A basset hound is a long, low-slung, heavy-boned scent hound bred for hunting small game, primarily rabbits. His long ears were developed to stir up ground scent for his large nose to smell. The folds of skin under his chin are useful for trapping and holding the scent. His large feet give him steadiness and his heavy bone makes him sturdy. His short legs enable the hunter to follow him apace on foot. The basset hound must have great lung capacity and a large, strong heart so that he can track game for long periods of time. Bassets are expected to have the stamina to hunt day after day in widely varying terrain, often with dense undergrowth and in all weather conditions. They are truly a breed for whom form follows function.
Bassets are considered a medium-sized breed, although a male basset can weigh over seventy pounds—as much as many large dogs! Females generally weight between forty and fifty pounds. The basset has a thick, dense coat that repels water effectively and needs little formal grooming, a blessing for both those who exhibit them in dog shows and those who love them as companions. They're an independent breed with a sense of humor, extraordinarily intelligent, affectionate, and entertaining. The following excerpt from Mercedes Braun’s The New Complete Basset Hound eloquently expresses the nature of the basset:
We must not forget, however, that it is the basset’s versatility that brought him fame. He is perhaps best known for the lovable nature which led him to be dubbed "the armchair clown." Do not be fooled when you see him sound asleep on his back or sprawled on his favorite chair (which he has taken away from you). Put a lead on this same dog, take him to a show, and he can give a polished performance with a "Don’t you love me, Mr. Judge?" attitude that will command applause from the ringside. Take him to the field, and he can show you how a scent-hound should perform—over, under, and through rough ground, never tiring all day long.
At home, the basset will assume his subtle manner of "ruling the roost." He refuses to accept the fact that he is a dog by devious methods. He can affect poor hearing when he doesn’t want to obey or pretend to sleep so soundly that you do not have the heart to disturb him. But his alertness miraculously returns if you open the refrigerator door ever so stealthily. He is a built-in babysitter, an ideal family pet. A basset needs firm convincing that his big, brown eyes will get him nowhere. But first convince yourself of this, if you can. He will do his best to outmaneuver you to gain his own way, and he will make you like it. You need only one basset to fill the house with laughter, the woods with beautiful music, and the show with an approving ovation. Small wonder the breed has attained such popularity and owners readily admit, "I am owned by a basset."