About the breed

The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen - A short history.

The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (GBGV) is a medium-sized rough-coated hound originating from the Vendée region of France. To begin to understand the breed it is helpful to understand the name and this will also begin to give us some background on the nature of the breed.

Grand means 'large' (although in the case of the breed this is relative to  other Basset Griffon breeds, of which there are four. (Pronounced ‘grond’).

Basset means 'low to the ground', again relative to the two larger Basset Griffon breeds, the Grand Griffon Vendéen and the Briquet Griffon Vendéen, both of which are taller than the Grand Basset. They bear no resemblance to a Basset Hound, being longer in the leg, athletic in build and hunting ability. (Pronounced ‘bassay’).

Griffon means wire or rough coated. The hair is coarse and rough on top with a finer undercoat. The French standard suggests the feel is like the hair of a goat. (Pronounced gri-fohn with an almost silent ‘n’).

Vendéen means of the Vendée region of France.  (Pronounced ‘von-day-uhn with an almost silent‘n’).

But if all that is far too much of a challenge you can say ‘Grand’ or ‘GBGV’ for short!

So now you can say the name, what about the breed?

The GBGV is a breed that literally is at it says: a larger low-to-the-ground scruffy French hound of the Vendée region of France. Easy. 

It is important, however, to understand the context of the breed. France has a unique heritage in venérie and the tradition of hunting is embedded in their society in a way unfamiliar to those of us in the southern hemisphere. There are 40 distinct breeds of French hound, most of which are only found within France itself but are still used in hunting in the French countryside today. In France the hound is king and kings would spend a country’s ransom on buying and breeding the best for their revered packs. It is a tradition unparalleled in any country in the world and it is from this tradition that the GBGV originates. So needless to say their story is not a straightforward one.

The GBGV is, first and foremost, a hunting hound. They hunt by both sight and scent making them effective tracking dogs, and were bred for hunting in the rough, rugged terrain of the Vendée region of France. They can cover literally any ground at speed and I have watched mine hunt deer and hare through woods, across water and under the thickest cover without halting stride. They are the ultimate all-terrain hound. They are required to be 'rustic and hardy' - words which easily describe their type to this day. This is the type of hound we strive to breed at Laserre, a dog of true type and ability whilst still possessing those qualities of presence and movement necessary for the show ring.

The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen originated from the Grand Griffon.  In France, dogs were originally selected to be a particular Basset Griffon 'breed' by virtue of their size. The first selections were made at the end of the 19th century by the Comte d’Elva who was looking for dogs with 'straight legs' which could be used to follow men on horseback for hunting deer or boar, whilst the smaller dogs were selected for working with a huntsman on foot to capture rabbit or hare. These two sizes were later determined as separate breeds and would become the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen and Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen we know today.

The man central to the definition of these two breeds was Paul Dezamy. In the late 1800's he made careful selection for dogs of particular heights: the Petit becoming defined as a dog of 13.5-15 inches with the Grand being 15-16.5 inches. Most GBGV and PGBV dogs in Europe today can trace direct lineage back to dogs bred by this man in 19th Century France.

By the mid 20th Century, the separate nature of the two breeds was defined by the Dezamy family with the more compact nature of the PGBV being defined in a separate breed standard noting the difference in type between the ‘less excessive’ PGBV and the longer-legged GBGV. However, at this point in time, definition of a pup to be either a ‘Petit’ or a ‘Grand’ was defined only by assessment at one year of age when type and height was taken into account and their registration determined. This meant that litters could produce both GBGV and PGBV pups. In 1972 the President of the Club Griffon Vendéen requested that interbreeding between PGBV and GBGV dogs, and GBGV with the larger Grand Griffon, be stopped and that they would from that point on be classified as two distinct breeds with two separate standards.

By 1985, the separation was complete and registration of both PGBV and GBGV originating from the same mating was discontinued. At this time, the differences between the breeds was made more apparent by the separation of their height limits; the Petit being a maximum of 15” and the Grand being a minimum of 15.5”. In 1999, this was further defined within the Grand by a separation between the sexes with males being 15.75 – 17.5” for males and 15.5 – 17.0” for females. Despite the overlapping height of the male and female GBGV it is very much the case that the sexes can be easily told apart simply by eye. The male is a very masculine dog with full bone and distinct presence whilst the female has a softer quality and more feminine eye which makes the difference unmistakable to those who know and love them. One should never mistake the GBGV girl for a boy – despite the beard!

This complex history has also resulted in a wide variety of colours being present within the breed. Although a dog with white markings was preferred by the huntsman as they were more visible from a distance in the hunting field, solid colours are also permissible in the breed, albeit rare in the show ring. Colours can include all of the following: Black and white, black and tan, black and fawn, tricolour, fawn, sable, yellow, orange and combinations of all of the above and white. The variety in colours reflects the diverse hounds of France that contributed to the early development of the breed including the St Hubert Hound (black and tan) and Chein Blanc du Roi (white or predominantly white) pre-19th Century and more latterly the Fauve de Bretagne and Grand Griffon varieties. It is this wealth of background genetics which gives us the variation in coat colour present in the breed today as well as it’s robust breeding characteristics.

The colour of the eye should also match the colour of the dog, with deep brown (not black) for darker coats and a light brown / hazel allowed for lemon or fawn and white dogs. The eye should never be golden or blue however and should not show the haw of a Basset or Bloodhound but look sincere and serious. You will understand this when your GBGV looks you in the eye and says “what do you mean I can’t go out to chase the chickens”.

The occasion of the separation of the breeds is, however, still of relevance to breeders today as it is this history that means that dogs bearing Petit characteristics (short, more angled legs and lower height), or indeed Grand Griffon characteristics (long legs, over height) will very occasionally appear today. These dogs are not true to the GBGV standard and should not be bred from for future generations.

The GBGV today

This breed is very much alive and well in Europe and America and it still used as a working hound in France. It is one of the fastest of the French scent hounds and is hunted in small packs of 6-8 dogs with men on horseback and foot. The French breeders prize hunting ability before looks and so this quality is of prime importance in their breeding lines, being tested at their hunt shows and prized highly by their breeders.

The GBGV has few known conformational faults and suffers from virtually no inbreeding or genetic disorders. As a result they are a problem-free, easy to maintain dog with few health or behavioral issues.

They are, however, first and foremost a HOUND, and will always behave as one of a pack and hunt whenever the opportunity arises – be it hare, rabbit, cat or mouse! So a secure enclosure is preferable to an open garden if you want to know where your Grand is and that he is safe and well at the end of the day.

I hope this has armed you with some information about the breed, for more, don’t hesitate to contact me.


I give thanks to Robyn Wallis and George Johnston for additional information used when writing this history.


Contact Details

Jane Quinn
Coolamon, NSW, Australia
Phone : 0409 660260
Email : [email protected]