Meet the Basset Breeds

The Basset Bleu de Gascogne

Origins in France

The first true description of the Basset Bleu de Gascogne dates back to 1880 though not much was written about it until 1893 when, for the first time, it was mentioned in L'Eleveur. The previous year the kennels of the Jardin d'Acclimitation (zoological gardens) in Paris had acquired Cantine and Fanfare from Monsieur d'Heudières of the Château de Bois-David in Normandy.

Cantine and Fanfare

The article in L'Eleveur provoked a response that threw more light on the breed's origins.

M. J Giet, owner of the Plaisance-Dordogne hunt kennels, wrote that seven years previously he had tried to get good chasse à tir (hunting to gun) dogs by crossing Gascons-Saintongeois hounds.

Bémol and Cassoulet, 1895

One mating produced a couple of short-legged, basset types that he kept more out of curiosity than anything. More low-set hounds resulted from a mating between these, which he sold to M. d'Heudières.
For some time after, the Basset Bleu de Gascogne appeared spontaneously in litters of the larger dogs, despite the parents being pure-bred. Thus, although the possibility of mutation cannot be excluded, it seems that M. Giet's attempts to produce a better hunting dog may have paved the way for the breed's foundations.

Bourbon's Calypso and Ripaille, 1912

Over ten years later, by involving a number of related breeds, Alain Bourbon, author of Nos Bassets Français (Paris 1911), who lived and hunted in the Mayenne, undoubtedly rescued the Basset Bleu de Gascogne from virtual extinction. Between the two wars, there were just enough to maintain the breed's official recognition.
In the early 1950s, the Club du Chien Bleu de Gascogne was replaced by the Club du Bleu de Gascogne, chaired by M. Boulous from Nice. 1967 paved the way for the club to be taken over by Roger Bachala, aided by Etienne Perry, and a rejuvenated breed club came into being in 1968. A little later, M. Abadie of Gers started to get all the Basset Bleu de Gascogne hunting enthusiasts together and, at the end of the '60s, many of the visitors to the Salon Agricole de la Porte de Versailles saw the breed for the first time.
Most of these Bassets Bleus had their origins in the hunting packs but, with so few animals kept for breeding purposes, there was a need to cross breed with Petit Bleu de Gascogne, the smaller variety, to keep the breed going. One of the pack owners who followed this route was M. Lagarde of Tarn et Garonne.
By careful selection, he established an excellent type of Basset Bleu carrying the affix de Jouan Lagarde. Marcel Vulvin, living in Haute Vienne, also worked hard to get the breed recognised both in France and abroad, with his Mas Gauthier stock winning consistently. Although from 1970, when there were as few as four Bassets Bleus listed in the Livre d'Origines Français (the Société Centrale studbook), by 1980 the breed's popularity had strengthened, with more than 200 born.

The Basset Bleu in England

A typical Du Mas Gauthier Basset Bleu
Dk Ch Skippy du Mas Gauthier, 1984

photo - Scheel

In June of that year, Love du Mas Gauthier (Isba de la Trompée - Uppée du Mas Gauthier) completed six months quarantine in England. She joined the De Burgh & North Essex Harehounds, whose Master John Humphrey had searched for a good Basset Bleu to breed to the larger hounds relating to Mongay's Vailante, a Petit Bleu imported earlier by Lionel Woolner. Basset Hound expert, George Johnston, helped him. Like French huntsmen before him, John's aim was to combine the good points of each breed. He sought to raise the height on the leg of the Petit Bleu for coping with heavy plough country.
More recently, after several years of visiting Belgian and French shows, Grands Bleus de Gascogne owner, Andrew Spillane, set about importing Bassets Bleus de Gascogne. Like Bassets Griffons Vendéens enthusiasts before him, Andrew found the French breeders unwilling to sell. However, in 1994, after contacting a number of Basset Bleu breeders, Andrew found Marc Aran, who let him have a dog pup.  A visit to Vincent Denis secured a bitch. On returning to Marc's kennels, Andrew found that his chosen hound had a foreleg injury but Marc kindly let him have a nine month old puppy. And so, in November 1994, Joyau des Falaises Vere Gresigné and Joli Beauvautrait de la Font Française arrived in England.
This heralded the formation of the Rallye Beauvautrait, a pure-bred working pack that Andrew registered with the Masters of Basset Hounds Association. When he moved abroad most of the hounds went to Joint Master, Stuart Brooks, and John Williams, Master of the Black Mountain Bassets. However, as the breed becomes more popular, some are now being bred with the show-ring in mind. Registrations for 2013 were 11 and only 1 in 2014 but the breed is now on a firmer footing with a few dedicated owners. To encourage further recognition and acceptance, the Grand Bleu de Gascogne Club, established in 1989, sought Kennel Club approval for a change of name to Bleu de Gascogne Club of Great Britain. This is still provisional.