The long-legged French bassets are almost always kept in kennels in packs for hunting. In this category are included Poitevin, Billy, Anglo-Francais de Petit Vénerie, Briquet Griffon Vandéen, long-legged Griffons, Petit and Grand Bleus de Gascogne, and Porcelaine.
All these breeds hunt large game in packs, letting the hunter know where the quarry is by their loud calls. Such dogs have deeply rooted hunting instincts and a good nose.
The Billy's ancestor is the King's White Dog, which made up the royal packs in France for centuries prior to the French Revolution. The packs were disbanded around 1725, and the King's White gradually disappeared, but not before it passed its genes to the Billy and, possibly, the Harrier in Britain.
The Billy's inherited instincts and quick reflexes make it an excellent small-game hunter. Because of its great stamina as well, the Billy can gallop long distances in pursuit of quarry.
During the late 18th century, a French breeder named de Céris interbred King's Whites with some small Swiss hounds to obtain a new breed: the Céris. The breed was named after the home of the breeder who created the breed - Monsieur Gaston Hublot de Rivault, who lived at the Chàteau de Billy, in Poitou. The present-day Billy was the result of a cross between a Céris, de Montemboeuf and Larye (white dogs with orange markings) and possibly foxhounds. These pack hounds contributed small size and orange spots, fortitude and speed and excellent nose. Just ten Billyes survived World War II. These dogs were used by the son of the breed founder to save these large hounds from extinction.
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This is a large (23-24.5 in. at the shoulders), well built, lightweight yet strong dog with alert, dark eyes ringed with black or brown. The skin is thin, usually white with short, stiff hair. The color can be white, light tan, white with markings, light orange, or lemon. It is considered to be one of the most elegant of French dog breeds. The Billy has a surprisingly musical call, which is often heard when packs are in pursuit of their quarry.
His short coat needs little grooming but is a meager protection from cold weather and thorny brush. The dog must not be exposed to severe cold or it may contract bronchitis.
As a pet, the Billy is obedient to his master but is reportedly contentious with pack mates. He is good with children, brave and very sociable.
Billy is rarely seen outside of France and even in its native country.