Basset Fauve de Bretagne
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is a neat looking hound. A wire coat and comes in3 colors.
Temperament: Adaptable, Companionable, Stubborn, Courageous, Affectionate, Sociable
The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is a smallish hound, built along the same lines as the Basset Hound, but lighter and longer in the leg. The breed was developed in France as a hunting dog from the larger Grand Fauve de Bretagne, a breed that is now extinct. The Basset Fauve de Bretagne is used mainly for hunting of rabbits but also is used to trail other larger game.
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 United Kennel Club recognized the Basset Fauve de Bretagne 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.