Beagle hunts in packs. Packs of hunting hounds were being used in England long before the time of the Roman invasion. However, exactly what those hounds were is unknown, although they are thought to be the distant ancestors of the scenthounds that developed later, one of which was the Beagle. When fox hunting became popular in England in the mid-1800s, the Foxhound was developed, and one of its ancestors was said to be the Beagle.
Beagles are small dogs, compact and lean, with wonderfully expressive faces, large dropped ears, and dark eyes. The short coat, often tricoloured with red or tan, a black saddle, and white on the legs, belly, and muzzle, is soft to the touch. As a hunting scenthound, the Beagle is strong and able to follow a trail for hours at a time. Beagles have two height categories. The smaller ones are under 13 inches at the shoulder, and the larger are over 13 but not exceeding 15 inches.
Grooming is not difficult; the short coat can be brushed once or twice a week with a soft bristle brush or curry comb. The short coat does shed, although not heavily. The dropped ears should be checked often, as they can get dirty. The Beagle requires daily exercise. A long, brisk walk is sufficient, although these dogs also enjoy a good run. Beagles should not be allowed to run free outside of a securely fenced yard, as they can be easily distracted by any scents they detect. Even well trained Beagles will ignore a Come command in favour of following an interesting scent trail.
Training should definitely be a part of every Beagle’s upbringing. Although Beagles by nature are social pack dogs, they still need to learn household manners. Plus, learning to walk nicely on leash can be a challenge; Beagles love to forge ahead with their noses to the ground! However, fair yet structured training that keeps things fun can help Beagles learn basic obedience skills. Beagles are first and foremost hunting hounds. Their sense of smell is their most important sense, and they will follow it anywhere. Packs of Beagles today compete in hunt tests very successfully.
Although their good-natured, friendly temperament makes them appealing family dogs, unless you understand the hound personality, you may be frustrated by them. Hounds can be quite independent, and being with people will never be as exciting as following the scent of a rabbit. In families where they are understood, Beagles can be wonderful pets. They are sturdy and make great playmates for kids. They are clean, do not have a doggy odor, and do not mind spending time outside. As hunting hounds, they do bay, and not all neighbors appreciate their melody!
Beagles should not be trusted alone with small pets (they are hunters!), although they are very social with other dogs. Beagles are, unfortunately, prone to several serious health problems, including hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, dwarfism, seizure disorders, knee problems, and reproductive disorders.