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The Beagle is a small and agile scent hound used for hunting and for the company across the world, and it looks a lot like the Foxhound, only smaller and more compact.
It is an excellent family dog with a sweet and fun-loving personality, and Beagles are also used as detection dogs at airports, border crossings and more, due to their excellent sense of smell.
There is a lot to know about this happy dog, and especially if you are considering getting one, or if a Beagle is already a part of your family.
The history of the Beagle is not 100% established but going all the way back to the 5th Century BCE in Greece – there are similar dogs mentioned in various places, and they were used for hunting. These dogs do not appear to have had an official name, but experts believe them to be early ancestors of the Beagle dog.
In the 8th Century, the St. Hubert Hound was used to breed another dog known as the Talbot Hound, a breed that was then brought over to England a couple of centuries later. The Talbot hound was a good and patient hunter, but they were slow, and it is speculated that it was bred with the Greyhound to create a faster dog with the same hunting instincts.
The first Beagle was much smaller than the Beagle we know today, and it was only somewhere around 8-9 inches tall. Time passed, however, and as hunting grew increasingly popular in the mid-18th century – a larger dog was required to keep up with both the hunters and the prey.
By breeding only on larger Beagles, and possibly mixing in some similar-looking dogs, the miniature Beagle (also known as the Pocket Beagle) eventually became extinct after 1901.
Backing up a bit, in 1887, the UK only had 18 documented Beagle families, which put it at risk of extinction too, and this was why the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles, and the Beagle Club, were formed in the beginning of the 1890s – to set out and try to increase the number of Beagle linages by at least the double over the next 10 years.
The Beagle became popular in the United States in the 20th century, where it was used mostly for hunting hare and other smaller animals, but also as a pet.
A male Beagle weighs between 18-35lbs (8.2-15.9 kg) and is considered a small-medium dog breed, and they measure about 13-16 inches. The female Beagle is slightly smaller, but it may depend on the parent animals and heritage.
Their large eyes are usually brown or hazel in color, they have low-set and large ears that are soft like velvet, a strong jaw, a curved tail where the tip is almost always white, a medium-length muzzle and a wide chest.
It is a very robust dog despite its small size, with a square and compact body shape. This makes it a great dog breed for canine sports and activities if you can get past the potential hick-up of training your dog to do as you expect. The Beagle is almost always tri-colored (black, brown and white), but two-colored Beagles also exist.
Here we have a dog breed that is sometimes too friendly for their own good, which generally makes them a poor choice if you are looking for a watch dog. They are happy, friendly and incredibly loving, and while they can be somewhat wary of strangers at first – it won’t take much convincing before you’ve won them over.
They can bark at people, animals and things they are unfamiliar with (Beagles have a howling bark that you will have to get used to), but they will be the first one there to check out the newcomer once the initial excitement has settled down.
Beagles are very intelligent dogs, but they are also stubborn and can be very set in their ways. Training a Beagle isn’t always easy, and it requires patience and determination, along with a good sense of humor.
Due to their impressive sense of smell, Beagles are also easily distracted when out – especially in nature – and it is not unusual for them to wander off after they pick up a trail.
It might not be the ideal dog breed if you are hoping to compete in obedience competitions, as the Beagle tends to get bored after doing the same activity for more than a few minutes at a time.
Scent work is an activity they don’t seem to get tired of, though, which is why they have become so popular when sniffing for drugs and other illegal substances at for example airports and at post offices. It is a very gentle dog that wants to please their owners, but their intelligence gets in the way sometimes and pushes them to venture and to search for new challenges.
The Beagle as a Family Dog
An important question for families is whether a dog breed is suitable to be living with kids, and the Beagle happens to make an excellent family dog! It is patient and loving with children, and they tend to grow very attached to their family members. Their size also contributes to them being a great pet dog, as they are easy to take with you when out and about and won’t take up too much space in the house.
The breed is known for generally getting along well with other dogs – a big plus for families that already have one or several canines, and they also get along well with cats despite being bred to hunt. A cat and a Beagle are likely to become the best of friends, so it is a great dog breed for those who want the whole family to get along.
The active nature of the Beagle makes them fun companions for active children and for families that enjoy spending time outside, and the only downside to the loving nature of the breed is their tendency to develop separation anxiety.
A Beagle wants to be with you, and they may experience stress and even panic when you leave, which could result in destructive behaviors like digging, howling or chewing.
Compared to many other dog breeds, the Beagle is considered healthy and relatively free from hereditary illnesses and diseases, They usually live somewhere between 12-15 years, which is not uncommon for dogs the same size, provided they are given proper exercise throughout their lives, a healthy diet for Beagles and plenty of love and affection.
Epilepsy does exist in the breed, but it would not be considered common, and it can almost always be regulated with medication. A few varieties of dwarfism can also be seen among Beagles, along with hypothyroidism, some disk diseases, and Musladin-Lueke Syndrome.
All purebred dogs are generally more likely to present symptoms of certain hereditary diseases, but the Beagle is one of the healthier breeds. They are rarely diagnosed with for example hip- and elbow dysplasia.
Something you should look out for if you own a Beagle, however, is the risk of weight gain and obesity. Beagles gain weight easily, sometimes even when exercised, and they may require a low-fat dog food for Beagles – to keep them in shape.
The Beagle is currently the only dog breed to have been featured among the top 10 dog breeds in the United States since the year they were first registered in the American Kennel Club (AKC).
They have maintained their popularity throughout the years, and they have been as high up as in third place. To be the third most popular dog in the U.S says a lot, and the breed’s popularity is showing no signs of declining.
Before you get a Beagle, it is important to consider whether the breed is right for you. They were originally bred for hunting, which means they love to work and run around. Unless you are willing to exercise your beagle and to let him or her explore the outdoors, you run the risk of ending up with a bored dog with destructive behaviors.
The Beagle loves to be active, yes, but on a level that most devoted families and individuals can handle. A couple of good walks and a run around the dog park will usually do the trick.
Another great thing to do with a Beagle is mental games and training, as it triggers their will to work for rewards and for food. Consider looking into canine sports like Nose Work or Lure Coursing, as Beagles will often excel in these, or buy a few food puzzles to provide a more exciting eating experience.
Beagles are wonderful dogs that know how to make their owners happy; they are loyal, playful, intelligent and fun-loving, and they will make you smile even when you don’t feel like it.
Their compact size makes them great for families and for living in reduced spaces like apartments, as long as they get the exercise needed to stay fit and healthy. Getting a Beagle is something you are unlikely to ever regret, and they say that once you’ve had a Beagle – you’ll end up having at least one more.