The beagle should look like a miniature foxhound, solid for its size. The beagle’s moderate size enables it to be followed on foot. It can also be carried to the hunt, and once there, can scurry around in thick underbrush. Its close hard coat protects it from underbrush. Its moderate build enables it to nimbly traverse rough terrain. The beagle’s amiable personality allows it to get along with other dogs and to be a successful pack hunter. The beagle is noted for its melodious bay, which helps hunters locate it from a distance.
One of the most amiable hounds, the beagle was bred as a pack hunter and needs companionship, whether human or canine. It loves to explore the outdoors and is an enthusiastic trailer. Given adequate exercise, it is a calm, tractable house pet. It is an excellent child’s dog, gentle, incredibly tolerant and always ready to join in a game or an adventure. It is an independent breed, however, and may run off if a trail beckons. It barks and howls.
By the 14th century, hare hunting had become a popular sport in England, and the dogs used were probably of beagle type. The origin of the name beagle may be from Old French words meaning “open throat” in reference to the breed’s melodious bay, or from the Celtic, Old English or Old French words for “small.” The word beagle was not used until 1475, however, but can then be found frequently in writings from the 16th century on. Hunters could follow these dogs on foot and could even carry one in a pocket if the need arose. By the 1800s, beagles existed in several sizes, but the smaller “pocket-size” dogs were particularly popular. These dogs measured only about 9 inches and often needed the hunter’s assistance in crossing rough fields. One of the special appeals of the smaller beagles was that the hunt could be followed even by “ladies, the aged or the infirm,” as they slowly followed the winding path of the hare. The first mention of the beagle in America was in 1642. Beagles were used in the South prior to the Civil War, but these dogs bore little resemblance to their English counterparts. After the war, English imports formed the basis of the modern American beagle. By the end of the 19th century, beagles were popular competitors in both field and conformation exhibitions. But the merry little scenthound did not stop there: It continued to become one of America’s all-time favorite breeds, finding its special niche as a family pet.