Beagle 101 video
The beagle should look like a miniature foxhound, solid for its size. The beagle’s moderate size enables it to be followed on foot. It can also be carried to the hunt, and once there, can scurry around in thick underbrush. Its close hard coat protects it from underbrush. Its moderate build enables it to nimbly traverse rough terrain. The beagle’s amiable personality allows it to get along with other dogs and to be a successful pack hunter. The beagle is noted for its melodious bay, which helps hunters locate it from a distance.
Small, compact, and hardy, Beagles are active companions for kids and adults alike. Canines in this dog breed are merry and fun loving, but beinghounds, they can also be stubborn and require patient, creative training techniques. Their noses guide them through life, and they’re never happier than when following an interesting scent. The Beagle originally was bred as a scenthound to track small game, mostly rabbits and hare. He is still used for this purpose in many countries, including the United States.
By the 14th century, hare hunting had become a popular sport in England, and the dogs used were probably of Beagle type. The origin of the name Beagle may be from Old French words meaning open throat in reference to the breed’s melodious bay, or from the Celtic, Old English or Old French words for ‘small’. The word Beagle was not used until 1475, however, but can then be found frequently in writings from the 16th century on. Hunters could follow these dogs on foot and could even carry one in a pocket if the need arose. By the 1800s, Beagles existed in several sizes, but the smaller ‘pocket-size’ dogs were particularly popular. These dogs measured only about 9 inches and often needed the hunter’s assistance in crossing rough fields. One of the special appeals of the smaller beagles was that the hunt could be followed even by ladies, the aged or the infirm, as they slowly followed the winding path of the hare. The first mention of the Beagle in America was in 1642. Beagles were used in the South prior to the Civil War, but these dogs bore little resemblance to their English counterparts. After the war, English imports formed the basis of the modern American Beagle. By the end of the 19th century, Beagles were popular competitors in both field and conformation exhibitions. But the merry little scenthound did not stop there: He continued to become one of America’s all-time favorite breeds, finding his special niche as a family pet.
Copyright © 1998, 2005 by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. based on
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DOG BREEDS by D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D.
One of the most amiable hounds, the Beagle was bred as a pack hunter and needs companionship, whether human or canine. He loves to explore the outdoors and is an enthusiastic trailer. Given adequate exercise, he is a calm, tractable house pet. He is an excellent child’s dog, gentle, incredibly tolerant and always ready to join in a game or an adventure. He is an independent breed, however, and may run off if a trail beckons. He barks and howls.
- ••••••Friendliness towards dogs
- ••••••Friendliness towards other pets
- ••••••Friendliness towards strangers
- ••Ease of training
- •••••Watchdog ability
- ••Protection ability
- ••••Cold tolerance
- ••••Heat tolerance
- Beagles can be difficult to housetrain. Some people say it can take up to a year to fully housetrain some Beagles. Crate training is absolutely recommended.
- Beagles can get bored if left alone in a house too long. If left in a backyard, Beagles will start finding ways to amuse themselves, usually by howling,digging, or trying to escape.
- The most common reason Beagles are turned over to rescue groups is because either their owners or their owners’ neighbors got tired of their baying. Be sure that you are prepared to work with your dog to control excessive barking and howling.
- Beagles are targets for thieves who would steal them and perhaps sell them to research laboratories for use in experiments. Supervise your Beagle when he is outdoors and be sure to have him microchipped!
- Since they are scenthounds, Beagles will wander off if they catch an enticing smell in the air. Their noses control their brains, and if they smell something interesting, nothing else exists in their world.
- Although they are loving and gentle, Beagles can have an independent, stubborn streak. Obedience training is recommended, but be sure the instructor of the class understands hound personality and favors using food as a reward (which few Beagles can resist).
- Do you remember how the famous cartoon Beagle Snoopy worried about his food bowl? Beagles are “chow hounds” and will overeat if given a chance.Monitor the amount of food you give them and be sure to keep your cupboards closed and your trashcans secured. Otherwise, your Beagle will sniff out the foods he likes the best.
- In regards to food, your Beagle probably will take its food bowl pretty seriously. Teach children to respect your Beagle while it is eating, and not to approach it or tease it with food.
- Beagles are not good protection or guard dogs because they’re usually friendly to everyone they meet.
Health and care
The beagle needs daily exercise, either a long walk on leash or a romp in a safe area. It can live outdoors in temperate climates as long as it is given warm shelter and bedding. It is a social dog, however, and needs the companionship of either other dogs or its human family; as such, it is usually happiest if it can divide its time between the house and yard.
Major concerns: intervertebral disc disease, CHD
Minor concerns: glaucoma, epilepsy
Occasionally seen: deafness, hemophilia A, cataracts
Suggested tests: hip, (eye)
Life span: 12-15 years
Beagles may be prone to epilepsy, but this can often be controlled with medication. Hypothyroidism and a number of types of dwarfismoccur in Beagles. Two conditions in particular are unique to the breed: “Funny Puppy”, in which the puppy is slow to develop and eventually develops weak legs, a crooked back and although normally healthy, is prone to a range of illnesses; Hip dysplasia, common in Harriers and in some larger breeds, is rarely considered a problem in Beagles. Beagles are considered a chondrodystrophic breed, meaning that they are prone to types of disk diseases.
In rare cases, Beagles may develop immune mediated polygenic arthritis (where the immune system attacks the joints) even at a young age. The symptoms can sometimes be relieved by steroid treatments. Another rare disease in the breed is neonatal cerebellar cortical degeneration. Affected puppies are slow, have lower co-ordination, fall more often and don’t have a normal gait. It has an estimated carrier rate of 5% and affected rate of 0.1%. A genetic test is available.
Their long floppy ears can mean that the inner ear does not receive a substantial air flow or that moist air becomes trapped, and this can lead to ear infections. Beagles may also be affected by a range of eye problems; two common ophthalmic conditions in Beagles areglaucoma and corneal dystrophy. “Cherry eye“, a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, and distichiasis, a condition in which eyelashes grow into the eye causing irritation, sometimes exist; both these conditions can be corrected with surgery. They can suffer from several types of retinal atrophy. Failure of the nasolacrimal drainage system can cause dry eye or leakage of tears onto the face.
As field dogs they are prone to minor injuries such as cuts and sprains, and, if inactive, obesity is a common problem as they will eat whenever food is available and rely on their owners to regulate their weight. When working or running free they are also likely to pick up parasites such as fleas, ticks, harvest mites, and tapeworms, and irritants such as grass seeds can become trapped in their eyes, soft ears, or paws.
Beagles may exhibit a behaviour known as reverse sneezing, in which they sound as if they are choking or gasping for breath, but are actually drawing air in through the mouth and nose. The exact cause of this behaviour is not known, but it is not harmful to the dog.
On its formation, the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles took over the running of a regular show at Peterborough that had started in 1889, and the Beagle Club in the UK held its first show in 1896. The regular showing of the breed led to the development of a uniform type, and the Beagle continued to prove a success up until the outbreak of World War I when all shows were suspended. After the war, the breed was again struggling for survival in the UK: the last of the Pocket Beagles was probably lost during this time, and registrations fell to an all-time low. A few breeders (notably Reynalton Kennels) managed to revive interest in the dog and by World War II, the breed was once again doing well. Registrations dropped again after the end of the war but almost immediately recovered.
As purebred dogs, Beagles have always been more popular in the United States and Canada than in their native country England. The National Beagle Club of America was formed in 1888 and by 1901 a Beagle had won a Best in Show title. As in the UK, activity during World War I was minimal, but the breed showed a much stronger revival in the U.S. when hostilities ceased. In 1928 it won a number of prizes at the Westminster Kennel Club‘s show and by 1939 a Beagle – Champion Meadowlark Draughtsman – had captured the title of top-winning American-bred dog for the year. On 12 February 2008, a Beagle, K-Run’s Park Me In First (Uno), won the Best In Show category at the Westminster Kennel Club show for the first time in the competition’s history. In North America they have been consistently in the top-ten most-popular breeds for over 30 years. From 1953 to 1959 the Beagle was ranked No. 1 on the list of theAmerican Kennel Club‘s registered breeds; in 2005 and 2006 it ranked 5th out of the 155 breeds registered. In the UK they are not quite so popular, placing 28th and 30th in the rankings of registrations with the Kennel Club in 2005 and 2006 respectively. In the United States the Beagle ranked 4th most popular breed in 2012 and 2013, behind the Labrador Retriever (#1), German Shepherd (#2) and Golden Retriever (#3) breeds.
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Beagles were developed primarily for hunting hare, an activity known as beagling. They were seen as ideal hunting companions for the elderly who could follow on horseback without exerting themselves, for young hunters who could keep up with them on ponies, and for the poorer hunters who could not afford to maintain a stable of good hunting horses. Before the advent of the fashion for foxhunting in the 19th century, hunting was an all day event where the enjoyment was derived from the chase rather than the kill. In this setting the tiny Beagle was well matched to the hare, as unlike Harriers they would not quickly finish the hunt, but because of their excellent scent-tracking skills and stamina they were almost guaranteed to eventually catch the hare. The Beagle packs would run closely together (“so close that they might be covered with a sheet”) which was useful in a long hunt, as it prevented stray dogs from obscuring the trail. In thick undergrowth they were also preferred to spaniels when hunting pheasant.
With the fashion for faster hunts, the Beagle fell out of favour for chasing hare, but was still employed for rabbit hunting. In Anecdotes of Dogs (1846), Edward Jesse says:
In rabbit-shooting, in gorse and thick cover, nothing can be more cheerful than the beagle. They also are easily heard over long distances and in thick cover. They have been called rabbit-beagles from this employment, for which they are peculiarly qualified, especially those dogs which are somewhat wire-haired.
In the United States they appear to have been employed chiefly for hunting rabbits from the earliest imports. Hunting hare with Beagles became popular again in Britain in the mid-19th century and continued until it was made illegal in Scotland by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004. Under this legislation Beagles may still pursue rabbits with the landowner’s permission. Drag hunting is popular where hunting is no longer permitted or for those owners who do not wish to participate in hunting a live animal, but still wish to exercise their dog’s innate skills.
The traditional foot pack consists of up to 40 Beagles, marshalled by a Huntsman who directs the pack and who is assisted by a variable number of whippers-in whose job is to return straying hounds to the pack. The Master of the Hunt is in overall day-to-day charge of the pack, and may or may not take on the role of Huntsman on the day of the hunt.
As hunting with Beagles was seen as ideal for young people, many of the British public schools traditionally maintained Beagle packs. Protests were lodged against Eton’s use of Beagles for hunting as early as 1902 but the pack is still in existence today, and a pack used by Imperial College in Wye, Kent was stolen by the Animal Liberation Front in 2001. School and university packs are still maintained by Eton, Marlborough, Wye, Radley, the Royal Agricultural University and Christ Church, Oxford.
In addition to organized beagling, beagles have been used for hunting or flushing to guns (often in pairs) a wide range of game including Snowshoe Hare, Cottontail rabbits,game birds, Roe Deer, Red Deer, Bobcat, Coyote, Wild Boar and foxes, and have even been recorded as being used to hunt Stoat. In most of these cases, the Beagle is employed as a gun dog, flushing game for hunter’s guns.
Beagles are used as detection dogs in the Beagle Brigade of the United States Department of Agriculture. These dogs are used to detect food items in luggage being taken into the United States. After trialling several breeds, Beagles were chosen because they are relatively small and unintimidating for people who are uncomfortable around dogs, easy to care for, intelligent and work well for rewards. They are also used for this purpose in a number of other countries including by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in New Zealand, theAustralian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and in Canada, Japan and the People’s Republic of China. Larger breeds are generally used for detection of explosives as this often involves climbing over luggage and on large conveyor belts, work for which the smaller Beagle is not suited.
Beagles are the dog breed most often used in animal testing, due to their size and passive nature. Beagles are used in a range of research procedures: fundamental biological research, applied human medicine, applied veterinary medicine, and protection of man, animals or the environment. Of the 8,018 dogs used in testing in the UK in 2004, 7,799 were Beagles (97.3%). In the UK, theAnimals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 gave special status to primates, equids, cats and dogs and in 2005 the Animal Procedures Committee (set up by the act) ruled that testing on mice was preferable, even though a greater number of individual animals were involved. In 2005 Beagles were involved in less than 0.3% of the total experiments on animals in the UK, but of the 7670 experiments performed on dogs 7406 involved Beagles (96.6%). Most dogs are bred specifically for this purpose, by companies such as Harlan. In the UK companies breeding animals for research must be licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act.
Testing of cosmetic products on animals is banned in the member states of European Community, although France protested the ban and has made efforts to have it lifted.It is permitted in the United States but is not mandatory if safety can be ascertained by other methods, and the test species is not specified by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA). When testing toxicity of food additives, food contaminants, and some drugs and chemicals the FDA uses Beagles and miniature pigs as surrogates for direct human testing. Minnesota was the first state to enact a Beagle freedom adoption law in 2014, mandating that dogs and cats are allowed to be adopted once they have completed with research testing.
Anti-vivisection groups have reported on abuse of animals inside testing facilities. In 1997 footage secretly filmed by a freelance journalist inside Huntingdon Life Sciences in the UK showed staff punching and screaming at Beagles. Consort Kennels, a UK-based breeder of Beagles for testing, closed down in 1997 after pressure from animal rights groups.
Although bred for hunting, Beagles are versatile and are nowadays employed for various other roles in detection, therapy, and as family pets. Beagles are used as sniffer dogs for termite detection in Australia, and have been mentioned as possible candidates for drug and explosive detection. Because of their gentle nature and unimposing build, they are also frequently used in pet therapy, visiting the sick and elderly in hospital. In June 2006, a trained Beagle assistance dog was credited with saving the life of its owner after using her owner’s mobile phone to dial an emergency number. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a Beagle search and rescue dog with a Colombian rescue squad was credited with locating the owner of the Hôtel Montana, who was subsequently rescued after spending 100 hours buried in the rubble.