Although they do share some early history (listed here) the term “Bleu de Gascogne” as used when referring to a breed of dog is a generic term that may apply to any one of the following breeds: the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, Petit Bleu de Gascogne and the Basset Bleu de Gascogne. Please select the specific type you are interested learning more about from above.
Of the many breeds of French hunting hound, either surviving or extinct, few are as revered as the Bleu de Gascogne. One of the oldest purebred dogs in the world, the Bleu de Gascogne has been heavily influential in the development of dozens of other dog breeds. Although traditionally associated with the Midi region of France, this dog has long had admirers across the world, and today there are more Bleu de Gascognes in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
During the Middle Ages, hunting with hounds became one of the most popular pastimes of the European nobility. These hunts became highly organized and almost ritualized in many places. Lords and ladies used the hunts to relax and enjoy themselves. However, the hunts also served important social and political functions. Personal and political bonds were formed and reinforced through these hunts. Some of the most important decisions of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, decisions that impacted millions of people, were discussed and made over the hunt. Successful hunters brought glory and status upon themselves and their lands. Skilled hunting hounds became quite valued. Hound hunting culture existed all over Europe, but was most important and popular in France and England.
Initially, there was comparatively little care given to hound breeding. As hunting became more prestigious and important, dogs began to be carefully bred. The first records of organized and planned hound breeding come from the Saint Hubert Monastery. Sometime between 750 and 900 the monks of Saint Hubert began a breeding program that resulted in the creation of the Saint Hubert Hound, a breed which survives to this day as the Bloodhound. Partially due to the success of the Saint Hubert Hound and partially due to the popularity of hunting in the country, the French lands became a center of hound breeding. While there were hounds all over France, two breeds in particular became the most influential and important, the Saint Hubert Hound and its contemporary the Bleu de Gascogne.
From the Fall of Rome until the beginning of the Renaissance, most people did not travel much, if at all. The vast majority of the populace never ventured farther than thirty miles from where they were born. The same was true of our canine companions. As a result many different regions developed unique dog breeds, each with unique abilities and appearance characteristics. Many of these dogs were named after their birthplace. For example, the Fauve de Bretagne was from Brittany and the Griffon Vendeen was from Vendee. Hounds from Guyenne and Gascony were known for their distinctive mottled coats and their large size. The mottled mixture of black and white fur gave the dogs the appearance of being blue. As a result, this breed became known as the Bleu de Gascogne.
The exact origins of the Bleu de Gascogne are unknown as the dog predates the keeping of breeding records. It is commonly said that the dog’s ancestry pre-dates the Roman Empire. Many believe that the Bleu de Gascogne is descended from a mixture of dogs brought to Spain and France by Phoenician traders and hunting hounds owned by the Pre-Roman Gauls and Basques. However, this is impossible to prove. It is also possible that the dog was developed from local hounds which occasionally had the blue appearance. The breed is certainly very old, having been known from at least the late Middle Ages. By the 1300s, the Bleu de Gascogne was very well established as a breed.
The Bleu de Gascogne was used for hunting large game such as deer. The breed’s primary quarry was the wolf. The Bleu de Gascogne and similar breeds were so efficient at this task that wolves were essentially exterminated from France. This led to a substantial decrease in the breed’s population.
The Bleu de Gascogne has always had a reputation for being extremely cold-nosed. What this means is that the dogs have the capability of following older trails and are often slower going. There is a long-standing debate among hunters as to whether hot-nosed or cold-nosed dogs are preferable under different circumstances and for different game. Among hunters that prefer cold-nosed dogs, the Bleu de Gascogne has always been a favorite.
Unlike most French hound breeds which are virtually unknown outside of their home country, the Bleu de Gascogne has developed a following around the world, particularly in The United States. The first record of the Bleu de Gascogne in what is now the United States when some of the dogs were imported into the French Colony of Louisiana. Towards the end of the century, General Lafayette gave several French hounds to George Washington as a gift. At least some of these dogs are believed to have been Bleu de Gascognes.
Originally, all Bleu de Gascognes were of one variety, what we now call the Grand Bleu de Gascogne. Beginning in the 1500s, some hunters wanted to use the Bleu de Gascogne to hunt smaller game such as rabbits. They bred smaller dogs, until a new variety was developed. The Petit Bleu de Gascogne was the result. The Petit Bleu de Gascogne is slightly smaller than the Grand Bleu de Gascogne but it is known as Petit because of the size of game that it pursues. These dogs are primarily used for hunting rabbits and other small game animals.
The Bleu de Gascogne has been incredibly influential in the development of other dog breeds. Many French hound breeds can trace their heritage partially back to this old and revered breed. Some breeds in particular. The Bleu de Gascogne was crossed with Griffon breeds to create the Petit Griffon Bleu de Gascogne. The Bleu de Gascogne was either bred down in size or crossed with Basset breeds to create the Basset Bleu de Gascogne. The Bleu de Gascogne was mixed with the Saintongeois and Ariegeois to create the Grand Gascon-Saintongeois. Bleu de Gascognes brought to America had a large influence on American hound breeding. These dogs influenced the development of the American Foxhound, as well as the Coonhound breeds. This influence is most noticeable in the Bluetick Coonhound, which is thought to be primarily descended from the Bleu de Gascogne. There is a variety of Bluetick Coonhound which is known as an American Bleu Gascogne. It is also believed that the Bleu de Gascogne also is responsible for the unique coat of the Catahoula Leopard Dog.
Unlike many modern dog breeds which are seldom if ever used for any purpose other than as a companion animal, the Bleu de Gascogne is still a working animal. This breed is deeply ingrained with pack hunting instincts, and it is an exceptional and prized pack hunter. While the Bleu de Gascogne is a friendly and affectionate dog, the dog is so extremely specialized and large that it would probably not be well-suited to life as a companion animal. Almost every Bleu de Gascogne in the world is either a hunting dog or was one at an earlier point in its life. A select few fanciers are beginning to keep the breed strictly as a companion animal, but the intense exercise and maintenance requirements of the Bleu de Gascogne will likely limit their number.
The Bleu de Gascogne has a typical pack hound temperament. These dogs are typically friendly with family and strangers. Some Bleu de Gascognes are extremely affectionate, while others are somewhat reserved. The breed is very rarely shy or aggressive. This breed is almost never kept as a family pet, so it does not have much of a reputation with children. However, other similar breeds are known to be very good with children. In terms of personality, the Bleu de Gascogne might make a devoted companion animal, however the breed’s other needs may make the dog difficult to keep in a home environment.
The Bleu de Gascogne has worked in packs with other hounds for centuries. As a result the breed is typically very good with other dogs. As is typical with all dog breeds, there may be some bullying and dominance behaviors when new dogs are introduced to each other. If you already have a hunting pack, and are looking for a breed to add to it, the Bleu de Gascogne is likely an excellent choice. However, you should always exercise caution when introducing new dogs.
It would not be advisable to keep Bleu de Gascognes with non-canine pets, such as cats or rabbits. This dog has extremely well-developed hunting instincts which it is likely to bear on other animals. The Bleu de Gascogne has been a successful hunter of everything from rabbits to wild boar, so it is unlikely that any animal would be immune to stalking and potentially attack. This is not to say that a Bleu de Gascogne which has been raised and properly socialized with non-canines would not accept them. However, if you have non-canine pets which will not be carefully protected at all times, a different breed may be a better option for you.
As is the case with most scent hound breeds, the Bleu de Gascogne can be extremely challenging to train for any purpose other than hunting. These dogs have been bred to be stubborn and independent minded and they are. Bleu de Gascognes have a tendency to have selective hearing and will often choose to do what they want rather than what you want. This does not mean that a Bleu de Gascogne is untrainable, but you will have to spend a great deal of extra time and effort doing so. You also may never get the results that you want. If you want a dog that will do a number of complicated tricks for you, a Bleu de Gascogne is probably not the right breed for you.
The Bleu de Gascogne is a tireless tracker. This means that once it gets on a scent it will often follow it, no matter how hard you try to call the dog back. Unless extremely well-trained, you must always keep a Bleu de Gascogne on a leash or in a secure area. Any area which you have a Bleu de Gascogne off-leash must be very, very secure. These are large, powerful, and athletic dogs which can be very determined and stubborn. They are very likely to escape from inadequate confinement, and can easily go over, under, or through most fences.
The Bleu de Gascogne is a very vocal dog. They were bred to bay and make other noises when they were on the hunt to let their handlers know when they had caught a scent or cornered an animal. These dogs can be extremely loud, and may be loud for long periods of time. This means that a Bleu de Gascogne is probably a poor fit for an urban environment, where they will almost certainly draw noise complaints.
The Bleu de Gascogne is a tremendous athlete, as well as being a skilled hunter. These dogs need a very large amount of exercise and mental stimulation. If these dogs become bored or unexercised, they may become destructive and/or vocal. Dogs of this size, strength, and determination can become extremely destructive. They may also bay for hours on end. As a working pack hound, the Bleu de Gascogne has few peers. However, if you cannot or will not provide the maintenance that this breed requires, you should probably look at some other breeds with lesser requirements.
The Bleu de Gascogne has a short coat which is unlikely to require professional grooming. Regular brushing is all that the breed is likely to require. However, this breed may be a shedder, and is likely to leave coarse fur in its wake.
Owners of Bleu de Gascognes need to pay special attention to the dog’s ears. As is the case with many droopy-eared breeds, the Bleu de Gascogne’s ears are susceptible to becoming dirty and infected. A Bleu de Gascogne’s ears need to be cleaned regularly. As these dogs can be very stubborn, and can grow to immense size, it is best to begin this process early in life to prevent problems later on.
The Bleu de Gascogne is known for being an extremely healthy breed. The life expectancy for the Bleu de Gascogne is 12 years. This is quite long for a dog of this size, particularly the Grand Bleu de Gascogne. This is a very, very old breed, which likely has more genetic diversity than some younger breeds. Also, this hound has been used almost exclusively as a working animal for many centuries, and perhaps millennia. Dogs with health problems are not usually capable working animals and as a result are eliminated from the gene pool. Additionally, the breed has a small but dedicated group of fanciers who wish to protect the health of their dogs.
It is said by many fanciers, and even some kennel clubs and breeders, that the Grand Bleu de Gascogne is not known to be particularly vulnerable to any health problems. As the breed is now quite rare, there is also a lack of health studies done on the breed. However, this does not mean that the Grand Bleu de Gascogne does not suffer from any health problems. It just means that there are no known health problems that are more common in Grand Bleu de Gascognes than in other breeds. An individual Bleu de Gascogne may suffer from any number of health issues.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
Some health problems which may affect a Bleu de Gascogne include: