Charles Schultz created one of the most famous and beloved beagles of all time – Snoopy -- in his “Peanuts” cartoons. Well qualified as both gundogs and family pets, Beagles are among the smallest of the hunting hounds. Field dog trials are also popular among beagle owners.
Beagles are always following their noses, and when they pick up on a scent, they’re oblivious to the rest of the world. These dogs have a tendency to make their presence known by barking, baying, and howling. Such vocalizations are inherent characteristics of the hunting dogs they were bred to be. However, fans of the breed describe their voices as harmonious, and even elegant.
Beagles range in height from 13 to 15 inches (33 to 38 centimeters), Some kennel clubs classify them into two distinct groups: 13-inch Beagles and 15-inch Beagles. The 13-inch Beagle stands approximately 13 inches tall, exactly as its classification suggests. The 15-inch Beagle, however, can range anywhere from over 13 inches to 15 inches in height. Beagles generally weigh from 18 to 31 pounds (8 to 14 kilograms).
History of Breed
Packs of hounds are thought to have hunted with the Greeks since 400 B.C., or possibly even earlier. Around 1550, hounds began to be classified according to their purpose -- sight hounds, scent hounds (the category to which the Beagle belongs), and so on.
It was around this time that a small hound was developed to hunt rabbit and hare. It was given the name “Begles,” a French term meaning “gape throat.” The English version of this name is “Beagle,” and England is actually considered the country of origin of the modern beagle. The exact ancestry of Beagles is unclear, but it’s been speculated that Beagles are a mix of ancient English hounds, Foxhounds, Harriers, and/or small bloodhounds known as “Kerry Beagles.”
Beagles were originally available in a wide variety of sizes and coat types. These included the smooth-coated hound, which we most commonly associate with the Beagle today, as well as a wire-haired variety. “Pocket Beagles” were only about 10 inches height, enabling mounted hunters to carry them around in their saddlebags.
Color and Coat
Modern-day Beagles are most often tri-colored in black, tan, and white, though they may also be seen in other colors characteristic of hounds.
They have short coats which are dense and weather-resistant. Their coats consist of short hair, which is typically smooth. However, as mentioned previously, it can also be wiry.
Personality and Temperament
In spite of their penchant for hunting, Beagles have charming, upbeat personalities, which qualify them as very good family pets as well. Beagles are affectionate and friendly toward their human counterparts.
Some of the Beagle’s favorite instinctual behaviors are considered undesirable by humans. These include a tendency to become distracted and wander off. Beagles can easily become so engrossed in tracking a scent they pick up on that they become oblivious to everything and everyone else – including their owners.
Early training is required to show the Beagle who’s in charge. Even indoors, Beagles aren’t afraid to get their paws dirty, and can make quite a mess if undisciplined. Thus, training should begin at an early age to teach the Beagle who’s in charge. Beagles do exhibit an eagerness to please their masters, and will do so once they’ve been provided with firm and consistent guidelines.
Beagles use their keen sense of smell to map their territory. They will notify their owners by barking if they suspect an intruder or anything seems to be amiss. To this extent, the Beagle can serve as a good watch dog, though when push comes to shove, he’s more likely to greet a stranger than attack him.
Beagles have a lot of energy, and require about an hour and a half of exercise daily. Because of their strong hunting instinct, they should never be allowed off of the leash unless they’ve been extremely well trained to return when called. It takes a considerable amount of time for the Beagle to learn to do this, so a fenced yard is ideal for exercise purposes.
Beagles pose no problems with children. They love them, and their size isn’t likely to be too imposing. Beagles also get along well with most other dogs, but if they’re to be expected to behave in the company of cats, they should be exposed to them at an early age.Beagles are bred to be pack animals and will take their membership in the family pack seriously.
Because they are prone to barking and howling, Beagles aren’t particularly well suited to apartment living. The walls of any enclosure intended to contain them must be at least 6 feet high and very secure. Beagles are excellent escape artists, and will attempt to find their way out of any confinement if they’re tempted by something on the outside.
Pack membership is a high priority for this breed, and Beagles consider human individuals to be just as important in the pack as canines. Those who choose to initiate the Beagle into their own packs will be rewarded with a loyal companion.
Beagles were considered working dogs until the 1940s, but since then they’ve gained popularity in the show ring. The build of the Beagle is muscular, yet lean. The dog should have a short, straight back and straight legs. Any hound coloring is acceptable with the exception of liver.
The head should be fairly long, and it should appear to be slightly rounded, or dome shaped. The muzzle should be long and square. The nose is typically dark at birth. At maturity, it may be black, or it may have turned brownish-pink in color.
The eyes should be hazel or brown in color, and they should be relatively large and wide-set. The ears should be rounded at the tips, and should be almost long enough to reach the tip of the nose when drawn toward it. They should hang in graceful folds. The loose, hanging part of the upper lips should be distinctive and well-defined. The tail should be set moderately high and stand erect. It should have a slight curve and be white at the tip.
Typical Health Concerns
Generally speaking, as a breed Beagles are generally healthy and they suffer from relatively few ailments. However, they may be susceptible to glaucoma, epilepsy, intervertebral disc disease, and congenital heart disease.
Grooming is an easy task where Beagles are concerned. All they need is a daily brushing. Caretakers should be forewarned, however, that beagles love to roll in -- and eat -- anything with a foul smell. As far as the Beagle is concerned, the stinkier, the better, though humans aren’t likely to share this attitude.
Thus, Beagles tend to require more frequent bathing and tooth-brushing than would otherwise be necessary. The ears should be checked regularly to make sure that they’re clean and free of infection. Beagles are considered low to moderate shedders.
Country of Origin
The Beagle originated in Great Britain. (For more information, see “History of Breed,” above.
Average Life Span
The average life span of the Beagle is 12 to 15 years.