The Beagle, also known as the English Beagle, the Regal Beagle and the Jelly Dog, is instantly recognizable by its miniature foxhound look and is one of the most popular breeds in America. It is the smallest of the British pack-hounds and, with the Otterhound and Bloodhound, is among the closest to the original ancestors of all hound breeds. The origin of the Beagle's name is not known, but it may derive from the Gaelic word "beag," which means "little." It also may come from the French term "be'geule," referring to the baying voice of the hounds when in pursuit of game. The most well-known of all Beagles perhaps is Snoopy - Charlie Brown's friend and companion from the "Peanuts" cartoon strip created by Charles Schultz.
Beagles are compact, friendly and happy little hounds with beautiful, haunting voices (which neighbors sometimes do not appreciate). Beagles were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885 as members of the Hound Group. The National Beagle Club was formed in 1888 in the United States. The Beagle has only grown in popularity since, both as a working dog in the field and as a gentle, trusted family friend.
The origin of the Beagle is described in an American Kennel Club publication as being "lost in the mists of ancient days and no research, it seems, can ever bring its true history to light." It is said that before the time of the Romans - back to the time of Pwyll, Prince of Wales (a contemporary of King Arthur) - packs of superb white hounds were hunted in Britain. Some people claim that those light hounds are among the predecessors of all modern hounds. Most experts agree that hounds are indeed the original ancestors of all sporting breeds – including the gazehounds or sighthounds, which hunt almost exclusively by sight, and the true hounds, which hunt primarily by their sense of smell. The Beagle is and always has been a scent hound.
As hunting became increasingly popular in England, country gentlemen bred and hunted larger hounds (called Buck Hounds) on deer and smaller hounds (called Beagles) on wild hare. By the middle of the 1700s, the small hare-hunting dogs were further divided into the Southern Hound which was ponderous and deliberate, with long ears and a deep voice, and the North Country Beagle which was quick and had tremendous tenacity and stamina. The modern Beagle was refined in the mid-1800s, when a gentleman named Parson Honeywood formed a good pack from the North Country type. Virtually all Beagles today go back to his line. Always bred to be small, at one time Beagles were purposefully bred to be tiny. A dwarf dog called a "Pocket Beagle" was popular for a time, but it ultimately fell out of favor and no longer exists.
In the early years of the American deep South, hunters used a small dog called a Beagle which more closely resembled a straight-legged Basset Hound or Dachshund. They were mostly white with some dark markings, tireless in the field and quick, but also were snappy and not particularly attractive. In the 1860s, General Richard Rowett imported beautiful hare hounds from England and began refining the American Beagle. In the 1880s, a pack of hare hounds was imported from Royal Rock Beagles in Northern England, by Mr. Arnold of Rhode Island. James Kernochan brought another well-bred pack over from Northern England in 1896. Together, these hounds formed the foundation of the Beagle breed in America as we know it today. The Beagle Club of England was founded in the late 1800s and helped to fix the breed type.
Beagles were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885 as members of its Hound Group. The National Beagle Club was formed in 1888 in the United States. From that time on, field trials sprang up all over the country, and the Beagle has only grown in popularity since. The National Beagle Club held its first field trial in 1888, causing field trials to surge in popularity across the United States. Hare hounds were separated into those under 13 inches and those between 13 and 15 inches at the withers, and they competed both singly and in packs. Those sportsmen and sportswomen who preferred to hunt with packs generally pursued hares rather than cottontail rabbits; hares are larger, do not go to ground and tend to spoil the hunt when they run straight, fast and for a long distance. Those who hunted their Beagles individually seemed to prefer hunting the rabbit. Since they lived in packs for hundreds of years, Beagles naturally enjoy the company of other dogs. According to an AKC publication: "Curious and comedic, they often follow their noses–which can lead to some mischief if they are not provided with daily activity."
The average life span of the Beagle is 12 to 14 years. This is slightly higher compared to the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), and most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Beagle are as follows:
Hypothyroidism: Inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
Beagle Pain Syndrome
Chinese Beagle Syndrome
Glaucoma: Serious disorder characterized by fluid build-up inside of the eye
Anemia: Reduction in the normal number of red blood cells (RBCs)
Deafness: Defined as the lack or loss, complete or partial, of the sense of hearing
Invertebral Disk Disease: Neurological deficits caused by degeneration and displacement of the material inside an intervertebral disk
Narcolepsy: Disorder of the neurological mechanisms that control sleep – especially the state of deep sleep
Cherry Eye: Condition in which the third eyelid falls down or slips out of place
Cataracts: Refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts
Hypochondroplasia (short bowed legs; accepted as breed standard)
XX Sex Reversal
Ear Infections: Simply means inflammation of the ear
Beagles are smart, affectionate, curious, friendly and playful. They are ideal family pets because of their size, groomability, and easy going nature with children. Beagles are full of energy, and benefit from an active family with a yard where they can run around and explore. Couch potatoes will want to steer clear of beagles; this breed loves constant activity and the outdoors.
Despite their compact size, beagles require a lot of exercise. At first glance they might seem like a good apartment dog, but families who don't have fenced yards for beagles to run in should be sure to walk them and take them to the park regularly in order to keep their weight down and to prevent boredom. Because they were originally bred to be hunting dogs, beagles like to stay active and love being outside. Breeders recommend several long walks a day, plus time for running.
Beagles have been labeled stubborn dogs, and have a reputation for being difficult to train. It is recommended that obedience training be introduced as early as possible, before stubbornness can set in. Beagles respond best to training done with treats as well as positive reinforcement – punishments only cause them to develop avoidance behaviors.
The Beagle's response to scent is both a blessing and a curse. Their highly evolved sense of smell makes them some of the best hunting and tracking dogs around, but if your family beagle catches a scent while outside, he will employ what some trainers call, "selective deafness," meaning he will tune you out completely and will not respond to your calls for him to return. For this reason, breeders recommend never leaving your beagle off-leash in an area that is not fenced in.
Separation anxiety, barking, and destructiveness are common behavioral problems in beagles. Fortunately, they can almost all be prevented by keeping your beagle well exercised. Taking your Beagle for a long walk before leaving the house will leave him with little energy to be destructive. Beagles who bark or howl are often doing so because they are bored. Ensuring your dog has plenty of exercise and toys or bones to chew on, will keep him entertained and will stave off many of these undesirable behaviors.
The skull should be fairly long, slightly domed at occiput, with cranium broad and full. Ears--Ears set on moderately low, long, reaching when drawn out nearly, if not quite, to the end of the nose; fine in texture, fairly broad-with almost entire absence of erectile power-setting close to the head, with the forward edge slightly inturning to the cheek--rounded at tip. Eyes--Eyes large, set well apart-soft and houndlike--expression gentle and pleading; of a brown or hazel color. Muzzle--Muzzle of medium length-straight and square--cut--the stop moderately defined. Jaws--Level. Lips free from flews; nostrils large and open. Defects--A very flat skull, narrow across the top; excess of dome, eyes small, sharp and terrierlike, or prominent and protruding; muzzle long, snipy or cut away decidedly below the eyes, or very short. Roman-nosed, or upturned, giving a dish-face expression. Ears short, set on high or with a tendency to rise above the point of origin.
Neck and Throat--Neck rising free and light from the shoulders strong in substance yet not loaded, of medium length. The throat clean and free from folds of skin; a slight wrinkle below the angle of the jaw, however, may be allowable. Defects--A thick, short, cloddy neck carried on a line with the top of the shoulders. Throat showing dewlap and folds of skin to a degree termed "throatiness."
Shoulders and Chest
Shoulders sloping--clean, muscular, not heavy or loaded--conveying the idea of freedom of action with activity and strength. Chest deep and broad, but not broad enough to interfere with the free play of the shoulders. Defects--Straight, upright shoulders. Chest disproportionately wide or with lack of depth.
Back, Loin and Ribs
Back short, muscular and strong. Loin broad and slightly arched, and the ribs well sprung, giving abundance of lung room. Defects--Very long or swayed or roached back. Flat, narrow loin. Flat ribs.
Forelegs and Feet
Forelegs--Straight, with plenty of bone in proportion to size of the hound. Pasterns short and straight. Feet--Close, round and firm. Pad full and hard. Defects--Out at elbows. Knees knuckled over forward, or bent backward. Forelegs crooked or Dachshundlike. Feet long, open or spreading.
Hips, Thighs, Hind Legs and Feet
Hips and thighs strong and well muscled, giving abundance of propelling power. Stifles strong and well let down. Hocks firm, symmetrical and moderately bent. Feet close and firm. Defects--Cowhocks, or straight hocks. Lack of muscle and propelling power. Open feet.
Set moderately high; carried gaily, but not turned forward over the back; with slight curve; short as compared with size of the hound; with brush. Defects--A long tail. Teapot curve or inclined forward from the root. Rat tail with absence of brush.
A close, hard, hound coat of medium length. Defects--A short, thin coat, or of a soft quality.
Any true hound color.
A miniature Foxhound, solid and big for his inches, with the wear-and-tear look of the hound that can last in the chase and follow his quarry to the death.
There shall be two varieties:
Thirteen Inch--which shall be for hounds not exceeding 13 inches in height.
Fifteen Inch--which shall be for hounds over 13 but not exceeding 15 inches in height.
Any hound measuring more than 15 inches shall be disqualified.
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Sources: American Kennel Club