Not only is the Beagle an excellent hunting dog and loyal companion, it is also happy-go-lucky, funny, and—thanks to its pleading expression—cute. They were bred to hunt in packs, so they enjoy company and are generally easygoing.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 5 of 192
- Height: 13 inches & under, 13-15 inches
- Weight: under 20 pounds (13 inches & under), 20-30 pounds (13-15 inches)
- Life Expectancy: 10-15 years
- Group: Hound Group
About the Beagle
There are two Beagle varieties: those standing under 13 inches at the shoulder, and those between 13 and 15 inches. Both varieties are sturdy, solid, and “big for their inches,” as dog folks say. They come in such pleasing colors as lemon, red and white, and tricolor. The Beagle’s fortune is in his adorable face, with its big brown or hazel eyes set off by long, houndy ears set low on a broad head.
A breed described as “merry” by its fanciers, Beagles are loving and lovable, happy, and companionable—all qualities that make them excellent family dogs. No wonder that for years the Beagle has been the most popular hound dog among American pet owners. These are curious, clever, and energetic hounds who require plenty of playtime.
The origins of this ancient breed have been the subject of conjecture for centuries. Even the breed name is a shrouded in mystery. Some experts say it derives from the Gaelic word beag (“little”), while others point to the French term for the sound hounds make while hunting: be’geule.
There are reports of small pack-hounds employed to hunt rabbit and hare in England long before the Roman legions arrived in 55 B.C. An English authority called the Beagle the “foothound of our country, indigenous to the soil.” By the 1500s, most English gentlemen had packs of large hounds that tracked deer, and smaller hounds that tracked hares. The smaller, more compact hounds were ancestors of our modern Beagle.
The phrase “foot hound” is vital to understanding the Beagle’s broad appeal for hunters in England, the Continent, and North America. Unlike larger pack hunters like foxhounds or Harriers, the Beagle could be hunted on foot—no horse was necessary. Those who couldn’t afford to feed and stable a mount, and ladies and gentlemen too old spend a hard day thundering across the countryside on horseback, could easily keep up with a pack of Beagles on foot.
Beagles imports began arriving in America in the years after the Civil War, and their popularity among U.S. rabbit hunters was immediate. The AKC registered its first Beagle, named Blunder, in 1885. To this day, “beaglers” in woodsy areas of North America still swear by their breed’s great nose, musical voice, and enthusiastic approach to rabbit hunting.
The Beagle should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Beagle has a smooth, dense double coat that gets heavier in the winter, so spring is shedding season. Beagles also shed moderately year-round. Weekly brushing with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove will remove the loose hair, and promotes new hair growth as well. Beagles don’t need to be bathed too often, unless they happen to get into something particularly messy. As with all breeds, the Beagle’s nails should be trimmed regularly, because overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.
Beagles are active, energetic dogs who need at least an hour of exercise every day. This doesn’t mean just letting them out in the backyard. Beagles were bred to work in packs and are happiest when they have company. A Beagle who is left alone inside or outside for long periods of time will tend to become destructive. This can be avoided if he has a companion (whether human or canine) to play with. Beagles are escape artists, so an exercise area must have a fence at least five feet tall that extends underground to prevent tunneling. Walks must always be taken on a leash, because as a scenthound with a very strong hunting instinct, a Beagle will not be able to resist the urge to run off in pursuit of a compelling scent.
As with all dogs, early socialization and puppy training classes are a must. Treats are a huge aid in training. Beagles do not respond well to harsh techniques, but patience, positive reinforcement and even a little creativity will win out in the end.
Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, luxating patella (a dislocated kneecap), and eye disorders. As with all breeds, a Beagle’s ears should be checked weekly, and the teeth should be brushed regularly.