I’ve been looking at this breed for over twenty years without particularly analysing them. Having owned them for the last nine it was time I fitted together the breed standards of France and GB ( they are slightly different) and figured out how the standard helped this basset breed actually hunt. We arent allowed to hunt with dogs in the UK, but I did see a chance to learn last year. By good fortune I blundered upon a hunter, living in Finisterre, Brittany, who has used the breed on rabbit, hare and deer for three canine generations. He has no interest in dog shows but owns a share in a shoot and also hunts his fauve pack three days a week in the season. I took an interpreter, as his English is about as good as my French ( learned in school and not used much thereafter). Dagmar Kenis Pordham ( Solstrand) isnt only interested in sighthounds! She was the first person to give a basset fauve a best in show at an open show and was a great help as she knows all the canine terminology as well as admiring the breed.
What did I learn? At first sight this pack had the most superb hindquarters. As a sighthound person I had been privately wondering if my determination to own and show basset fauves with straight hocks and decent drive ( in IWs we abhor cowhocks) was as a result of forty years of conditioning by Mrs Nagle and other luminaries of the Wolfhound world . They were hard over on the subject of strong thighs and second thighs and hocks turning neither in nor out. Was I right to want the same in a scenthound breed? These hunting Fauves had the most stunning backsides – Mrs Nagle would have approved ! I watched the massive amount of drive these rears produced, packed with muscle as they were, and determined to stay on the same track. Straight hocks producing parallel action. Nice to watch.
The next feature I admired and which was common to all these hounds was a strong neck. I havent seen much of this in hounds shown in the UK, short necks are common yet these moderate length necks were all arched. Another lightbulb moment. As in sighthounds an arch of neck provides strength and is an indicator of a well laid shoulder. These little hounds had moderate angulation, everything about them was unexagerated – yet they too had this feature of laid back shoulders and arch of neck.
I then picked up that the bitches were definitely a size smaller than the males, it wasnt at all hard to see which sex was which. Both sexes werent particularly groomed, but their harsh coats were definitely not overlong and they were of wiry texture. Talking to their owner, he said he used to use Petits but had to give them up as his hunting area was too full of the sort of stuff which catches in coats, and he was fed up grooming the burrs out of their coats when he brought them home. Ah, function as appropriate to countryside – the Brittany fields are small and thickly hedged, the woods are dense. I dont know the Vendee at all but do know the PBGV has to have as much coat as it does as it needs protection from brambles. Short harsh jackets must suit the Brittany wild areas rather better, and my man had switched to the breed appropriate to the country.
Even the smallest hound had a big capacious chest, yet in proportion, and upperarms were definitely laid back, setting the foreleg beneath the body. The set of the humerus is another key area for me in sighthounds. Good layback there adds to the shock absorbing function of the front. Clearly it matters in the endurance hunting of the scent hound too.
Now to something I had wondered about for a while, the crook. I asked this hunter if it bothered him that the forelegs on his hounds werent completely straight. He looked at me as if I was mad. Of course they had a crook, he said. This was a Basset breed ! Back in the UK there seems to be a great desire for completely straight ” beagle like” forelegs in the showrings. I’d started to breed for it. I’d also passed the B list seminar to judge PBGVs, and know their standard allows for a slight crook ( even if you cant see it beneath the coat). Here was a pack of hunting hounds which does 10 – 13 kilometres three times a week in the season. These little hounds have great stamina and endurance and can put on bursts of speed too. I had a good hard look at their forelegs. Straight underneath the humerus they nonetheless had a slight outward turn at the pastern ( the crook). So, a completely straight foreleg and a crook at the pasterns, not huge but definitely discernable. No coat to hide it either. Another lighbulb moment. If these Basset Fauves could hunt over the country they were bred for, who was I to look for straight forelegs in another country where we dont even hunt? The standard allows for a slight crook, and surely if the hunters found straight legged hounds hunted better wouldnt they be breeding for it? They dont. So, mental note to look for straight forelegs, no bandy bone there, but a crook isnt something to have the horrors about, quite the reverse. Its a bit of a relief, as sighhounds with no ” give” at the pastern, despite their straight appearance viewed from the front, knuckle over and break down as time goes on. They need some flexibility under the pastern, and so do the basset breeds.
Heads werent an afterthought here, all the hounds had defined foreheads ( the amplified French standard describes it as looking like a Norman arch, not a dome). As a result the ears were low set, level with the eye, and long. I so admired the ears on these hounds, inward folding and no problem reaching the end of the nose when pulled forward. As you would expect, all the noses were huge – another important breed feature.
How about the contents of the head? Rene was very proud of the Brevets du Chasse his hounds had achieved in hunting trials. I was there to look at a litter, and mother Diva had her qualification on deer, hare and rabbit. Groomd up I had the private thought that Diva and Gina would easily gain their titles in the UK.The hounds were quiet and responsive to their huntsman, very friendly and completely happy to dash around as a pack with no squabbles. Perfect pack hounds, and this great temperament transfers well to life as a family pet.
Perhaps I should mention the mouths, as judges have told me “mouths are a problem in your breed”. Every dog in this pack had a full mouth and perfect dentition. Stands to reason – they need their teeth for work. When I showed someone the inside of Harmonie’s mouth not so long ago they reeled in shock – such big strong teeth wouldnt disgrace a terrier. And a terrier too does a fair bit of killing with its teeth, which is why terrier judges are so very keen on big well set gnashers.
Moving along several months, and Harmonie has settled in well here. She has a page to herself in on the website. She is so intelligent and loving, I have great eye contact with her and she isnt as ” scattery” as some fauves I know, she applies herself seriously and is very obedient. Her brother Hasard is in Ireland and already on route to his title, admired for his sound action and compact body.
I learned some useful lessons at a good point from Rene, and hope to return before too long – I still have an ambition to watch fauves hunting! The littermates retained by the home kennel won best puppy at the informal pack puppy day back in the Spring, and I have my eye on what young Gina might produce one day…….