While the Beagle as we know it has only been around for approximately 185 years, possible ancestors to the breed have been depicted in art and literature since the 5th Century BC. The first known mention of a Beagle-type dog was by the ancient Greek historian Xenophon, who wrote about small scent dogs that hunted hare in his Treatise on Hunting. Later, ancestral Beagles migrated to England in the 11th century when William the Conqueror brought the Talbot Hound to Britain, now extinct. Over time, the term “beagle” was used to describe any small hound, from the “glove” and “pocket” varieties to ones that more closely resemble today’s Beagle. While scent hounds were used by hunters for tracking hare and rabbit throughout history, it wasn’t until 1830 that the modern Beagle was born, thanks to Reverend Phillip Honeywood who was considered to have the finest pack of beagles at the time. His dogs consisted of North Country Beagle, Southern Beagle, and Harrier bloodlines. In the 1840’s Beagles were first exported to the United States, and by 1885 they were recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Beagles are currently the 5th most popular dog in the US, and for good reason: they are a manageable size, they have a friendly, loving, and trusting personality, and they are versatile companions. Beagles are extremely active and intelligent dogs, requiring a dedicated routine of physical and mental stimulation in order to keep boredom (and unwanted behaviors) at bay. They tend to get along well with other dogs, but their strong prey drive makes them inappropriate for households with small pets, such as cats, ferrets, or rabbits unless properly socialized from a young age. Beagles also have a tendency to be single-minded, making them appear stubborn during training, especially when distracted. However, they are highly food motivated and can be easily trained with additional patience.
Beagles are relatively low-maintenance dogs requiring little in the way of grooming. They have a short, hard coat that is medium in length; however, they shed year-round and therefore regular brushing is recommended. Beagles come in a variety of colors, eleven of which are recognized by the AKC. Only one marking is admissible, called “ticked,” which gives a mottled or spotted appearance. Despite their big personality Beagles are small in size, with a maximum weight of 23 – 25 lbs for females and males, respectively.
Among purebred dogs, Beagles are one of the healthiest breeds with few commonly inherited problems. The most common issue is epilepsy, which can be controlled with medication. Unlike most other purebreds, Beagles rarely develop hip dysplasia or other joint ailments, but they are prone to eye problems such as cherry eye, glaucoma, and corneal dystrophy. Ear problems may also occur, due to their long floppy ears. Routine preventative care, a high-quality diet, and lots of vigorous exercise are all important components for keeping a Beagle healthy and happy. The average lifespan for this breed is 12 – 15 years, which is common for dogs of similar size.