Monday 8 September 2014

The truth behind the Cambridge "very large cat"

The media loved the story recently of YoYo, the Basset Hound, who had circumvented rules banning dogs at Selwyn College, Cambridge by being classified as a "very large cat".

Nothing like a bit of good-old fashioned British eccentricity.

There's been a few sniffy comments , though - with several people suggesting the dog is a cross, not a purebred Basset.

But I can exclusively reveal that YoYo is the real-deal. She is a retired working pack hound from the wonderful Albany Bassets  - a dog who has as much right to be called a Basset as any of the baggy, saggy show dwarves who trip over their own ears.

Although, actually, YoYo was retired and re-homed because she is a little long in the leg, even by Albany standards where the hounds are much more athletic than their show cousins.

"She was a lovely hound, very well behaved and an excellent working hound," says the Albany's Alison Jeffers.

"The only reason we re homed her was because she is taller in the leg than the majority of our hounds and therefore too fast. We try and keep a very level pack so when out working, they all stick together and work as a team. Slower or faster hounds have to go, the outcome is to become a pet dog!"

Here's YoYo in her working days.


  1. A better question might be: "Are the show bassets part Shar Pie?".

  2. The quote about her long legs making her too fast reminds me of the culling advice to "remove the head and the tail of the pack" - which means to sell or re-home both the faster and the slower hounds in a pack.

    This is not just for basset packs, but also for pack hounds which hunt predators in America. The idea is for the hounds to arrive at the bear/wolves/mountain lion all at the same time, because if the hounds run as fast as they can and arrive one at a time alone, the hounds can be killed one at a time as they arrive. There is safety in arriving as a pack, that is why they are called Pack Hounds.

    The opposite are called Tree Hounds or Coon Hounds, and are common in woody mountain areas of America. Because the hounds hunt small animals like raccoon, they can safely arrive one at a time. The first hounds to arrive bay (howl) at the raccoon, forcing it to hide up a tree. The hounds stay at the base of the tree baying at the tree leaves (actually, the raccoon hiding up there), until the human hunter follows the noise of the baying and shoots the raccoon.

    These 2 traits: to run ahead or to stay within a pack, are the same traits that affect the range in bird dogs - with Spaniels hanging back near the gun like a pack hound, and pointing dogs ranging out of sight stopping only when they reach the game.

    So it isn't just her longer legs, but her instinct to range ahead of her fellows in her own pack.

  3. In my opinion, these hounds so much better than the show Bassets. Nice leg, beautiful head.

  4. Good material for Blackadder.

  5. Never understood the need to cull racoons quite honestly. At 20$ a pelt average last year it would seem not enough to feed a dog. Besides its a nice little critter whose ony crime is munching a few ears of corn and sleeping in "barns" over winter.

    This is a nice story. The mongrel basset whose a cat. They should supply the pet market then people wont be buying reject show quality as pets that have all manner of problems not least walking.

    An Albany is the way to go....lets hope Yo Yo makes a few converts.

  6. What can be done to save the show Basset Hound?

    The answer appears to have been right in front of us the whole time: working bred Bassets. Assuming the puppies can be registered, why not rent a working bred stud? Breeders could quickly improve the health and fitness of their packs.

    Be part of the wave that improves the future, instead of the drag that holds it back!

    1. They wouldn't win in the show ring. The standards have to change and the judging criteria and the reasons for breeding these dogs.

      I agree, and with so many people that dogs should be primarily bred for being pets and not primarily as "show mutts". This is also what showing should be all about, functionality as a pet or working dog. This way the exaggerations and health issues would very quickly disappear as no one would need to inbreed and linebreed to exaggerated ideals that are presently awarded in the ring.

  7. Reminded by the Invictus Games of the need to breed dogs to have useful jobs, I would like to say that field or working bred bassets would be great competitors in events designed to increase the breed's usefulness in tracking and scent work, which is surely much more important than show trotting.

    Most dog breeds were made to be used to help in hunting wild animals. Another group of breeds originated to help work livestock.

    But the need today is for dogs to help the handicapped, and dogs to help in scenting bombs, diseased livestock or people, and general police work.

    Please smile kindly upon the need to breed dogs to be healthy, sane, and to fit better into modern society. Thank You.

  8. I am cheered to read and see photos of fit Basset Hounds. I feel so sorry for the show Basset Hounds. It was mean of someone to breed them that way.

  9. It isn't just the cruelty of breeding some types of show dogs. It isn't just the pleasure of watching happy, healthy, fit dogs enjoying life. It is also the lonely sadness of knowing the waste, the wasted lives and opportunities, of all of those show dogs, their breeders, their owners, and all the people they could have helped - and enjoyed helping. So much life wasted. It is so very sad.

    For example, imagine Mrs. Smith is driving her mini poodles to a dog show in London. From the back seat, one of her poodles is going crazy yapping at the window. The poodle turns towards Mrs. Smith, looks her right in the eye, and whines horribly.

    "Odd" thinks Mrs Smith, "FiFi is usually the best behaved of all of my poodles". Mrs Smith pauses, "why is FiFi still whining at me like that?"

    "Oh yes, FiFi was trained in that new sniffer dog sport, but that was before I bought her!"

    Yet, Mrs Smith remains just a little bit uneasy. Could FiFi have sniffed something in the air, something none of the other poodles reacted to? But that training was three years ago! Surely FiFi didn't remember training from that long ago! FiFi paws Mrs Smith's arm, FiFi stares right into Mrs Smith's face, her whines turn to rapid shrill barks.

    Mrs Smith pulls in to the parking lot at the dog show. FiFi bolts from the car, and quarters back and forth, sniffing intensely. Perplexed, Mrs Smith phones FiFi's breeder, Mr. Blocker.

    He wants to know where Mrs Smith's car was when FiFi first started behaving oddly. Mrs Smith remembers that it was just before the last turn she made before getting on the road which leads to the dog show. Mr Blocker pulls up a map, and as they talk, they refine exactly where FiFi first alerted to a scent.

    Mr Blocker phones the police. Both Blocker and Smith feel a bit foolish calling in a yapping poodle's opinion of public safety. Still FiFi had been trained in scenting explosives. She competed two summers. Mostly came in 4th, 5th, 6th, the upper half of her class all of the time. Won 2nd place once.

    In the police call center, Officer Wilson, pulls up traffic video, spots the car which drove past Mrs Smith's car near the intersection where FiFi started alerting on a scent. Wilson follows the blue car on the video to a parking garage. He calls for a K9 unit to go to the garage.

    There at the garage, Handler Jones lets Buster, his Malinios sniffer dog, out of their police car. Buster alerts on a car, a blue car. Jones calls in the plate number. Its a match to the car that set FiFi off.

    A crowbar and a few moments reveal the hidden cargo that both Buster and FiFi scented. It would have destroyed half of the building, injuring many people, now, thanks to a little poodle on her way to a dog show, the package explodes harmlessly in the sea.

    The matter is hushed. Mr Blocker and Mrs Smith still assume that their report was a bit silly. FiFi saved London from a terrible attack! how silly. But we know that FiFi did do exactly that.

    FiFi wasn't top of her class, never best in show, but she was good enough to get the job done, when she was at the right place at the right time.

    An impossible scenario? Only impossible because our dog shows are silly useless affairs, where dog breeders breed FOR deformities instead of working abilities.

    Turn away from breeding dogs within a useless system. Be part of something better.

    1. Dogs that are used as sniffers have their training reinforced every day. They "alert", and then they are fed. If they are trained to find bedbugs, then there must be some practice bedbugs for them to find. If they are trained to sniff out drugs, there needs to a sample of the drugs for them to find and alert to every time before they are fed. Unless Mrs. Smith had samples of explosives and was actively keeping up the training then this is, alas, an impossible scenario.

  10. Dogs shows aren't doing what they could to provide useful direction and goals for dog breeders.

    But dog shows are whatever WE make them to be. WE choose whether to participate in breeding dogs for useful jobs in our modern society - jobs like helping the handicap and assisting community protection -

    or we CHOOSE to be part of the herd which degrades purebred dogs into the mess that they are sliding into - not bred for anything useful, left with nothing to do, unable to walk or breathe well enough to work, needing glasses to see (but being dogs, they remain functionally blind because dogs can't wear glasses), developing mental and emotional problems as well as the physical ones....

    See how much better the fit, useful dogs are for our society. See the beauty in their robustness, their work. Look for healthy, fit dogs, doing work which makes them fulfilled and happy.

    See the sadness of dogs living in cages. The waste of dogs just bred for occasional shows. Please don't support the degrading of dogs. Don't be part of it. Walk away from breeding dogs for deformities. Walk away from breeding dog for appearance. Breed dogs for their traditional use or a modern work.

    Have a function for your breeding, a goal of usefulness. Insist that your kennel club get with the 21st century, instead of the 19th century view of dogs.

    Talk to your kennel club, write them, email them. Tell them you want to breed for something better, to be part of something useful. That you want to breed dogs that mesh well with our modern world. To breed dogs that have a useful place at our sides.

    That you want to be able to be proud of what the dogs you have bred, actually contribute, not just if a show judge likes your dog or not. Push for improvement within the kennel club system.

  11. In America, September 11th is the anniversary of the bombing of the twin towers and the pentagon. Of the heroes of the flight that went down in Pennsylvania, because, rather than let hijackers crash the jet into the White House, the passengers rushed the hijackers and crashed the jet into a field.

    A sniffer dog couldn't have stopped the hijacked jets. Only heroes did that.

    But, modern society has many dangers which dogs can help with. Dogs can work to scent out diseased people BEFORE they get on a flight. Sniffer dogs can check passengers and cargo BEFORE they get on a cruise.

    Sniffer dogs, from beagles to poodles and spaniels, could sit by a handler on a platform, watching and sniffing for explosives or disease. The greatest work they do is: all the things which never happened

    - because they caught the problem BEFORE it happened.

    The future that well breed, well trained, well handled dogs save, is our future. The removal of one bomb, one disease carrier can make your future a comfortable place. Or, the lack of security can devastate our future.

    And when something does slip through, like on 911 in 2001 in America, then dogs can help those injured in the aftermath. Guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, leading those with head injuries home. Fetching for those with injured or missing hands. Helping those in wheelchairs. Being a companion to those sidelined.

    And some people don't understand why I find dog shows, at best, a silly waste of time? And, at worst, the ruination of the bond of people and dogs working together, and the degradation of breeds of dogs? As well as the century old stumbling block to the improvement of dogs?

  12. People, come out of your tower keeps, come out from behind your musty old dog books, quit your silly ring trotting. Out there is a real world which needs sniffer dogs, and handicap helpers. Listen to the call of this need.

    Start by seeing the need to breed away from the closed clique of the show ring, and breed for the real world, for real people, for your own future. For when YOU are injured or old. For when YOU are lost, or YOUR child is missing. For when YOU enter a train, a bus, or a building. For when YOUR child goes to school.

    I tell you people, if you ever need the help of a trained working dog, or if you suffer because of the lack of trained bomb dogs, YOU are going to feel very silly for having wasted your years producing dogs for the show ring!

    I thank you for your time in reading my comments.

    Please do yourself a favor, and all of us in the world, a favor too. By breeding for health, temperament, and usefulness.

  13. And, as an afterthought, a P.S., please let me add my little opinion of one of the first things to breed improvements in.


    Health & Temperament are the foundations of good breeding. But Temperament is the most important. There are few things sadder than dogs living their lives from inside of shipping crates or cages because those friendly puppies sour with age, becoming dogs that turn on their own pack, injuring each other, trying to kill each other during fits of violent emotion.

    In my opinion, Pack Hounds rule!

    They rule because owning you-have-to-crate-them killer dogs, is frustrating and sad.

    Oh, owning one or to emotionally violent dogs might be manageable, most of the time. But breeding a breed of dog that, once grown, has to live separate from other dogs of its own gender is just horrible - for the crated dogs, and for the breeder who has to control them. Been there. Done that. Learned better. Sharing tales of my errors with you all, so you don't have to learn it the hard war, through trial & error, like I did.

    If you plan on becoming a dog breeder, when selecting which breed you will devote yourself to, pick a breed of health, fit, sociable dogs, whose breeders house them in large packs.

    Because if you choose any breed that can't be safely housed in packs, you will be housing them in expensive indoor/ outdoor kennels or shoving them in cages or crates. Not nice for you, not nice for the dogs.

    Choosing one dog or two dogs, is very different from choosing a breed of dog which you might have 5 of more of. Choose a breed that can live in a pack.

  14. Regarding this quote:
    "The only reason we re homed her was because she is taller in the leg than the majority of our hounds and therefore too fast. We try and keep a very level pack so when out working, they all stick together and work as a team. Slower or faster hounds have to go, the outcome is to become a pet dog!"

    We've discussed how show-bred dogs are too short-legged, even by working standards. Corgis are short so that cattle will kick high over their backs and miss them. I know that dachshunds and terriers are short so they can go to ground after badgers and other fossorial prey.

    Bassets are short so that they won't travel as fast, allowing humans can keep up with them. But really, there are so many other hounds out there with normal legs, which people either keep leashed, or else follow on horseback. Basically, people have shortened the Basset's legs to cripple him, preventing him from running as fast as other domesticated wolves. Seems pretty unfair to me.

    1. So many breeds are crippled for our own amusement, it's not just bassets.
      Personally I find dachshunds and corgis just as abhorrent. We no longer need to hunt badgers - habitat destruction and pollution kills plenty each year.
      There are far healthier and better cattle dogs than corgis - the Australian cattle dog is just one.

      I wish dog shows would just disappear entirely. It's so superficial it's sickening; like a beauty pageant for dogs - except that the entrants are ugly deformed mutants.

  15. Although Germany appears to have made some swift changes to ban qualzucht breeding, most kennel clubs are making slow sporatic changes (or no changes at all), seemingly more careful to avoid offending breeders than trying to save dogs from genetic pain.

    It might be too fast for the "Rome wasn't built in a day" crowd to expect sudden swift change in most kennel clubs.

    As for banning dwarf breeding - not without more evidence that they SUFFER from being a dwarf. And IF show Bassets are suffering, are they suffering from being a dwarf breed, or from being a poorly bred breed that just happens to be dwarves?

    Perhaps if the show Bassets were bred more like YoYo they wouldn't suffer as much? Or perhaps would not suffer at all? I know of no study which compares well bred working Bassets to show Bassets in a way that measures pain and disability.

    Until such a study is done, it might be rash to ban dwarf breeding. A better idea might be to insist on breeding the healthiest, fitest, happiest Bassets. A step in the right direction, please - not a storm of change.

    1. Steps in the right direction don't work fast enough. We know this because the KC has been making "steps in the right direction" since its inception. Decades will go by while people argue over how long the legs should be. During that time countless bassets will suffer.

      How can you ask whether dwarfed dogs suffer? Just look at dwarfed humans - they suffer multiple ailments as a direct result of their mutation, so there's reason to believe its the same for dwarfed dogs (after all, mammals are so similar we can use dogs in medical research to emulate human reactions - so surely the converse is true?).

      I question why you're loath to have dwarfs disappear - is it because you own or breed dwarfs? Because in that case you are making a subjective biased decision, which is unlikely to have the dogs best interests at heart.

      As for me I'd like to see all dwarfed breeds disappear, along with all brachycephalic breeds.

    2. My favourite breed is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and no, I don't believe we need more evidence than the alarming incidence of IVDD, DM and a myriad of joint conditions and predispositions plaguing this breed nowadays. That's already ignoring the fact that they can't run, jump, mate and whelp normally.

      It is my opinion that dwarf breeding as is should be outright banned. Abnormal conformation is not any less abnormal because we've got used to it or find it cute. No dog should have its chest dragged across the floor.

  16. In response to the last two posts, I'd like to state that Bassetism, i.e. achondroplasia, is a natural mutation which can affect all breeds of dogs, and which basically involves a shortening of the long bones in the dog's limbs. When hunting methods changed to "chasse à tir", i.e. hunting on foot where the game is driven back towards the posted hunter by the hounds, before being shot, rather than "chasse à courre", i.e. horseback hunting where the quarry is caught and killed by the pack, or cornered by the hounds so that the hunter can despatch it, the hunters realised that bassets were easier to keep up with than longer-legged dogs, and selected their hounds for this trait.
    The traditional definition of a basset breed, which includes all French Bassets, as well as Dachshunds and other breeds not belonging to the Hound group, such as some of the terrier breeds for instance, is that the leg height should not exceed one third of the height at withers. If the leg is longer than this, it makes the dog faster, and places the breed in the "briquet" category, i.e. medium-sized hounds... The alleged Basset Hound illustrating the original story is definitely too long in the leg to qualify as a basset, and was quite rightly excluded from the pack for the reasons outlined by the previous contributors!
    The revised standard of the basset Hound insists on sufficient ground clearance to fulfill the hound's original purpose, since a lack of leg will not enable the hound to overcome the kind of natural obstacles occurring in the field where he hunts for his natural quarry, the hare!
    I've just returned from a most interesting week-end in France aiming to introduce newcomers to hunting with pedigree Basset Hounds, and I can assure any of you who have not tried it, that it is quite difficult to keep up with the hounds, even when they are a bit shorter in leg than the 1/3rd of height at withers...

    1. Your reasoning is slightly floored, as their are two other hounds used to hunt hare and rabbit on foot, that don't fall into your height, length ratio, the Beagle and the Harrier.
      I know of a private pack of Harriers still being used for hunting on foot. A lot of hunting on foot with hounds, is not necessarily the hound size (although you need hounds of similar size and temperament within a pack to get a cohesive pack, most hounds that don't fit into a pack, it's often more to do with personality than size), but how good a control the huntsman/woman has of their charges. My son's also have friends who's parents help with a private pack of Beagles and our sons are, often invited out with them. You don't have to have the leg, length ratio you desire to foot hunt hounds, you just have to be fit and have the skill to hunt them, knowing when to check them back and when to let them run.

    2. Sorry, as pointed out by Jackie Beare, who could not figure out how to reply to the comment they made, so you will have to look below, I put flawed wrongly in my reply.
      Silly me !

    3. Hi Jackie,

      It is nice to read from someone like you who works their dogs and who helps newcomers. Bravo.

      One of the big questions in purebred dog breeding today is if dwarf dogs suffer from being dwarfs. Any observations on this with your Bassets or other hounds?

      Plenty of tall people get joint pain, not just dwarves. But whether or not the dwarf mutation is natural, or not, is moot. Most all mutations are natural - except maybe a few in modern laboratories - and many of those would be attempts to fix a mutation, not cause one.

      Otters and ferrets are dwarf looking - I don't know if it is the same gene or not. But if it were shown that otters and ferrets suffer in pain or distress from the gene, or if they died young because of it, then a point could be made for not breeding dwarf dogs.

      Nature is often cruel. Some trees and bushes live for hundreds of years. People often don't live even to 100 years. Annual plants sprout in the spring and die in the fall. Nature is not fair or kind. Natural is our roots, but nature is not always sweet. Many people and animals are born afflicted genetically.

      People can rise above the slackest parts of nature (or fall way below it) by trying to produce future generations that seem blessed with the best genes possible for the lives they will lead.

      The question with Bassets is if the dwarf gene causes suffering, pain, or disability - from puppyhood or in older age?

    4. Hi Anon 1059,

      I'm pleased to read of your experiences with pack hounds. I would love it if all breeds could be judged in an event like "best pack" or some event where they are graded on working well together and under the direction of a handler.

      I believe that dogs bred for such traits also make better pets than dogs bred singly without regard for their desire to please their handler or to play well with other dogs. Bravo to all pack hounds and their people.

  17. LOL: I'm slightly floored by your flawed spelling!
    I never said that you couldn't hunt hares or rabbits with larger dogs than bassets, but if you do, the chase will be faster, and the dogs may well catch the prey before the hunter gets close to it, which is why these longer-legged hounds are usually used for hunting larger and faster game! Furthermore, I'd like to point out that in these politically-correct times, it is probably more humane to shoot the hunted animal, than to practise "par force" hunting. This is why the British anti-hunting legislation seeks to prevent this outcome, and obliges fox-hunters to despatch the fox with a gun before the pack tears it to bits, isn't it?! Another interesting fact about hunting with slower dogs, is that the game will not bolt from cover as quickly as if the pursuing pack is faster. This will provide the on-foot hunter with the opportunity to shoot his quarry at a much shorter range...

    1. By commenting on someones spelling, that does make yourself sound a bit of a condescending person, who does not like being wrong.

      You gave the reason for the leg to body length ratio reason, as keeping up with the hounds and I just gave examples of hounds that hunt the same quarry, that do not have the same leg to body length ratio and I suspect I could provide more if I had mind to. The fact is that hounds that are not the body to length ratio of the Basset are used for hunting the same quarry, successfully and within the law, get over yourself.

      The way Beagle and Harrier packs get round the hunting legislation to prevent the hounds reaching the quarry before them is by using fewer hounds, than they have in the past, when hunting, allowing better control, they have also employed this method in Foxhound packs I know of. Have you ever actually hunted with Beagles or Harriers ?
      It's obvious that a faster dog will flush out quicker than a slower dog and this again comes back to the skill of the person controlling the hounds and knowing the area they are hunting. When flushing an area with hounds kept tight, you pretty well can judge were the break will occur and the direction and you position people appropriately for the outcome of flushing an area.
      I think you will find that the hunting legislation, is to flush and the quarry should be shot as soon as possible, once cover is broken. I never suggested hunting and allowing animals to be ripped apart.
      Have fun criticizing the grammar and spelling, some of us have better things to worry ourselves with. LOL

    2. Jackie Beare, you sound like someone who's swallowed a book on Basset hunting history, but has little hands on experience in the hunting field with or outside your breed (I would imagine you may show Basset's more than use them for hunting), trying desperately to justify breeding stumpy legs on a dog. I'm going to try and help you here. The stumpy legs, probably are more to do with the ground they cover when hunting than the speed, but what would I know about hunting, I ain't read a book on it or can quote in French. LOL

    3. Hi Anon 1443,

      If you really do hunt Bassets, tell us more! I am NOT Jackie, I don't have Bassets, but I would love to learn more, if you have the patience to explain?

    4. Hi Anon 17:54,

      I never said I hunted Bassets and why would I hunt them, they are not overly suited to the terrain of the area I live, which is open faster country, we have woodland areas, but they do not have that much dense cover.

      I was taught from a child when looking at hunting hounds or hunting/shooting dogs in general is, short stocky dogs tend to be good to work slow ground, which is woodland and dense covers and the more longer legged, athletic types are better in fast country, open ground without cover. Hunting dogs will try to hunt any ground for you, but logically a shorter more stocky dog should be better equipped to move through dense cover, as a more athletic longer in the leg hound should be better for keeping with it's quarry in open country.

      In the county I live you see variation from Foxhound packs to the country they hunt, packs that hunt over the moors have leggier type Foxhounds, then come down to the valleys with less open country you will see Foxhounds closer to the ground and a bit more stocky, to cope better with the terrain. I know of one local hunt pack of Foxhounds that has been a few generations ago crossed with Harriers and those Harriers have a bit of Beagle blood a few more generations back. People who use dogs for hunting and have no interest in showing and are more interested in the dog doing the job, than the purity aspect. Hunting hounds have pedigrees, but to improve the hunting ability of a pack, most hunts happily out cross from time to time, to retain size or correct a fault.

      I have hunted with Beagles, Harriers and Foxhounds. I have hunted with Harriers on foot and with horses. I have also done three seasons in the past drag hunting in the Surrey and surrounding area. A lot of hounds that are wayward end up with drag hounds, as with following an aniseed trail, so the whole tempo of hunting is a lot faster, as with this scent trailing the hounds rarely check and they just run from start to finish of each line. Great fun on horseback, but you won't see much of the hounds.

      If you genuinely what to know more about Basset hunting it might be best to contact the hunt in the article.

  18. I've just spent three weeks in Rajasthan in India and came across a most unusual thing. Achondroplastic cattle. This is not the same thing as small as in Dexter cattle but rather true dwarfs, normal sized heads normal size bodies but short legs.

    I saw at least six of these in one area. These were all feral cattle not used for milking but free ranging in the city, highway etc.

    I noticed they were perfectly healthy looking otherwise. No swelling in the joints or inability to get around just very short in the leg.

  19. So sad that a dog so faulty built is to be shown off as a better version than the show-dog-type basset. This one is not any better, dispite the fact that she has longer legs. No wonder she is retired, poor thing.