Beagles are small compact dogs with a well-deserved reputation for excellent hunting skills. They are scent hounds, hunting by sense of smell, rather than by sight. Their sense of smell is so keen that today they are a common sight at airports, sniffing luggage and helping to find explosives, drugs, and contraband food. When the Beagle’s nose is matched up against the best high-tech equipment, the dog's nose always wins. As well as being excellent hunt and sniffer dogs, the Beagle also makes a fabulous pet. Today Beagles are more popular pets than ever, regularly appearing in the top 5 of the AKC’s popularity chart.
History This smallest of hounds has a history extending back as far as ancient Greece. The breed was developed in England, and was popular with early royalty. Elizabeth I, William III, and George IV all kept Beagle packs for stag hunting. During the 1870s English Beagles of good stock were imported into the US, resulting in the development of sturdy hounds of consistent size and appearance with outstanding tracking ability. In 1888 the American Kennel Club registered its first Beagle. Famous American beagles since have included ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, the pets of President Lyndon Johnson, and ‘Snoopy’ the star of the ‘Peanuts’ cartoons. Unfortunately during the last century Beagles were used extensively for medical and commercial research (who can forget the rows of Beagles smoking cigarettes), however this practice is dying out as alternative testing methods have been developed.
Temperament Beagles are active, fun-loving, alert dogs. In general they mix well with other dogs and cats, but their natural instincts kick in when they spot any smaller animal. Some Beagles are determined to give chase, so these dogs must be kept on a lead. Another potential problem is that Beagles are very vocal animals. A dog will bay with a characteristic ‘arhooo’ sound whenever it gets excited or stressed – picking up a scent, playing a game, or feeling lonely.
Care and Exercise Beagles are slow to moult and have little doggy odour. A once-a-week brushing will be enough to keep shedding in control, and to keep the dog’s coat in shiny condition. As a dog born to the hunt, the Beagle needs lots of exercise. Training can be difficult, as dogs in this breed can have a fierce stubborn streak.
Puppies The average number of puppies in a litter is 5 to 7. Puppies grow quickly, and generally with little trouble. If you've decided on a Beagle as a pet, it is always worth checking Beagle Rescue groups and animal shelters to see if they are caring for a homeless Beagle that would love to have a settled home.
Health Beagles are normally healthy dogs – the rough life of the pack hound has resulted in a good sturdy breed. Though there are some inherited health issues, such as epilepsy, heart disease and back problems. Their floppy ears can hinder airflow to the earholes, causing ear infections.