What makes Basset Hounds great hunters & trackers

Basset Hound tracking

What makes Basset Hounds such good hunting and tracking dogs

If you were going to design a dog for tracking and following scent trails, the Basset Hound would be the end result. The short legs, big ears, and floppy jowls all add to the classic and even comical look of the Basset Hound. But all these characteristics have an important function.

Second only to the Bloodhound when it comes to scenting. Bassets Hounds have a seriously powerful sense of smell.

French aristocrats bred Basset Hounds from Bloodhounds to use while hunting. Both BassetHounds and Bloodhounds are said to be descendants of St. Hubert hounds. They were used mostly to hunt rabbits and small game.

Basset Hounds have over 220 million smell receptors compared to only 5 million in humans. The portion of their brains responsible for the sense of smell is 40 times that of humans. They can take in a big range of smells and zone in on just one and then follow it for long distances.

The wide muzzle on a Basset hound is require to accommodate their large olfactory system.

Apart from their extremely impressive sense of smell, they have other characteristics and traits that assist them in their smelling and tracking abilities.

Why do Basset Hounds have big ears

A Basset Hounds long ears ain’t just to make them look full of character. They have an important function in scenting. As a Basset Hound is sniffing, their ears scrape along the ground.

This helps to bring the odors on to their face while the dewlap helps to trap it. The dewlap is the name of the loose skin under their chin.

Why do Basset Hounds have jowls

Jowls are the name of a dog’s upper lips. The lower lips are simply called lips. Many breeds have large jowls that serve a purpose. For more on why do dogs have jowls see here.

The function of the large jowls on Basset Hounds is similar to the long ears. As they are sniffing, the jowls scrape along the ground. This lifts the odor on to the roof of their mouth and back of the nose. In a way, it is like tasting the odor.

Basset hound

Why do Basset Hounds have loose skin

The loose skin and wrinkles on a Basset Hounds face also aid in trapping odor. Furthermore, the loose skin on their bodies gives them protection when running through undergrowth.

These folds and wrinkles can trap moisture and cause an odor in the folds of the skin and makes them prone to bacterial and yeast infections on the skin. The Basset Hound also has a naturally oily coat. This was useful for hunting as when it rained the water just slide straight off.

These traits do tend to make the Basset Hound a more smelly dog that most breeds. For tips on dealing with Basset Hound smell see here.

How does moisture aid in scenting

When a Basset Hound barks they are spraying moisture into the air and on to their faces. This moisture also aids in trapping odor.

This is the reason why a dog’s nose becomes wet when sniffing.  The moisture helps to trap odor particles. They may then lick their noses to sample the chemicals and present them to the olfactory glands on the roof of their mouths.

Why do Basset Hounds have short legs

A Basset Hounds legs look like they were put on the wrong dog. They have the body size of a medium breed dog weight 50 to 60 pounds. However, those disproportionate legs keep them low to the ground.

Due to their low height they can keep their nose on the ground without having to crane their neck like other taller dogs. This means they don’t tire as easily.

Their stubby legs also limit how quickly they can run. This enables a hunter of foot to be able to keep up with them. A Basset Hounds running speed is between 5 to 10 miles per hour.

Another advantage of them not being able to run too fast is that they are not able to chase the prey too closely or catch it.

This results in the rabbit usually running in a circle. Rabbits are in the habit of running back to the starting location. This causes the rabbit to circle back towards the hunter where they can then shoot it.

Why do Basset Hounds have a white tip on their tail

The tail of most Basset Hounds has a white tip. This is to enable the hunter to be able to see where the Basset Hound is even in thick undergrowth and long grass. Where a Basset Hound is tracking they hold their tails high above their backs.

Basset Hound instinctive intelligence

Instinctive intelligence in a dog refers to the ability to be able to do the task they where bred for with little or no training. A Basset Hound will without hesitation chase a rabbit or small prey on it’s own accord without the need for motivation from the hunter.

There is a perception that Basset Hounds are not particularly smart. When it comes to instinctive intelligence they couldn’t be more intelligent. For more on how smart Basset Hounds actually are see here.


All of these characteristics and traits of the Basset Hound give them that unique and even comical look that we have all come to love. However, the short legs, loose skin, big ears, and floppy jowls all contribute to making a Basset Hound a perfectly designed hunting and tracking dog.

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