[table id=11 /]
- For novice owners
- Apartment living
- Exercise needs
- Family friendly
- Stranger friendly
- Dog friendly
- Overall health
- Amount of shedding
- Grooming needs
- Ease of training
- Prey drive
- Watchdog ability
Beagle history: Where do Beagles come from?
Reports of Beagle-type dogs trace back to Ancient Greece – more than 2000 years ago! Through time, these little dogs have mainly been used for hunting small game, thanks to their incredible scenting abilities.
In the 1000s, William the Conqueror became King of England and brought his, now extinct, Talbot hounds with him from France. By breeding the Talbot Hounds with local hunting dogs of the time, the Southern Hound emerged – a breed largely credited with being a noteworthy ancestor of today’s beloved Beagle.
Over the centuries, many sizes of beagle-type dogs appeared and disappeared from the literature, including Glove Beagles, said to have been able to fit on a gloved hand, and Pocket Beagles, who could reportedly fit inside a pocket or saddlebag.
In the 1830s, a deliberate effort was made to establish the Beagle breed. While no records were kept, the Southern Hound, Northern Hound (another, now extinct, hunting breed) and Harrier were considered to have been the most likely contributors to the modern Beagle’s heritage. By 1890, The Beagle Club of England was established, and the first written standard was drawn up. In the U.S., Beagles were imported and bred from to establish a quality American bloodline. By 1885, the Beagle was accepted by the American Kennel Club, and popularity soared from there on out.
Beagles are a small to medium-sized, compact breed of hound with a broad head, large eyes, and iconic, low-hanging ears. Their expressions are soft and friendly, with warm brown eyes and a black gumdrop nose.
For their size, Beagles are robust, and well suited to hunting and other outdoor activities. Their sweeping ears help trap scents for their nose to follow, and their nostrils are large and open. Their necks are long, allowing their muzzles to reach the earth easily – aiding odour-tracking – and their tails (referred to as sterns) point upward, like a flag pole.
If you’d like to view the full-length AKC breed standard for the Beagle, click here.
How big do Beagles get?
By FCI standards, fully grown Beagles are ideally 13-16 inches (33-41 cm) tall at the shoulder. The American Kennel Club, however, does permit Beagles under 13-inches, often referred to as 13-inch Beagles.
A Beagle’s weight will generally not exceed 25 lbs (11kg), with females being slightly smaller than males.
Beagles are known for their even temperament, often being described as sweet, merry and curious.
Historically Beagles were bred to be highly pack-oriented, which means they adore the company of people and other dogs. Unfortunately, as a result, Beagles can suffer if left alone – separation anxiety is a common occurrence in the breed. Beagles love attention, but can be hard to train and housebreak.
Generally considered to be sensitive dogs, fair, force-free methods of training such as positive reinforcement are heavily advised. This is an especially great approach if you’re using food, as Beagles are absolute chow-hounds.
Beagles make excellent family dogs, showing tremendous patience and tolerance for children thanks to their cheery, curious natures. Young Beagles can be boisterous, however, and may accidentally knock over young toddlers. Supervision around children is always recommended, regardless of breed.
Surprisingly, Beagles can make good watchdogs. It’s common for them to give off a woof or two, to let you know someone’s arrived. Beagles are known to be friendly toward strangers, however, so anyone who enters will generally be met with a warm welcome.
Beagles tend to get along well with other dogs, but due to their high prey drive, careful training and introduction are recommended for the family cat. You’d be advised to keep your Beagle away from other small furry pets like hamsters, chinchillas and rats for the same reason.
Owners of all breeds are urged to socialise and expose their pups to a number of people, sounds, children, animals, surfaces and other scenarios while they’re young, curious and impressionable. Ensure their experiences are safe and positive, to prevent negative associations later on.
Energy and exercise needs
Beagles were bred to have high stamina and can go all day. However, they do not need tremendous amounts of exercise in order to be calm, well-behaved companions.
A brisk walk of an hour or more per day is recommended for adults, with more potentially being needed for younger, more energetic Beagles, as they’re known to be destructive when understimulated.
Without enough physical and mental exercise, Beagles find their own ways to amuse themselves, usually in ways you (and your neighbours) wouldn’t end appreciating.
Beagles come in an assortment of typical hound colours, including:
- black & white
- tan & white
- black, tan & white
Varying hues of each of those colours are also available including blues, reds and yellows (referred to as lemon). Some Beagles having ticking, as seen in other Hounds, such as the Bluetick Coonhound. The coat itself is short to medium in length, hard, and close-lying.
Do Beagles shed?
Beagles are average shedders, which means you will often find hairs on your clothes and furniture. Groom your Beagle regularly to minimise the impact of shedding.
The Beagle’s smooth coat is low maintenance.
Avoid bathing too often with harsh shampoos. Instead, opt for gentle dog-specific shampoos as needed, to preserve natural protective oils on the skin.
Inspect ears, nails and teeth as part of your regular grooming routine, maintaining as needed. Beagles are prone to ear infections, as moisture is easily trapped inside by their low-hanging ears.
While generally a healthy breed, Beagles are known to suffer from a few conditions, including:
- Chondrodysplasia – causing skeletal deformities.
- Patellar Luxation – periodic dislocation of the kneecap.
- An assortment of eye conditions including Corneal Dystrophy, Glaucoma, Retinal Atrophy and Cherry Eye.
- Deafness. There is a potential hereditary connection, so choose breeders with care.
Many of these conditions are heritable, and thus avoidable if only screened and cleared Beagles are bred from. By choosing a breeder who conducts relevant screenings and health clearances, and only breeds physically and temperamentally sound Beagles, you are dramatically improving your chances of having a strong, happy, healthy Beagle of your own.
Beagle life expectancy
On average, Beagles live 12-16 years.
What’s it like to live with a Beagle?
Beagles have a number of traits that can test an owner’s patience, or make you fall even deeper in love.
With one of the most well-developed senses of smell in the canine world, a Beagles environment is always rich, and highly distracting. Due to their strong desire to follow their nose, many Beagles can not be trusted off-leash, as they’ll rapidly run off after a scent, without so much as a glance backwards.
Similarly, some Beagles will go to great lengths to follow an odour. Many are escape artists and will dig their way out of a fenced property without any trouble.
Beagles are known to bay and howl. While this sound originally brought great joy to their human hunting partners, modern dog owners (as well as their neighbours) aren’t usually quite as appreciative. Apartment dwellers beware!
Scenthounds are notoriously challenging to train, and Beagles are no exception. Since hounds of yore were expected to work independently, i.e. without the direction of a human handler, biddability was not a trait hunters needed. As a result, house training a Beagle, or pursuing even basic obedience can be frustrating and may require plenty of patience.
Separation anxiety is a common issue in Beagles, so if you’re planning on leaving your dog alone for many hours during the day, you may have better luck with a different, less needy, breed.
Beagles are known to be gluttons, so hide the treats, and watch your plate!
Types of Beagles
In the early 20th century, a smaller variety of Beagle, known as the Pocket Beagle, existed. While this variation has since either gone extinct or been absorbed into the Beagle we see today, The American Kennel Club does permit registration of Beagles that fall under 13-inches, known as 13-inch Beagles.
The standard, more common, Beagle is referred to as the 15-inch Beagle.
As seen in many breeds, there are breeders and breed fanciers who pursue different activities with their breed of choice – in particular, hunting and conformation. While the divide between field and show-bred Beagles is not as dramatic as others, it certainly exists.
Show-bred Beagles are often shorter and stockier, with wider muzzles.
Hunting-line Beagles tend to have longer, leaner bodies, sharper muzzles and higher exercise needs.
Why are Beagles called Beagles?
This curious breed name seems to have a few potential origins. Some suggest that Beagle comes from the French beguele, which roughly translates to ‘wide mouth’, or ‘wide throat’, perhaps referencing the iconic baying that these hounds are known to for. Others proclaim that Beagle comes from the Gaelic beag, meaning ‘small’, referencing the fact that Beagles were invariably the smallest of the hounds on any given the hunt.
Interesting Beagle facts
- Beagles were the most popular dog breed in the U.S. from 1953 to 1959.
- In addition, Beagles have consistently featured on of the top 10 most popular dog breeds in the United States for the past 30 years!
- When research was conducted to test different breeds’ scenting abilities, Beagles excelled. Tested Beagles would find a loose mouse in a one-acre field within one minute! Other popular breeds like Rat Terriers took 15 minutes, and Scottish Terriers didn’t find them at all!
- Beagles were first used as detector dogs by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1984, naming their new squad The Beagle Brigade. Beagles are now the most common breed of detector dog internationally and are used in more than 20 airports around the world.
- In the U.S. alone these merry workers seize roughly 75,000 prohibited products every year.
Buying a Beagle from a breeder
If you’d like to get a purebred Beagle as a puppy, be sure to look only at reputable breeders who care for the welfare of their puppies. You can determine whether a breeder is reputable by observing whether they go through the effort of health testing their breeding stock for hereditary conditions like those above, and only breed dogs who are physically healthy, and emotionally sound.
They should also be involved in particular avenues with their dogs – be it conformation, hunting, obedience, service, therapy, or any other activity that showcases their dogs’ temperament and suitability for work and breeding.
Often puppies from reputable breeders cost more money upfront due to the breeder’s high expenses. However, poorly bred dogs from breeders who do not conduct health screening can have hidden costs in the form of silent (at the time of purchase) health and mental conditions that should never have been allowed to be passed on. This can be heartbreaking, and terribly expensive to deal with as an owner, on top of causing unnecessary suffering and a shortened lifespan for the dog.
As one of the most popular breeds around, Beagles and Beagle-mixes are not hard to find in rescues and shelters. If you would like to adopt a Beagle in need of a new home, search for Beagle rescue organisations in your area. Alternatively, you could take a look at pet-rehoming websites like Petfinder.
References and recommended reading:
- Dr. Fogle, B. (2006). Dogs. London: Dorling Kindersley.
- Arnold, H., & Arnold, D. (2002). A new owner’s guide to beagles. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H.
- AKC – The Dog’s Champion. American Kennel Club. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org
- Betsy Querna (June 2001). “U.S. Beagle Brigade is First Defense Against Alien Species”. National Geographic Society. Retrieved from http://nationalgeographic.co.uk
- Dog Breed Health. A Guide To Genetic Health Issues for Dog Breeds: Beagle. Retrieved from http://www.dogbreedhealth.com/beagle/
- USDA. United States Department of Agriculture – https://www.usda.gov/