I’ll wager very few of us with Basset Hounds have not heard this
gambit from strangers when out walking our little darlings.
My most frequent response, certainly if in a hurry, is an acquiescent but rather pathetic, “No, you don’t.” Though this reply slightly worries me because, although acknowledging their perception, it infers agreement.
I’m never quite sure when was this golden age to which they refer. A time when vast packs of Bassets roamed our local parks and countryside, and the air was constantly filled with the sonorous howls and barks we know and love.
Certainly, there where times in the past when there were greater numbers of Basset Hounds registered with the Kennel Club than now.
Following the war in 1945, there was zero Basset Hounds registrations and only ten were registered in 1946. Then, numbers slowly rose until 1959 when 237 hounds were recorded.
A spike in these figures occurred during the sixties and seventies; and in 1972
a peak was reached with an impressive 3,173 Basset Hound KC registrations.
This increased popularity began over the pond in The States.
As early as 1956, a top-hatted and bespectacled hound called Sherlock was press-ganged to appear with Elvis Presley singing Hound Dog (that’s Elvis, not the hound) on a U.S. television show.
Stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Rex Harrison, Dirk Bogarde, Bridget Bardot (right) and Clint Eastwood owned Basset Hounds.
All this publicity certainly got the breed noticed.
A Basset Hound called Axelrod became very famous in the mid-sixties
when used on a series of Flying ‘A’ Gas Station posters (see above) and TV
commercials. Since then, our photogenic breed has frequently showed up on
TV episodes of both Columbo and The Dukes of Hazzard.
In the UK, a bi-colour Basset Hound used as a logo for Hush Puppy shoes did much to familiarise the breed with the general public; as did the daily appearance of the much-loved Fred Basset in his cartoon strip in The Mail. I suspect that when strangers say, “You don’t see many of these, nowadays,” this perception may be due more to the lack of the breed’s recent presence in the media, rather than seeing fewer Basset Hounds on the ground. Even at its height, the probability of coming across one must have been quite slight.
If I feel more kindly disposed to engage the stranger, I might point out that we meet up with thirty-five, or so, other Basset Hounds for regularly monthly walks.
I’ve also found many people comment upon their hound-dog looks. “Oh, they look so sad,” one person even added, “How do you know when they’re happy?”. My reply, “They tend to wag their tails and smile.” (Our Pablo does literally smile.)
There also seems a lot of people who say something like, “I used to own a Basset Hound once” - this seems to back-up the adage, ‘Own a Basset Hound and you’ll either never have another, or you will only ever have them’.
I, for one, am glad to be in the second camp.