How the basset hound became English

model

In the English language, the term “basset hound” refers to a specific breed. We recognize it as sort of a dwarf bloodhound that comes in the more “beagly” colors of tricolor and lemon and white.  It is immortalized in the cartoon character Droopy and is the mascot for the Hush Puppy shoe brand. One of my favorite stuffed animals as a boy was a Pound Puppy named “Droopy,” and the majority of these toys were based upon how basset hounds look.

This animal is well-established in Western pop culture, but its origins as a distinct breed are very rarely discussed. It is usually said to be a French breed, but anyone who has looked at French dog breeds closely very quickly discovers that there are many basset breeds. “Basset” just means a dwarf hound.  Dwarf dogs have shorter legs for their body size, and it very common in a variety of breeds, which can easily be “grafted” onto different strains through crossbreeding. For example, within the bleu de Gascogne breeds there is a basset. It is very similar to the long-legged petit and grand bleus de Gascogne. It has short-legs, and short legs define it as a basset. It probably derives from the longer-legged bleus being crossed with some form of basset.

Short-legged hounds are quite useful in hunting rabbits and hares while the hunter is on foot and especially if the hunter has a gun. Short-legged hounds will put pressure on the quarry and drive out in the open where it can be shot, or the slow running hounds will  put pressure on the prey to continue the chase.

France is the world’s leader in producing scenthound breeds. I say this as an American, a nation that has produced many find scenthounds, but the French have been at it for centuries.  It is usually suggested, though with a bit of exaggeration, that the major scenthounds of Britain, which are also the root source for most North American hound breeds, are all derived from French strains.  After all, hunting with hounds in England was always the realm of the wealthy and high positioned, and for many centuries, the noble class of Britain largely consisted of French or French-speaking gentry.  It would have made sense that they would have brought hounds from France into England and established them there as distinct scenthound types.

But until the 1870s,  there was never a native British basset breed.  For hares and rabbits, the British sporting men ran various forms of harrier and beagle. These are all longer-legged dogs with great endurance, and a beagle pack was usually attached to the leading boarding school in the country. Eton has a famous beagle pack even now, and these beagle packs were used to introduce the elite’s sons into the culture of sporting hounds.

In Picardy and Artois, a long-legged harrier type of hound was developed for much the same purpose. The Artois hound (or “Chien d’Artois) developed quite a bit of fame in French history as a superior hare hound. Some of these dogs are believed to behind the modern beagle, for this part of northern France is but a short distance across the channel from England.

But the British were uninterested in obtaining any of the basset breeds for hunting purposes.

However, in the nearby province of Normandy, a strain of basset was developed for hunting hares on foot. It was a grafting of the basset trait on the now extinct Normand hound, and someone began adding the same feature onto the Artois hound, producing the “Basset d’Artois.” These two breeds have since been combined into the modern Basset Artesien-Normand, but originally there were two breeds.   The Normand breed had crooked front legs, and the Artois had longer legs.

The Count le Couteulx de Canteleu kept a pack of the Artois basset, consisting of two distinct types. One was heavily built and usually tricolor or red and white. The other, which was said to be crossed with beagle, was usually lemon and white or tricolor. Another strain bred by Louis Lane of Normandy were gray and white or lemon and white and had very heavy bone. It is from these dogs that modern basset hound descends.

Eventually a few of these dogs wound up with George Edmund Milnes Monckton-Arundell, 7th Viscount Galway (“Lord Galway”) in the 1860s.  In the 1870s, these dogs became property of the William Hillier Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow, (“Lord Onslow”), and they were the only pack of these hounds in the entire country, where they used to run hares

In 1874 Everett Millais, the son of the famous painter Sir John Everett Millais, took in a dog show at Paris’s Jardin d’Acclimatation.  At the time Millais was interested in dachshunds and decided to check out the breed in Paris and compare them to those in England. He had traveled to the continent to import some in 1870, and he was looking for more examples of what was then a novelty breed in England.

At this French dog show, however, there were two dogs of the basset Artesien-Normand-type being exhibited. He was instantly drawn to these bassets, eventually purchasing one, which he was named “Model.” The other hound also wound up in the hands of an English dog fancier, George Krehl, and this dog, which as named “Fino de Paris.”

Millais hadn’t been much into dog shows until he brought Model over, and it wasn’t long before he exhibited this new dog at English dog shows. The dog was much celebrated in the press, and the dog received the attention of Lord Onslow.  It wasn’t long before Model was being bred to his bitches, including some that he recently imported from The Count le Couteulx de Canteleu. George Krehl also joined in the breeding venture, and it wasn’t long before they had good-sized but very inbred population.

It was then that there were attempts to find an outcross. Beagles didn’t work, because the crosses just didn’t look or bay correctly.

So it was Millais who came up with the novel idea of crossing the basset with the bloodhound to save the breed.  The bloodhound bitch was bred to a basset using artificial insemination. The reason he wanted to use the bloodhound as an outcross is to perform what we know as genetic rescue but also add bone and stronger-scenthound features to the breed.

That cross was initially thought of as a way of helping this breed of basset in England, but what Millais essentially did was create an English basset breed. The French breeders of basset Artesien-Normand wanted their dogs to have more moderate bone and not be particularly large dogs, but when bloodhound was added to this breed, those traits took off in the English breed.

Millais, who had loved dogs but wasn’t particularly interested in showing them, eventually became the leading expert on bassets and dachshunds in England. Indeed our association with bassets and dachshund as being similar breeds is really an English concept. Millais believed dachshunds were a sort of German basset, and he argued extensively that dachshunds be bred with a stronger emphasis on their scenthound traits.

But he had created inadvertently crossed the bloodhound and the basset. Now we think of the basset hound and the basset Artesien-Normand as distinct breeds. Europeans continue breed for heavier and heavier boned English bassets, while the pack hounds still run through the North of France. North American basset breeders have tried their best to keep their dogs lighter built and less exaggerated. The dogs have proven themselves on our native lagomorphs, especially snowshoe hare. And now there is a large divide between North American and European-style bassets.

A few years ago, I suggested that the basset Artesian-Normand or even the Artois hound be reintroduced to the basset breed, but modern fanciers wouldn’t want that blood any more than Millais did.  European-style bassets are much larger than the old basset Artesian-Normand.  Some of these dog approach 90 pounds in weight, and the obese ones certainly exceed it.

In England, some bassets have been crossed some strain of native harrier to produce a lighter built hound.

And that certainly is an option.

But in Europe, the basset hound of England is very much a show dog.  It can be bred for exaggerated features because that’s what the fancy and the public ultimately want.

Indeed, I’ve come across people over here selling massive European-style bassets to the pet market for very high prices. Usually, these dogs are never shown in the AKC ring, because the AKC standard still calls for a much more moderate dog.

The Millais family hailed from Jersey in the Channel Islands, right between England and France, so it was very fitting that a family– with such an obvious French origin name– would be part of creating this English breed out of French stock.

The creation of the basset hound in England shows that just the odd desires of one person can led to sudden breed creation.  All it takes is just some odd trait or two to select for, and we suddenly have a breed.

Even if it was unintentional.

***

In a subsequent post, I am going to discuss another member of the Millais family and his love of dogs. Unlike Everett, this member was far less interested in dog shows and didn’t hold them in much esteem. He had a very different kind of dog, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Why your Labrador isn’t going to be a good livestock guardian

A recent discussion popped up on Facebook this morning in which a member of a homesteading group bragged about what a good livestock guardian and hunting dog his Labrador was. This post got posted in a livestock guardian breed group, which resulted in much, much eye-rolling.

It is certainly true that there are dogs that make excellent livestock guardian dogs that aren’t of the typical breeds. Mark Derr has written extensively about the mongrel dogs of the Navajo that guard their sheep, but within those dogs, there is quite a bit of variance about which ones are good at the task and which ones would rather go roaming and hunting.

The breeds that have undergone selection for this work are much more likely to be successful. All these breeds have been selected for high defense drive and low prey drive. Little lambs can go jumping around these dogs, and their instinct to hunt and kill prey will not be stimulated.

Most dogs bred in the West are bred for the opposite behaviors.  The most popular breeds are usually from the gun dog and herding groups, and those breeds tend to have been selected for relatively high prey drive. Those dogs are much more likely to engage in predatory behavior towards them.

Further, breeds like Labradors are bred to have low defense drive. Labradors are very rarely good guard dogs. They have been bred to fit in the British shooting scene where they would regularly be exposed to other dogs and strangers, and these dogs have had much of their territorial and status-based aggression bred out of them. If the coyote shows up to a farm guarded by a Labrador, chances are very high that the Labrador will try to play with the coyote. It might bark at the coyote and intimidate the predator as well, but there aren’t many Labradors that are going to fight a coyote that comes menacing the flock.

The poster with the LGD Labrador claimed that Labradors were great herding dogs. When pressed on this point, he posted a photo of some yellow dogs moving a herd of beef cattle. These dogs weren’t Labradors. They were blackmouth curs, a breed that can superficially look like a Labrador, but it is a hunting and herding breed that is quite common parts of the South and Texas.  You could in theory train a Labrador to herd sheep, but I doubt you could ever train one to herd cattle. And the herding behavior would be far substandard to a breed actually bred for it.

The poster claimed that Labradors were “bred down from Newfoundlands,” and Newfoundlands are livestock guardians. The problem with this statement is that it is totally false. As I’ve noted many times on the blog, the big Newfoundland dog was actually bred up from the St. John’s water dog. Every genetic study on breed evolution, clearly puts this breed with the retrievers. This dog was mostly created for the British and American pet market, but it is a very large type of retriever.

And contrary to what I have written on this blog, it is now clear that retrievers and Newfoundlands are not an offshoot of the livestock guardian breeds.  A limited genetic study that also found Middle Eastern origins for all dogs had this finding, but a more complete genetic study found that retrievers and the Newfoundlad are actually a divergent form of gundog.

dog breed wheel newfoundland

I have not written much about this study, but it does change some of my retriever history posts. It turns out that Irish water spaniels are also retrievers and are very closely related to the curly-coated retrievers. It has been suggested that curly-coated retrievers are actually older than the St. John’s water dog imports, but conventional breed history holds that they are crosses between St. John’s water dogs and some form of water spaniel. It may actually be that something like a curly-coated retriever is the ancestor of the St. John’s water dog, and this dog would have been called a “water spaniel.”  I have not worked this one out yet. The dogs we call Newfoundland dogs, though, are much more closely related to the Labrador, flat-coated, and golden retrievers than to the curly-coated retriever and the Irish water spaniel. Thus, the Labrador and the Newfoundland dog are cousins, but the Labrador is not “bred down from the Newfoundland.”

The other clue that Newfoundland dogs and their kin aren’t good LGDs is that in Newfoundland, the sheep industry was actually severely retarded by the dogs. Fishermen let their dogs roam the countryside, and any time someone set out a flock of sheep, the water dogs, which I would call St. John’s water dogs, would descend upon the flocks and savage them.

So the natural history of the Labrador totally conflicts with its likely ability to be a good livestock guardian. The British bred these dogs to be extremely social, and their prey drive has been selected for.  They also have this entire history in which their ancestors went out hunting for their own food, which means they do have the capacity to become sheep hunting dogs.

The poster didn’t appreciate when these facts were pointed out. The response was that the other people were racist for saying that Labrador isn’t likely to be a good LGD, especially a Labrador that has been used for hunting.

This is problematic because dog breeds are not equivalent to human races. Human races are just naturally occurring variations that have evolved in our species as we have spread across the globe. Most of these differences are superficial, and none are such that it would justify any racial discrimination in law or policy.

Dog breeds, however, have been selectively bred for characteristics. The eugenics movement, the Nazis, and the slaveholders who selectively bred slaves are the only people who have engaged in the selective breeding of people. And all these periods in history have lasted only a very short time before they were deemed to be gross violations of human rights.

For some reason, people have a hard time accepting these facts about dogs, but the very same people often have no problem with an analogy with livestock.

If I want high milk yields, I will not buy Angus cattle. If I want marbled beef, I won’t buy Holsteins. If I want ducks to lay lots of eggs, I wouldn’t get Pekins, which will lay about 75 eggs a year. I would get Welsh harlequins, which might lay 280 a year. But they don’t get very big, and their meat yields are very low.

Angus cattle and Holsteins are the same species. Welsh harlequins and Pekins are too. But they have been selected for different traits.

Dogs have undergone similar selection. A Labrador retriever has its own history. So does a Central Asian shepherd.

Accepting that these dogs have different traits does not make one a racist. It merely means that one respects the truth of selective breeding.

And that’s why a Labrador isn’t really a good LGD.


Natural History

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Horsing Around With Your Dog!

Playing with your dog

One of the topics on this week’s Dog Talk® was a lively conversation I had with Marc Bekoff, the dog expert and educator, who has written too many impressive animal-oriented books to list! Marc is a fun and modest gentleman – despite his Phd and many accomplishments – and he likes to encourage us to have common-sense fun and play freely with our dogs. In addition to tug-of-war, there are adaptable human games like Hide-and-Seek, “Tag you’re it,” and just rolling around on the grass together, that allow us to get down on our dog’s level and enjoy each other (safely).

Is Hugging Your Dog Okay?
Marc and I had THIS conversation last year on Dog Talk® about whether it’s okay to hug a dog. In that interview we discussed some guidelines about how to hug thoughtfully – with your own dog’s personality in mind. Marc has written about hugging dogs, noting that it’s just fine to hug your dog as long as it’s on her terms (in “Hugging a Dog Is Just Fine When Done With Great Care“). His rule of thumb before hugging a dog is to pay very close attention to the dog’s body language, your relationship with the dog, and previous experiences.

Is Tug-of-War Okay?
Marc has also written about playing tug-of-war with dogs, which he explains is not necessarily about dominance when played with people. As long as tug-of-war is on the dog’s terms it can be fun for both of you. It can also be important in bonding and maintaining a positive and friendly relationship and training experience with your dog.  Dr. Bekoff’s article “What’s Happening When Dogs Play Tug-of-War? Dog Park Chatter” discusses that.

Positive Reinforcement Can Go Beyond the Games

If you have a dog who handles herself really well when playing games or “putting up with” human behavior (like hugging!) don’t be afraid to give her a reward for being such a good sport. Keep some high value treats nearby (Halo’s Liv-a-Little freeze dried protein treats do just the trick!) and every so often during your play if you like the way she’s controlling her energy or displaying her “sense of humor”you can slip her a yummy healthy bite.

NOTE:  It’s okay to play in these ways as long as the individual dog shows you he is okay with it. Pay close attention to who each dog is as a unique individual. Playing has to be done on the dog’s terms, not ours.

Halo Pets

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Sep 4, What makes Back to Basics dog food different?

As someone who blogs about the latest in dog food, we know that you’re more than just a pet parent – you’re a pet advocate. We’ve made some exciting changes
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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Dog Runs Away To Find Missing Elderly Woman

Flash with the rescue team

It’s always scary when a pet runs away from home. However, the Ward family in Durham, England, had an extra joyful reunion with their dog, Flash, after he disappeared overnight. While away from home, Flash managed to find a woman who had been missing since the day before!

According to The Telegraph, an elderly woman disappeared on Saturday, July 22. Police began searching for the woman at the request of her family. The search involved a search and rescue team, members of the public, a police helicopter, and more than 20 officers. As one officer noted, “The whole community chipped in.” However, it was the ten-month-old Patterdale Terrier, Flash, who ended up the hero.

Read the complete story.

Halo Pets

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Sep 4, Dog Food Nutrients & Nutritional Needs | Best Dog Food Guide

Learn about dog food nutrients. What are the nutritional needs of your furry companion. Can you and your dog share the same meals?
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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Thoughts On A New Season (and a New Attitude)

Hey! It’s the first post of September! I talk a lot about summer around here, and my deep, undying love for it. Simply put, to me, summer symbolizes a carefreeness that I just can’t find the rest of the year. I do loathe the winter (the cold weather, short days, and lack of sunlight really get to me) – but I adore the holidays, and there are many things I greatly enjoy about fall and spring too. In the summer though, I feel the most alive. Everything about it represents the things I most love in life. The vast majority of my fondest memories (like the day this photo of our family was taken, back in July) take place in the summer. It’s just a really, really special time for me. For that reason, it seems to pass by in a blink. And right around this time of year, when Labor Day is officially over and I realize that for the most part, summer is too, I start to feel blindsided.

I have a genuinely difficult time transitioning to fall. Apple orchards and pumpkins and autumn campfires and Halloween are wonderful and I do get excited for them, especially now that my little ones get so pumped. But I have always viewed fall as the beginning of the end, and the time of year when nature begins to die. I guess because I feel so connected to nature, I feel my spirit dying a little too. Holy balls it sounds dramatic and angst-y typing that out, but really guys, it’s true. Once the trees lose all their leaves and the sun sets before 7 PM I can start to feel myself losing energy and enthusiasm. I used to struggle with some pretty serious seasonal depression, and while (thank the universe and knock on wood) I don’t anymore, I absolutely feel less like myself once winter creeps in.

All of this said, I have made a vow to myself to do things a little differently this year. I’m going to create ways to keep a little bit of summertime with me well into fall (you may have read my post about that a couple of weeks ago), and I’m also going to focus on the things I love about the new season. Instead of mourning summer’s departure, I’m going to appreciate the pieces of it that remain (warm days, flowers that continue to bloom into October and beyond, picnics and park days and walks around the neighborhood and outdoor meals with my family or my girlfriends), while also celebrating (rather than fighting) fall (see my comments about apple orchards, etc. above). We have the choice to like or dislike in general – and I’m going to choose to like September and October (and maybe even November) this year. I can’t guarantee it will work, but hey, at least I’m trying. No matter what, a positive attitude really is everything, as cliche as saying that might be. And for this new season, I am choosing to have a new, positive attitude.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts, friends. I know I don’t do that as often around here these days, but it feels pretty great when I do.

Happy September, and almost fall!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Qinling pandas and “red wolves” and the species problem

qinling panda

Hundreds of species concepts exist, and within these concepts there are great controversies. As long time readers know, I am very skeptical of the validity of the red and Eastern wolves as distinct species, and I am even more controversial in that I think that the recent genome-wide analysis on coyotes and wolves have made question whether coyotes really should be thought of as a distinct species from wolves. I certainly don’t think it is controversial that wolves and dogs are the same species, but I’ve been drawn into long, drawn-out discussions about this subject.

If we accept these genome comparison studies (one that looked at wolves and domestic dogs and one that looked at wild North American wolves and coyotes), all North American Canis species, wild and domestic, have diverged from common ancestor within the past 50,000 years. There has been significant gene flow between wolves and coyotes across North America, including Alaska and Yellowstone National Park, where the wolves are said never to breed with coyotes,  and there is even more significant gene flow between wolves and domestic dogs in Eurasia.

These animals do not fit Ernst Mayr’s concept of species at all in which reproductive isolation is the most important feature. A species is a population of organisms that can reproduce and bring about fertile offspring.  Wolves, dogs, and coyotes can do these things.

Mayr’s concept has been criticized quite a bit because there are things that do reproduce and produce fertile offspring, but it doesn’t happen very much. Further, these two species could have been distinct for a very long time, such as the Grevy’s and plains zebra, which split about a million years ago but still are capable of producing fertile offspring.

Further, we’ve since gone into a different way of classifying animals in which descent from common ancestry is more important than arbitrary lines based upon more subjective features. This newer way of classifying organisms is called cladistics, and it fits with a way of organizing life that is deeply appreciative of evolution.

I prefer this way, but it certainly leads to controversy. If I say that dogs are wolves, am I endorsing an entire ways of viewing them that aren’t science-based at all. The arguments for strict dominance training models are based upon poorly designed studies of wolves, and the arguments for feeding dogs raw meat and bones are also based upon an appeal to nature argument that dogs are wolves.

But I am not making those arguments at all. I am simply placing dogs within the proper clade to which they belong in the wild bush that we once called the tree of life. I think, more controversially, that coyotes should be given the same proper placement.

My arguments for this classification have to do with the fact that gene flow still exists among all three populations and their very recent common ancestry.

This classification has to be put into perspective. For example, Old World and North American red foxes split from a common ancestor some 400,000 years ago.  A very good case can be made that red foxes are actually two species, just based upon that genome-wide analysis alone. There has been virtually no gene flow at all between the two red fox clades, except in Alaska, where some Old World foxes introgressed into the New World population there some 50,000 years ago.

There are also other species of large carnivora that ought to be recognized if we were paying a little more attention. The leopard of Java, commonly thought of as a insular dwarf of the common or spotted leopard, may have diverged from the rest of their species some 800,000 years ago. More recent estimates suggest that they split off about 600,000 years ago,

This leopard is not commonly thought of as a distinct species, but it is likely multitudes more distinct than wolves, coyotes, and dogs ever could be from each other. More study does need to be performed, of course, but it seems likely that the Javan leopard really is its own thing.

Perhaps the most compelling case for a hidden species in a large carnivoran that I’ve seen is the case of the Qinling panda. Currently, two subspecies of giant panda have been recognized in China. The more common type is black and white. It is the one commonly on loan to zoos in the West, and they are the pandas I saw as a boy at the Cincinnati Zoo.

But there is also a rarer form that is found only the Quinling mountains. It was always thought of as odd because it is brown and white, rather than black and white.  Because it is such an isolated population it was long suggested that its brown and white coloration was the result of inbreeding, and that may still be the case.

In 2005, this brown and white panda was given its own subspecies, usually just called the Qinling panda.

Full genome comparison of both forms of panda have revealed that they are quite distinct from each other. The two forms split 300,000 years ago,

Full genome comparisons revealed that coyotes and wolves split only 50,000 years ago. The same analysis revealed a much, much deeper division in giant pandas. Genomes revealed that there is a panda that really should be its own species. Call it the Qinling panda or the brown panda.

But moving this animal to a full species would mean that we have a very endangered species. There are no more than 300 Qinling pandas in the world, and it could be quite difficult to protect them.

The coyote and red and Eastern wolf problems revealed in genome comparisons are also quite complex. The coyote is in no way endangered. It has vastly expanded its range since European settlement– pretty much all of North America but the High Arctic has coyotes now.  The red and Eastern wolves have genes from now defunct wolf populations. Both of these wolves will continue to cross with coyotes, and the only way to keep them from becoming totally swamped with coyote blood is to keep coyotes out of their ranges, a nearly impossible task.

Meanwhile, Eastern coyotes with wolf ancestry are evolving larger bodies. They are refining pack-hunting behavior.  They are evolving into a sort of larger, pack-hunting wolf on their own.

What this means for wolf taxonomy and wolf conservation is really a complex question, but I don’t think this question can be answered until we fully account for the problems caused by both the recent split of wolves from coyote and the continued gene flow between them.

It is a question that really cannot be answered unless we’re looking at the broader picture.  They are nearly as distinct from each other as many other animals that we are conventionally classifying as a single species now.

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Fido Friendly’s 9th Annual Get Your Licks on Route 66 Pet Adoption Tour

Driven to promote pet adoption, FIDO Friendly magazine is about to embark on its 9th annual Get Your Licks on Route 66 tour along the Mother Road in order to find loving Mothers and Fathers for…



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DogTipper

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Rescuing Dogs from the Flood

Photo by Betty Walter of Long Drive Dog and Cat Hospital in Houston. Here’s the caption from Betty’s facebook page: To these amazing guys that help me and some of my neighbors dogs that I rescued. I was worried there was too many dogs on the boat and it would tipped over. I told them […]


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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