The PBGV is one of a number of purely French breeds still used for its original purpose: to hunt game purely by scent. The western coastlands of France are rocky and thick with brush, thorns and brambles. For a dog to hunt effectively in this harsh terrain it must be smart, focused, independent, low-to-the-ground and both mentally and physically fit. It also needs a rough coat for protection from climatic and other environmental conditions. The PBGV descends from the larger, more powerful Griffon Vendeen, which comes in four distinct sizes, each used to hunt a different type of game. The Grand Griffon Vendeen (25 inches or taller at the withers) was used to hunt large game, such as deer and wolf, from horseback. The Briquet Griffon Vendeen (approximately 20 inches at the withers) was used for slightly smaller quarry. The Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen was the next smallest in size, followed by the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. The PBGV was developed to trail and drive small prey such as rabbit, hare, fox and fowl, with hunters following on foot.
The first official French standard for the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen was published in 1898. The Club du Griffon Vendeen was founded in 1907, and Paul Dezamy was its first president. In 1909, a revised standard for the Basset Griffon Vendeen recognized two distinct varieties: one standing 13 to 15 inches (the Petit, which often had crooked legs), and the other standing 15 to 17 inches in height (the Grand, which has always had straight legs). The Societe de Venerie published new standards in the 1950s, giving the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen its own official standard as a breed separate from all others. However, cross-breeding of Petit and Grand types continued in France until 1975, when a descendant of Paul Dezamy disallowed such intermingling in a revised breed standard.
The first PBGVs were imported to the United States by Mrs. Elizabeth Streeter of Pennsylvania in 1983. The Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen Club of America was founded the following year. The PBGV was accepted by the American Kennel Club into its Miscellaneous Class in 1989, and became eligible to compete for AKC championships in 1991, as members of the Hound Group. In 1992, 24 American Kennel Club champion Petits competed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show for the first time. The breed has grown steadily in popularity in North America and world wide.
The average life span of the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include aseptic meningitis, ear infections, glaucoma, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and persistent papillary membranes.