A Look At the Basset

A Look at the Basset

by Dr. Leonard Skolnick
(reprinted from Tally-Ho

"The Basset Hound possesses in marked degree those characteristics which equip it admirably to follow a trail over and through difficult terrain."

The first line of the Basset standard characterizes the Basset as a hunting hound of sound structure and running gear, capable of tireless, agile pursuit and great endurance. Although the Basset is a long, low, massive dog with short, heavily-boned legs and paws, he is also agile and sturdy, but slim enough to endure. In the show ring, observation of the gait, therefore, is the surest and best way to evaluate the Basset. There is frequent opinion that because the Basset has an unusual proportion he can be allowed unusual guidelines for his movement. On the contrary, his heavy structure requires excellent movement and the expected features of the movement are not far different from any other hunting dog built for endurance.


1. Balance: Stride and reach should be the some both front and rear. For example, it is preferable to have inadequate angulation at both front quarter and hindquarter so that movement is balanced than it is to have superior angulation in front and lack proper angulation behind.

2. Effortlessness: Balance coupled with correct structure produces a very evident feature of movement, effortlessness, which can be thought of as "moving on wheels." The topline appears to stand still with no movement either up and down or side to side when the dog is gaited at any speed.

3. Reach: In keeping with the need for strength and endurance with good shoulder Iayback and angulation and balancing angulation behind, proper gait requires a long stride or reach. When the dog is viewed in profile movement this long reach should be balanced equally in the front and the rear. The front legs should move forward of the lowest point (when legs are perpendicular to the ground) and back from the lowest point an equal amount. A stride which reaches only forward reveals a short upper arm. A stride of inadequate reach reveals a steep shoulder in front and/or inadequate angulation behind.

4. Moving away, going: The rear feet should follow in a straight line parallel to one another and perpendicular to the floor. As the dog increases his speed it is desirable for the rear legs to angle slightly inward toward the longitudinal center of the body. The hocks should be true, however, and either cowhocks or bowed legs behind are considered serious faults. Moreover, the rear legs should not move close behind. In viewing the dog's movement in going away, careful attention should be addressed to the serious fault of loose shoulders or turned out elbows in the front. Steep shoulders and a hackney gait often present an apparently pleasing gait when viewed from the front, but concommitant faults such as turned out elbows are usually evident when viewed going away.

5. Moving toward, coming: The crook of the front leg follows the curve of the ribs so that the wrists are closer than the elbows. This proper positioning gives support in motion. (Forelegs moving outside the body instead of under it cannot give support. If the wrists are further out or if the rib cage is barrel shaped rather than oval, the displacement of support of the front legs results in a rolling gait with obvious effort and in extreme cases the feet may actually point inward, which is a serious fault. This aspect of movement is somewhat unusual in that the feet should be inclined outward to approximately the width of the elbows. A very exaggerated crook (fiddle front) or too straight a leg are both serious faults.

The observation of gait is the most important step in evaluating the structure of the Basset. The structure may, however, also be evaluated for placement and proportions in static balance or "posed." It should always be remembered, however, that skillful handling can disguise much in "posing" that cannot be disguised in gaiting.

Front Quarter: The shoulders are well muscled with good layback (45 degrees desirable). The shoulder blade (scapula) is long and slopes obliquely forward forming a right angle with the upper arm (humerus), which is almost as long as the scapula. The forearm (radius and ulna) is short compared to other breeds and is moderately crooked. The wrist (carpals and metacarpals) is comparatively straight and is covered with skin that is wrinkled, terminating in a well-rounded, massive paw (lower metacarpals and phalanges) which is inclined outward.

Viewed from the front, the crook of the legs follows the curve of the ribs to the lower portion of the forearm, the wrist and feet closer together than the elbow, but not close enough to form a fiddle front. The crook of the legs should be moderate and even on both sides, and the feet inclined outward to the width of the shoulders at most. An exaggerated crook with too much turn of foot or too straight a leg are equally undesirable. The legs should be strong and heavily boned with no indication of knuckling or weakness in pasterns. Weakness in pastern is a very serious fault, and knuckling is a disqualification.

The toes (phalanges) are neither separated nor splayed, but should form a compact, short paw, with the toes of sufficient length to cover the heavy pads underneath. The dog should stand well up on his feet and the feet should be firmly supported by a heavy heel pad and toes.

The shoulder blades stand close at the withers and slope obliquely outward providing a clean, smooth appearance. Viewed in profile, the shoulder blades and elbows are flat and tight to the body with no indication of turnout. If there is any appearance of lack of smoothness it should be the result, only, of excess skin. Feeling the shoulder and elbow assembly will reveal whether the assembly is tight to the body, looseness in this structure being a serious fault.

The entire shoulder assembly should be placed far enough back on the body so that the front leg covers the lowest point of the breastline when viewed in profile, and the foremost part of the sternum should be clearly visible from the side. If a plummet were dropped from the onset of the neck, it should drop through the deepest part of the dog's chest and touch the ground between the feet and in front of the wrist. Length of body should be considered as the distance from the front of the sternum to the base of the tail, not the distance between the front legs and the rear legs. By avoiding this error, judges will avoid rewarding a misplaced front assembly.

Trunk: The breastbone (sternum) is strong and prominent, the brisket deep full, oval and well let down between the legs. The rib structure is extremely long, smooth and well carried back, the ribs full volumed and well sprung. The loin is strong, firm and comparatively short, the abdomen only very slightly drawn up. The topline is straight and horizontal and free from a tendency to sag or give.

Hindquarters: The hindquarter is very full and well rounded and is of approximately equal width to the shoulders. It should be in perfect proportion to the frontquarter and trunk and should be judged in relation to the total balance of the dog. It should never appear slack or light in relation to the overall depth of the body.

The hindquarter is extremely powerful, the muscles standing out prominently, the legs strong and capable of a forward drive. The dog must stand firmly on his rear legs showing good angulation, the rear legs not too far under the body, and with no tendency toward a crouching stance. Viewed from behind, the rearquarter appears firm and well rounded, the legs parallel with the hocks turning neither in nor out.

Viewed in profile, the pelvic bones slope well forward, forming a pelvic cavity of ample girth. The upper thigh bone (femur) is set at an approximate right angle to the pelvic bone, and the lower thigh (tibia and fibula) of an approximate right angle to the upper thigh, with the connecting stifle joint well bent. The hock joint (tarsus), connecting lower thigh and metatarsus, is well let down and distinctly bent. The metatarsus (erroneously called the hock) connecting the hock joint and the foot, inclines forward, except when the dog is otherwise posed. The rear foot is well rounded and somewhat more compact than the front foot, and the whole of the foot should be poised equally on the ball and toes. The rear feet point straight ahead.

The rearquarters must be strong with great driving power and complete freedom of action. A steep rear with straightness in either stifle or hock joints is a very serious fault, but excessive angulation with any tendency toward weakness or unsteadiness in either movement or stance is also undesirable. In proportion, the thigh is somewhat long, the metatarsus short. The thigh is thick and muscular and well rounded throughout. A thin, weak, rangy thigh is faulty. The reverse proportion, a short, tight thigh with a long metatarsus inhibits freedom of action and forward drive and is a serious fault.

Head: The head is narrow in proportion to its length with very little taper from the temples to the nose. Viewed from the front or the top, it appears to have been flattened at the sides. It is cleancut and free from any indication of cheek bumps. Viewed in profile the toplines of the muzzle and skull are straight and lie in parallel planes, with a moderately defined stop. The length from the nose to the stop approximates the length from the stop to the back of the occiput. The skull is narrow and well domed, rounded from side to side, culminating in a very pronounced occipitol protuberance. The back of the skull is distinctly developed and sharply defined from the neck. The skull should not be wide or flat, and the brow should not be prominent although due to the deepset eyes and loose skin, it sometimes has that appearance.

The eyes are soft and sad, the expression one of wisdom and reposeful dignity. The eye is sunken, showing a small area or none of the white. The lids droop, showing the inside of the lower lid and haw.

Faults: Faults are of three types: 1) Very serious faults: 2) Serious faults; 3) Minor faults, and should be penalized accordingly. In general, very serious faults are those that impair the endurance of the dog in the field. These are primarily faults in running gear and movement. Also regarded as very serious because of its strongly hereditary nature is an incorrect bite, especially if undershot. Extremely pronounced faults in topline are also regarded as very serious. Serious faults are in general the faults in body and proportion, and the important faults in type, especially in head. Minor faults are in general primarily faults of detail. The order in which faults are listed within their groups is not material.

1. Very Serious faults: Steep shoulders with short scapulae and incorrect angulation of front quarter; loose shoulders; turned out elbows; weak pasterns; excessive crook in legs with exaggerated turnout in feet; fiddle front; straight front legs with no turn-out of feet; flat feet; thinly padded feet; splayed feet; steep pelvis and incorrectly angulated rear quarters; straight stifle-joint; straight hock joint; excessive angulation of rear quarter with unsteadiness or weakness of rear legs; bowed legs; cowhocks; important faults in gait; extremely pronounced faults in topline; overshot or undershot bite.

2. Serious Faults: Wide skull; flat skull; absence of well-developed occipital protuberance; snipey muzzle; weak underjaw; high, flat, pancake ear; barrel chest; short chest; flatsidedness; too much tuck up in abdomen; slackness of loin; roach back; sway back; higher at croup than at withers; absence of balance and proportion coarseness, either in body or head; doggy bitches; bitchy dogs; pronounced faults of temperament; absence of loose skin, flews, dewlap and wrinkle.

3. Minor Faults: Eyes lighter than tan of coat; round prominent or protruding eyes; absence of dark pigmentation on eye rims, nose and lips; haws a different color in each eye; absence of haw; harsh expression; absence of parallel planes on tops of muzzle and skull; absence of straight plane on either muzzle or skull; brows too prominent; absence of stop or too much stop; dish face or down face; cheek bumps; incorrect tail; insufficient loose skin, wrinkles, flews or dewlap.