Voices of Experience:

Interviews With Some of Our Long-Time Breeders (Part 3)

by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D.

We continue our interview series with 10 of the leading Basset Hound breeders in the country.

In your breeding program, on which traits do you place the most emphasis? Which traits have been the most difficult to correct?

Claudia Lane (Beaujangle/Classic) says: “In the dogs I breed I look first for type and conformation. A DOG WITHOUT TYPE IS NOT A BASSET HOUND. For example, a male lacking bone but with great soundness and movement should NOT be considered for breeding because heavy bone is an exemplar and defining characteristic of this breed. From this pool I then select the typiest and soundest animals to breed. Of course, a linebred pedigree is a MUST and a given.”

Dawn (Von Skauton) emphasizes health, longevity, soundness and temperament, for no matter how much icing a puppy may have or how stylish it may be, if it doesn’t possess these qualities it will not be worth much. Also important is the total appearance of the Basset Hound as outlined in the breed standard, which is a short-legged, long-eared, heavy- boned dog with a pronounced sternum and loose skin. Dawn places great emphasis on desired head type and expression and finds merit in earlier descriptions which liken the head of the Basset to that of the Bloodhound in terms of basic proportions and expression. Regarding difficult traits to attain, she relates that “good feet, combined with proper slope in the pastern to facilitate smooth movement, are the most difficult.”

For Vicki (Halcyon) the most important traits in breeding stock are “mental and physical soundness within breed type.” These traits were also mentioned by all the other breeders. Also high on many people’s lists (Jinny, Kitty, Penny & Randy, Bob, Joan, Sharon, Sandra) were correct front and shoulder assemblies.

Joan (Fort Merrill) says: “If we breed to the Basset standard of perfection, we have to place great emphasis on the whole front assembly first and then on the rest of the hound.” Specifically, Joan places the most emphasis structurally on shoulder placement, stating: “[Shoulder placement] is the most illusive problem we face because correct placement is all but extinct. As a result, there is nowhere to go to breed to it.” Other important traits for breeders included well-angulated and driving rears and strong, well-tightened paws (Penny & Randy), smooth, long ribbing (Jinny, Kitty) and long, arched necks (Jinny, Sandra). Joan also added that she preferred some degree of hunting ability and liked feminine bitches and masculine males. Sharon (Castlehill) writes: “Jim and I place the most emphasis on shoulder placement, topline, expression and overall balance. The most difficult traits to get into our line were shoulders and their correct placement, good ribbing and dark eyes. One problem will often manifest itself while we are working on trying to correct another. This is the breeding ‘game.’ Breeding to a linebred male to correct a fault can increase the chance of success.”

Sandra (Craigwood) states: “First, I want to breed sound, good-moving dogs. After that I try for good length of body, level topline, nice arch of neck, long heads with dark eyes and soulful expression. I like a dog that has both substance and elegance. The traits I’m trying to improve are increasing the amount of prow and improving color. I am gradually doing better on prow but I am still working on color.”

Jinny (Stoneybluff) tells us: “My dogs must have matched straight fronts (both feet may toe out slightly as mentioned in the standard, but I prefer straight), long smooth ribs, good forechest and long necks. Most of all though, I insist on well-placed shoulders and matched front and rear angulation to ensure smooth movement. These are areas that are hardest to breed . Also difficult to breed out are bad ribs. In attempting to correct faults, I make sure not to breed to an animal with the same fault. With any luck, I am successful in 2 or 3 generations.”

Bob (Hiflite) also addressed traits he found difficult to breed out: “Probably a proper front assembly continues to be the most difficult thing to get and maintain. Proper rear movement is a close second! Faulty structure in either of these areas nearly always produces topline problems as well. We attacked these problems by being super critical of our stock, breeding the best of what we had to the best of what was available (in our opinion and within the style we liked) to those studs that were very strong in the area we were trying to correct. This sometimes required that we produce one or two generations that produced progeny which, for one reason or another, we could not show. I’ve often referred to that as having had to go through a couple of generations of the ‘uglies’ to get that particular trait that we were after! Probably the most frustrating thing was that it seemed if we wished to improve structural soundness we had to sacrifice substance to some degree. I find that this is still true 30 years later! I hasten to add that substance is easier to put back into the line than is soundness.”

Claudia Lane (Beaujangle/Classic) states that she places emphasis on those “traits which make a Basset a Basset and no other breed, that is a low, heavy hound, possessing coordination, stamina and the physical attributes to move effortlessly. No clunkers or gazelles, please!!! We are talking heavy bone, short legs, ample head type, well-set under front with good shoulder layback, good rib, level topline and true gait front and rear. I think any time you inbreed and linebreed you cement in all the traits of the particular dogs you are linebreeding on. The trick then is to recognize what you have good and then outcross (again to a linebred dog) to try to bring in those things you need to improve without losing what you already have that is good. It is a delicate balancing act and a frustrating one. I think I share the same difficulties as just about everyone else. Namely, shoulders, that is, a true 45 degree angle between scapula and upper arm and scapula and upper arm of equal length. Look at all the pictures of winners and champions. It is rare, almost non-existent, that you find good shoulders. They just do not happen often in one’s lifetime. When you do get that set of great shoulders it is a tremendous achievement. I can say this after only having had, in my opinion, 4 dogs in the past 30 years with good shoulders (Ten, Butterfly, Jeepster and Harley). For me, another bugaboo is long, smooth and deep ribbing. I’m constantly working on this feature.”

Kitty (Sanchu) says: “After 3 decades of working with this breed, we place the greatest emphasis on the balance of front and rear angulation, which produces that all important effortless movement. To me, it is how the composite of parts goes into creating the whole that is most important. A dog’s physical components need to be functional. I have seen many ‘well-rounded’ rears (as called for in our breed standard) which do not propel or drive the body. I would accept the less perfectly shaped rear that efficiently propels the dog from point A to point B. Because this a hunting dog, designed for a purpose, I place great emphasis on balance and the overall dog in motion.”

In the last part of the series the breeders will discuss hounds which have influenced their breeding program and if they were to start over, what they would do differently.