by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
One of the most popular of the Hound breeds is the Beagle. There are several reasons for this likelihood. First, the Beagle is essentially a gun dog. Second, he is a specialist on the cottontail rabbit, the most prolific of all species of American upland game animals and the most widely hunted. Third, his merry and affectionate disposition make him a favorite as a pet and companion for children, a loyal and ornamental house dog. Fourth, his great versatility allows his use on almost any type of upland game. He is particularly effective on squirrels and pheasants.
The Beagle origin is not definitely known. It is established, however, that the little fellow was in favor in the days of King Henry VIII and came into even greater vogue during the reign of that monarch's daughter, Elizabeth. It was the custom in those days for the hunting gentry to take their Beagles to the fields in the panniers of the saddles. From this we may judge that the Beagles of those days were very small-from eight to twelve inches high.
It has been said that the Beagle resulted from experiments in crossing the Harrier with the old South of England or Southern Hound. Though most of our information concerning the early Beagles came from England, it is known that the name originated from the corrupted French word beigle, meaning small. In some instances they were called "little Harriers." The claim is that selective breeding, using only the smallest specimens, brought the Beagle down to the diminutive size known in the days of good Queen Bess. This miniature Hound, however, did not enjoy sustained popularity; they were too small for use.
The present day Beagle gets his keen nose probably from the Kerry Beagle, in color and general appearance a miniature Bloodhound. Except for that, however, it is doubtful that the Kerry Beagle exerted any influence over the Beagle of today, and his contribution was more likely made to the Foxhound and Coonhound breeds.
In the early 1870's it is believed that is when the Beagles first came to America. It was the early importations that found immediate favor among the American sportsmen. They wanted a hound large enough to cope with the cover in this country and small enough to be "handy."
Some do not perform so well in strange country or with a gallery of enthusiastic beaglers following as they do when they are hunting in familiar territory with their masters. Others seem to have a highly developed competitive spirit and do their best work when urged on by the incentive of competition.
The Beagle is a hardy dog, easy to keep in condition. He does not need much kennel room and adapts himself quickly to all climates. Like all hounds, he thrives on work and the more he is hunted the better he likes it.
While the Beagle is not a particularly sensitive dog they do like attention and will respond readily to kindness and affection. They are quick to learn. And about all the training he needs is work. The more hunting his owner can give him the closer the bond between them will become. The ideal Beagle is a dog of great determination.
Carrying himself with the cocky air of the sportsman he is, the Beagle attracts attention wherever he goes. He has the quality of combining ruggedness with daintiness, which is possessed by no other dog in such degree. He is an ideal dog around farm or home. His dignity is not akin to aloofness and he is willing to meet any friendly advances more than halfway.
In general appearance the Beagle is a miniature Foxhound, solid and big for his inches. The Beagle height does not usually exceed fifteen inches, measured across the shoulders at the highest point. Beagles come in all hound colors, and any hound color is good. However, the most popular color is white, black, and tan.
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