The Hush Puppy Club - Bassets in Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 21:09 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013
Lancashire Life went on the trail of a dog made famous by a television shoe advert and found a hound much misunderstood. Jason Smalley reports
THE sound was quite magical, if somewhat incongruous and unexpected given the current location. The baying of bassets seemed more suited to a pastoral scene, perhaps heralding by a group of hunters.
Yet, the excited barks were carrying far across the of Ainsdale and merged with the shallow lapping of the waves farther down the beach. It was the turn of our own endless stretch of coast to play host to the day of the bassets.
And how their fellow walkers welcomed them, both two-legged and four. To see one basset is an occasion - to encounter a pack of 50 or more trotting across the sands can be quite overwhelming.
Every month, a meet of this type is organised somewhere in the country, planned as a time when owners and their charges can socialise and exchange hound tales together, stories of their particular dog's past, how their pets are coping with a new life in a stable home and pondering on whether they can fit another basset into their lives.
This is Basset Hound Welfare at its finest. Virtually all of this hearty pack have been abandoned and re-homed.
Who would have thought that this archetypal 'lounge dog', the symbol of the famous 'Hush Puppy' brand could ever be any trouble? Margaret, who is the North West representative for Basset Hound Welfare, along with her husband Donald, told me that this is the very root of the problem. This is a dog that has been seriously stereotyped by the media the world over.
Film makers and publishers never fail to portray the basset as a floppy-eared, lazy, docile, undemanding breed of dog. The truth of the matter is people buy cute little pups and let them get away with murder, sitting on the sofas and clambering onto knees.
But when they grow into four stone hounds, not long after their first birthday, the owners take these privileges away and, being intelligent working dogs, it doesn't go down too well!
Basset hounds need a firm hand from puppyhood, along with lots of exercise and amusement as well as companionship. They are pack hounds, not loners.
They were first bred in France in the 16th Century from bloodhound stock specifically for hunting hares and rabbits on foot.
They were cross-bred for their short legs which enabled hunters to keep up with them as they 'slow trailed' their quarry by scent, negating the need for horses whose thunderous hooves could put the prey to flight.
Even now there are a handful of hunts which use bassets exclusively. Despite their shortness of leg they're very agile and energetic and they are able to run for great distances, albeit at a slower pace. It makes them a good pet for owners who enjoy an active lifestyle.
In fact it appears that Basset ownership can become quite addictive! Steven and Suzanne Allin acquired their first over 11 years ago and now enjoy the pleasure of four in their small cottage. 'They're no trouble at all, as long as they get a couple of good walks a day then they're happy to flop by the fireside and relax through the evening.' said Suzanne. Fletcher, Ernie, Bart and the lovely Lola are very definitely at the centre of their lives and, as you can see from my pictures, they all enjoy a good romp at the Basset Welfare meets.