3: The Foundation of the Modern Hound
Woodcut of Everett Millais’ Basset Hound ‘Model’ (1879)

Woodcut of Everett Millais’
Basset Hound ‘Model’ (1879)

The Basset Hound as we now recognise it is due to the dedication of several British enthusiasts in the later half of the nineteenth century.

Lord Galway of Serlby had seen the pack of Basset Hounds belonging to the Comte de Tournon when staying in France in 1866. Later that year, the Comte sent Galway a couple - Basset and Belle.  He mated these and produced a litter of five puppies. For some unknown reason, in 1872 these came into the ownership of Lord Onslow, who continued to breed from them, supplementing them with further imported hounds.

In 1874, Everett Millais, son of the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir John Everett Millais, purchased in Paris a male Basset Hound called Model. Model was brought over to England and exhibited at a dog show in Wolverhampton in 1875 to much public interest - the first Basset Hound ever to be so shown over here. Millais and Onslow eventually became aware of the other’s hounds and Model was mated with one of Onslow’s bitches.

Further examples were brought over from France, George Krehl in particular imported a very influential hound, Fino de Paris.

Jupiter, Pallas & Fino de Paris, Fino de Paris is at the back. Circa 1879

Jupiter, Pallas & Fino de Paris
Fino de Paris is at the back
Circa 1879

Dissatisfied with the French stock available at the time and wishing to increase the gene pool, Millais decided to out-cross his hound, Nicholas, to a Bloodhound bitch. Interestingly, he used artificial insemination for this - the first time this procedure had been used for any mammal of this size. Progeny from this union were then mated with pure-bred Basset hounds. Within three generations all offspring were undistinguishable from pure-bred Bassets, however they had gained greater substance and possessed more skin wrinkle.

It is thought that it was this out-crossing that led to the present day Basset Hound being significantly larger than its French counterpart. Interestingly, the Basset Hound has the greatest bone to weight ratio than any other breed of dog.

The newly formed Kennel Club officially recognised this increasing breed in 1880.

Alexandra with her rough coated<br />& smooth coated Bassets

Alexandra with her rough coated & smooth coated Bassets

As the popularity of the breed grew it acquired a dedicated following, including amongst others, Princess (later Queen) Alexandra, wife of the future Edward VII, who kept both rough and smooth-coated types at the Sandringham kennels.

All this enthusiasm for the breed resulted in the formation of the Basset Hound Club in 1884.

In 1886, Millais judged Basset Hounds at a dog show at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster with 120 entries.

Several hunting packs of Basset Hounds were established, the Walhampton belonging to the brothers Heseltine and Miss Peggy Keevil’s Grims being two of the most renowned.

Sadly, the breed’s ever increasing growth came to a halt and then went into dramatic decline with the Great War. Between 1914 and 1918 only nine Basset Hound’s appear in the Kennel Club’s registry.

Its decline continued after the war, not helped by outbreaks of the virus, Distemper, which devastated the canine population. This resulted in the BHC being wound up in 1921.

Basset Hounds, Arthur Wardle, 1864-1949

Arthur Wardle, 1864-1949

Stalwart enthusiasts, like the brothers, Heseltine and some very determined and quite formidable women - Edith Grew, Nina Elms and Peggy Keevil - kept the breed going through some very difficult times. The Second World War was a particularly fallow period for the breed. We who love this breed should all applaud the perseverance of these pioneers.

In time, however, attention in the Basset Hound began to flourish again and in 1954 the Basset Hound Club was reformed with Lionel Woolner as its chairman.

For a time the BHC had its own pack, the Albany, though ownership of this was later relinquished by the club and, sadly, the existing pack are no longer pure-bred Basset Hounds.

Tony Roberts © 2008

Introduction Part 1
The Origins
Part 2
The Basset in England
Part 3
The Foundation of the Modern Hound
Part 4
Todays Basset Hound
Basset Hound History