Did you know that a hush puppy is actually a breed formally known as a basset hound? Its popular nickname comes from the shoe brand, Hush Puppy after a real basset hound called Jason was chosen to feature on its logo.
Both the brand and the sweetly wrinkled, droopy-eared canine have been cultural icons in the United States ever since. But how much do you know about the basset hound? And how about its rare cousin, the blue basset hound?
What is a blue basset hound? A blue basset hound is a type of basset hound with a particular ‘blue’ coat coloring. This coloring is formed by the dog’s majority white coat ‘ticked’ or flecked with black, which from a distance appears to be a dusty bluish color.
Basset Hounds: A Spotted History
All varieties of the basset hound breed originate in France. The name ‘basset’ comes from the French word ‘bas’, meaning ‘low’, and refers to the dog’s short stature.
Basset hounds are close relatives of both the bloodhound and the German dachshund.
As a type of hound, bassets were bred for hunting – in this case, to hunt hare. They are scent hounds, meaning they are bred to hunt using their sense of smell (source).
Scent hounds were popular with many ancient civilizations, from the ancient Greeks to the Celts, and this ancient breed traces its origins back to the sixth century.
It is thought that basset hounds were bred by the French lower classes for hunting on foot, as the dogs’ short legs made them easier to keep up with, while their smaller size made them able to follow prey through dense undergrowth.
Later they became popular with the upper classes as well, and photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries show gentlemen hunting with packs of basset hounds.
Basset hounds became popular in France in the 19th century, and deliberate breeding began in 1870.
Around the same time, they were imported into England, where the first breed standard was created at the end of the same century (source).
A basset hound named Nemours was the first of the breed to be brought to the United States, in 1883 (source).
However, it wasn’t until 1964 that a breed standard was approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Today, the basset hound ranks 39th in popularity out of 195 breeds recognized by the AKC (source).
The Many Faces of the Basset Hound
There are six different recognized Basset breeds in France, all sharing a similar history and design as working dogs, but with different appearances, including both smooth (short) and rough (slightly longer) coats.
What Does a Basset Hound Look Like?
Basset hounds have a characteristic appearance, with long, droopy ears, short legs, and a long, low-slung body.
According to the AKC breed standard, they should not stand taller than 14 inches (about 36cm) at the shoulder and they are much heavier-boned than other dogs of their size, weighing in at around 44-75lb (20-35kg).
As captured in many cartoons, bassets have large, domed heads and very loose, wrinkled skin.
Their eyes are droopy and mournful, and are so much a part of the basset’s charm that even the AKC breed standard describes them as “soft” and “sad”.
A number of different coat colors and markings are considered acceptable for hound-type dogs and this applies to the basset hound as well.
The AKC accepts any recognized hound color and makes no specifications about the distribution or markings of the basset’s coat.
Colors usually expected on a hound type dog include black, white and tan, and bassets are usually a combination of all three or white and tan.
The AKC breed standard for basset hounds specifies a short, hard, smooth and weather-resistant coat, and penalizes any sign of longer hair.
However, where different kinds of basset hounds are recognized, both short or slightly longer coats are accepted.
What Kind of Temperament Does a Basset Hound Have?
Their long, heavy bodies and droopy faces might lead you to believe that basset hounds are slow, lazy and grumpy dogs. But don’t be fooled!
This breed is a playful, outgoing and family-friendly dog that has been bred for endurance and teamwork. Your basset is likely to be mild-mannered, loyal and tolerant.
Be aware that things might change when you get to the park, though! Bred to track prey by scent, basset hounds love to follow a good smell and can often be found with their noses to the ground, tracking.
When they’re on the trail, they can be stubborn and less amenable to your commands. An interesting smell can also inspire a spate of loud, yodeling barks.
The Blue Basset Hound: A Rare Breed
Depending on who you ask, you may be told either that the blue basset hound is a rare and ancient sub-type of basset, or that it is simply an ordinary basset hound with a color variation that is considered undesirable in the show ring.
The blue basset hound is recognized by the British Kennel Club and by international associations including the United Kennel Club and the Belgium-based Federation Cynologique Internationale.
The breed is not recognized by the AKC.
Those who consider the blue basset hound as a breed in its own right claim that it is a descendant of the much larger ancient hunting breed known as the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, and frequently call it by the much grander title of Blue Gascony Basset or Basset Bleu de Gascogne.
This breed is considered rare, especially outside of France, and reportedly almost disappeared in the 1800s before it was revived as a pet and novelty breed (source).
What on Earth is a Blue Dog?
So-called ‘blue’ dogs are highly sought-after for their unusual coloring but don’t get too excited about buying a puppy the color of the sky on a summer day.
When it comes to canine coloring, the word ‘blue’ is used to describe a coat that to the lay person’s eye does not look blue at all, but rather a shade of silvery grey.
Blue coloring can be caused by one of four main causes. A uniform silvery grey is usually caused by the so-called dilution of a black coat with a brown gene.
Some blue breeds are born black but have ‘progressive silvering’ which causes their coats to fade with time (source).
Blue merle dogs have a mottled pale grey, black and white coat and often have at least one blue eye. This coloring is associated with genetic ear and eye problems (source).
In the case of the blue basset hound, the blue coloring is caused by ‘ticking’ (see more information about this below). This coloring is considered undesirable by the AKC.
What Does a Blue Basset Hound Look Like?
It’s possible that your blue basset hound is simply a basset hound with blue coloring, in which case he will look the same as a classic tricolor or white and tan basset, but with slightly different coat color.
In the case of basset hounds, blue color is caused by ‘ticking’. This means that the dog’s coat is mostly white, but flecked with tiny spots of black which, from a distance, blur to form the impression of a blue coat.
Whether your dog is simply blue-colored or a Blue Gascony Basset, this coloring is one of the most distinctive aspects of his appearance.
If you have a true-blue Basset Bleu de Gascogne on your hands, you may find that your hound’s shape and size also differ slightly from the classic basset look you’re used to.
This sub-type is slightly taller and less heavy-set than the typical basset hound, standing at up to 15 inches (38cm) at the shoulder and weighing in at around 35-40lb (16-18kg).
A show Basset Bleu de Gascogne has a coat that is completely black and white, apart from tan markings above his eyes, inside his ears, on his cheeks and legs, and under his tail.
He may also have black patches either side of his head, and a white blaze that stretches from the middle of his head down his nose.
Unlike some other sub-types of basset, the blue basset hound has a smooth, short coat, but a fine coat is considered undesirable (source).
Coloring aside, however, your blue basset looks much like his cousins, with his short legs, elongated body, long, droopy ears, and mournful eyes.
Tips for a Prospective Basset Hound Owner
Like any breed, the basset hound has its own particular characteristics and quirks, and it’s well to keep them in mind when considering adopting one.
Whether you’re falling for a classic basset or hunting down a rare blue, it’s your hound’s personality rather than his coloring that will shape your relationship.
Advantages of Owning a Basset Hound
Bassets are smart, inquisitive dogs, but are far more relaxed and low-maintenance than many other intelligent breeds such as collies.
As hunting dogs, they have high stamina and love exercise, but they’re are easy-going companions who are as willing to spend the day on the couch with you as to go for a long walk.
Because they were bred to hunt in a pack, Basset hounds play extremely well with others.
They are considered exceptionally friendly, loyal and tolerant dogs who fit in well with other pets and children.
Disadvantages of Owning a Basset Hound
Despite their easy-going nature, basset hounds are known to be stubborn and strong-willed and need plenty of patience and consistent training.
Your pup’s ability as a scent hound means he loves to explore the world of smells around him, but he may become deaf to your calls and whistles when he’s on the trail of something new.
Basset hounds also have another strong hunting instinct: baying. This long, loud, yodeling bark is the bane of many owners’ lives and can make you unpopular with your neighbors.
A bored Basset will bark to get your attention, so you’ll need to keep him occupied with plenty of activities. Even so, this is a breed that is simply prone to barking, so steer clear if you value your peace and quiet!
It should also come as no surprise that a dog with such a long spine and short legs can be prone to physical health problems as well.
Although this appearance was initially the result of the dog’s working role, many years of breeding for the show have resulted in inbreeding and multiple health problems, including elbow dysplasia and spinal problems (source).
For more about the debate between working dog enthusiasts and those upholding breed standards, read “Border Collie Ears: The Complete Guide” or “Rat Terrier Border Collie Mix”.
Those long droopy ears also make for some health challenges and need frequent cleaning to avoid wax build-up and infections.
Basset’s wrinkled skin can lead to dermatitis and infections. And the sad hound-dog eyes don’t come without a cost either: the basset’s sagging eyelids make him prone to eye infections.
Your Basset hound has a life expectancy of 10-12 years but he may need plenty of medical attention along the way.
Despite having a short coat that makes for easy grooming, basset hounds are also known to shed and require regular brushing to keep them and your house presentable.
Here are some facts you should know about basset hounds:
Is a Basset Hound the Right Dog for Me?
Although this breed is known to be low-maintenance, there is some hidden work in basset hound ownership, and it’s best to be prepared.
Tempting as it may be to see this dog as a permanent couch companion, you’ll need to be ready to provide your basset (or Basset Bleu) with regular exercise to prevent obesity and avoid exacerbating genetic health concerns.
You’ll also need to be ready to tackle those genetics, with regular vet check-ups for joint problems and infections, and a home cleaning and grooming regime for your pup’s ears and coat.
How to Care for a Basset Hound
Remember that your basset hound loves to follow an interesting scent, which means he’ll end up in the muddiest parts of the park – perfect places for that low tummy to pick up all sorts of dust and debris!
You’ll need to bathe him regularly, around once a month, but count yourself lucky that his short hair means no professional grooming is necessary – save yourself the cost and do the job at home with some doggy shampoo.
Don’t over bathe, though, as you can strip the skin and hair of its natural oils and cause irritation (source).
Be careful to get into all the wrinkles and folds of skin to prevent infection as well.
Don’t spray your dog in the face, though: rather gently wipe away dust and dirt from between the folds of skin with a soft damp cloth.
You don’t want to cause him discomfort by getting soap and water in his eyes, and it’s extremely important to keep water out of his ears.
One of the most important routines to avoid infection in this breed is ear cleaning.
Clean your basset’s ears frequently from a young age, to get him used to the handling.
Lift the earflap, clean underneath and wipe away any dirt and wax you can reach with a damp ball of cotton wool. Be very careful not to poke anything into the ear canal (source).
Keep an eye on your basset’s eyes as well. Those droopy eyelids can gather dirt and are prone to infections.
Clean away debris when you can, being very careful not to poke your pup in the eye. If more intensive cleaning is needed, visit a vet for tips and assistance.
Brush your basset after every bath and at least once a week if you can manage it, to keep shedding under control – your carpets and couches will thank you! Brushing is also a good opportunity to check his skin for lumps or irritation.
Of course, it’s also important to take care of the healthcare routines that all dogs require.
Clean your basset’s teeth at least once a week, and trim his toenails when they start to make a noise on hard floors.
Basset hounds are not the lowest-maintenance of dogs and if you’re considering adopting one, make sure you’re prepared to work to maintain his physical and mental health.
But if you’re prepared to put in the effort and embrace the unique personality of a basset hound, from his stubbornness and single-minded hunting habits down to his expressive vocals, you’ll find yourself with a uniquely loyal and loving canine family member.
Final Thoughts: What Is Special About Blue Basset Hounds And Do I Want One?
Whether you consider a blue basset hound a rare and historic breed or an unfortunate genetic oddity is probably largely a matter of geography.
But unusually colored dogs, including ‘blue’ variations, are becoming more and more popular in the age of Instagram, and you might find yourself tempted to set out in search of a selfie-worthy blue basset.
However, if you’re considering adopting a blue basset hound, your first consideration should be whether a basset hound of any description is the right dog for you.
Don’t be beguiled by the idea of owning a rare breed or an unusual-looking dog.
Remember that you will be responsible for his well-being for a long time, and the novelty of his coat color will disappear more quickly than you can get his hair out of your clothes!
Choose this breed if you’re looking for a friendly, intelligent and laid-back canine, and aesthetics will soon be forgotten in the light of the pleasure you’ll experience in the company of your new companion.