The Grand Bleu De Gascogne is a magnificent French scent hound with a well-refined build of ancient lineage. It is one of the largest scent hounds alive today. It has a domed head with loose skin coverings that form wrinkles on both cheeks. The long, slightly aquiline muzzle is complimented by well-pronounced occiput and prominent frontal skull bones with barely defined stop. The lips are hanging down loosely covering the lower jaw. It has strong scissors bite teeth, a nose that is black in colour and deep eyes of a dark chestnut brown colour with surrounding black patches on both sides of the head. The long ears are one of the characteristic identifying features of the Grand Bleu – covered in black patches, reaching up to the tip of the nose or longer and attached very low to the head, well twisted inward, thin, and tapers to a point. The head is supported by a strong, slightly arched neck with well developed dewlap. The body’s outline is rather long but firm with short and broad loin and sloping croup that emphasizes the hipbones. It has a rather thick, brushed tip tail that is carried in a saber fashion and is long enough to reach the hock. The front legs are long and straight with elbows close to the body. The coat of the Grand Bleu is also one of the identifying marks of the breed – short, thick and dense, mainly white in colour with speckles of black dots that gives the breed the slate blue effect. An adult male stands between 65 cm to 72 cm from withers while an adult female has a height of 62 cm to 68 cm. Weight varies between 36 kg and 54 kgs.
The Grand Bleu de Gascogne is one of the ancient breeds of dogs with French origin. It is believed to have descended from the scenting dogs of Gaul and those brought by Phoenician traders to the south-western coast of France in Gascony near the present-day Spanish border. It is thought that the Grand Bleu is a descendant of the now extinct breed Southern Hound and the St. Hubert Hound. The Grand Bleu was originally used to hunt wolves and then for wild boar and deer when wolves were no longer abundant in the region. When wild boars and deer became limited, the breed was used to chase hares to waiting hunters. King Henry IV of France (1553-1610) had a pack of Grand Bleus which were also used for hunting. In 1785, General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette gave a pack of seven Grand Bleu de Gascogne to General George Washington who was said to have remarked that the breed’s voices were as harmonious as the bells of Moscow. Today, the Grand Bleu is more popular as a show dog and is still considered a rare breed in the UK.
The Grand Bleu de Gascogne is the largest breed of scent hound and is remarkable at tracking anything even when the trail has gone cold. Temperament can vary from dog to dog but in general, the Grand Bleu can be a handful but a great delight to a family who loves hound dogs. It is gentle, friendly and loving but can be stubborn and downright mischievous at times. Grand Bleu puppies have an enormous amount of energy and can be destructive, so they should not be left alone unsupervised. And adult Grand Bleu can be quite vocal and can let out a hound-like bay to a hair-raising howl particularly if it detects a scent to alert other pack members and its handlers.
The breed will benefit from training at an early age, particularly as a puppy. Socialisation and training should be done through gentle but firm and positive reinforcements and by someone who knows how to handle an active, intelligent scent hound. It will benefit the most to an owner who loves spending time in the great outdoors.
The Grand Bleu De Gascogne is a very easy dog to maintain because it has an almost groom-free coat, with no trimming or stripping required. The soft and smooth coat readily wards off dirt but weekly brushing will help remove dead hair. Check and clean the ears regularly as they are prone to infections because of their length and proximity to the ground where they might get injured in brushes.
There are no known major health issues associated with the Grand Bleu De Gascogne. It is a generally healthy breed that typically lives between 10 to 12 years.
It is fairly inactive indoors and will do good in an apartment setting provided that it gets enough exercise on a daily basis. An hour or two of daily long walks is ideal for this breed. It will do best in a large house with a large fenced garden where it can play all day. The Grand Blue most not be allowed to wander on its own particularly in an urban setting or it will follow any interesting smell it might encounter. A dormant Grand Bleu De Gascogne can have a tendency to become destructive and will channel its boredom into other activities.
The Grand Bleu is a pack dog and is good with other dogs in the home but its instinct to hunt hares and other game may not be a good combination with other small animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters, and similar pets. It has a loving and caring personality so it does well with children.