A Basset Hound head is often our first impression of the dog—whether displaying dignity and alertness from the side, or a soft and engaging expression from the front. But the head, as beautiful as it may be, surmounts another part of the Basset that can be a thing of real beauty—a good front! When we find this, it can really take your breath away!
Bassets are not the only breed in which good fronts can be difficult to find. This is not surprising, since the front assembly is one of the most complicated parts of the dog, and one of the most difficult to breed. The front assembly of the Basset Hound is also one of the most difficult parts of the breed to understand for many judges or exhibitors coming from breeds with a more conventional and long-legged construction.
Basset Hounds have a wrap-around front. Their chest is capacious and deep, and must house a strong heart and lungs for endurance in the field over tough and varied terrain, sometimes for long days of hunting. To support this deep front, the heavy-boned and crook’d legs literally wrap closely to the chest, with the forelegs hugging the rib cage and forming a typical “egg cup” shape. The prosternum should be prominent within that egg cup, as this cup should be supporting the chest structure. Without that wrap, and the moderate crook in the Basset’s front legs, there is insufficient support for the front assembly, and a corresponding tendency to sag in the topline.
Their chest is capacious and deep, and must house a strong heart and lungs for endurance in the field over tough and varied terrain, sometimes for long days of hunting.
So what creates the egg-cup shape? It is the curvature of the Basset Hound’s dwarfed legs, which ideally are curved around the chest, well tucked-in at the elbows and bowing slightly to bring the column of support well under the chest and to outturn the large paws very slightly—the Breed Standard describes it as a “trifle”—so that the weight is balanced under the shoulders.
Most of the serious faults in the Basset Hound Standard are in the front assembly, because these are faults that affect the running gear—critical in a hunting hound! But some of these faults cannot be fully appreciated unless they are felt rather than seen, because the Basset Hound’s loose skin can do an excellent job of hiding some key faults. The Basset is a dog that requires a truly hands-on examination.
Because the skin over the front and shoulders can be very loose, it can obscure several faults:
Loose skin can make a prosternum appear where there is none! It’s essential to feel for the prosternum, to make sure it’s bone, not skin, that is prominent. Loose skin can also obscure a short sternum. To check for a good length of posterior sternum, with a keel running well back between the front legs, it’s important for a judge or breeder evaluating dogs to run their hand between the front legs, or down the side to the dog’s underside, to check whether the sternum extends behind the legs by about a hand’s width or 4 inches.
Loose skin can also obscure, or create the illusion of, elbows being out, as skin can “pool” around the elbow juncture to the body. The elbow should be tight-fitting to the rib cage, and the only way to evaluate this is to feel the junction of the elbow.
Similarly, loose skin can also obscure or create the illusion of shoulders set too far forward. While shoulders set too far forward is a common fault in the breed (as it is in many breeds), because of the potential for coat to obscure reality it’s important to actually feel for the angle and layback of both shoulder and upper arm. Also, from the side, note that the front legs should be under the dog, set straight down from the withers.
As essential as the wrap front is a good foot on the dog. The Standard describes the paw as “massive,” with a tough, heavy pad, well-rounded. The foot should not be splayed or flat, nor with toes pinched together. Feet “down at the pastern” are a serious fault. A dog with poor quality feet will have a difficult time holding up in the field and will break down sooner with age. While the Standard does not specify a weight range for Bassets, it is not unusual for an adult male to weigh around 65-70 pounds, with some of the largest exhibits being in the 80-pound range. This is a substantial dog, and needs the feet to be able to carry that weight for miles.
Continuing back from the shoulders, the rib cage should be long, smooth, and extend well back. This is specified in the Standard and is essential to the Basset’s function as a hunting. Both flat-sidedness and flanged ribs are faults. In the case of flanged ribs, the flange may be visible to the naked eye, or may be subtle and only discovered by feel, so checking both sides of the rib cage going back with one’s hands is necessary.
The best place to have a chance to see and go over a variety of fronts and learn how to examine them is the Basset Hound National Specialty. In 2023, this will be held the last week of August at Purina Farms, and in 2024 will be held the second week of September in Albany, Oregon. If one of these works for your schedule and geography, we will be happy to have your participation in judges’ education and ringside mentoring, with the opportunity to go over multiple Basset Hounds. Reach out to our Judges’ Education Coordinator, Richard Nance, via email at: Richard@bobacbassets.com
Are you looking for a Basset Hound puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder?
Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Basset Hound dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
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