Beagles - A Quick Overview beagle, beagle puppy, beagle puppies, beagles, family dog Beagles - A Quick Overview Beagles - A Quick Overview

According to the AKC, the Beagle is the fourth most popular breed of dogs. Their temperament makes them ideal pets. They are highly intelligent, have a keen sense of smell, and can be used as working dogs in a variety of ways. If you are considering getting a Beagle, this article will help you learn all about them.

A Beagle is a medium-sized dog breed and a member of the hound group, similar in appearance to a Foxhound but smaller with shorter legs, and with longer, softer ears. Beagles are scent hounds used primarily for hunting rabbits to larger hares.

Possible Ancestors

In the eleventh century, William the Conqueror brought the Talbot hound into Great Britain. A white scent hound, the Talbot (now extinct) is thought to be a more recent ancestor of the modern day beagle.

The black and tan Irish Kerry Beagles are also considered another possible link in the evolution of early beagles. A small game hunter similar to the Bloodhound, Kerry Beagles may be the reason for the strong scenting abilities of beagles today.

Name

The first mention of the beagle in English literature by name dates from 1475. The origin of the word "beagle" is uncertain, although it has been suggested that the word derives from the French begueule (meaning "open throat", or more colloquially, "loudmouth") or from an Old English, French, or Welsh term beag, meaning "small." Other possibilities include the French beugler (meaning "to bellow") and the German begele (meaning "to scold").

Hunting

Beagles (or their ancestors) were originally used for hunting, and still are in some places. They appear to have been used for hare hunting in England as early as the reign of Edward III, who had a pack of up to 120 hare hounds with him on the battlefield during the Hundred Years' War. Beagling has been referred to as "the poor person's foxhunting," as a Beagle pack (30.40 dogs) is followed on foot, not horseback. The usual quarry is the hare. Beagles are admired by some for the bloodcurdling "Beagle music" they emit when in full pursuit, also called tonguing. Beagling, like foxhunting, is banned in England. In some countries, like Norway and Sweden, Beagles are used for hunting Hare, Roe Deer and in some cases Red Deer and Fox. In these countries Beagles are not used as a Beagle pack. The Hunter(s),strategically placed in the terrain, wait while the Beagle is chasing. The quarry tend to circle within a certain area while using one dog, increasing the odds for success with few hunters. Drag hunting is another Beagle sport.

Appearance

The Beagle has a smooth, somewhat oval skull; a medium-length, square-cut muzzle; a black, gumdrop nose; large, hound-like hazel or brown eyes; long, velveteen, low-set ears (big), turning towards the cheeks slightly and rounded at the tips; a medium-length, strong neck without folds in the skin; a broad chest narrowing to a tapered abdomen and waist; a short, slightly curved tail; an overall muscular body; and a medium-length, smooth, hard coat. One standard calls for ideally shaped beagles to be twice as long as tall, and twice as tall as wide.

They appear in a range of colors, not limited to the familiar tricolor (white with large black areas and light brown spots). Some tricolored dogs have a color pattern refered to as "broken." These dogs have mostly white coats with slightly circular patches of black and brown hair. Two-color varieties are always white with colored areas, including such colors as "lemon", a very light tan; "red", a reddish, almost orangish brown; and "liver", a darker brown (liver is the only colour not allowed in the British Standard). "Ticked" varieties may be either white or black with different colored spots ("ticking"), such as the bluetick beagle, which has spots that appear to be a midnight-blue color, similar to the Bluetick Coonhound. Some tricolor beagles also have ticking of various colors in their white areas.

Beagles are almost always born black and white, with the brownish areas developing later. The brown is usually the last color to appear, taking sometimes 1-2 years to fully develop. Some beagles gradually change color throughout their lives. Beagles typically have a white-tipped tail, or "flag", which is important in locating them in the field due to their short height.

Breed Varieties

The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club recognize two separate varieties of Beagle: the 13-inch for hounds less than 13 inches, and the 15-inch for those between 13 and 15 inches. The Kennel Club (UK) and FCI affiliated clubs recognize a single type, with a height of between 13 and 16 inches. These standard dogs can reach 35 lb or more.

In Medieval times, there was a breed called a pocket beagle, which stood at 8 to 9 inches. Small enough to fit in a "pocket" or saddlebag, they rode along on the hunt. The larger foxhounds would run the prey to ground, then the hunters would release the small beagles to continue the chase through underbrush into their burrows. Queen Elizabeth I often entertained guests at her royal table by letting her pocket beagles cavort amid their plates and cups. This genetic line is now nearly extinct.

Temperament

The Beagle has a very good temper and gentle disposition. Beagles are intelligent, but are stubborn and may be hard to train due to their strong will, which is common in the breed because of its curiosity (especially for scents). However, if a newly-bought puppy has a dominant master in control, they can be easy to train and can obey basic commands. They are an especially loyal breed and are very friendly. Unaltered males will often howl, bark, or chase after another dog or object, but rarely physically harm it. Females tend to be less aggressive before their first heat cycle, but afterwards are protective of their puppies and families. Both genders are excellent with children (puppies especially) and can even play with toddlers. They also get along with other dogs, provided that they have been socialized correctly.

Beagles are playful and energetic dogs who enjoy long walks. Being scent hounds, if released, they may follow a scent endlessly or will incessantly try to tag along with other dogs regardless of cars, strangers, etc. They can be quite difficult to walk, especially when distracted by enticing smells. Because of their curiousity and spirited temperament, beagles are famed escape artists and humane societies and pounds all over the U.S. often pick up stray beagles.

Beagles are pack animals, and can be prone to separation anxiety. They are best kept with other dogs if they are going to be left alone for long periods of time. A common misconception is that all Beagles howl incessantly. In reality, some are more vocal than others and some do not bark often at all. Puppies, however, will yelp and whine if left alone in a crate, kennel, or enclosed area such as a play pen. However, if a beagle incessantly barks, it is probably because it is not often corrected, and can take on the assumption that that type of behavior is acceptable. The breed has thousands of representatives and each has his or her own personality.

Puppies

A well-bred beagle puppy is usually energetic, fun loving, and playful, but one always must have something for it to chew on, as in most of its puppyhood it is teething, which is a stage all breeds go through. The beagle puppy will gladly show affection to anybody, and will continue to do so as long as it has an attentive, dominant master, is frequently exercised (including playtime and walks), and is completely socialized through all stages of life. Puppies should usually be fed small amounts of food (never two bowls), and should not be coaxed to eat. Putting sauces on the food are discouraged and can lead to an overweight beagle. A puppy will grow to be more energetic as it matures, because newborns sleep on average about 2/3 of the day. Usually, a 12-week-old puppy will tire after a 15-20 minute run or walk, but that time will increase as it grows.

Health

Beagles are a healthy breed, often living for 12 to 15 years, but they do have a few common health problems.

The Beagle's ears are long and floppy, which can trap warm moist air or prevent air from reaching the ear canals. This condition can be successfully treated with regular cleaning daily and sometimes medication for major cases. A good preventative measure is a diet consisting of lamb and rice dog food. Careless bathing can get water into their ears, potentially causing ear infections.

Sometimes their eyelashes grow into the eye and irritate the eye, also known as distichiasis; this might require surgery to remove the eyelashes.

Obesity is a common health problem due to people overfeeding them in response to their playful and gentle behavior. Most will overeat if given the chance. A healthy Beagle should have some definition to its waist and have an hourglass appearance when viewed from above. You should be able to feel their ribs. Excessive weight can lead to problems such as hip dysplasia and heart trouble. They need exercise and a good diet.

Some Beagles are prone to congenital heart disease.

In some rare cases the breed may develop polyarthritis (where the immune system attacks the joints) even at a young age. This can be sometimes treated effectively with cortisone.

They are also prone to seizures and epilepsy. This disease is treatable with medication. Some Beagles, like most dogs, are prone to various forms of cancer, such as Lymphoma.

Working Life

Beagles have superb noses and, despite their self-willed temperament, are sometimes used as sniffer dogs for drug detection. More often, though, they are the breed of choice of the United States Department of Agriculture to detect food items in luggage being transported into the U.S. The force is called the Beagle Brigade and these dogs wear a green jacket. Beagles were chosen because they are small and easy to care for, and because they are not as intimidating for people who are uncomfortable around dogs. They are also used for this purpose by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in New Zealand and by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (for whom they wear maroon jackets).

They are the dog breed most often used in animal testing, due to their passive nature.

In June 2006, a trained Beagle saved the life of its master by using his mobile phone to dial an emergency number.

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