By AKC Field Representative Jim Odle
Bassett Hound Field Trials are exciting and a lot fun for the hound and huntsman. These events date back to the 1930’s. Basset field trials are designed and conducted for the purpose of selecting those hounds that display sound quality and ability to the best advantage. Shortly after the formation of the Basset Hound Club of America (BHCA) in 1935, the fourteen charter members held a fun field trial in Michigan. The first field trial in the east was held in 1938 in Kimberton, PA The sport grew quickly. World War II slowed the growth of the sport, but only temporarily. Following the war, the sport continued to grow at a steady pace.
All field trials are sponsored and hosted by a local Basset club. These events are licensed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the hounds compete for championship points. To enter the Basset hound must be at least six months of age and individually registered with the AKC. The owner will need to complete a very short entry form entering the hound in the field trial and pay an entry fee. Most clubs holding field trials close the entries at 8:00 A.M. After closing no hounds are allowed entry. Spayed and neutered hounds and hounds with limited registration are eligible to compete in these events and are welcome. Newcomers are welcomed by the club members. Experienced enthusiasts are available to offer kind and valued suggestions to assist the newcomers.
Most of the Basset Hound field trials are run in braces, two dogs at a time. Once all hounds are entered and at the advertised time, the entries will close and the hounds are randomly drawn in braces. The hounds are run in the field on rabbit or hare and are evaluated by two judges. The handlers and gallery also go to the field under the direction of the Marshall. Once all braces have been run this completes first series. The judges will announce the hounds selected for second series based on merit and those hounds are run in braces again. The second series may be followed by additional series until the judges have decided the final placing.
Of course, the most sought-after ribbon is the blue one—the all-important first place. No matter how many places the basset hound has won, without the necessary first place, it cannot achieve the much-coveted title of Field Champion.
In order to become a field champion, a basset must have placed in Open All Age classes at four or more trials and have placed 1st in at least one and have won a total of 60 championship points. Points are awarded as follows: First Place – 1 point for each starter (competitor); Second Place – ½ point for each starter; Third Place – 1/3 point for each starter; and Fourth Place – 1/8 point for each starter.
History of the Sport
It is generally acknowledged that the first Basset Hounds came to America from France. George Washington’s friend Lafayette sent him hounds for pack hunting in America, and these hounds were probably the so-called Old Virginia Bench-Legged Beagles. Other imports in the early nineteenth century were obtained from France, but some also came from British packs, especially the Walhampton Pack. Gerald Livingston imported from the Walhampton Pack in the 1920s forming his well-known Kilsyth Pack. At the same time, Loren Free of Ohio also imported from the Walhampton Pack to form his Shellbark Pack. During the 1930s, another Ohioan, Carl Smith, acquired the Starridge Pack, and when economic conditions improved, he was able to supply a new demand for hunting Bassets.
The American Kennel Club registered Bassets in 1885 and recognized them as a breed in the United States in 1916. After AKC recognition of the Basset Hound Club of America in 1937, show and field-trial activities grew and spread rapidly. The first Basset field trial was an AKC-sanctioned trial held at Hastings, Michigan, on October 24, 1937, by the then newly formed Basset Hound Club of America. It attracted seven Bassets. The hounds were run in Braces (pairs)under the AKC rules and procedures already in use for Beagle trials.
Soon, thereafter, two AKC-licensed Basset field trials a year were held in Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, with a growth to about thirty to forty entries per trial. By 1964, ninety-seven Bassets had fulfilled the requirements for the Field Championship title. The sport spread rapidly to New York State, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Illinois, California, and Texas, with many trials attracting over one hundred entries. Today some twenty Basset Hounds clubs hold thirty-eight trials each year, and the Basset Hound Club of America gets the best of the Bassets together each spring and fall for a national event.
There have been only 9 Dual Champion Bassets over the years. The first, Dual Ch. “Kazzo’s Moses the Great,” won his second of the Champion titles in 1964.