Make your own free website on


French bassets - Hunting dogs
© By Yoland Grosjean - Lutry - Lake of Geneva Area
In friendly Switzerland
" Enluminure " from the Book of Hunt, 
Gaston Phoebus, France, 15th Century 
(for more, use link in list below).
From the Book of Hunt, Phoebus, 15th Century
History of French Bassets Hunting Dogs
Yoland Grosjean - 1998
Drawings by G. Capra
Origin :

At the present time, there are five different breeds of French Bassets with a well established standard :

  1. The " Basset Artesien - Normand "
  2. The " Basset Griffon Vendeen "
  3. The " Basset Bleu de Gascogne "
  4. The " Basset Fauve de Bretagne "
  5. The " Basset d'Artois "
They are all short legged variety of a taller breed, and are resulting of a selection. 

The big French original hunting dogs were used in packs by horse-riders to chase stags, roe deer, wolves, wild boars and generally speaking large preys. Only the wealthy nobles were allowed to carry out this occupation. It was one of the most cherished entertainment of the kings, princes, and other knights of ancient time.

Opposite to what happened in England, where specialized breeds where selected and used for each game (staghound, foxhound, otterhound, harrier, etc.), the French hunting dogs were always intended to be used to chase all kinds of preys, except birds. 

After the French revolution, hunting became a right for the ordinary citizens. But most people could not afford to hold a pack of large hunting dogs and horses.

On the other hand, the big hounds were much to fast for pedestrians. This led to the research and selection of smaller, slower dogs which would nevertheless possess the sense of smell and the pursuit ability of the well established breeds.

It is important to state that before the revolution, basset were already used in some areas with very dense bushes or forests. With their smaller size, they were able to follow the track of an animal much faster than the larger dogs.

 All French hunting dogs have common antique ancestors : 

  1. The running dogs brought from the Middle East by Phoenician merchants (2500 BC)
  2. The Western European Bronze Age's dog (with long curly hair).
During centuries these dogs mixed randomly and a local natural selection occurred, resulting in emerging local types.

The first real breed, with fixed standards, dates back from the twelfth century. It was brought up by the abbots of the Saint Hubert's Abbey, in Ardennes, and it is still called " Chien de Saint Hubert " (known in England under the name of Bloodhound). Originally there were two distinct varieties of Saint Hubert with different colors : one black and red-brown, the other one white with large dark (gray-black to bluish) spots. Today, the white variety is extinct.
The Saint Hubert (Bloodhound) is a large heavy dog, very strongly built, with a fantastic " nose ". The father of all hunting dogs !

During the second Crusade (1214-1270), Saint Louis King of France brought back large gray dogs from the Middle East, in all likelihood Tartar's greyhounds, and mixed them with the Saint Hubert to obtain a new very fast haunt dog, " le Chien Gris de Saint Louis "

Most of today's French breeds are a result of a crossing of these thirteenth century dogs, with typical local races resulting from natural selection.

Description of French bassets.

Basset Artesien Normand : 

The actual standard dates back from the middle of the 19th century. It is the most common French basset.

It has a very long body, with short twisted legs, and a neck's height of 26 to 36 cm. Short hair and usually a three colors robe : white, brown orange, and black. The skin is wrinkled. Big dark eyes. Very long falling ears. Big nose, with large black nostrils. Long neck.

Excellent dog for all kind of games, from hare to wild boar.

The English Basset Hound is derived from the Basset Artesien Normand. It was first imported in England in 1866, and the First Club was founded in 1884. The race was modified with appropriate dosage of Bloodhound's blood, and a strict selection of the heaviest specimens.

Basset d'Artois :

Same as Basset Artesien Normand (above) but lighter and lower (26-32 cm at the neck). Shorter neck and ears. Can hunt in pack, but also a great dog when working alone, with an incredible nose.

Basset Bleu de Gascogne : 

Very old race which appears on many antique pictures (14th century) in the South West of France. Neck's height up to 42cm. Lighter but more muscular than most other bassets. Average weight for a well fit male 21-25kg (up to 53 pounds) approx. Very strong jaws with an ability to kill the games (hunting). Can run quite fast, and for a long time. Big dark eyes and long falling ears (longer than the nose!). Very big nose and wide open black nostrils. Great scent dog for all games. Short hard hair, mainly black-blue, gray, with blond-brown and white spots (feet, over the eyes). Long tail which is held up (sabre).
At the present time the race is in danger of extinction. Because of its specific qualities the Basset Bleu de Gascogne was mainly used for pack hunting, and this activity is slowly disappearing, even in France.

Basset Fauve de Bretagne : 

A long hair dog (Griffon) with multicolored robe. Short legs and neck's height between 32 and 36cm.

 Very independent, Chase alone and is usually quite fast. Typical Griffon's head.

                                                      Basset Griffon Vendeen :

Very similar to the former. Two varieties : short twisted legs (neck's height 34-38 cm.), straight legs (necks height 38-42 cm.).

Nice basset
GO !