Learn More About Bassets
This page contains the AKC standard for a basset, and information on known health and genetic problems
Instantly recognizable due to its big, heavy body, short legs and long ears, the Basset Hound has proven itself to be a multi-purpose dog that excels in conformation, obedience, tracking, field trialing and pack hunting. The breed is known for its strong hunting instinct and, if given the opportunity, will chase or follow a scent willingly. Because of its gentle, non-confrontational nature, the Basset can be used for hunting in packs or alone. The Basset can be any hound color, which includes combinations of black, tan, white, red and other colors.
A Look Back
The Basset Hound was originally developed in France as a trailer of small game that hunters could follow on foot. Bassets continued to achieve very notable popularity during the reign of Emperor Napoleon, and in 1880 Queen Alexandra kept Basset Hounds in the royal kennels. Marquis de Lafayette brought Basset Hounds, known for their impeccable sense of smell, to the United States as a gift to President George Washington to use in his hunting expeditions.
Right Breed for You?
The Basset's sweet, gentle disposition makes him a great companion and his short coat requires minimal grooming. New owners should be prepared for a dog that actively follows scent while outside or on walks. Not usually advisable to be allowed off leash in an unfenced area.
The Breed Standard
Known Health Problems
The AKC Breed Standard for the Basset Hound
The Basset Hound possesses in marked degree those characteristics which equip it admirably to follow a trail over and through difficult terrain. It is a short-legged dog, heavier in bone, size considered, than any other breed of dog, and while its movement is deliberate, it is in no sense clumsy. In temperament it is mild, never sharp or timid. It is capable of great endurance in the field and is extreme in its devotion.
The head is large and well proportioned. Its length from occiput to muzzle is greater than the width at the brow. In overall appearance the head is of medium width. The skull is well domed, showing a pronounced occipital protuberance. A broad flat skull is a fault. The length from nose to stop is approximately the length from stop to occiput. The sides are flat and free from cheek bumps. Viewed in profile the top lines of the muzzle and skull are straight and lie in parallel planes, with a moderately defined stop. The skin over the whole of the head is loose, falling in distinct wrinkles over the brow when the head is lowered. A dry head and tight skin are faults. The muzzle is deep, heavy, and free from snipiness. The nose is darkly pigmented, preferably black, with large wide-open nostrils. A deep liver-colored nose conforming to the coloring of the head is permissible but not desirable. The teeth are large, sound, and regular, meeting in either a scissors or an even bite. A bite either overshot or undershot is a serious fault. The lips are darkly pigmented and are pendulous, falling squarely in front and, toward the back, in loose hanging flews. The dewlap is very pronounced. The neck is powerful, of good length, and well arched. The eyes are soft, sad, and slightly sunken, showing a prominent haw, and in color are brown, dark brown preferred. A somewhat lighter-colored eye conforming to the general coloring of the dog is acceptable but not desirable. Very light or protruding eyes are faults. The ears are extremely long, low set, and when drawn forward, fold well over the end of the nose. They are velvety in texture, hanging in loose folds with the ends curling slightly inward. They are set far back on the head at the base of the skull and, in repose, appear to be set on the neck. A high set or flat ear is a serious fault.
The chest is deep and full with prominent sternum showing clearly in front of the legs. The shoulders and elbows are set close against the sides of the chest. The distance from the deepest point of the chest to the ground, while it must be adequate to allow free movement when working in the field, is not to be more than one-third the total height at the withers of an adult Basset. The shoulders are well laid back and powerful. Steepness in shoulder, fiddle fronts, and elbows that are out, are serious faults. The forelegs are short, powerful, heavy in bone, with wrinkled skin. Knuckling over of the front legs is a disqualification. The paw is massive, very heavy with tough heavy pads, well rounded and with both feet inclined equally a trifle outward, balancing the width of the shoulders. Feet down at the pastern are a serious fault. The toes are neither pinched together nor splayed, with the weight of the forepart of the body borne evenly on each. The dewclaws may be removed.
The rib structure is long, smooth, and extends well back. The ribs are well sprung, allowing adequate room for heart and lungs. Flatsidedness and flanged ribs are faults. The topline is straight, level, and free from any tendency to sag or roach, which are faults.
The hindquarters are very full and well rounded, and are approximately equal to the shoulders in width. They must not appear slack or light in relation to the over-all depth of the body. The dog stands firmly on its hind legs showing a well-let-down stifle with no tendency toward a crouching stance. Viewed from behind, the hind legs are parallel, with the hocks turning neither in nor out. Cowhocks or bowed legs are serious faults. The hind feet point straight ahead. Steep, poorly angulated hindquarters are a serious fault. The dewclaws, if any, may be removed.
The tail is not to be docked, and is set in continuation of the spine with but slight curvature, and carried gaily in hound fashion. The hair on the underside of the tail is coarse.
The height should not exceed 14 inches. Height over 15 inches at the highest point of the shoulder blade is a disqualification.
The Basset Hound moves in a smooth, powerful, and effortless manner. Being a scenting dog with short legs, it holds its nose low to the ground. Its gait is absolutely true with perfect coordination between the front and hind legs, and it moves in a straight line with hind feet following in line with the front feet, the hocks well bent with no stiffness of action. The front legs do not paddle, weave, or overlap, and the elbows must lie close to the body. Going away, the hind legs are parallel.
The coat is hard, smooth, and short, with sufficient density to be of use in all weather. The skin is loose and elastic. A distinctly long coat is a disqualification.
Any recognized hound color is acceptable and the distribution of color and markings is of no importance.
Height of more than 15 inches at the highest point of the shoulder blade.
Knuckled over front legs.
Distinctly long coat.
Approved January 14, 1964
Known Health Problems
What is it? Glaucoma is increased pressure within the eye. Cells inside the eye produce a clear fluid ("aqueous humor") that maintains the shape of the eye and nourishes the tissues inside the eye. The balance of fluid production and drainage is responsible for maintaining normal pressure within the eye. In glaucoma, the drain becomes clogged but the eye keeps producing fluid. Therefore, the pressure in the eye increases. The increased pressure in the eye actually can cause the eye to stretch and enlarge.
There are actually two types of glaucoma; the hereditary type, Primary Glaucoma, is primarily the type that affects the Basset Hound. Primary Glaucoma usually begins in one eye, but almost always eventually involves both eyes, leading to complete blindness. It is extremely painful. This discomfort can result in decreased activity, less desire to play, irritability, or decreased appetite, and is often not apparent to the owner.
What are the signs?
The only way to know for sure if your pet has glaucoma is to have the intraocular pressures measured by a veterinarian. Signs of glaucoma can include a red or bloodshot eye and/or cloudy cornea. The 'third eyelid' - looking like a pink membrane, may be seen. Vision loss is also characteristic of glaucoma. However, loss of vision in one eye is often not obvious because animals compensate with their remaining eye. Eventually, the increased pressure will cause the eye to stretch and become enlarged. Unfortunately, eyes are usually permanently blind by the time they become enlarged.
If you suspect your Basset Hound has any eye problem, he or she needs to see a veterinarian
There is a very small window for treatment time to try to save the sight. Any basset hound should have regular ophthalmic examinations. Glaucoma can cause blindness in spite of our best efforts. A high level of commitment to treatment and regular ophthalmic examinations is required to have the best chance of preserving vision. If your basset is diagnosed with primary glaucoma, please notify the dog's breeder if possible, so it is no longer spread through the lines.
If your basset has already lost one eye to Primary Glaucoma and the other eye is at risk of developing glaucoma: The median time until an attack occurs in the other eye is 8 months. Prophylactic medical therapy for the remaining eye delays the onset of glaucoma from a median of 8 months to a median of 31 months.
Von Willebrand's Disease
What is it? Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) is the most common inherited bleeding disorder in dogs. Although dogs of any breed (even mixed breeds) can have vWD, certain breeds are more prone to it than others, including the Basset Hound.
In a healthy dog, when a blood vessel is damaged, blood platelets or thrombocytes quickly adhere to the damaged blood-vessel lining (endothelium), creating a temporary plug and slowing blood loss. Simultaneously, the endothelium releases an enzyme that activates clotting factors circulating in the blood, which, in turn, form fibrin - a strand-like material that wraps around the platelet plug to produce a sturdy and permanent clot. Von Willebrand factor (vWF) is a protein that helps platelets adhere to the endothelium and may also improve clot formation. Dogs with vWD have abnormally low levels of vWF, so the initial plug is slow to form. A vWD puppy’s gums may bleed while it’s teething, and a vWD dog may have spontaneous nosebleeds and blood in its stool. Affected dogs may also have prolonged bleeding from small or superficial wounds like excessive bleeding when a nail is cut too short. Excessive bleeding can lead to anemia, shock, and (if untreated) death.
If you suspect your basset may have this, veterinarians have a new blood test that measures very small and very large amounts of vWF with greater accuracy (and in less time) than the old test. Accurately measuring vWF helps predict if a dog will be affected by vWD or will merely be a carrier - unaffected by the disease but with the potential to pass along the defect to its offspring.
The technical name is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) and it is prevalent in deep chested breeds, like the basset hound. It is the second leading killer in dogs next to cancer. It is life threatening, comes on quickly, and requires immediate veterinary treatment, often emergency surgery, to save the hound. Call ahead and let them know you are bringing in a bloat case so they can be fully ready when you arrive.
What is it? Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present). It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation"). Stress can be a contributing factor also. Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting). As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90Â° to 360Â°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine). The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.
Symptoms: If you even suspect your basset may be bloating - get to an emergency vet immediately
”¢ Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-20 minutes
(One of the most common symptoms)
”¢ Doesn't act like usual self
(Perhaps the earliest warning sign & may be the only sign that almost always occurs)
”¢ Significant anxiety and restlessness
(One of the earliest warning signs and seems fairly typical)
”¢ " Hunched up" or "roached up" appearance
(This seems to occur fairly frequently
”¢ Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
(Despite the term "bloat," many times this symptom never occurs or is not apparent)
”¢ Pale or off-color gums
(Dark red in early stages, white or blue in later stages)
Lack of normal gurgling and digestive sounds in the tummy
(Many dog owners report this after putting their ear to their dog's tummy)
Heavy salivating or drooling
Foamy mucous around the lips, or vomiting foamy mucous
Licking the air
Seeking a hiding place
Looking at their side or other evidence of abdominal pain or discomfort
May refuse to lie down
May attempt to eat small stones and twigs
Heavy or rapid panting
Cold mouth membranes
Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance
Especially in advanced stage
Heart rate increases as bloating progresses
Paneosteitis Sometimes referred to as "growing pains" or "pano", occurs as a rotating lameness, usually in puppies up to 18 months. Many veterinarians are not aware that this is prevalent in basset hounds and will sometimes misdiagnose it, often with costly and unneeded surgery options. Pano IS prevalent in basset hounds as we've seen many, many of our members' hounds diagnosed with this over the years.
The following is from the Basset Hound Faq by Judy Trenck:
Paneosteitis is an elusive ailment occasionally seen in young Bassets. It is also known as wandering or transient lameness. Attacks are usually brought on by stress and aggravated by activity,and up to now, the cause and the cure are unknown. This mysteriousdisease causes sudden lameness, but its greatest potential danger may lie in false diagnosis, resulting in unnecessary surgery. A puppy will typically outgrow it by the age of two with no long term problems. It can be quite minor, or so bad that the dog will not put any weight on the leg. Symptoms may be confused with "elbow displasia", "hip displasia", "patellar luxation" and other more serious disorders. The most definite way to diagnose paneosteitis is radiographically. Even with this, signs can be quite minimal and easily missed. As to treatment, no cure was found in experimental tests and the only helpful thing found was relief for pain (aspirin, cortisone, etc.) However, using these, the dog tends to exercise more and thereby aggravate the condition. Note again: A GREAT MANY VETS ARE UNAWARE OF THIS DISEASE IN THE BASSET .
In diagnosing the cause of a Basset's lameness, a radiograph of the forelimbs may indicate a condition called elbow incongruity. (Elbow
incongruity is a poor fit between the 3 bones which comprise the elbow joint.) Studies to date indicate that elbow incongruity is
normal in the Basset and is not the cause of the lameness. It is also suspected that many of the previously mentioned unnecessary
(panosteitis) surgeries have been performed on Basset Pups just because radiographs that were taken showed elbow incongruity. A
study on forelimb lameness in the Basset is currently underway at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. As
previously mentioned they have determined that elbow incongruity occurs in the Basset but suspect that incongruity rarely causes the
lameness. During the course of the study, conservative therapy will be recommended for all cases in which panosteitis appears to be the
cause of the lameness. In cases with severe growth deformities or elbow pain associated with elbow incongruity, surgery may be
recommended. If your Basset develops lameness and is diagnosed with an "elbow problem", discuss with your veterinarian the possibility