Tough and wiry, Beagles are small, stout and muscular dogs. They have an intelligent expression and their signature characteristic is their long, drooping ears. If you are looking for a small to mid-sized dog weighing from 15 to 35 pounds with short hair and an engaging personality, this dog may be the pet for you.
Origin and History
The breed's history is uncertain. The dogs we know as Beagles now did not emerge until the nineteenth century. However, Beagle-like dogs are described in Greek writings dating from 400 B.C., and the Romans may have introduced small rabbit-hunting hounds to England and bred them with the local hounds. This is only a speculative theory, but it may point to the early origins of the breed.
The Beagles we know of now were originally bred in the United Kingdom as hunting dogs and are prone to taking off to follow a scent. This trait makes it crucial that you train your pet to return when called. Even with a solid recall, it is still a bad idea to ever let a Beagle off-leash unless they are in a fenced area. According to Stanley Coren, Ph.D. of Psychology Today, a Beagle's nose has an estimated 225 million scent receptors, whereas a human's nose has about 5 million.
A man named Willet Randall produced the "Patch" Beagle strain in New York around 1880. The line is mostly white, with a huge tri-colored splotch in the middle of the back. In 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the first Beagle specialty club were both established. In the same year, the AKC began registering Beagles.
Because of their ability to run quickly, they were immensely popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Lemon-and-white or red-and-white beagles are now commonly referred to as "Patch" beagles.
This breed is a known escape artist. To ensure their safety, a Beagle should be kept on a lead in any area that isn't confined or supervised. They are known to wander and will go whereever their nose takes them.
There are two varieties of Beagles recognized by the AKC. The distinction is based on the size of the dog breed.
- 13-inch, for hounds measuring less than 13-inches in height at the withers
- 15-inch, for hounds measuring between 13 and 15-inches in height at the withers
However, the United Kennel Club (UKC) and Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) affiliated clubs recognize a single type, with a height of between 13 and 16 inches at the withers.
The most common Beagle coat coloration is the tri-color. This type includes brown, black, and white. Other breed colors include:
- Red - with a red and white coat
- Lemon - with a tan and white coat
- Black and tan - with a black and tan coat
- Bluetick - with a heavily freckled (actually called ticking) black and brown coat
- Blue - with a bluish-gray and white coat (the rarest of all the Beagle colors)
Good-natured and friendly, Beagles integrate well into family life. Being pack dogs, they will want to fit into the family hierarchy in their own way. They can be quite strong-willed and stubborn, so it is important that they are handled with firmness and consistency during their early years. With the proper motivation, which for this breed is food, they are pleasant and fun to train. They are extremely loyal and make good companions for children and other pets, cats included, provided they are properly socialized at a young age.
One of the Beagles' not so desirable traits is their tendency toward excessive barking or howling and making noise in general if left alone or if distressed for some reason. These dogs can be trained not to bark while in your presence, but teaching them to be quiet when you are away can be a challenge.
Young Beagles have a lot of energy and require a lot of exercise to burn it off. They enjoy going for walks with their families or taking runs through the local park. They'll enjoy running alongside you, but don't start them on a repetitive activity like this until they're 18 months or older to avoid damage to their little body.
When a Beagle reaches adulthood, they may become quite lazy, beginning to prefer a lounge on the couch rather than a jog around the block. Don't let this happen. This breed is prone to obesity. Plus, it's healthy for them to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
According to the National Beagle Club of America, there are a number of health issues to be aware of with this breed, although diligent breeders are working to improve the situation by being more selective with their breeding programs. Some of these health issues include, but are not limited to:
- Cherry eye: The gland under the dog's third eyelid protrudes and begins to look like a small cherry in the corner of the eye. This condition may require surgery.
- Epilepsy: Often, this condition is genetic and frequently cases mild to moderate seizures.
- Invertebral Disk Disease: This occurs when the inner layer of the intervertebral disc protrudes into the spinal canal and pushes against the spinal cord.
- Progressional Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye condition that eventually leads to blindness.
- Von Willebrand's Disease: A blood-clotting disorder that affects both dogs and humans.
With their short, smooth coats, Beagles do not require any special trimming and can easily be groomed at home. Since they are moderate to high shedders, they should be brushed several times a week, if not daily. Brushing removes the loose, dead hairs and dirt from the dog's coat.
Routine grooming should also include:
Beagles have a median lifespan of 12 to 15 years, which is typical for dogs of their size.
Buying or Adopting a Beagle
If you're looking to purchase a Beagle puppy, you can start by looking through the breeder directory on the AKC Marketplace. The National Beagle Club of America is also a good place to search for reputable breeders near you. You can expect to pay between $500 to $850 for a Beagle pup.
The rescue groups listed below operate out of private foster homes. They do not have public kennels. Most have detailed application processes.
- Triangle Beagle Rescue rescues North Carolina and neighboring states.
- BREW rescues in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area (northern Virginia) and also have an affiliate that serves the Midwest region.
- Tampa Bay Beagle Rescue requires an in-person visit prior the dog being adopted and is located in the Tampa Bay, Florida area.
If you would prefer a rescued dog from another rescue, you can also contact these breed-specific Beagle rescue organizations:
- NorCal Beagle Rescue serves the Northern California region and has Beagles of all ages.
- The Beagle Freedom Project has committed themselves to finding homes for beagles who have been mistreated in animal research institutions. Keep in mind, these Beagles may have never had a home and will be more difficult to acclimate than others.
You can also search directories, such as PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue, for Beagles and Beagle mixes.
Beagles often end up in rescues because they have been found wandering the streets or when hunters discover the dog isn't the best hunting breed. These dogs make excellent family dogs and usually easily transition into pets.
Is This the Breed for You?
Beagle make fabulous pets when they are matched with the right family. If you're considering adding one of these dogs to your family, be sure to visit several breeders so you can spend time getting to know the breed better and hopefully meet the puppy or adult dog you want to bring home.