The beagle is a compact little rabbit hunter, one of the smallest members of the hound group that relies on scent to find his quarry. Though the precise origin of the beagle is unknown, the breed seems to have been a favorite human companion and vigorous rabbit hunter for centuries. Since the 1950s, the beagle has consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most loved breeds in the United States.
The beagle was one of the top 10 breeds for the year 2008. Click here for the complete story on Top Dog Breeds of 2008.
History and Origin
Though extensively researched, the origins of the beagle can only be traced back to the mid-19th century, though a beagle-like hound was used to hunt rabbits in the 14th century. The origin of the name "beagle" is likewise obscured by history; some believe the word comes from the Old English word "begele," or the Celtic "beag," both of which mean small. Despite a limited recorded history, it is generally believed that the beagle is one of the oldest breeds and is one of the breeds closest in appearance to the original hounds.
The breed was developed in the British Isles. Besides being favored as a rabbit hunter, the beagle was a favorite breed of Queen Elizabeth. It belongs to a group of hunting dogs known as scent hounds, which use scent to search and find their prey.
The beagle was officially recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1873 and brought to the United States. The National Beagle Club was formed in 1888. The American Kennel Club recognizes the beagle as a member of the hound group.
Unfortunately, because of their compact size and friendly temperament, the beagle has been one of the most popular dog breeds to be used in medical research.
Appearance and Size
Beagles are small shorthaired hounds with long ears that lie against the head. The coat colors are a combination of tan, black and white. As with most hounds, the eyes of the beagle are soft and pleading.
The adult beagle is a small breed and, in the United States, is divided into two size categories, 13 to 15 inches at the shoulder and under 13 inches at the shoulder. In England, there is only one class, with a maximum height of 16 inches. Beagles average between 18 to 30 pounds.
Friendly and lovable, the beagle's tail is perpetually wagging. The breed is not aggressive but, with his baying bark, will alert the homeowner of intruders. They are intelligent, good-natured and docile companions.
Home and Family Relations
Beagles are excellent choices for families with children. The breed's easy going nature makes them tolerant family members that love to participate in games. Beagles do not enjoy being left alone for extended periods of time. They can easily become frustrated and bored, leading to behavior problems, including destructive behavior.
In general, the breed does well in obedience training but some find the beagle somewhat stubborn. Some have trouble with housebreaking.
Due to their short hair coat, beagles do not require special grooming.
Beagles love to hunt. This results in a strong desire to dig, which can be problematic for some homeowners and gardeners. Some beagles tend to be quite vocal and, if not given appropriate home care, may excessively bark. On the plus side, they don't drool, shed little and they have minimal doggy odor.
Since beagles thoroughly enjoy hunting and digging, providing a safe and adequate confinement may be difficult. For some persistent dogs, special fencing may be required.
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