All About Basset Hounds

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on April 10, 2022
7 min read

Basset hounds are charming, medium-sized dogs in the hound group. They’re very low-key pets that don’t get excited easily. 

They were bred to be slow, plodding hunters and — to this day — they enjoy long walks with their humans. This breed is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a steadfast companion.  

Body size. The medium-sized basset is a comfortable addition to any family. They’re small enough to climb in the car with you and don’t need lots of space to be comfortable. Males and females tend to be similarly sized.

The average basset hound size is no taller than 15 inches. Some are even shorter and might reach only 10 inches above the ground. 

Their weight will vary slightly depending on their height. A healthy weight range for a full-grown basset hound is anywhere from 40 to 65 pounds. Talk to your veterinarian if you're worried that your pet is too far underweight or overweight

Body shape. Basset hounds have a distinct shape among the dog breeds. They have very short legs and long bodies that lay low to the ground, but they’re also incredibly strong. Their shape provides a lot of stamina — just not a lot of speed. 

Relative to their size, these dogs have heavier skeletons than any other breed. These skeletons are supported by muscular legs and huge paws. The paws have tough pads and evenly distribute the weight of the animal. 

Normal basset hound traits include easily-recognizable skulls that are shaped like large domes. Their faces have expressive, wrinkled brows. 

Large, soft ears extend from far back on their heads and can hang low in loose folds and wrinkles. When at rest, these ears can even look like they’re coming from your dog’s neck. 

Their muzzles are large and heavy.

Lifespan. As a medium-sized dog, your basset hound is likely to live for over a decade. The average basset hound lifespan is twelve to thirteen years. 

You should plan for a reasonably long life with this dog before deciding to bring one home — especially if you plan on getting one as a puppy. 

Coat. Basset hounds have smooth, short coats. These can be dense enough to keep them safe for long stretches outside in any weather. 

Basset hounds sport at least 19 recognized coat colors. Examples include: 

  • Black and white
  • Black, brown, and white
  • Lemon and white
  • Red and white
  • Blue, tan, and white
  • White, black, and red

These colors can come in four distinct patterns. These are: 

  • Ticked
  • Black-masked
  • White markings 
  • Black markings 

Eyes. A basset hound's eyes usually look sad and droopy — they’re one of the many distinguishing characteristics of this breed. They should be slightly sunken into the skull.

Breeders prefer a dark brown color, but their eyes can also be quite light. Most families won’t care about these slight differences, though.  

Personality. For the most part, the basset hound personality is gentle, sweet, and reasonably affectionate. They’re extremely loyal to their families, but they won’t always express this with boundless enthusiasm. 

Instead, they’re very emotionally mild and even-keeled. This means that they can be a very calming presence in your family. 

They’re also incredibly stubborn creatures — a trait that comes in handy when they have to track the same scent for hours on end. 

In general, the basset hound temperament is very easy-going — never overly sharp or timid.  

Grooming. Basset hounds need to be groomed regularly in order to keep them happy and healthy. They shed a lot — but brushing them once at least once a week will help remove dead hairs. Regular brushing is also helpful for their skin. 

Your basset will also need occasional baths. Give them a wash whenever their coat has lost its shine or you notice any dirt or a bad smell. 

Clip your pet’s nails regularly and brush their teeth often — at least twice a week — to complete their grooming requirements. 

Feeding. Obesity can be a problem for basset hounds — particularly because of their long, low bodies. Find or make high-quality dog food that your pet enjoys. Just make sure that you feed them according to their age and size. 

Ask your veterinarian for specific nutritional requirements as well as advice on foods that aren’t safe for dogs. 

Make sure you have clean water available for your pet at all times. 

Exercise and Mental Stimulation. Basset hounds need moderate amounts of exercise — more than some breeds of comparable size but much less than others. 

A single, reasonably-paced walk a day should be enough exercise for your pet. 

They also need some mental stimulation and were bred to enjoy the company of other dogs. This means that playing with toys and having fun in a dog park are great ways to fit both mental and physical stimulation into your dog’s routine. 

You’ll know that your dog has had enough physical activity when they go and take a nap after they’ve finished having fun.  

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs. Talk to them for the most up-to-date information. 

All dogs need a core set, though. This includes vaccinations for:

You can sign your dog up for these as early as six weeks of age. There are also other non-core vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian. 

The dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. Use them as needed.

Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you.

Basset hounds tend to have unique health issues affecting their ears. This is because they’re so long and droopy that air doesn’t circulate well. They can come down with infections or ear mites

Clean and check your dog's ears regularly to keep them dry. Don’t let them get covered in food or regularly drag on the ground without cleaning them off. 

Some ear infections can be deadly — especially if left untreated. 

Check your basset hound out — or bring them to your veterinarian — if you notice them shaking their head or scratching their ears a lot. 

Other common basset hound health issues include: 

  • Hip dysplasiaThis is a common condition in dogs where the hip joint doesn’t form properly. It can get in the way of your dog’s movements. 
  • Elbow dysplasiaThis condition is comparable to hip dysplasia but occurs at the elbow joint. 
  • GlaucomaThis is an eye condition that makes it difficult for your dog to see.
  • HypothyroidismHave your veterinarian examine your dog’s thyroid function to test for this condition.
  • Luxating patella. This is a condition that’s similar to trick knees in humans. You should have your dog's joints tested for their susceptibility to this condition. 
  • Bleeding disorders.

Basset hounds have the second-greatest noses in the dog world — they’re only beaten by the bloodhound. These dogs were bred to have unbelievable scenting and tracking powers. They can sniff out their prey with ease and are built to follow it for hours. 

Basset hounds are one of the few breeds of dogs that have achondroplasia — a type of dwarfism in animals. This is what makes their legs so short. It’s caused by an underlying genetic condition called osteochondrodysplasia — which causes their bones and cartilage to develop incorrectly. 

This characteristic — along with the rest of their body structure — means that it’s unsafe for basset hounds to do much jumping. This is particularly true for puppies and older dogs. A single jump is enough to cause serious injury — including broken limbs or a broken back. 

If the damage is too severe, you’ll need to have your pet put down. You can avoid this by helping them down from heights and keeping an eye on them when they're very young and old. 

You should also keep in mind that these animals can be quite gassy. They drool a lot and shed regularly. 

They make up for all of these less-desirable traits by being great with young children and other dogs, though. 

That said, they warm up to strangers slowly. 

Early training can help prevent them from being too temperamental. There can be tendencies for aggression and hyperactivity in dogs that modern breeders try to avoid. 

Most bassets shouldn’t exhibit these tendencies if they’re raised well and trained correctly.  

The basset hound is one of six basset breeds to come out of France. The word basset means “rather low” in French. 

Dogs with the basset’s short legs have been found in tombs from ancient Egypt. Their ancestors, the Laconian hounds, were well-known in ancient Greece and Rome for their scenting abilities.

The origins of the modern-day basset are most likely at the Abbey of St. Hubert. The friars were intentionally trying to create a low-lying scenting dog that could trudge along all day with human hunters. They succeeded with the basset hound. 

Bassets became very popular among the French aristocrats since they were constantly out hunting. The breed received international attention in the 1863 dog exhibition in Paris. 

People began controlled breeding efforts with the basset hound in the 1870s. This is also around the time when the breed arrived in England. Here, the breed was refined a bit more, and the first official standard was established at the end of the 19th century.   

Ever since their exhibition, these dogs have enjoyed worldwide popularity that continues to this day.