The Saint Hubert Hound, by Ofria Pinkhand
Hubert (656-727), son of the Duc de Guienne, like most nobility of the period, was a happy-go-lucky young man and extremely fond of hunting with dogs.
Two types of hunting dogs were used then. Sight hounds (gaze hounds) were swift, courageous hounds used along with huntsmen on horses to run down and kill large game. Scent hounds were those that tracked smaller game by following its trail through the brush. These dogs were steady and deliberate trackers who routed game back towards the huntsman on foot.
Legend has it that while out during a Sunday hunt, young Hubert was confronted by a stag of great size and bearing between its antlers a golden cross. Hubert apparently devoted the rest of his life to the church, but did not give up his love of hunting. At the monastery he established in the Ardennes, Hubert set out to develop a new strain of scent hound. He brought dogs from the Rhone district of Western France and through selective breeding developed several types of dogs.
By definition a Basset was any dog measuring under 16 inches at the shoulder and a Bloodhound was any dog whose blood ancestry was recorded. The Basset Hounds of Hubert (later St. Hubert -patron saint of the hunt) were described as being mild and obedient. They were black and tan with a heavy noble head, long ears and long bodies with comparatively short and heavy legs. They had wonderfully keen noses and deep melodious voices. The long ears assisted in acting as a fan to blow scent from the ground up to the nose. The short stature gave it the advantage over taller dogs of being capable of keeping its nose to the trail without getting a sore neck and back.
Eventually three strains of Basset were developed- smooth coat, half rough and full rough coated along with variations of crookedness of the leg. All types having devoted followers. All colours were incorporated as the breed spread throughout France.
By searching through English literature, one can find references to the St. Hubert Hound or to hounds of this type, which indicate that these dogs were imported to England as early as the late 13th. century. It is said that James IV of Scotland imported Bassets which were used to rout game, driving the animals into the open. The hunters would then release their swift gaze hounds who would run down and catch their quarry.