The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is truly an old French Hound, tracing back to the 1500s when Francois I had a pack of Breton hounds that he hunted regularly. These Grand Fauve de Bretagnes, sadly, became extinct, but their DNA continues to run in the lines of the modern rough-coated Griffons and Bassets.
The Grand Fauve de Bretagne (Fawn Hound of Brittany) is larger (27.5-29.5 inches) and was introduced to the French Court around 1520 by Admiral d’Anneboulde. In the pack was a stud dog, “Mirraud,” who was used extensively by the royalty. Up until the French Revolution, only the aristocracy were allowed to keep and hunt with packs of hounds, and this was done on horseback. In 1789, aristocratic privileges were abolished, allowing anyone to own and hunt a hound. However, most peasants did not own a horse, necessitating a shorter-legged, closer-ranging hunting companion. The Basset was, therefore, developed; with bas = low and set = set in French.
The original Breton Hounds have been preserved over history. In the 1920s, Sir John Buchanan-Jardin saw a pack of Basset Fauves being exhibited at a Paris show. Both sizes are shown today. How the Basset breed was formed is a matter for debate, but most likely, the smallest bred to the smallest over a period of time produced them. By the 19th Century, hound packs were made up exclusively of Bassets to hunt rabbits, hare, fox, roe deer, and wild boar.
It has been rumored that both the Grands and Bassets nearly became extinct during WWII, but whether due to the dedication of French breeders or because it was not as much of a problem as originally thought, the breed emerged strong in popularity and of excellent type by the 1950s. The breed remains a popular, versatile hunting hound and family dog in France and is gaining popularity in the United States.
In 2013, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne Club of America was formed and is now the official AKC parent club for the breed. The non-profit club has enjoyed many successes, including education about Fauves to the public and judges, completion and publication of a health survey, filming of a grooming video, setting up a website and Facebook page, establishment of an annual youth award, and laying the groundwork for Hunting Performance workshops and tests, just to name a few.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is truly a versatile little hound. Known to be wicked-smart, posessing a strong hunting instinct, rugged hardiness, and biddability, the breed excels in dog sports such as obedience, rally, agility, scent work, barn hunt, dock diving, and tracking. Fauves have also been successfully trained for search and rescue, medical alerts, agricultural contraband detection, and therapy dog work.