The invention of the basset hound: breed, blood and the late Victorian dog fancy, 1865–1900

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In this article the authors explore the practices and conceptualisations of British dog breeding and the showing of pedigree dogs by the ‘the dog fancy’, focusing specifically on the story of a single breed: the basset hound. This was not simply a story of British dog fanciers appropriating a French dog breed; indeed, this was impossible because the very notion of a dog ‘breed’, defined by conformation and legitimated by pedigree, was in the process of invention. They show how the British dog-show fancy chose one, from many and varied types of French hound, to be the basset hound, and how this choice was legitimated by reference to an imagined history, where the British dog fancy rescued a noble animal from French indifference to breed and blood. The chosen physical form was standardised to arbitrary ideal, but was by means no static. In the spirit of the times, it was ‘improved’, first by the empirical methods of animal breeders, using pedigrees to secure good and pure ‘blood’, and then by the application of science, particularly artificial insemination and hereditarian theories.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)726-40
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Review of History/Revue Europeene d'Histoire
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2015