THE GRAND BASSET GRIFFON VENDEEN: HISTORICALLY BALANCED
FUNCTION DICTATES FORM While we have all heard the saying, “Form Follows Function,” it is impor- tant when evaluating a Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen to remember what exactly was asked of these dogs in the field—and why we should continue to look for them in today’s dogs as well. First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance to remember balance when judging and considering a GBGV in the ring. A Grand Basset should not look like a wire-coated Basset Hound. Rather, they should be a strong, much more moderate hound. These are hounds that were meant to be able to power through underbrush and fencing safely, without the assistance of the hunter who would likely be quite a bit behind the pack. This means that the dog’s ster- num should extend on their underline to protect all the dog’s vital organs, with a proper wire coat that pulls out easily in case they were to get stuck in burs. They should also have strong shoulders and a good prosternum, along with a powerful balance between both front and rear; to be able to quickly and power- fully get through the tight, rough areas where game was likely to traverse while on the move. They need a good amount of substance to them, but should never be coarse or clunky. These hounds were meant to be able to hunt all day. They need effortless, easy movement to ensure that they are able to do the job that they are asked to perform, day in and day out. A large nose and long ears mean that they are better able to focus and find the scent of the game they are pur- suing. GBGVs should be able to problem-solve on the fly, without assistance from the hunter, in case they meet a complex situation on a drag. Those long, iconic and silhouette-defining white saber tails sit high in the air to be able to find a hound with ease within the brush. Straight legs were the first defining characteristic used to separate a Grand Basset from a Petit Basset. They play a huge, important role in how well a hound is able to keep up with the slightly larger game than that which a PBGV was traditionally used to hunt. When all are combined, these traits create a stellar pack hound that is eager and able to handle the place where they originated. These were originally hounds that were created to be able to easily hunt without the use of horses, allowing peasants to still have a pack hound to work with by foot.
Barron Karl Reille was a French wildlife artist who specialized in painting French hunting scenes. While this painting was not clearly labeled as Grand Basset Griffon Vendeens, it is clear that this is what he is depicting in this piece. You can certainly see the preferred straight legs that were becoming the main identifier of the breed during the time that he was active Post-World War I.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PLACE Throughout history, a locality has been one of the most significant factors in the creation of a place’s culture. Dogs are a large part of that his- tory and culture for many areas of the world— especially in France where hunting has played a large part in the average provincial resident's life and livelihood for centuries. The Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen was developed with its home area in mind, above all else. The depart- ment of Vendee is located on the western coast of France, just south of Nantes and Breton, and was originally included in a much larger area than it does in modern France. It has long been an agrarian territory, with livestock and agri- culture being a long-held tradition in the area, making it a beautiful pastoral place ripe for the creation of a glorious hunting hound. Filled with rough coastlines, marshland, and pastures, it is in many ways an idyllic French countryside where peasants and nobles were more at peace than in other areas of France. Hunting for food and sport allowed for the advancement of the various sizes of the generalized look of a Griffon Vendeen hound, but the Grand Basset was cre- ated especially for hunters on foot looking for larger game. These hounds needed to be able to run and keep up with hare and roe deer; and therefore, needed to be able to get through thick underbrush safely and have a coat that was eas- ily able to handle marshy conditions. It is the Vendee area of France itself that has largely dic- tated the GBGV that we see today.
This is a painting that dates back to the late 1800s by another French painter, Jules-Bertrand Gelibert, known for his work involving hunting dogs. This is a mixed pack of Grand Bassets and Petit Bassets hunting hare, clearly depicting the rough Vendee countryside.
SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2021 | 205
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