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A Beagle is a relatively small dog (but not as tiny or fragile as toy-breeds). The Beagle is a member of the Hound Group and resembles a Foxhound to some extent but the Beagle is smaller, with shorter legs and longer soft ears. The Beagle was primarily bred for hunting rabbits or other prey. Because of the Beagles well developed sense of smell it is often used for police or security work looking for illegal food at airports and similar tasks.

The Beagle is a popular breed in particular because of the dog’s size, good temperament and very few inherited health problems – characteristics that unfortunately also has made the Beagle a popular choice of dog for clinical testing on animals.

A small dog with a long history
The Beagle we know today was bred in England in the 1830s from several breeds such as; Talbot Hound, North Country Beagle, Southern Hound and perhaps Harrier. Beagle dogs were popular in royal courts. Dogs of similar size and characteristics can be traced back to Before Christ. Xenophon, who was born 433 BC described a dog that hunted hares with his sense of smell and followed by hunters on foot.

In the 1100s William the Conqueror brought the Talbot hound to England. Talbot Hound was a white bloodhound that descended from the St. Hubert Hound that was bred in the eighth century. At one point the English Talbot Hounds was crossbred with Greyhounds to give them extra speed. The Talbot Hound, now long extinct, was the father of the Southern Hound that is assumed to be the precursor to the modern Beagle.

Small hunting dogs in the royal courts
In medieval times the word “Beagle” was used as a generic description for small dogs, although these dogs were significantly different from the modern Beagle we know today. Miniature breeds (or Toy breeds) are known from Edward II and Henry VII’s time, when they both had a bunch of Glove (Glove) Beagles, that got their name because they were small enough to fit on a glove. Queen Elizabeth I had a breed of dogs named Pocket Beagles that were 20-23 cm tall at the withers.

The Pocket Beagle was small enough to fit in a pocket or saddle bag so they could easily be brought along for a hunt. The larger Beagles chased the prey over open country and subsequently the hunters would let the small Beagles loose so that they could chase the prey into the thick undergrowth in the woods. Elizabeth often entertained her royal guests by letting the little dogs run and romp on the dining table. Breed Standards for the Pocket Beagle were recorded as late as 1901, but this genetic line is now extinct although modern dog breeders have tried to recreate it.

The modern Beagle
The modern Beagle is 40 cm. tall to the withers and has a brown, black and white coat color. Preferably with two or three of the colors mixed together. A Beagle has large eyes that are brown with mild almost begging eyes. The large ears are soft, long and round at the tip. Beagles have a strong head of medium length (that makes it easy for the dog to keep its nose to the ground when tracking prey). Beagle has a muscular body and a medium length coat that is smooth and hard.

The tail shows the hunter where the Beagle is
Beagle has a short and slightly curved tail with a white tail tip. The white tail tip is also called “flag”. Beagle was selectively bred to produce the white tail tip that makes it easy to see where the dog is during the hunt, when the dog has its nose to the ground tracking prey.

The Beagle’s sense of smell is extraordinary
The Beagle’s sense of smell along with the Bloodhound’s is one of the best among all dog breeds. In 1950 John Paul Scott and John Fuller made a scientific study for 13 years about dog behavior. As part of their research they tested various dog breed’s sense of smell by placing a mouse in a cornfield and time how long the dogs needed to find the mouse. A Beagle found the mouse in less than a minute and for example the Fox Terrier used fifteen minutes and the Scottish Terriers didn’t find the mouse. Beagles are better at following a scent over land than they are at following an airborne scent. For this reason for example the Collie gained popularity in mountain rescue teams ahead of the Beagle.

Good temperament but easy to excite
A Beagle has a mild and balanced temperament. Beagle is described in breed standards as “happy” and with no aggressive or particularly shy tendencies. Beagles love company and although the dog may be a little reserved with strangers at first, you will fast win over a Beagle’s love. For the same reason a Beagle is not a good guard dog however a Beagle will usually bark of strangers. In a survey conducted in 1985 Ben and Lynette Hart concludes that a Beagle is one of the most easily excited dogs along with the Yorkshire Terrier, Cairn Terrier and Miniature Schnauzer, West Highland White Terrier and Fox Terrier. Beagles are intelligent, but can be stubborn and is easily focused on a smell or noises around the dog that could make them a bit harder to train than other breeds.

A good family dog that needs exercise
Beagles are good with children and are very popular as family dogs. The Beagle needs a lot of exercise because of their inbred stamina and working dog background. A Beagle does not have to be completely exhausted before it can relax. Regular exercise also helps to keep weight gains at bay. A little Beagle dog loves to eat.

One hybrid that is gaining in popularity is a cross between a Beagle and a Pug. The outcome is a sweet little dog that is less brash than a Beagle and has less need for exercise. A Puggle is perhaps more appropriate than a Beagle for city living.

If you are considering buying a Beagle, you should consider the following:

Would you like a dog that is:

  • Small but tough and athletic.
  • Has a natural appearance.
  • Has a short and easy to maintain coat.
  • Loves exercise and romping around.
  • Has a happy and outgoing temperament and gets along well with everyone.

This can be negative depending on your personal preferences:

  • Needs a lot of exercise to thrive.
  • An independent attitude that can make a Beagle harder to train than other breeds.
  • Can have a tendency to bark or howl.
  • Moderate shedding.

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