The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, one of many small varieties of the French hounds, is of ancient descent. His origin can be traced to the sixteenth century, to the Griffon Vendéen, his larger, more powerful ancestor. His name reveals much about him: Petit – small; Basset – low to the ground; Griffon – wire coated; and Vendéen – the area of France in which he originated. In the United States, the breed is referred to as “Petit” or “PBGV”, in England, “Roughie”, and in Denmark, “Griffon” or “Petit”. (image above is 1st PBGV match in Elmira, NY, 1984 Judge Elizabeth Street)
This small hunting dog has an intriguing and charming appearance and personality. But it is important to remember that the PBGV is, first and foremost, a hound developed to hunt game by scent. Furthermore, his physical evolution is directly related to the environment and terrain of the western coast of France, the Vendée, characterized by thick underbrush, rocks, thorns and brambles. This difficult terrain demanded a hardy, alert, bold, determined, intelligent hunter with both mental and physical stamina.
The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is a proud member of some 28 hound breeds which are bred in France even today to serve their original purpose. They are used to hunt small game, especially hare and rabbit, in France, other European countries, the U.S. and Canada. Most French hound breeds came in large and small versions and were used for different prey. The Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen was used for such large game as roedeer and wolf, while the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen was used to trail and drive smaller quarry, such as rabbit, hare and sometimes even feathered game.
The attempt to standardize breed type was not undertaken seriously until the latter half of the nineteenth century. Until 1898, when the first official standard for the Basset Griffon Francais was adopted, judges at the French Exposition made their placements without benefit of any official standard. The Dezamy family, headed by Paul Dezamy, the first president of the newly founded Club du Basset Griffon Vendéen (1907), is known for having devised the first standard. The same standard described the Petit and Grand, both of which came from the same litters at that time. In 1909, a standard for the Basset Griffon Vendéen recognized two types of Basset, one standing 34 to 38 centimeters, or approximately 13 to 15 inches, and the other 38 to 42 centimeters, 15 to 17 inches at the shoulder. The Petit was distinguished by his smaller size only, with sometimes semi-crooked legs. The taller, or Grand, always had straight legs.
It was not until the 1950s that the Societe de Venerie published a new book of standards in which the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen was given an official standard of its own and considered a separate breed. But with the practice of interbreeding the Petit and the Grand, it was common at that time for offspring from the same litter to be entered – some as Petit and some as Grand – at the French Exhibition. Paul Dezamy himself did not breed Petits, but became famous for his 42 cm. Grands, referred to as “42 Dezamys”.
Finally, in 1975, through the efforts of Hubert Dezamy, third president of the club, the interbreeding of the Grand and the Petit was disallowed. However, as a result of the longtime practice of interbreeding, wherever Petits are bred today both Grand and Petit characteristics will manifest themselves for generations to come. For this reason, heavy emphasis is placed on type and size in those countries where breeders are striving for the ideal. Breeders and judges are obligated to learn the features unique to a Petit so those characteristics are encouraged in breeding. As previously mentioned, the PBGV has been very popular as a hunter in France for nearly a century. His popularity in the show ring has increased over the last twenty years, recently attaining recognition by the kennel clubs of Canada, Great Britain and, most recently, the United States. Petits made their debut at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show in New York in 1992, with 24 dogs competing. Petits are shown in almost every European country. In some, they continue to be used for hunting. Interest in the United States was sparked at the “Super Match” in 1983, when a 12-week-old Canadian-born puppy, Alexander, entered in the rare breed class, won Best in Match.
Ten years earlier, Mrs. Elizabeth Streeter of Pennsylvania imported some Petit puppies from France and England for the purpose of creating a working pack. Her Skycastle Pack created interest at the Bryn Mawr (PA) Hound Show, but it did not spread. It was that puppy in the ring at the Super Match who started it all. Publicity began… word of mouth… Dog World… Canine Chronicle… and others. Importations began. Puppies were brought back from London and Copenhagen. Since 1984, more puppies and adults have arrived from Canada, Denmark, England, France, Sweden, Holland and Germany. Mrs. Streeter, who died in 1987, was the first to whelp litters in the U.S., breeding only when it was necessary to add to her pack.
As word of the Petit and the Super Match spread from coast to coast, there seemed to be sufficient interest – not on the part of the general public but on the part of fanciers, especially hound enthusiasts – for some sort of organization in this country. To protect and promote the breed, and to educate and inform those interested so that sensible importations would follow, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Club of America was formed atthe AKC Centennial Show in Philadelphia in November 1984. Eleven individuals, representing several states and a variety of breeds, but all with years of experience in dogs, constituted the foundation of the national club. A bimonthly newsletter was started, which has now grown to the quarterly Saber Tails magazine.
Much was accomplished in the first years of the club’s existence. By the end of 1985, the PBGVCA had grown from 11 to 50 members. A breed standard had been accepted, the constitution and bylaws adopted and a stud book and registry had been set up. The club had also notified the American Kennel Club of its intent to work toward eventual AKC recognition.
The first national club event was held in Louisville, Kentucky on March 16, 1986, during the tenth anniversary celebration of the Louisville Kennel Club. Fifteen Petits came from all areas of the United States to be shown.
In March, 1987, the second annual meeting of the club and the first National Specialty were held once again in Louisville. Twenty-four Petits were entered, and 22 shown. Exhibitors came from California, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, New Jersey and Arizona.
On July 1, 1989, the PBGV became eligible to compete in AKC Miscellaneous classes. Full recognition followed swiftly on February 1, 1991. In 1992, 24 champion Petits represented their breed at the Westminster Kennel Club show for the first time.
Since AKC recognition, the numbers of fanciers and Petits have grown steadily. Depending upon the part of the country, 80 to 150 PBGVs may be seen at the National Specialty held each spring.