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The Beagle is member of the hound group of domesticated dogs and its ancestry can be dated back 2,500 years. Similar in appearance to the Foxhound, the Beagle has a very advanced sense of smell and was traditionally employed to track game like rabbits and deer. These days they are often utilised by security and police forces to sniff out contraband and serve all over the world in this role.
The name Beagle has been around since circa 1475. The modern breed of Beagle as we know them today was developed in the UK in the 1830s. The Beagle is a mix of a number of breeds, including: the Southern Hound, the North Country Beagle and the Talbot Hound.
Although Beagles were first developed for hunting purposes, they’re known for their gentle and even-tempered ways. With a reputation for being joyful and playful, the Beagle is a popular choice for families with young children. They can suffer from loneliness or separation anxiety, so it’s important to give them plenty of human attention.
In the home environment Beagles can become easily bored, so stimulation in the form of play time and regular exercise is essential. While aren’t demanding when it comes to exercise, it’s a good idea to walk them as often as possible – once or twice a day is great, with the odd longer walk or run thrown into the mix. Be aware that their advanced sense of smell can lead to all sorts of distractions while walking down the street or at the park, so careful supervision is required. Note also that the breed is prone to weight problems if not given enough exercise.
Beagles are generally sized between 33 and 41 cm and weigh between 8 and 14 kg. A happy and healthy Beagle will usually live to between 12 and 15 years of age.
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Beagles are famously gentle animals, at times almost docile and lethargic in their nature. Known as the even-tempered dog, it’s their reliability that has made them such a popular choice for families with small children.
Although shy with new faces, Beagles aren’t aggressive with strangers and once time is spent with them, they are usually won over very quickly. Being a hound, the beagle is prone to howling when left alone and suffering separation anxiety. They are loyal, almost to a fault and need a generous amount of human contact to remain happy.
Beagles are clever dogs but can be distracted easily. Their superior nose can often lead them astray when not supervised and their single-mindedness can often cause them to difficult to train. They are eager to please their owners, however, and food-reward style training often proves to be the best route.
They will generally get along well with other dogs in the home but, as always, early socialising is a good idea to avoid aggressive confrontation down the track.
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The modern Beagle has its roots in England. It’s thought that the first Beagles were bred by Reverend Phillip Honeywood in Essex in the 1830s, primarily for the purpose of hunting. They proved to be proficient this role as they have a great nose for sniffing out rabbits, hares and deer in the English countryside.
Before foxhunting gained popularity during the 19th century, hunting was more about the chase than the kill. The small Beagle was seen as a great hunting companion both for older hunters who couldn’t necessarily keep up with larger dogs, and for poorer hunters who couldn’t afford the most athletic horses.
Hunting hare with Beagles became known as beagling. This ‘sport’ was popular in the United States as well as Britain, only becoming illegal in England as late as the year 2004.
Today, the Beagle has become a loved companion of many older pet lovers and young families because of their gentle nature and reputation for loyal companionship. Strangely, Beagles have always been much more popular in the United States and Canada than in their original homeland, and for the past 30 years they have featured in the top 10 most popular breeds in America.