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Described as “a nose with four legs”, beagles are as happy hunting hare as they are hunting snacks in the pantry. This happy-go-lucky, loving breed makes the perfect addition to an active family. It’s no surprise that they have remained as one of the most popular breeds for decades. With their big voice and skilled nose, life is far from dull with a Beagle! Read on to discover what beagles are all about!
Breed Of The Month: Beagle
An Overview of the Breed
The Beagle belongs to the hound group, and is known for its incredible nose and booming voice. Originally bred to hunt hare and other small game, the breed has an acute sense of smell, which has been used well beyond the field. Beagles are employed as detection dogs by the USDA to sniff out prohibited agricultural products, leading to the seizure of around 75,000 prohibited items a year.
With soft, floppy ears and big, pleading eyes, it’s no surprise that Beagles have been the most consistently popular breed in the US. Since 1935, the breed has never dropped below ninth place! The loving and loyal nature makes them fantastic family dogs and companions.
Unfortunately, due to their size and passive nature, Beagles are the dog breed most often used in animal testing. This horrible practice results in dogs being bred explicitly for testing and live their whole lives in cages suffering in experiments for medical, cosmetic, beautf, and other chemical tests. Luckily, advocacy and rescue groups, like the Beagle Freedom Project, are working hard to put an end to this practice and have freed thousands of animals.
History and Background
The early development and origin of the Beagle is somewhat obscure due to lack of documentation. However, dating back to 400 BC in ancient Greece and to 200 AD in ancient Britain, there are references to small Beagle life dogs, which hunted small game and were followed on foot by hunters. By the 15th Century, the Beagle was well established in France, Greece, Italy, and England.
By the middle of the 18th Century, these small scenting hounds gained considerable popularity among farmers and small landholders who hunted for small game. In fact, all small hounds were referred to as beagles. It wasn’t until later that the breed standard began to be developed.
In the 1830s, Reverend Phillip Honeywood began breeding beagles in Essex for hunting. Over the next few decades, the breed standard began to develop, but there was still large variation in the size and character.
The breed made its way across the Atlantic and instantly became popular for their hunting skills. General Richard Rowett from Illinois began importing hounds to help perfect the breed standard and the demand for his beagles exploded. This led to the first American standard for the Beagle and it was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1885. Few changes had been made to the breed standard over the years.
There are two AKC recognized variations of the Beagle, which are distinguished by the height at the shoulders: the first under 13 inches and the second between 13 and 15 inches. Both varieties have a study build, weighing between 18-35 pounds. They sport a short, clean coat in a color combination of black, white, and tan, resembling a miniature Foxhound.
The face of a Beagle is hard to deny. Their big brown or hazel eyes seem to constantly be pleading for more food or attention, which may only be out done by their long, floppy ears. These long, floppy ears serve a more important purpose than just being adorable. They help to waft scents towards their nose as they walk.
Beagles are notoriously friendly, loving, and curious. They maintain an even temper and gentle disposition, making them the perfect family dog and kid friendly. Beagles were bred to be pack animals, and can become very attached to their human “pack”.
Let’s talk about that howl. Beagles definitely speak their mind. In fact, they have three distinct sounds: a standard bark, a yodel-like sound called a bay, and a howl. Whether it’s something they want, a strange smell, a stranger approaching, beagles will let you know. They can make fantastic alert dogs, but maybe not the best guard dog. While they are known for barking, their generally amiable nature and strong desire for food means they can easily be won over with a treat or back scratch.
Like most hounds, Beagles are also known for having a strong scent drive. They were bred for the long chase, which can make them single minded when they pick up a scent. Whether focusing on hunting small game or the last bites of your meals, beagles can remain fixated for extended periods of time on their prize. This can result in stubbornness during training, but is quickly remediate with positive reinforcements and treats.
Caring for the Breed
Compared to many other breeds grooming requirements, Beagles are a relatively low-maintenance breed. While they do shed year-round, simply brushing them with a hound mitt once a week will help remove dead hair. They should be bathed about once a quarter, or when they’ve rolled in something smelly.
Their adorable floppy ears do require a little extra care. It’s important to keep their ears dry and free of dirt and debris. Regular cleanings with a gentle dog ear wash will help keep their ears itch free and avoid more serious ear infections.
This can’t be emphasized enough, Beagles will try to eat ANYTHING! When their nose turns on, it seems like the rest of their brain turns off. From dog food in the pantry to human food in the trash, if a beagle decides they want it, it will focus endlessly on getting it. Needless to say, this is not the type of dog that can be left unattended with access to any food, whether it’s hidden or visible. Their desire to sniff out goodies can become heightened if they are bored and/or have pent up energy.
To keep their mischievous side at bay, Beagles need a sufficient amount of mental and physical exercise on a daily basis. Regular walks and scent work are key for keeping beagles stimulated and out of the figurative dog house. Their daily exercise routine should include a minimum of two 30 minute walks, during which they need opportunities to sniff and explore.
Because they are so food driven, it is easy to keep their attention during training. Beagles are problem solvers and will do pretty much anything to get food. While they might not respond instantly to command, they will quickly figure out that they must obey the commands to get the treats!
Potential Health Issues
When compared to many other breeds, beagles are relatively easy to care for and have few health problems. But like any breed, there are always a few key things to look out for.
The thing that makes them so adorable can also be a potential concern - their EARS! Just like other dogs with floppy ears, it’s critical to keep a close eye on their ear health. Without regular attention, beagles can develop chronic ear infections that can cause permanent damage to the ear canal if left untreated. Rinsing out their ears with an ear cleanser for dogs and drying them thoroughly is a good way to prevent more serious issues.
With such a strong food drive, it is no surprise that Beagles are known for having weight issues. They truly have a voracious and undiscerning appetite. This is not a breed that can be left to graze responsibly on a bowl full of food every day. It is important to manage their meals and factor in treats when calculating their daily calories to avoid them becoming overweight.
The Beagle is a classic pack dog, who was bred to hunt in packs and truly enjoys the company of both humans and dogs. This natural pack instinct can result in separation anxiety, which can lead to incessant howling and destructive behaviors. Exercise and a consistent schedule can help reduce anxiety, as well as calming treats for dogs.
Beagles were popular pets of the British Royal Family. These royal beagles were bred for amusement and for their melodious voices, and were much smaller than today’s breed standard. Both Edward II and Henry VII had “glove” beagles, known as such because they early fit on a glove. Queen Elizabeth I owned an entire pack of tiny nine inch tall hounds, known as Pocket Beagles. She lovingly referred to them as her singing beagles.
William Shakespeare refers to beagles in his play Twelfth Night, which is believed to have been written around 1601 - 1602. In reference to Maria, Sir Toby Belch says “She’s a beagle, true-bred, and one that adores me.”
Many Beagles have white tipped tails, a feature deliberately bred into the hound, to help hunters keep track of their dogs when hunting in long grass.
The breed has a powerful nose with about 200 million scent receptors. They can actually be trained to recognize as many as 50 different smells.
Snoopy, from the comic strip Peanuts, was a Beagle! On October 4th, 1950, Charles M. Schulz introduced America to Snoopy and his friends, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and many more. He quickly became a household favorite and has since become one of the most recognizable and iconic comic strip characters.
Uno, a 15 inch Beagle, stole America’s heart when he won Best in Show at the 2008 Westminster Dog Show. In classic Beagle fashion, Uno let out several howls in response to the crowd’s cheers and standing ovation. He was the first Beagle to win the grand prize. Click the play on the picture above to watch Uno’s big win.
Former United States President Lyndon B. Johnson had several beagles, but the two best known were Him and Her, who were born in June 1963. The pair lived at the White House and were always a hit amongst visitors. Some of LBJ's other beagles were named Freckles, Kim, Edgar, Little Chap and Dumpling.
Shiloh was made famous in the self titled children’s book and movie, Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynold Naylor. The story centers around Shiloh’s rescue from his abusive owner, Judd Travers, by an 11-year old boy, Marty Preston. The story is regularly taught in elementary schools across the world and has been translated into 10 different languages.
Beagles to Follow on Instagram
Splash and Cricket, also known as @LittleHoundDog, are two adorable beagles from Indiana, who love adventuring with their mom, Jessica.
Millie is an avid leaf chaser and twig collector from Delaware. Check out Millie’s life as she adjusts to life with her new baby sister.
Ludo is always serving up classic Beagle looks as he travels around his native Norway with his pawrents.
Marvel ze Super Beagle shows off with incredible outdoor adventures in Bordeaux, France.
What to Expect From Beagle Ownership
If you decide to add a Beagle to your pack, you can expect many happy years with a loving and curious companion. Just do everything you can to keep up with this curious pup! Give it lots of personal attention, exercise, and the right portions of nutrients, and you can't go wrong with this howling hound!
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