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Beagles are the most curious little dogs. They are people pleasers, smart, and extremely loyal.
If you’re thinking of adding a Beagle to your family or already have one, it is important to learn all that you can about the breed.
This will ensure that you have all the knowledge to raise a happy and healthy Beagle that reflects the breed’s rich heritage.
In this guide, we cover the history and origin of this smart dog!
History of the Beagle
Beagles and humans have had a long history together. The very fact that the Beagle breed is quite ancient indicates that there are not too many early records about it. Therefore, one could say that the breed has mysterious origins and that several breeds may have contributed to the modern breed that we see today.
Even the origin of the word ‘Beagle’ is mysterious. Some believe that the word was first used in English Literature in a verse romance published back in 1475.
Others believe that the word Beagle may have come from the French word begueule meaning loud or wide mouth. This could be a reference to the Beagle’s tendency to howl or bark loudly.
Then there is another line of thought that the word Beagle might have come from the German word ‘begele’, which means to scold. (Something you need to do a lot with this naughty dog!)
Another possible explanation behind the word Beagle is the Celtic word ‘beag’, which means ‘very small.’ This, too, aptly describes the small dog.
Origin of the Modern Beagle
The breed we know today only existed from around the 19th century, although Greek and European hunters used a similar hunting dog almost 2500 years ago. The earliest record of a Beagle-type hunting dog can be traced back to Greece in 400 BC.
It is estimated that these Greek hunting dogs came to Britain around 200 AD. As mentioned earlier, several hound-like dogs were used in the British Beagle’s creation. One such dog was the Pocket Beagle (which is now extinct). Pocket Beagles existed during the time of Queen Elizabeth I, and she owned a large pack of these small dogs that only measured about 9 inches.
The Beagle also has the St.Hubert Hound breed in their ancestry. It is said that William the Conqueror may have brought the St.Hubert Hounds into England for deer hunting.
The Beagle’s Arrival in the United States
The Beagle arrived in the United States around the 1840s, and, naturally, American breeders began changing the breed with a gusto. They used Talbot Hounds in their creations. (These dogs are now extinct.) Some American and British breeders later worked together to create the athletic, smart, and agile Beagles we see today.
The Kennel Club of America, or the AKC, officially recognized the Beagle as a breed in 1885. By the mid-19th Century, Beagles became a ubiquitous and deeply ensconced element of American dog shows.
American Beagles were used extensively as hunting companions as well as house pets. In fact, American breeders were specifically breeding three types of Beagles- show-quality, hunting-quality, and pet-quality Beagles.
General Richard Rowett took efforts to further improve the breed by importing Beagles from Britain. Rowett’s Beagles grew in popularity as excellent scent dogs. Later, James Kemochan worked hard to bring the appearance of the Beagle closer to the modern Beagle we know today.
Modern Beagles that we see today are comprised of ancestors like the St.Hubert Hound, Talbot Hound, the Harrier, and the Northern and Southern Hound breeds.
By the end of WWI, the British Beagle’s popularity fell, but their American counterparts continued to thrive. North American Beagles enjoyed a rich history and heritage as dog-show award winners, hunters, and housepets.
In 2021, the Beagle ranked No.5 in the list of AKC’s most popular dog breeds in the USA.
What Characteristics Helped Beagles in Hunting?
Beagles were originally used for hare hunting thanks to the following characteristics:
Their Powerful Sense of Smell
The Beagle is known for having one of the most powerful olfactory senses among all dog breeds. This can be attributed to the higher number of receptors in their noses.
Their Tracking Instinct
In addition to a strong sense of smell, these hound dogs also have excellent tracking abilities. Beagles can follow a scent for miles. The combination of these two traits makes them effective and efficient hunters.
Their Ability to Hunt in Packs
Beagles were originally trained to hunt in packs. One Beagle would pick up a scent of the game while the other dogs would assist in the chase.
Their Long Ears
The Beagle’s long ears helped funnel the game’s scent toward the dog’s nose. Furthermore, their ears effectively dissipate heat – which is crucial to maintaining the dog’s body temperature on strenuous hunts.
Their Small Size
The Beagle’s small size helped them navigate small and tight spaces where larger dog breeds and humans cannot go.
What is the Heritage of Beagles?
As can be seen, the heritage of the Beagle is extremely rich and steeped in culture and tradition. Today, the breed is mainly used as loyal, outgoing, and friendly household companions, but we must not forget their history as hare hunters. It is this history that explains why our Beagles get fixated on scents and cannot rest until they have tracked them down!
Of course, the smart Beagle is also useful in a variety of fields.
Today, you will find Beagles at airports where they are used for sniffing out drugs. They are also used extensively as search-and-rescue dogs, military dogs, and police dogs. In the field of pharmacology, Beagles are used for their powerful olfactory sense which helps in detecting odors and scents.
Key Takeaways and Final Thoughts – The Origin of the Beagle
Beagles originated in Great Britain and came to the United States only in the 1840s. They were bred for hunting in packs as they had several characteristics that helped them on these hunts.
Different breeds like the Talbot Hound, St.Hubert’s Hounds, and the Northern and Southern Hounds may have been used in the creation of the modern Beagle. Today, the Beagle is utilized in many fields for their strong sense of smell.
I hope this guide gives you an insight into your Beagle’s personality!