The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is one of six recognized breeds of Basset, and one of five whose origins are entirely French. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is instantly recognizable as a result of its short body, wiry coat, and tan color. Until recently the breed was on the verge of extinction, but has rebounded in numbers and is becoming a popular hunting dog and companion animal in France.
During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, hunting with hounds became a popular sport among the European nobility. Eventually, the hunt became a very important and stylized ritual, as well as being amusement. Hunting became as important as a social event as it was a recreation. Nobles from across kingdoms and regions would gather for hunts. Hunting together built up bonds of trust and friendship between nobles, and often led to personal and political alliances. Many important social, familial, and political matters were discussed over hunts. Hunting with hounds was particularly popular in France, and that nation became the center of hound hunting culture.
Initially, relatively little care or standardization was put into hound breeding. While there was undoubtedly some selective breeding going on, it was not organized, and largely dependent on working ability or a personal whim. While there was substantial variation among dogs from different regions, these dogs were what we would now refer to as a landrace, rather than a breed. However, as the prestige and importance of hunting increased, hound packs began to be more carefully bred and managed. The first record of an organized breeding program in Europe comes from the Saint Hubert Monastery near Mouzon. Sometime between 750 and 900, the monks of Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hounds and the hunt, undertook a regimented breeding program which eventually resulted in the Saint Hubert Hound. By the 1200’s, the monastery made an annual gift of several pairs of hounds to the King of France. The French King would then distribute the dogs to his nobles as gifts. Eventually, the Saint Hubert Hound spread widely across France and England, where the breed became known as the Bloodhound.
Partially inspired by the Saint Hubert Hound, and often using the breed itself as base stock, hunters around France began to implement more regimented breeding programs and the original landrace varieties gradually became what we would now call breeds. By the 1200’s many different regions of France had their own unique dog breeds. In Brittany, a breed known as the Grand Fauve de Bretagne developed. These dogs were renowned for their hunting ability and their fawn-colored coats. A closely related breed known as the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne also developed which was substantially smaller than the Grand Fauve de Bretagne. It is not clear which variety was the original, or if both were created from the same base stock. It is known that the Fauve de Bretagnes were some of the most popular hunting breeds in France from the 1400’s until their peak of popularity in the 1800’s. Fauve de Bretagnes were initially primarily tasked with hunting wolves, a task at which they excelled. Eventually, the Fauve de Bretagne and other breeds such as the Grand Bleu de Gascogne drove the wolf into virtual extinction in France. Partially as a result, the Grand Fauve de Bretagne went extinct. However, the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne moved onto other quarry such as deer and boar, and remains present in France to this day.
Traditionally, French hound breeds with wiry-coats have been known as Griffons. There have been many different Griffons throughout history. The stock from where Griffons derive is something of a mystery. This mystery is unlikely to be solved, because the existence of Griffon breeds predates almost any records of dog breeding. Many fanciers believe that Griffons are primarily descended from the Canis Segusius, a hunting dog owned by the Pre-Roman Gauls. This breed was said to have wiry-hair. Other theories have Griffons being developed from random mutations in local French hunting hounds of the Middle Ages. There are also theories which suggest that Griffons are the descendants of foreign breeds imported into France such as the Spinone Italiano. Whatever their origins, Griffons were well-known in France by the end of the Middle Ages. Griffons from Nivernais, Vendee, and Brittany in particular were well-established.
At some point, French hunters began to develop short-legged hounds which they could follow on foot. These dogs became known as Bassets, and many different French hound breeds would eventually come in a Basset variety. However, much of the early development of Basset breeds is something of a mystery. The earliest depictions of dogs which may be Bassets are from the 1300’s. Paintings from the Gascony region of that century show dogs which closely resemble the Basset Bleu de Gascogne. The earliest known record of a dog described as a Basset comes 1585. In that year Jacques du Fouilloux wrote La Venerie, an illustrated hunting guide. Fouilloux depicts wiry-coated Bassets hunting foxes and badgers. These dogs would drive their quarry to its burrow, and their handlers would dig the animal out. However, Fouilloux’s Bassets are quite different from the Bassets in the Gascon paintings, and both are already well-developed in terms of type and form. It is therefore likely that Bassets were developed many decades, if not centuries earlier.
There are two major unknowns regarding the development of Bassets. The first of which is whether one Basset breed was created and then crossed with other hounds or whether multiple Bassets were created from different hounds. The former seems to be preferred in literature and is probably the more likely. The other great unknown is what breeds were used in the creation of Bassets. Many believe that Bassets are entirely of French creation, with mutated and short French hounds being bred together until Bassets were created. Others believe that French hounds may have been mixed with short-legged foreign dogs such as Corgis, Beagles, or Dachshunds. If a French hound was bred down in size, it is not known which French hound. The most popular theory is that the Saint Hubert Hound commonly had short-legged representatives, and that these were bred down to Basset form. In fact, Jacques du Fouilloux described the Saint Hubert as being short-legged in 1561, although he also said that the dog had been so mixed at that point that the bloodlines were diluted. However, there are no apparent records of a Basset Saint Hubert. Additionally, the oldest depictions and descriptions of Bassets show either the Basset Bleu de Gascogne or wiry-coated Bassets. It is potentially just as likely that the original Bassets were descended from a Griffon breed or the Bleu de Gascogne.
The French Revolution and the resulting social upheaval led to the extinction of many French hunting hounds, and drastically decreased the numbers of those breeds that managed to survive. Basset breeds were the exception. The increase of social freedom and expanding middle class allowed more persons to take up hunting than ever before. However, most of these new hunters were unable to pay for the expense of keeping a horse. As a result, the Basset breeds, which allow a hunter to pursue game on foot rather than horseback, began to grow in popularity. By the Mid-1800’s, Bassets were even the favorite breed of the French Emperor.
More is known about the history of the Basset Fauve de Bretagne than most other Basset breeds, as this dog is thought to be the newest variety to have been created other than the Basset Hound. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne first appeared in the 1800’s. At that point the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne was reaching its peak of popularity and numbers. Hunters decided to create a Basset variety of the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne. The Griffon Fauve de Bretagne was crossed with Bassets and possibly some other breeds to create the Basset Fauve de Bretagne. Exactly which Bassets were mixed with the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne is unclear, although it is most likely that the Basset Griffon Vendeen and the now extinct wiry-coated variety of the Basset Artesian Normand were used.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne quickly became a popular hunting dog in France. The breed’s popularity was due to its hunting skills, as well as the popularity of the Griffon Fauve de Bretagne and Basset breeds in general. World War II was quite damaging to the breed, which dramatically declined in numbers. The extent to which the breed suffered is a matter a much debate. Many fanciers believe that the breed came dangerously close to extinction, to the point that very few Basset Fauve de Bretagnes remained. These fanciers believe that those few remaining dogs were crossed with other breeds, mainly the Basset Griffon Vendeen and the Wire-coated Dachshund to ensure the Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s survival. The French breed club believes that the Basset Fauve de Bretagne was never in such dire straights, and merely experienced a significant drop in numbers. Believers in this theory say that some Basset Griffon Vendeen and Wire-coated Dachshund blood may have been added after the war to improve the Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s hunting instincts. Research done in France may indicate support for the latter theory, although it is difficult to determine.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne has been slowly but steadily increasing in popularity since World War II. The breed is well-regarded in French hunting circles and is becoming one of the most common hunting dogs in France. In recent years, registrations of the breed in France have only been exceeded by Beagles among small hunting dogs. In particular, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne has developed a reputation for being an excellent rabbit hunting dog. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s affectionate personality and compact size are also leading some to keep the breed as a companion animal, with some success. If the Basset Fauve de Bretagne follows the trend of other Basset breeds, the dog will eventually become primarily a companion animal.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne was essentially unknown outside of France and a few neighboring European countries until the 1980’s. The first known Basset Fauve de Bretagne in England arrived in 1982. The breed has appeared in the United States much more recently. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1996, and the first Basset Fauve de Bretagne was imported into the United States in 2001. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne Club of America was established to promote the interests of the breed in the United States. However, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne remains very rare outside of France.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne has a unique appearance, and is quite different in appearance from other Bassets and most French hounds. The dog is set quite low to the ground, but is not nearly as long in the body as other Basset breeds. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is known for its hard and coarse coat and its fawn or red coat.
As is the case with all Bassets, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne is set quite low to the ground. These dogs are typically between 12.5 and 15.5 inches tall at the shoulder, and exhibit less sexual dimorphism than most hound breeds. Breed standards do not specify a certain weight, although these stocky and muscular dogs normally weight between 36 and 40 pounds.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s head and face are quite distinct among French hounds, and in many ways are more similar to the English Beagle. The snout is comparatively short for a hound. The upper lips of the breed hang over the lower lips, giving the snout the appearance of being square. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne has droopy ears, but they are shorter than those of many hounds. The breed’s eyes are deep-set in the head, and should be dark brown in color. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s expression is said to be lively and/or pleading.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne has short to medium length fur, which is very coarse and harsh. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is named after its fawn colored coat, and these dogs may come in any shade from golden wheaten to red. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne should be solid in color, although the ears may be slightly darker. Some dogs may have some black hairs or a white patch on the chest. Such markings are acceptable but highly discouraged.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is a hunting breed and should appear as such. This is a sturdy and well-muscled breed. Some Basset Fauve de Bretagnes have straight legs, although most are slightly crooked. The breed appears to have extra skin over much of its body, although this should not form wrinkles except for possibly around the neck. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne has a shorter tail than most Bassets. This tail is thick at the base and then tapers off. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne typically carries its tail in an upright saber-like position.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is known for being cheerful and affectionate with people. Some have even described the breed as joyous. This breed is typically very loving with its owner. Most Basset Fauve de Bretagnes will warmly greet strangers, and are gentle and loving with children. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne adapts better to being a companion than most working breed, and can make an excellent companion animal if properly exercised and stimulated.
Originally a pack hound, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne had to be able to work in a group with numerous other dogs. As a result, the breed tends to get along well with other dogs. If you wish to introduce a dog into a home with pre-existing canine companions, a Basset Fauve de Bretagne might be a good choice. However, it is always best to use caution when introducing new dogs to each other, particularly adult dogs. As is the case with many pack hunting hounds, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne may exhibit some dominance behaviors and even bullying toward other dogs, although this will usually subside once social hierarchies have been established.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is not an ideal breed to have around non-canine animals. This breed was developed to be a hunter, and is quite skilled as one. This breed has a natural instinct to pursue game. This does not mean that a Basset Fauve de Bretagne cannot learn to associate with cats or other small animals. It does mean that these dogs must be carefully and properly socialized with other animals from a very young age. It also means that you may want to reconsider introducing an adult Basset Fauve de Bretagne into a household with non-canine pets. Keep in mind that just because your Basset Fauve de Bretagne does not chase your cat does not mean it will not chase your neighbors.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne presents many training difficulties, unless it is being trained to hunt. These dogs have been bred to be determined trackers, willing to follow a trail for hours, and also to be independent problem solvers. As a result, these dogs are often stubborn and willful. Many breed representatives will exhibit selective listening. This breed has a tendency to do what it wants, rather than what you want it to. Basset Fauve de Bretagnes prove quite challenging to train. This does not mean that you will be unable to train a Basset Fauve de Bretagne. It does mean that you will have to spend considerably more time and energy training a Basset Fauve de Bretagne than you would many other breeds. You will also probably never get the results that you might want. If you want a highly obedient dog, or one who will do complex tricks, a Basset Fauve de Bretagne is probably not the best breed for you.
Like many scenthounds, it is very important that a Basset Fauve de Bretagne be kept on a leash at all times unless the dog is in a very secure area. This breed was bred to follow scents until it corners the animal that left them. A Basset Fauve de Bretagne is very likely to get on a trail and follow it. These determined and willful dogs can be extremely difficult to call back, and may end up walking for miles. Any area which these dogs are let off-leash should be quite secure. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is intelligent and determined, as well as being surprisingly strong and athletic. These dogs are more than capable of going under or through fences which they are not capable of going over, and the height of fence that a Basset Fauve de Bretagne can get over may be surprising.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is a lively and energetic breed. While not as active as a breed such as a Border Collie or Jack Russell Terrier, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne is certainly no couch potato. These dogs need a regular walk at the very least, but prefer to have some time to explore a safely enclosed area. Bored Basset Fauve de Bretagnes can become destructive and/or vocal. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is intelligent and strong enough to become quite destructive.
One aspect of the Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s nature which may prove challenging for some owners is the breed’s penchant for being vocal. These dogs were bred to bay as they pursued their quarry. This alerts their handlers when the dogs are on the scent and also when an animal has been driven to ground. Basset Fauve de Bretagnes can make a wide variety of sounds, some of which are surprisingly loud. Even the most well-trained and exercised Basset Fauve de Bretagne will make louder and more sounds than most breeds. Those that are not properly trained or stimulated may bay constantly for hours. Although not as notorious for being loud as breeds such as a Redbone Coonhound or a Beagle, Basset Fauve de Bretagnes may lead to noise complaints in developed areas.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s coat is surprisingly low-maintenance. The breed needs regular brushing which must be kept up with. The coat also must be plucked at least twice a year. Many owners choose to have this done professionally, although it is comparatively easy to learn to do at home. This does not mean that the breed is not a shedder. Although the Basset Fauve de Bretagne does not have a reputation for being a heavy shedder, this would likely not be the best option for either someone with allergies or someone who hates having dog hair around.
Particular care must be given to the Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s ears. As with most droopy-eared breeds, the Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s ears often collect dirt and wax, which can lead to chronic ear infections. In order to prevent this, a Basset Fauve de Bretagne’s ears must be cleaned regularly.
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is a relatively healthy breed. Until very recently, they were almost exclusively hunting dogs. A dog with genetic defects is of no use as a working dog and would have been excluded from bloodlines. These dogs have an average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, which is relatively long for a breed of their size. Many fanciers claim that the breed has no congenital health defects which are more common in the breed than any others. This does not mean that the breed is immune from health problems, just that there are none that are more prominent in the Basset Fauve de Bretagne.
Studies conducted by the UK Kennel club showed that the most common causes of death for Basset Fauve de Bretagnes were traffic accidents, cancer, heart problems, and kidney problems. The frequency of traffic fatalities is likely the result of the breed’s tendency to follow its nose, sometimes without noticing what is going on around it. Hopefully, Basset Fauve de Bretagne breeders will continue to carefully breed these dogs to prevent health problems from developing in the future.
Some health problems which may occur in Basset Fauve de Bretagnes include: