The Beagle is one of the oldest hound breeds, and although the exact origin of the breed is unknown, similar small hounds originated in ancient Greece. The breed was later developed in England. British royalty used beagle-type dogs for hunting hare, rabbits and quail. Small hounds with Beagle characteristics, imported to the United States in the early 1800s, were of variable quality. In the 1870s English Beagles from superior bloodlines were imported the US, leading to the development of attractive hounds of uniform type with outstanding field ability.
The American Kennel Club registered it's first Beagle in 1885. The National Beagle Club of America was formed in 1888 and the breed standard was established.
Over the years, the breedís appearance has gone through many changes, but the modern Beagle retains the excellent tacking ability and natural hunting instincts that made it so useful as a small game hunter for centuries.
Beagles are scent hounds.... they hunt mainly by smell rather than by sight. The Beagle is a member of the AKC Hound Group. In addition to Conformation Shows and Field Trials, Beagles compete in other AKC events including Obedience, Agility, Tracking, and Flyball.
The American Kennel Club recognizes two varieties of Beagles, based on size. Thirteen inch Beagles are less than thirteen inches in height at the shoulders, and fifteen inch Beagles are thirteen to fifteen inches high at the shoulders. Beagle parents of either size can produce offspring of either size, even in the same litter. Thirteen inch Beagles usually weigh less than 20 pounds and fifteen inch Beagles weigh about 20 to 30 pounds.
Beagles have smooth, dense, medium length coats. Tri-color Beagles, with a combination of white, black and tan colors are the most common color, but there are also Beagles in a variety of other colors. Some Beagles have coats with just two colors... white with another color such as lemon (a very light tan), reddish orange, chocolate brown or reddish brown. Any of the typical hound color combinations may also include some "ticking" or mottled spots on the white areas. Beagle tails have a white tip.
Beagles are easily groomed. They are moderate shedders with minimal doggy odor. A weekly brushing with a firm bristle brush will reduce shedding and keep their coat shiny and healthy. Bathe a Beagle only when necessary, using a conditioning dog shampoo. Use once-a-month topical flea control products for flea and tick protection.
Beagles have an average lifespan of about 12 to 15 years. They are generally healthy dogs, although there are some inherited health issues associated with the breed... such as epilepsy, thyroid problems, disc problems, cherry-eye and a few other eye diseases.
Their long floppy ears prevent air from reaching their ear canals, potentially causing ear infections. Routine ear inspection and cleaning are essential. A foul odor from the ears, head shaking and frequent scratching around the ears are signs of infection that require veterinary treatment.
Beagles love to eat and are prone to becoming overweight. Without adequate exercise older Beagles often become couch potatoes. As with any breed, obesity can lead to joint problems and heart disease. Help control weight with daily exercise, a premium weight control pet food, low-fat treats and no table scraps.
Beagle popularity is likely to increase now that a dog named "Uno" has made history by becoming the first Beagle ever to win top honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Other famous Beagles include Snoopy, from the Peanuts cartoon, who is surely the world's most famous Beagle. In the 1960s President Lyndon Johnson had three Beagles.... named "Him", "Her", and "Edgar". In the 1970s, pictures of "Bagel", Barry Manilow's Beagle, appeared on three of the singer's record album covers.
Today, in airports throughout the USA, dogs of the "Beagle Brigade" sniff packages and baggage belonging to international passengers, searching for prohibited food and agricultural items. These detector dogs, wearing their green jackets, work in teams with their human partners. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) chose Beagles because of their precisely sensitive scenting ability. Beagles can detect and identify smells so faint or diluted that even high-tech scientific equipment can not measure. Beagles were also chosen because their gentle nature and small size makes them less intimidating to people who are uncomfortable around dogs.
Although Beagles are widely used for hunting and in field trials, they are also wonderful family pets.
Beagles are alert, friendly, fun-loving dogs. They're playful, gentle and affectionate with children. Most Beagles get along well other dogs. Many also live peacefully with cats, but since they are hunters with a high prey drive, some Beagles will instinctively chase small animals.... cats included.
Like any breed, these happy and highly sociable hounds are not for everyone.
Many Beagles are very vocal. One of the most common Beagle traits is their distinctive howl or "bay".... kind of a long, loud "aroooo". Some Beagles bay loudly when they pick up a scent... also when they're playing.... when they're happy..... and when they're lonely. This can be endearing to some folks and annoying to others.
Beagles are intelligent but sometimes stubborn. Training requires patience, consistency and firmness. Separation anxiety is a common problem that leads to destructive behavior. Crating a Beagle who must be home alone can help him feel safe and secure.
Young Beagles are active, energetic dogs. They love to explore and often like to dig. Exercise requirements can usually be met with daily walks or with time to run and play in a safe, fenced-in area. Fences for Beagles must be high enough to prevent climbing and be secured or buried at the bottom to prevent digging under the fence to escape.
Even the most well-trained Beagle can be distracted and lured by a great new smell and may not come when called. Beagles should never be off leash unless they are in a confined area. Beagles follow their noses and become obsessed with following a scent, no matter how far.
If you're thinking about bringing a Beagle into your life, read all you can about the breed. (Check the links below this article for detailed information about Beagles as pets.) Talk to breeders and other Beagles owners. (See Forums & Discussion Groups - below.) Make sure you know and understand all the pros and cons about Beagles. If you've done the research and decide that a Beagle is the right dog for you, please check animal shelters and Beagle rescue groups first. Because they are such popular dogs, animal shelters are sadly unable to find forever homes for all the homeless and abandoned Beagles left in their care. There are currently over 7,000 purebred beagles and beagle mixes listed on Petfinder.com.
If you decide that you must have a Beagle puppy and choose to buy one instead of adopting from a shelter or rescue, buy only from a reputable, responsible breeder. Never buy a puppy from a pet store. Also avoid breeders who always have a supply of available puppies from back-to-back litters. Avoid dealers with several breeds of dogs for sale and breeders who will sell a puppy to anyone who can pay the asking price, first-come... first-served. Click Here for more information about buying a dog from an ethical breeder.
photo credit ~ All the beautiful Beagle photos in this article are courtesy of Oleg Voloshin of Pun Kotzky Beagles.
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