeds prone to ear infections, so it is important to check them regularly. If your dog is scratching at the ears or shaking their head, it might be time to visit your vet.

Pro Tip: Although the breed is generally heallthy, accidents can happen to any dog with one in three requiring emergency treatment throughout their lifetime. Basset Hound pet insurance reduces the financial risk involved with providing your pet with the best quality care, should you ever face expensive veterinary bills due to injury or illness.

Adopting or buying a Basset Hound dog

If you plan on welcoming a Basset into your family, start by checking your local rescue groups and animal shelters. Organizations like the Basset Hound Club of America can provide you with useful information and refer you to reputable breeders in your state.

If you are interested in similar breeds, consider looking into other scent hounds such as Beagles, American Foxhounds, and Plott Hounds.


Key Takeaways

  • Basset Hounds are short-legged dogs bred for hunting. They’re outgoing, playful, and charming pups that enjoy the company of their humans and make perfect family pets.
  • Although they can be somewhat stubborn and independent, most Bassets love training and learning new tricks. They also require regular exercise, despite their ‘lethargic’ appearance.
  • Like other members of the hound family, Bassets shed their coats easily, so owning one comes with a commitment to tackle these shedding issues head-on.
  • Like all dog breeds, Basset Hounds are prone to certain health issues such as hip dysplasia, thrombopathia, ear infections, and more. Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, so be sure to get in touch with your vet. Many pet owners sign up for pet insurance, just in case.

Ricky Walther, DVM

About the author

Richard Walther, DVM

Associate Veterinarian - Blue Ravine Animal Hospital

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner at Blue Ravine Animal Hospital in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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