Introduction to the Beagle

The friendly, happy-go-lucky Beagle really needs no introduction.

Small and curious, Beagles are always ready to follow their noses. They often find ways to get into mischief, much like Snoopy, but they are loving and devoted family dogs.

The Beagle’s coat is easy to care for but they do need regular daily exercise. The Beagle is one of the most popular breeds in the United States today.

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History of the Beagle

The early origins of the Beagle are a little obscure. Small scent hounds of Beagle type have existed since Roman times. Later, William the Conqueror brought Talbot hounds to England – a mostly white, slow, deep-voiced hound. Possibly crossed with Greyhounds, it’s believed that these dogs were early ancestors of the Beagle. In medieval times the term “beagle” was used to describe small hounds. “Glove Beagles” and “Pocket Beagles” existed from the Plantagenet through the Tudor eras. Larger hounds would hunt prey and small hounds like these would go in after it in the brush. Elizabeth I called her dogs “singing Beagles” and allowed the tiny dogs (8 to 9 inches tall) to play on the table at meals.

In the 18th century the Beagle as it is known today began to take shape. There was a Southern Hound and a North Country Beagle (also called the Northern Hound). The Southern Hound was slower with an excellent nose and stamina. The North Country Beagle was smaller and faster. As fox hunting became popular during this era, these small hounds became less popular. The small hounds were crossed with larger dogs to produce the modern Foxhound. The small Beagle-type dogs were nearly extinct but a few people carried on breeding them and kept packs to hunt rabbits.

A Beagle pack in Essex in the 1830s is believed to be the foundation for the Beagle breed we have today. It is thought that both the Northern and Southern Hounds were present in this pack. At this time there was both a rough-coated and smooth-coated Beagle. The rough-coat survived until the start of the 20th century but it is now extinct.

Over the years one Beagle type developed but there was still a difference in size. Beagles were brought to the United States by the 1840s. Serious breeding efforts in the U.S. began in the 1870s. The breed was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1885. Beagles have always been very popular in the U.S. and Canada – more popular than in the UK. A Beagle – K-Run’s Park Me In First (Uno) – won Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel club in 2008. Beagles have been a Top Ten breed with the AKC for over 30 years. They are currently ranked as the fourth most popular breed in the United States with the American Kennel Club. Beagles came in at number 20 in the Top Twenty breeds in the UK in 2012 but they have slipped back down slightly since then.

Today the AKC recognizes two separate varieties of Beagle. They are the same except for the height difference. One variety is smaller than 13 inches; and the other variety is between 13 and 15 inches. In Canada there is one type, with height not to exceed 15 inches. In the UK there is one type with height between 13 and 16 inches.

Beagle Health Related Issues and Problems

Beagles are a generally healthy breed but, like all dogs, they can have some health issues. The AKC parent breed club for the Beagle is the National Beagle Club. They have an excellent health page for Beagles.

Some of the health problems that can occur in Beagles (but which may not be common) include epilepsy, hypothyroidism, and dwarfism. A condition called “Funny Puppy” can occur in Beagles. In this condition, a puppy will be slow to develop, uncoordinated, have a crooked back, weak legs, and can be subject to various diseases as he grows up. Chondrodystrophy, related to dwarfism, also means that Beagles can be subject to various spinal disc problems.

Another problem that can sometimes occur, though it is not common, is immune mediated polygenic arthritis. In this condition the immune system will begin to attack the animal’s joints. Another rare condition in the Beagle is neonatal cerebellar cortical degeneration. This is a genetic disease that affects a puppy’s balance and coordination.

Ear infections are common in Beagles with their long flop ears so it’s important to check the ears often and keep them clean and dry. Beagles can also have some eye problems such as glaucoma and corneal dystrophy. Cherry eye, which occurs when there is a problem with the inner or third eyelid, and distichiasis, a problem with eyelash irritation, can be corrected with minor surgery. Retinal atrophy and dry eye can also be issues.

Beagles can also exhibit reverse sneezing which is a way of trying to clear irritants from the air passages. A reverse sneeze usually sounds and looks more worse than it is – the dog appears to be gasping for air or choking as he draws in air through the mouth and nose. It actually causes the dog no harm.

If you are interested in getting a Beagle, talk to the breeder about health issues in the breed.

Beagle Temperament

Beagles are gentle, even-tempered, good-natured dogs. They are comical, loving, and affectionate and very devoted to their families. They are not aggressive or afraid of things. They are usually inquisitive and they have outstanding noses which they will often follow. This means that you need a good fence if you have a Beagle. If your Beagle notices an interesting scent, he can be determined to find it, even if it means digging under the fence and heading into the woods. Taking your Beagle for a walk can also be problematic because if he notices an interesting scent he may try to pull you along or yank the leash out of your hands to go in search of it.

Beagles are as smart as any dog but they have a one-track mind when confronted with anything that smells interesting. Do not count on your Beagle always listening to you or obeying. They are great pets but they have been bred for hundreds of years to find scent and game. They cannot turn their nose off.

On the other hand, most of the time your Beagle will be perfectly happy to be with you and your family, undistracted by intriguing scents. They usually get along well with other dogs. Beagles have been kept as pack dogs for centuries so they like to have buddies. They will also get along with cats, especially if the cat will stand up to the Beagle and tell him who’s boss. A cat who runs away might cause the Beagle to chase it, so it’s a good idea to monitor these relationships until the cat and Beagle have worked things out.

Beagles do have a tendency to bark, howl, and bay. Many of the hound breeds do. For this reason they are often not well-liked in apartment settings. Separation anxiety can sometimes be a problem for Beagles if you live alone with one and you have to leave him. They are pack-oriented. Good socialization from an early age will help with this problem and make him feel more secure. Beagles do make good watchdogs and will happily bark to give you warning when someone approaches. They can be a little standoffish with strangers but they quickly warm up.

Beagle Grooming

Beagles are easy to recognize. They come in typical hound colors – tri-color, red and white, lemon, black and tan, brown and tan. Any “true” hound color. In the U.S. they can be under 13 inches tall or between 13 and 15 inches tall.

Grooming a Beagle is easy. They should be brushed to remove dead hair. Brushing will keep a nice shine of their short, smooth coat. Bathe as necessary. Check their ears often since they can be prone to ear infections. Trim their nails.

Beagle Fun Facts

  • Snoopy, from the comic strip Peanuts, is considered to be the world’s most famous Beagle.
  • During Tudor times “Pocket Beagles” were small enough to be kept in someone’s pocket or saddlebag. They went on hunts and were brought out to finish up after the big hounds had driven the prey into the brush. Pocket Beagles bloodlines are extinct now but some breeders have been trying to breed these very small Beagles again. In many cases tiny Beagles today are the result of dwarfism.
  • The first mention of the Beagle dates from 1475, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The origin of the word is unclear but it could be derived from the French begueule, meaning “open throat,” from “bayer” – open wide and “gueule” for mouth. There is also an older word – beag – that means little. The French “beugler” also means to bellow. And the German “begele” means to scold – though that seems unlikely. No one really knows where the name for the dogs came from.
  • The Beagle has one of the best-developed noses of any dog breed, along with the Basset Hound and the Bloodhound. Their lips and long ears are believed to help move the air and trap the scent for them to smell.

Common Beagle Mixes

One of the most popular Beagle mixes is the Puggle – a cross between the Beagle and the Pug. Crossed with the Pug, these dogs need less exercise and are thought to be a better choice for living in the city than the Beagle. In the 1850s the great dog writer Stonehenge recommended the cross of the Beagle and the Scottish Terrier as a retrieving dog. However, despite the good qualities of this cross, it was not large enough to carry very large game.

Other crosses you can find online include the Beagle crossed with the Jack Russell, the Beagle crossed with the Labrador Retriever, and the Beagle crossed with the Border Collie.

  • Puggle – Beagle and Pug Mix
  • Cheagle – Beagle and Chihuahua Mix
  • Busky- Beagle and Husky Mix
  • Bagel – Beagle and Basset Hound Mix
  • Coagle – Beagle and Cocker Spaniel Mix
  • Beaglemation- Beagle and Dalmatian Mix
  • Australian Sheagle – Beagle and Australian Shepard Mix
  • Beabull- Beagle and Bulldog Mix
  • Beago – Beagle and Golden Retriever Mix
  • Poogle – Beagle and Poodle Mix
  • Lagle – Beagle and Lab Mix
  • Pomeagle – Beagle and Pomeranian Mix
  • Beagi – Beagle and Corgi Mix
  • Beashund – Beagle and Dachshund Mix
  • Raggle – Beagle and Rat Terrier Mix
  • Malteagle – Beagle and Maltese Mix

Beagle FAQ’s

What is a Beagles life expectancy?

Beagles typically live between 12 and 15 years. This is a normal lifespan for dogs of this size.

Are Beagles easy to train?

No, Beagles are not very easy to train. They are quite intelligent but they tend to be independent thinkers, like many Hound breeds. This is because many hunting dogs were bred to think for themselves when out in the field instead of waiting for commands. You can train a Beagle but it will take patience. Beagles respond best to positive reinforcement (praise and rewards). Beagles, in particular, tend to be hunger-motivated, so stock up on tasty little treats.

Read more about Dog Training here

Do Beagles shed a lot of hair?

No, Beagles are not too bad about shedding. They do shed some but owners say they are only moderate shedders. You will still need to brush your Beagle regularly and use the vacuum.

Do Beagles make good apartment pets?

Although their small size would suggest that Beagles might make a good apartment dog, many Beagles will bark, bay, and howl, especially when they are left alone. For this reason, the breed does not usually make a good choice as an apartment pet.

Are Beagles good with children?

Beagles love children. They are one of the best breeds for a family if you have kids. They are clowns and will love to keep your children entertained.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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