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Hound Dogs - The Basset

Updated on January 7, 2013
Our Basset hound, Sparky.
Our Basset hound, Sparky. | Source

Hound Dogs

I’ve owned and worked with many different dog breeds, including hound dogs. We’ve had beagles, black-and-tan coonhounds, and Basset hounds. In fact, my grandfather was a beagle breeder when I was a kid, and when I was a young adult, my brother-in-law bred bloodhounds. Most hounds display some of the same characteristics, regardless of the specific breed, as they were all bred and developed for hunting. Of course, there are two major types of hound dogs – sight hounds and scent hounds. I’m not as familiar with sight hounds as I am with scent hounds, so I’ll stick to that topic here. Scent hounds have “super noses” that enable them to track scents. In most cases, this applies to wild game, but it can also apply to humans. You’ve undoubtedly seen movies and television shows where bloodhounds were used to track prisoners who had escaped. Bloodhounds are chosen for this purpose because of their super “super noses.” They have the keenest noses of all dog breeds. Second to the bloodhound in scenting ability is the Basset hound, which is the main focus of this article.

Sparky adores kids.
Sparky adores kids. | Source

Basset Hound

We own a Basset hound now, and I had one as a kid, too. I’m not an expert on Basset hounds, but I have known five members of the breed very well. I’ve also done a good bit of research on the breed, as I have with many dog breeds. As far as personality and temperament are concerned, all the Basset hound I’ve known were very similar. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned from my research and from my personal experiences.

The Basset hound was developed in France. In fact, the French bred several varieties of “baset” hounds. The term means “very low’ or “rather low,” which certainly describes the hounds. The short-legged dogs were most likely derived from St. Hubert’s hound and from other hound dogs born with genetic dwarfism.

The word “basset” or “baset” was first used to describe the dog in 1585, and the Basset hound made its first official appearance in a dog show in the city of Paris in 1863. Evidently, people liked what they saw, and the breed spread to England and to other parts of Europe. They became one of the hunting dogs of choice for the common man. The wealthy did much of their hunting on horseback and used swift hounds. Most of the common people, however, couldn’t afford to keep a stable of horses, so most of their hunting was done on foot. Because of the Basset hound’s short legs and stocky build, they were easy to keep up with. Over the years, Basset hounds have been used for hunting badgers, pheasants, foxes, opossums, hares, and rabbits. Obviously, the breed found its way to the U.S., where it’s often used for rabbit hunting and as devoted companion animals. The breed was admitted into the American Kennel Club in 1885.

Basset hounds aren’t small dogs. They’re actually pretty large dogs with short legs. Even though an adult male might reach only thirteen to fifteen inches in height, it might attain a weight of more than sixty pounds. Although they’re short in leg, they’re long in body length. These dogs are amazingly sturdy and dense, with the heaviest bone of all dog breeds. I’ve always heard that because of this characteristic, Basset hounds can’t swim. I don’t think I believe that every member of the breed is incapable of dog paddling. I think they can swim for very short distances. I’ll let you know for sure when summer gets here.

The Basset hound can be just about any color, but the most commonly seen colors include red, black, light beige, lemon, rust, gray, and tan, often in combination with white. Some dogs might be more than one color. The tip of the tail is usually white, which was developed in order to help the hunters be able to locate the dogs. The coat is short, smooth, hard, and glossy, and the dogs are medium shedders.

Now, for those wonderful, adorable ears! Basset hounds have the longest ears in all of dogdom. Our Basset’s ears feel like silk, and I love stroking them. The long dangling flaps aren't just there to make the dogs look cute – they serve a purpose. The long ears drag along the ground when the dog is tracking, helping it to capture scents. The ears need special attention, including weekly cleanings. Another thing that makes these hound dogs so endearing is their big paws, along with their sad eyes. How could anyone say no to those beseeching orbs of liquid brown light?

Basset hounds are happy, friendly dogs. I’ve never known of one to show any aggression to humans. In fact, I’ve never known one that showed any aggression to other dogs, either. Although they can hunt and track alone, they were largely bred to hunt in packs. Dogs that didn’t get along well with the rest of the pack weren’t often used for breeding. You’d be hard-pressed to find a less aggressive breed than the Basset hound.

If you have kids in your family, Basset hounds might just be the best family dogs you can find. Before we got our current Basset, I was convinced that Great Danes loved kids the most of all dog breeds. I think I’ve changed my mind. Our hound dog is obsessed with the nine grandkids. When they spend the night with us, he sleeps with them. When they watch TV, he insists on sitting in the chair with them. If they stay with us instead of going to school because of illness, the hound dog plays nursemaid all day.

Okay, I’ve given you the good. Now for the bad, most of which has to do with dog training. Basset hounds are incredibly stubborn. I have experience with dog training, but our Sparky has been a challenge for me. His brother Danes were super easy to train, but ole Sparkplug hasn’t been. He tends to do what he wants, when he wants to do it. Oftentimes, if he doesn’t get his way, he complains with a loud bark…or numerous loud barks. Many experts place the Basset hound among the dumbest dog breeds. I hate to say this, but from dog IQ tests I’ve administered, Sparky’s results back up the assertion. He can’t be trusted outdoors without a leash, either. If he picks up an interesting scent, he suddenly becomes completely deaf to our pleas, calls, and commands.

Sparky has a short attention span, too. I’ll give you an example of how he might act after begging to go outside to relieve himself:

Sparky – Hurry! Hurry! I have to go! I’m about to pee in my doggie pants!

Human – Okay, let’s go out. (puts leash on dog and takes dog outside)

Sparky – Thank God you let me out when you did. Now…to find the perfect spot to pee. (sniffs around) Hey, wait. What’s that I smell? Hmm…I think I’ll follow it for a while.

Human – Sparky!

Sparky – Oh, yeah. I forgot that I have to pee. Okay, I’ll find a good spot. (sniffs around) What’s that? A squirrel! I smell a squirrel! It’s a squirrel! I see it! Hey, Mom/Dad – there’s a squirrel over there! I have to go get it! (dog strains at leash with Herculean effort)

Human – Sparky! Find somewhere to pee.

Sparky – Oops! Almost forgot. Now let’s see…where did I pee last time? I think it was over…bicycle! There’s a kid going by on a bicycle! Can I go? Huh? CanIcanIcanIcanI pleeeeease??

Human – No, Sparky!!

Sparky – Oh, okay. You never let me have any fun. I think I’ll pee right…was the neighbor’s trash can there yesterday? I don’t remember it being in that spot yesterday. I think it’s been moved. It smells different, too. I wonder who moved it? Let’s go check it out. Someone might be trying to steal it. Better safe than sorry.

Human – SPARKY!!

Sparky – Okay. Dang – I’m just trying to protect my territory. Ah, here’s a good spot. (dog pees)

Human – Come on, let’s go in.

Sparky – Wait! I think I might possibly have to poop now. Let me examine these leaves to see if they’d be a good place to deposit my excrement.

I could go on and on with this scenario, but I think you get the picture. For Shakespeare, the play was the thing, but for Basset hounds, the scent is THE THING. They can’t help it. It’s how they’re wired. I’m not saying you can’t change this behavior with the right dog training methods, but I am saying it’ll be an uphill battle.

You’ll also find good and bad when it comes to love and affection with this breed. Basset hounds are extremely loving and sweet. You are their sun, moon, and stars. Sounds great, right? Well, it is until you want some alone time. These hounds don’t like to be separated from their human families. When we put Sparky in his crate for even a short period, he screams. Yes, I mean screams – not barks. Honestly, if someone who didn’t know better overheard the desperate cries, he’d swear we were skinning the dog alive. And we even leave the Danes in the room with Sparky so that he’ll have some company!

All in all, Basset hounds are great family dogs. They’re fairly healthy and usually live for ten or twelve years. They’re easy to groom, but they can get “smelly.” A daily sponging with a baby wipe will help with odor control. Bassets are stubborn, and they can be difficult to train. Discipline should be mild, as they get their feelings hurt very easily. They adore and totally dote on kids, and they can be very playful. Their playful, active periods, however, are usually short lived. They’re not super energetic dogs. In fact, I’d definitely classify the Basset hounds I’ve known as lazy dogs. A good daily walk or two and some playtime should keep them happy and healthy.

The Basset Hound:

Two very different dog breeds and three very different dogs living in harmony.
Two very different dog breeds and three very different dogs living in harmony. | Source

Basset Hound Puppies For Sale

So how and where do you find Basset hound puppies for sale? I haven’t been impressed with most of the puppies I’ve seen in pet shops, so in general, I think it’s best to steer clear of them. You’ll do better to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder. How do you find Basset hound breeders? That partially depends on what you want. Do you want a show dog, a hunting dog, or a companion animal? If you want a potential show dog, expect to pay big bucks. Sometimes dog breeders who specialize in show quality dogs have puppies for sale that don’t have show potential. Such puppies can still make wonderful pets. These puppies are usually sold at much lower prices, but you’ll probably have to sign an agreement stating that you won’t breed the dog.

If you’re going to use the pup for hunting when it gets older, there are Basset hound breeders who specialize in bloodlines with strong hunting instincts. Of course, you can train practically any hound to track game because of their noses, but if you’re a serious hunter, you might have better luck if you can find Basset hound puppies for sale from breeders who specialize. The pups will be from bloodlines that have proven successful in the field.

Let’s say you just want a Basset as a pet and companion. In that case, you might find some ads in local newspapers that will fulfill your desires. Some “backyard breeders” offer quality, healthy puppies and dogs for sale at reasonable prices. Just don’t buy from a puppy mill! Canines in puppy mills are raised in deplorable conditions, and little consideration is given to breeding. You could easily wind up with a puppy that’s unhealthy, and even if you get the health problems cleared up, the dog could have underlying genetic problems.

Basset Hound Puppies for Sale:

Basset Hound Puppies:

Adopt a Dog. Check out your local Animal Shelters!
Adopt a Dog. Check out your local Animal Shelters! | Source
our Basset Hound Rescue
our Basset Hound Rescue | Source

Basset Hound Rescue

Another great place to find hound dogs is with a Basset Hound Rescue. Most of these organizations are breed specific, although some organizations take in other hound breeds or other dog breeds, in general. There’s almost always a fee charged for adopting a dog from a rescue. From what I’ve seen, the average fee is in the $100 range. If the dog needs to be spayed or neutered or needs to receive some other type of veterinary care, those fees will be added to the adoption fee. You’ll have to complete an application and provide references. If you rent your home, your landlord will most likely be contacted. In many cases, a worker will visit your home in order to check it out. Dog rescues aren’t trying to make pet adoption difficult. They want to make sure that you’ll treat the animal well and that you’re actually ready and prepared to own a dog.

The best way to find a Basset hound rescue is online. I think just about every state in the U.S. has at least one. It’s best if you use a rescue agency that’s located in your home state. In fact, some dog rescue organizations won’t adopt out of state. If you find several rescues online that are in your state, browse the available Basset hounds. You can find young dogs, senior dogs, and dogs with special needs that need special owners. Oftentimes, you can find Basset hounds that are already housetrained and neutered.

We actually have a Basset hound rescue, although he didn’t come from a breed rescue group. We got him from our local animal shelter. He’s a purebred and was under a year old when we adopted him, and he’d been well cared for and recently groomed. His owners never claimed him, so he went up for adoption. How much does it cost to adopt a dog from a shelter? That depends on the shelter. In our case, we had to pay only $60, and that included shots and neutering. Sometimes adopting a dog from a shelter can be a great bargain!

Basset Hound Rescue - in California

Basset Hound Rescue - in Texas

Buford T. Sparkplug
Buford T. Sparkplug | Source

Basset Hound Names

Okay, so you’ve fallen in love with Basset hounds, and you’ve decided to buy one, adopt one from a shelter, or adopt one from a Basset hound rescue. You want to come up with a good dog name for your new family member. What are some good Basset hound names? I usually put a good bit of thought into dog names, as I like for the name to match the pooch. For example, my fawn male Great Dane is regal, noble, and princely, so I named him “Hamlet.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet was a Danish prince. I named our other Dane, a male harlequin, “Grendel.” Grendel was the Danish monster in the epic poem Beowulf. Our Grendel is monstrous in size, so I thought the name was fitting. By the way, I’m a retired British Literature teacher, so you can sort of see how I chose the dog names.

Okay, back to Basset hound names. As a kid, I had a Basset hound that roamed a lot, as Basset hounds are wont to do. This was before we had leash laws. I named the pooch “Gypsy.” My daughter’s boyfriend got a Basset hound puppy for Christmas one year, and she was absolutely adorable. He named her “Ellie Mae.” One of our employees had a Basset that he called “Sniffer,” which is a very appropriate name for a Basset hound, or for any hound dog, for that matter. When I was in college, one of my friends had a Basset that she named “Sir Barkalot,” and she called him “Barkie,” for short.

It’s sort of funny how we came up with a name for the Basset hound we have now. When we first saw him as a stray in our neighborhood, I began to think of him as “Sparky” because he never seemed to get in a hurry. He just waddled along. My daughter and son-in-law live just up the street from me, and they’d noticed the dog, too. Surprisingly, my son-in-law began referring to the stray as “Sparky,” too, even though he had no idea about the name I had unofficially given the pooch. Needless to say, once we adopted the dog, his name became “Sparky.” Hubby thought our new furkid looked like a spark plug, and I thought he looked like a “Buford,” so his official name is “Buford T. Sparkplug,” and we call him “Sparky.” Other names that poke fun at the breed’s appearance or personality include Stretch, Speedy, Longshanks, String Bean, Peppie, Flash, and Zip.

Some people associate hound dogs with the South, for some reason, so old southern names are popular as dog names. I’ve known hound dogs that were named Beauregard, Jethro, Leroy, Rhett, Scarlett, and Clyde. Having two first names was common in the Old South, so you often see hounds with two names, like Mary Louise, Joe Don, Peggy Sue, Jim Bob, Daisy Mae, and Ray Gene. Of course, because of the famous song, “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog,” Elvis is one of the most popular names for dogs in the hound group.

Basset Hound Names








Billie Jo

Bobbi Jo











Chase (because they like to chase rabbits)

Cleo (like the Basset on the old TV show)








Droopy (after the cartoon character)

Dumbo (after the elephant with the big ears)











Forrest Gump



Frenchie (because of the breed’s origin)




Gimli (after the dwarf from Lord of the Rings)













Jerry Lee




Linda Lou















Roameo (because they roam)









Snuffy Smith




Sweet Pea











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