All About Beagles and Their Incredible Sense of Smell

I am a proud beagle owner that loves educating others about this wonderful breed.

Our beagle, Ruby, is a fascinating little dog. She loves to play hard and always seeks companionship when it is time to cuddle up and sleep.

But one thing is obvious, Ruby is driven by her sense of smell.

Beagles are sturdy, medium-sized dogs that resemble a small version of a fox hound. As a member of the hound family, beagles have been around since as early as the fifth century. Bred to hunt prey by scent, rabbits and hare are often their target.

Beagles are also happy dogs with extremely upbeat personalities. But a pet beagle cannot just turn off its hunting instincts and incessant sniffing—an obvious trait noticed when walking one or while visiting a dog park or other outdoor area.

In fact, if you look at the physical characteristics of a beagle (nose, neck, legs, ears, and tail), most everything about its body aids in its ability to track a scent, and track it well!

Beagle vs. Human

  • Beagles have 45 times more scent receptors than humans.
  • A beagle's olfactory lobe in the brain is about 40 times larger than a human.
  • All of a beagle's scent membranes would unfold to 60 sq. in. The same in a human would only be 1 sq. inch. That's like comparing a piece of paper to a stamp!
  • A beagle's sense of smell is 1,000-10,000 times greater than a human's.

The Nose

In order to understand the beagle's sense of smell, it helps to understand the nose itself.

Take a look at it: the nose itself is large, cool, and moist to the touch. The moistness helps dissolve molecules in the air, bringing them into the nose.

And with each sniffing inhalation, scents are trapped in pockets within the nose and are not lost during exhalation. Nerve impulses then "connect" these stored scents to the beagle's highly developed olfactory lobe within the brain.

Additionally, beagles have many more scent receptors than both humans and other breeds of dogs. Finally, the olfactory (scent) area of the brain is said to be about forty times larger in a dog than in a human, making a dog's sense of smell thousands of times stronger than a human's sense of smell!

Look at the chart below. Beagles have the same number of scent receptors as the much larger German Shepherd, and are only second to Blood Hounds in the overall number of scent receptors.

Beagles have an incredible sense of smell, as compared to other breeds of dogs and humans. Source Understanding a Dog's Sense of Smell

Breed or SpeciesNumber of Scent Receptors


5 million


125 million

Fox Terrier

147 million

German Shepherd

225 million


225 million

Blood Hound

300 million

The Neck

The neck of a beagle is sturdy and long. This characteristic is not without a purpose. The long neck simply allows it to easily drop its nose to the ground and sniff.

If you were to watch Ruby on a walk or at the dog park, you would see her nose to the ground almost continuously. Having a long neck makes this easy to do.


The legs of beagles are relatively short compared to their bodies. Their overall height ranges from 13-16 inches for this 18-35 pound breed.

Now, you wouldn't think legs would have much to do with smelling, but you would be wrong. Short legs make it easy for a beagle to drop its nose to the ground and track a scent.


Beagles' ears are long, soft, and low set on their heads. The combination of these floppy ears and soulful eyes is perhaps what attracts many people to the breed.

However, the ears serve a purpose beyond hearing and the cuteness factor. Beagle ears also aid in tracking a scent.

These floppy ears that are low to the ground when a beagle drops its head to sniff are easily maneuvered to help trap a scent, bringing it towards the nose.


Beagles have a characteristic white tip on their tails called a stern or flag. While this flag does not directly affect their sense of smell, it does serve an important purpose when they are tracking a scent.

Recall that beagles were bred to hunt rabbits and hares. While tracking the scent of a rabbit in tall grass, with their short legs and head dropped down, the only part of a beagle that can be seen is its tail.

While active, a beagle tail is straight with the flag pointing upward, making it easy for the hunter to locate their beagle and not accidentally shoot it instead of the prey.

Knowing all about beagles and their incredible nose, it's not too hard to appreciate their need to sniff everything in sight, as well as out of sight.

I know I am a little more patient with Ruby on walks as she takes her time sniffing her way along.

Beagle traits are even put to good use. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture employs a beagle's sense of smell. The Beagle Brigade consists of 60 canine teams and its sole purpose is to sniff out contraband fruit and vegetables being brought into the country.

Mostly working at border entries and baggage claim areas of international airports, the Beagle Brigade has been known to seize an average of 75,000 prohibited agriculture products per year.

A beagle's sense of smell and physical characteristics that contribute to making it an efficient sniffing machine, combined with its gentle and upbeat personality, make it an astounding breed.

Eden on January 09, 2020:

Your dog is pretty cute you know.

Sawyer on January 09, 2020:

I have a beagle named Biscuit

Susan Conte on May 14, 2019:

the best

breanna on October 24, 2018:

i love your dog she is so cute

MOEKM on August 24, 2018:

Everything you spoke about makes complete sense when I look at my six year old Beagle, Cookie. She is a nose and a stomach on four legs, and we love her dearly. She became an awesome "big sister" three years ago when we adopted an 8 week old Siberian Husky, and they are the best of friends. Cookie runs the house, and the Husky (Denali) knows it. What's funnier is that your pictures of your Beagle Ruby are the spitting image of our little "Cookie Monster". :)

jalden on September 21, 2017:

this is very informational and helpful. i am in college studying the sense of smell. thank you, love brevard college.

Cosette Palmer on April 16, 2017:

Our family doesn't yet own a Dog because we are looking for one that can be active outside and a lot of fun, but also a dog that will cuddle up to you and be your conpanion. Can you possibly recomend a breed.


Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on July 24, 2012:

michemike - Beagles are incredibly lovable dogs. Their floppy ears, soulful eyes, and cuddly nature make them a little hard to resist. And I agree that this breed is extremely loyal and smart. I am forever amazed by my beagle's spot-on instincts and sense of smell even to find bumblebees if you can believe it. They are a bit stubborn though and don't always follow commands, especially if they determine there's nothing in it for them. But for the most part my beagle is obedient, except when her nose takes over I'm pretty sure all her other senses shut down.

michemike on July 24, 2012:

I love my beagle! he's very good with the kids and very loving but not so good with commands, I also have a pitbull that is 7yrs old and is also great with the kids and very loyal and smart.

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 18, 2012:

Victoria Lynn - My beagle has the best personality. Without a doubt, we are her pack. She now even thinks she is a lap dog - which, as you can imagine, makes it difficult to use a laptop! But I am constantly amazed by her extremely keen sense of smell. Gizmo sounds like he/she likes a lot of attention too! Thanks for your comment and votes.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on May 18, 2012:

Beagles are so cute! And gentle with great personality, like you say. I might want one someday, but right now my little shih tzu, pekingnese, terrier mutt Gizmo insists on being the only dog in the house. Enjoyed reading more about beagles. Many votes!

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on February 24, 2012:

Suzanne - I'm so glad Cookie is OK; that sounds like a horrible accident. I had a vet once try to make me feel neglectful because I didn't want to do hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of tests on my 18 year old cat that I had cared for with diabetes for over 5 years. The end was very near (weeks) and I just wanted to make my cat comfortable until we could say good bye. Needless to say, I never returned to that vet.

These beagles are simply the most lovable little creatures. And when you can appreciate their instincts, like I can tell you do with Cookie, you can share in their joy as they smell and hunt. I am constantly astounded by my beagle's sense of smell. If I have her out on a walk and someone comes in the house and leaves before she has seen them, it is quite obvious she knows they were there. She will sniff and track and hunt throughout the house and almost cry in sadness when she concludes they are nowhere to be found.

Today we walked in the snow. And her tracking technique in the snow makes me laugh. She buries her nose in the snow, sometimes seems to taste it, and makes strange snorting noises. Sort of like a noise a horse makes. She pulls me frantically from spot to spot repeating this technique.

I'm glad you and Cookie enjoy each others company and I it's obvious she has won your heart. Take care and thanks for sharing your story Zanny.

suzanne on February 24, 2012:

Cookie, my sons beagle is inside my house recovering from a major surgery. She was injured while hunting. With her nose to the scent trail she hit an old cedar stump puncturing her side and through 3 layers. Her inside was almost out. It didn't help that 2 vets, one is now our former vet, who said, "this didn't just happen" and "she's under nourished" sent us away with the assumption that a hunting dog is not important! Theyneed to learn to prioritize an emergency and when to lecture a pet owner. The 3rd vet immediately began surgery similar to a hernia repair before she had intestinal damage. Three weeks later Cookie can pull me around a tree and under fences all because of her ability to smell! I attempted a screen porch as her move to be outside, attempt is the right word, but Cookie ran through the screen and jumped down four feet to the ground!

Cookie is 6 years old and is a field trial champion. Her stay with her Zanny(me) will not hold her back. I feel for the poor bunnies! Cookie has won my heart and I may pick up hunting just to hang out with her! NO guns for me!

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on January 01, 2012:

Wordscribe43 - Growing up I also had a dog that was a mix of beagle and who knows what else. She was such a good dog. Our beagle pictured in this hub, Ruby, is the sweetest dog. She never goes out without a leash and sometimes we tie her up for short periods. But she does have to be watched like a hawk also.

I really worry about her at the dog park, but got over my fear and she is in heaven there. As long as she goes with another dog friend to buddy up with she doesn't disappear. (I have a hub on the dog park too with some great photos of Ruby - crazy ones, actually.)

I'm sorry about the loss of your beagle/lab. Before our beagle we had a cat for 19 years. The day when we knew we had no choice but to put him to sleep was one of the worst and I still miss him terribly. I'm teary-eyed just thinking about it. But I am glad I was able to make room in my heart again for another pet. Let me know if you do; beagles are definitely a very special breed!

Elsie Nelson from Pacific Northwest, USA on January 01, 2012:

Awww.... this brings back great memories. My childhood dog was a Beagle/Bassett hound mix who was the sweetest dog in the world. We just lost our Beagle/Lab mix two years ago and it was soooo hard. She would follow that scent and not look back, I'm telling you. We had to watch her like a hawk. She was a big sweetheart, but a pretty lazy girl. Could have been the lab in her, though. I miss her. Thanks for the great hub, I'd get another Beagle in a heart beat.

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on December 19, 2011:

Thank you Eiddwen. Beagles are a great breed of dog. They are so smart and so lovable. It's a shame you cannot have one of your own, but I will continue to have more beagle articles and photos of Ruby that you will hopefully enjoy. Thanks for your comment.

Eiddwen from Wales on December 19, 2011:

What a great hub on my favourite breed of dog.

They are so faithful, I had one called Lassie when I was small and she was my besy friend.

At the moment our landlord is not willing for pats in the property ,due to past tenants but it doesn't stop me from reading all about the.

A great hub which I vote up up and away.

Take care,


Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on October 30, 2011:

Donna, My daughter and I were just saying yesterday how our beagle, Ruby, needs a "job" of sorts. She is a busy little dog with her nose to the ground very often, unless of course she is sleeping. Watching our beagle, I couldn't help but notice how so much of her entire body contributes to her ability to have a fantastic sense of smell. All creatures seem to be truly miraculous in one way or another though, and dogs are no exceptions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Donna Cosmato from USA on October 30, 2011:

This is a very informative hub! I knew Beagles were a working breed dog, but I had no idea they were used for the purposes like you mentioned in your hub. Thanks for sharing!

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on October 14, 2011:

Randomcreative - I wasn't a big dog fan a year ago either (had a cat for 19 years though) but by last December my daughter finally convinced me to get her a puppy. What was I thinking? My daughter will be off to college in less than a year and of course despite all her promises I am the one doing most of the dog-related work. But little Ruby wins you over real fast. Right now she is sound asleep as close to me as she can get. So I guess now I am at least a little bit of a dog fan. or at least a beagle/Ruby fan.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 14, 2011:

I am not a big dog fan, but beagles are still pretty cool. :) Thanks for all of the information!

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on October 14, 2011:

Thank you for your comment and vote. I appreciate it.

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on October 14, 2011:

Carrie - She is a funny little beagle. She didn't want to leave the bus stop. She sat down on the sidewalk with the girls as if she was with them waiting to go to school. It was sort of funny. You should look at the video of Ruby on my hub about puppy training and dog tricks. You can get an idea of how goofy she is when my daughter tells her to lay down.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 14, 2011:

It looks so sweet. Thanks for share with us. You have useful information. Vote up and have a nice weekend!


carriethomson from United Kingdom on October 14, 2011:

wish i had a beagle like that :))

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on October 14, 2011:

Even my human nose can find all the delicious recipes on HubPages. But my beagle just managed to sniff all the backpacks (probably with lunch bags in them) of three young girls waiting at a bus stop this morning.

carriethomson from United Kingdom on October 14, 2011:

the beagle's cute!! sniff sniff!! there should be a beagle nose to sniff and find out all the delicious recipies at hubapges :))


The Beagle Brigade

What You Need


To help students develop an understanding of animal behaviors and the interaction of innate abilities and learned behaviors.


In this lesson, students will develop their understanding of animal behaviors and the interaction of innate abilities and learned behaviors. The Beagle Brigade is a team of beagles and their human handlers who inspect luggage at U.S. airports searching for agricultural products. They are part of the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). The USDA is charged with making sure that meat, animal byproducts, fruit, and vegetables that can carry diseases and pests harmful to U.S. agriculture are kept out of the country. Often these products are brought into the country by travelers. The APHIS works in conjunction with the U.S. Customs Service, Public Health Service, and Immigration and Naturalization Service at entry points to the U.S., including land borders, ports, and airports to make sure that this doesn’t happen. The Beagle Brigade contributes to this effort by working in the baggage-claim areas at international airports. Dogs in the Beagle Brigade wear green jackets. One reason why beagles were chosen for this work is that they are small and easy to care for. They also are not as intimidating to people who are uncomfortable around dogs—such as larger dogs like German Shepherds. This is important in busy international airports where there are large numbers of people at all times.

Although beagles, known to be willful, are not generally considered good working dogs, they are well suited to this task because of their superb sense of smell. What makes a beagle's sense of smell so good? Humans have an estimated five million scent receptors (cells used for smelling) concentrated in a relatively small area at the back of the nose. By comparison, beagles have an estimated 220 million scent receptors. Not only do beagles have an uncanny ability to detect scents, but after extensive training, they also are able to distinguish one odor from another and remember it. Because of this, they can be taught to distinguish between the scent of a "restricted" item (such as a fruit, vegetable, or meat) and a non-restricted item. When a member of the Beagle Brigade smells a restricted scent, it sits down next to the luggage to alert its handler, who then talks to the owner, and, if necessary, performs a search. Experienced beagles have a 90% success rate and can recognize almost 50 distinct smells.

Planning Ahead

The article Dog Intelligence can provide you with background knowledge about how dogs generally learn.


Begin by talking about dogs, specifically working dogs. Ask students to describe situations in which they have seen working dogs. Ask students if they can name breeds of dogs that they think are more suitable as working dogs, and to speculate about why they think these breeds are well suited to the work they do. Ask any students who have dogs to describe what types of tasks they think their dogs might be able to accomplish.


Next, refer students to the Beagle Brigade student esheet and instruct them to follow the directions in the section called “Going Online.” This will lead them to a PDF called USDA's Detector Dogs: Protecting American Agriculture.

After students have finished the first part of the esheet, discuss the article with the class, asking questions such as:

  • What parts of the dog’s body systems help it to be able to detect specific restricted items? (The beagle’s nose has an estimated 220 million scent receptors. The part of a dog's brain that receives messages from the nerves of the nose is also highly developed and can store scent information the way a computer does.)
  • Why is a beagle a natural choice for the job of detecting contraband food items at airports? (The beagle’s curiosity, intelligence, high response to food, and superior sense of smell make it suitable. Its relatively small size and good health also make it easy to handle and care for.)
  • How are some of the special needs of Beagle Brigade dogs met? (Answers might include that they are fed a high protein diet and rest for at least 20 minutes of each work hour. Students may also mention that they live in kennels and not in homes because of their heightened sensitivity to food smells. The dogs also are closely monitored for their continued interest in their “work” and are retired to private homes if they demonstrate disinterest.)


Using the esheet, students will be directed to three additional brief news articles about the Beagle Brigade. They will be asked to use what they have learned in the lesson and from these stories to write a fictional account about an encounter with a Beagle Brigade team at the airport. They can be as creative as they like, but their stories should include a description of how the beagle is able to detect illegal food products in passenger luggage.


The Science NetLinks lesson, Pet’s: Oh Behave, can be used before or after this lesson to help build student understanding of the ideas in this benchmark.

The following resources include more information about the how dogs’ sense of smell can be used to “sniff” out a variety of problems.

Lung Cancer: Results of Cancer Detection By Beagles

The research team worked with three beagles, whom they trained to “sniff out” lung cancer cells in plasma (blood) samples. They specifically chose beagles because they are scent hounds — traditionally bred to chase small game animals during a hunt.

Beagles were trained for 8 weeks. After the training period, the beagles were required to correctly distinguish between blood samples collected from individuals with non-small cell lung cancer. They also sniffed a set of blood samples from healthy individuals.

All samples were placed in one room, at a height at which the dogs could comfortably sniff them. The beagles were trained to sit down when they could smell cancer, or move away if the sample was from a healthy person.

Incredibly, The dogs successfully chose between the two samples. They identified the presence of cancer with 97.5% specificity, and 96.7% sensitivity.

At present, researchers are completing a study testing the dogs’ ability to identify several other forms of cancer, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.


  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Development of the modern breed
    • 1.2 Export
  • 2 Popularity
  • 3 Name
  • 4 Appearance
  • 5 Sense of smell
  • 6 Variations
    • 6.1 Breed varieties
    • 6.2 Crossbreeds
  • 7 Temperament
  • 8 Health
    • 8.1 Birth and Reproduction
  • 9 Hunting
  • 10 Detection
  • 11 Testing
  • 12 Other roles
  • 13 In popular culture
  • 14 Notable Beagles
  • 15 References
  • 16 External links

The origin of the beagle is not known. [1] In the 11th century, William the Conqueror brought the St. Hubert Hound and the Talbot hound to Britain. In Britain both of these strains were then crossed with Greyhounds to give them speed and stamina for deer hunting. [2] Beagles are similar to the Harrier and the extinct Southern Hound, though smaller and slower. [1]

From medieval times, beagle was used as a generic description for the smaller hounds, though these dogs differed considerably from the modern breed. Miniature breeds of beagle-type dogs were known from the times of Edward II and Henry VII, who both had packs of Glove Beagles, so named since they were small enough to fit on a glove, and Queen Elizabeth I kept a breed known as a Pocket Beagle, which stood 8 to 9 inches (20 to 23 cm) at the shoulder. Small enough to fit in a "pocket" or saddlebag, they rode along on the hunt. The larger hounds would run the prey to ground, then the hunters would release the small dogs to continue the chase through underbrush. Elizabeth I referred to the dogs as her singing beagles and often entertained guests at her royal table by letting her Pocket Beagles cavort amid their plates and cups. [3] 19th-century sources refer to these breeds interchangeably and it is possible that the two names refer to the same small variety. In George Jesse's Researches into the History of the British Dog from 1866, the early 17th-century poet and writer Gervase Markham is quoted referring to the beagle as small enough to sit on a man's hand and to the:

little small mitten-beagle, which may be companion for a ladies kirtle, and in the field will run as cunningly as any hound whatere, only their musick is very small like reeds. [4]

Standards for the Pocket Beagle were drawn up as late as 1901 these genetic lines are now extinct, although modern breeders have attempted to recreate the variety. [5]

By the 18th century two breeds had been developed for hunting hare and rabbit: the Southern Hound and the North Country Beagle (or Northern Hound). The Southern Hound, a tall, heavy dog with a square head, and long, soft ears, was common from south of the River Trent and probably closely related to the Talbot Hound. Though slow, it had stamina and an excellent scenting ability. The North Country Beagle, possibly a cross between an offshoot of the Talbot stock and a Greyhound, was bred chiefly in Yorkshire and was common in the northern counties. It was smaller than the Southern Hound, less heavy-set and with a more pointed muzzle. It was faster than its southern counterpart but its scenting abilities were less well developed. [6]

Development of the modern breed

Reverend Phillip Honeywood established a beagle pack in Essex in the 1830s and it is believed that this pack formed the basis for the modern breed. Although details of the pack's lineage are not recorded it is thought that North Country Beagles and Southern Hounds were strongly represented William Youatt suspected that Harriers formed a good majority of the beagle's bloodline, but the origin of the Harrier is itself obscure. [1] Honeywood's Beagles were small, standing at about 10 inches (25 cm) at the shoulder, and pure white according to John Mills (writing in The Sportsman's Library in 1845). Prince Albert and Lord Winterton also had Beagle packs around this time, and royal favor no doubt led to some revival of interest in the breed, but Honeywood's pack was regarded as the finest of the three. [7]

Although credited with the development of the modern breed, Honeywood concentrated on producing dogs for hunting and it was left to Thomas Johnson to refine the breeding to produce dogs that were both attractive and capable hunters. Two strains were developed: the rough- and smooth-coated varieties. The rough-coated beagle survived until the beginning of the 20th century, and there were even records of one making an appearance at a dog show as late as 1969, but this variety is now extinct, having probably been absorbed into the standard beagle bloodline. [8]

In the 1840s, a standard beagle type was beginning to develop the distinction between the North Country Beagle and Southern Hound had been lost, but there was still a large variation in size, character, and reliability among the emerging packs. [9] In 1856, "Stonehenge" (the pseudonym of John Henry Walsh), writing in the Manual of British Rural Sports, was still dividing beagles into four varieties: the medium beagle the dwarf or lapdog beagle the fox beagle (a smaller, slower version of the Foxhound) and the rough-coated or terrier beagle, which he classified as a cross between any of the other varieties and one of the Scottish terrier breeds. [10] Stonehenge also gives the start of a standard description:

In size the beagle measures from 10 inches, or even less, to 15. In shape they resemble the old southern hound in miniature, but with more neatness and beauty and they also resemble that hound in style of hunting. [10]

By 1887 the threat of extinction was on the wane: there were 18 beagle packs in England. [11] The Beagle Club was formed in 1890 and the first standard drawn up at the same time. [12] The following year the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles was formed. Both organisations aimed to further the best interests of the breed, and both were keen to produce a standard type of beagle. [13] By 1902, the number of packs had risen to 44. [11]


Beagles were in the United States by the 1840s at the latest, but the first dogs were imported strictly for hunting and were of variable quality. Since Honeywood had only started breeding in the 1830s, it is unlikely these dogs were representative of the modern breed and the description of them as looking like straight-legged Dachshunds with weak heads has little resemblance to the standard. Serious attempts at establishing a quality bloodline began in the early 1870s when General Richard Rowett from Illinois imported some dogs from England and began breeding. Rowett's Beagles are believed to have formed the models for the first American standard, drawn up by Rowett, L. H. Twadell, and Norman Ellmore in 1887. [14] The beagle was accepted as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885. [15] In the 20th century the breed has spread worldwide.

On its formation, the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles took over the running of a regular show at Peterborough that had started in 1889, and the Beagle Club in the UK held its first show in 1896. [12] The regular showing of the breed led to the development of a uniform type, and the beagle continued to prove a success up until the outbreak of World War I when all shows were suspended. After the war, the breed was again struggling for survival in the UK: the last of the Pocket Beagles was probably lost during this time, and registrations fell to an all-time low. A few breeders (notably Reynalton Kennels) managed to revive interest in the dog and by World War II, the breed was once again doing well. Registrations dropped again after the end of the war but almost immediately recovered. [16]

As purebred dogs, beagles have always been more popular in the United States and Canada than in their native country England. The National Beagle Club of America was formed in 1888 and by 1901 a beagle had won a Best in Show title. As in the UK, activity during World War I was minimal, but the breed showed a much stronger revival in the U.S. when hostilities ceased. In 1928 it won a number of prizes at the Westminster Kennel Club's show and by 1939 a beagle – Champion Meadowlark Draughtsman – had captured the title of top-winning American-bred dog for the year. [17] On 12 February 2008, a beagle, K-Run's Park Me In First (Uno), won the Best In Show category at the Westminster Kennel Club show for the first time in the competition's history. [18] In North America they have been consistently in the top-ten most-popular breeds for over 30 years. From 1953 to 1959 the beagle was ranked No. 1 on the list of the American Kennel Club's registered breeds [19] in 2005 and 2006 it ranked 5th out of the 155 breeds registered. [20] In the UK they are not quite so popular, placing 28th and 30th in the rankings of registrations with the Kennel Club in 2005 and 2006 respectively. [21] In the United States the beagle ranked 4th most popular breed in 2012 and 2013, behind the Labrador Retriever (#1), German Shepherd (#2) and Golden Retriever (#3) breeds. [22]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first mention of the beagle by name in English literature dates from c. 1475 in The Squire of Low Degree. The origin of the word "beagle" is uncertain, although it has been suggested that the word derives from the French begueule. [23]

It is not known why the black and tan Kerry Beagle, present in Ireland since Celtic times, has the beagle description, since at 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61 cm) it is significantly taller than the modern day beagle, and in earlier times was even larger. Some writers suggest that the beagle's scenting ability may have come from cross-breeding earlier strains with the Kerry Beagle. Originally used for hunting stags, it is today used for hare and drag hunting. [24]

The general appearance of the beagle resembles a miniature Foxhound, but the head is broader and the muzzle shorter, the expression completely different and the legs shorter in proportion to the body. [25] They are generally between 13 and 16 inches (33 and 41 cm) high at the withers and weigh between 18 and 35 lb (8.2 and 15.9 kg), with females being slightly smaller than males on average. [26]

They have a smooth, somewhat domed skull with a medium-length, square-cut muzzle and a black (or occasionally liver) gumdrop nose. The jaw is strong and the teeth scissor together with the upper teeth fitting perfectly over the lower teeth and both sets aligned square to the jaw. The eyes are large, hazel or brown, with a mild hound-like pleading look. The large ears are long, soft and low-set, turning towards the cheeks slightly and rounded at the tips. Beagles have a strong, medium-length neck (which is long enough for them to easily bend to the ground to pick up a scent), with little folding in the skin but some evidence of a dewlap a broad chest narrowing to a tapered abdomen and waist and a long, slightly curved tail (known as the "stern") tipped with white. The white tip, known as the flag, was bred for selectively, as the tail remains easily seen when the dog's head is down following a scent. [27] The tail does not curl over the back, but is held upright when the dog is active. The beagle has a muscular body and a medium-length, smooth, hard coat. The front legs are straight and carried under the body while the rear legs are muscular and well bent at the stifles. [28]

The tricolored beagle—white with large black areas and light brown shading—is the most common. Tricolored beagles occur in a number of shades, from the "Classic Tri" with a jet black saddle (also known as "Blackback"), to the "Dark Tri" (where faint brown markings are intermingled with more prominent black markings), to the "Faded Tri" (where faint black markings are intermingled with more prominent brown markings). Some tricolored dogs have a broken pattern, sometimes referred to as pied. These dogs have mostly white coats with patches of black and brown hair. Tricolor beagles are almost always born black and white. The white areas are typically set by eight weeks, but the black areas may fade to brown as the puppy matures. (The brown may take between one and two years to fully develop.) Some beagles gradually change color during their lives, and may lose their black markings entirely.

Two-color varieties always have a white base color with areas of the second color. Tan and white is the most common two-color variety, but there is a wide range of other colors including lemon, a very light tan red, a reddish, almost orange, brown and liver, a darker brown, and black. Liver is not common and is not permitted in some standards it tends to occur with yellow eyes. Ticked or mottled varieties may be either white or black with different colored flecks (ticking), such as the blue-mottled or bluetick beagle, which has spots that appear to be a midnight-blue color, similar to the coloring of the Bluetick Coonhound. Some tricolor beagles also have ticking of various colors in their white areas. [29] [30]

Alongside the Bloodhound and Basset Hound, the beagle has one of the best developed senses of smell of any dog. [31] In the 1950s, John Paul Scott and John Fuller began a 13-year study of canine behavior. As part of this research, they tested the scenting abilities of various breeds by putting a mouse in a one-acre field and timing how long it took the dogs to find it. The beagles found it in less than a minute, while Fox Terriers took 15 minutes and Scottish Terriers failed to find it at all. Beagles are better at ground-scenting (following a trail on the ground) than they are at air-scenting, and for this reason they have been excluded from most mountain rescue teams in favor of collies, which use sight in addition to air-scenting and are more biddable. [31] The long ears and large lips of the beagle probably assist in trapping the scents close to the nose. [32]

Breed varieties

The American Kennel Club recognizes two separate varieties of beagle: the 13-inch for hounds less than 13 inches (33 cm), and the 15-inch for those between 13 and 15 inches (33 and 38 cm). The Canadian Kennel Club recognizes a single type, with a height not exceeding 15 inches (38 cm). The Kennel Club (UK) and FCI affiliated clubs recognize a single type, with a height of between 13 and 16 inches (33 and 41 cm).

English and American varieties are sometimes mentioned. However, there is no official recognition from any Kennel Club for this distinction. Beagles fitting the American Kennel Club standard – which disallows animals over 15 inches (38 cm) – are smaller on average than those fitting the Kennel Club standard which allows heights up to 16 inches (41 cm).

Pocket Beagles are sometimes advertised for sale but while the UK Kennel Club originally specified a standard for the Pocket Beagle in 1901, the variety is now not recognized by any Kennel Club.

A strain known as Patch Hounds was developed by Willet Randall and his family from 1896 specifically for their rabbit hunting ability. They trace their bloodline back to Field Champion Patch, but do not necessarily have a patchwork marking. [33] [34]


In the 1850s, Stonehenge recommended a cross between a Beagle and a Scottish Terrier as a retriever. He found the crossbreed to be a good worker, silent and obedient, but it had the drawback that it was small and could barely carry a hare. [35]

More recently the trend has been for "designer dogs" and one of the most popular has been the Beagle/Pug cross known as a Puggle. Some puppies of this cross are less excitable than a Beagle and with a lower exercise requirement, similar to the Pug parent but many are highly excitable and require vigorous exercise. [36]

The beagle has an even temper and gentle disposition. Described in several breed standards as "merry", they are amiable and typically neither aggressive nor timid, although this depends on the individual. They enjoy company, and although they may initially be standoffish with strangers, they are easily won over. They make poor guard dogs for this reason, although their tendency to bark or howl when confronted with the unfamiliar makes them good watch dogs. In a 1985 study conducted by Ben and Lynette Hart, the beagle was given the highest excitability rating, along with the Yorkshire Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, West Highland White Terrier, and Fox Terrier. [37] [c]

Beagles are intelligent but, as a result of being bred for the long chase, are single-minded and determined, which can make them hard to train. They can be difficult to recall once they have picked up a scent, and are easily distracted by smells around them. They do not generally feature in obedience trials while they are alert, respond well to food-reward training, and are eager to please, they are easily bored or distracted. They are ranked 72nd in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, as Coren places them among the group with the lowest degree of working/obedience intelligence. Coren's scale, however, does not assess understanding, independence, or creativity. [38] [39]

Beagles are excellent with children and this is one of the reasons they have become popular family pets. But as beagles are pack animals, they are prone to separation anxiety, [40] a condition which causes them to destroy things when left unattended. Not all beagles will howl, but most will bark when confronted with strange situations, and some will bay (also referred to as "speaking", "giving tongue", or "opening") when they catch the scent of potential quarry. [41] They also generally get along well with cats and other dogs. They are not too demanding with regard to exercise their inbred stamina means they do not easily tire when exercised, but they also do not need to be worked to exhaustion before they will rest. Regular exercise helps ward off the weight gain to which the breed is prone. [42]

The typical longevity of beagles is 12–15 years, [43] which is a common lifespan for dogs of their size. [44]

Beagles may be prone to epilepsy, but this can often be controlled with medication. Hypothyroidism and a number of types of dwarfism occur in beagles. Two conditions in particular are unique to the breed: "Funny Puppy", in which the puppy is slow to develop and eventually develops weak legs, a crooked back and although normally healthy, is prone to a range of illnesses [45] and Musladin-Lueke syndrome (MLS) in which the eyes are slanted and the outer toes are underdeveloped but otherwise development is as normal. [46] Hip dysplasia, common in Harriers and in some larger breeds, is rarely considered a problem in beagles. [47] Beagles are considered a chondrodystrophic breed, meaning that they are prone to types of disk diseases. [48]

In rare cases, beagles may develop immune mediated polygenic arthritis (where the immune system attacks the joints) even at a young age. The symptoms can sometimes be relieved by steroid treatments. [45] Another rare disease in the breed is neonatal cerebellar cortical degeneration. Affected puppies are slow, have lower co-ordination, fall more often and don't have a normal gait. It has an estimated carrier rate of 5% and affected rate of 0.1%. A genetic test is available. [49] [50]

Their long floppy ears can mean that the inner ear does not receive a substantial air flow or that moist air becomes trapped, and this can lead to ear infections. Beagles may also be affected by a range of eye problems two common ophthalmic conditions in beagles are glaucoma and corneal dystrophy. [51] "Cherry eye", a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid, and distichiasis, a condition in which eyelashes grow into the eye causing irritation, sometimes exist both these conditions can be corrected with surgery. [45] They can suffer from several types of retinal atrophy. Failure of the nasolacrimal drainage system can cause dry eye or leakage of tears onto the face. [45]

As field dogs they are prone to minor injuries such as cuts and sprains, and, if inactive, obesity is a common problem as they will eat whenever food is available and rely on their owners to regulate their weight. [45] When working or running free they are also likely to pick up parasites such as fleas, ticks, harvest mites, and tapeworms, and irritants such as grass seeds can become trapped in their eyes, soft ears, or paws. [52]

Beagles may exhibit a behavior known as reverse sneezing, in which they sound as if they are choking or gasping for breath, but are actually drawing air in through the mouth and nose. The exact cause of this behavior is not known, but it can be a common occurrence and is not harmful to the dog. [53]

Birth and Reproduction

The average size of a beagle litter is six puppies. When mother beagles give birth to litters of puppies, the little pups weigh just a few ounces each. [54]

Beagles were developed primarily for hunting hare, an activity known as beagling. They were seen as ideal hunting companions for the elderly who could follow on horseback without exerting themselves, for young hunters who could keep up with them on ponies, and for the poorer hunters who could not afford to maintain a stable of good hunting horses. [55] Before the advent of the fashion for foxhunting in the 19th century, hunting was an all day event where the enjoyment was derived from the chase rather than the kill. In this setting the tiny beagle was well matched to the hare, as unlike Harriers they would not quickly finish the hunt, but because of their excellent scent-tracking skills and stamina they were almost guaranteed to eventually catch the hare. The beagle packs would run closely together ("so close that they might be covered with a sheet" [1] ) which was useful in a long hunt, as it prevented stray dogs from obscuring the trail. In thick undergrowth they were also preferred to spaniels when hunting pheasant. [56]

With the fashion for faster hunts, the beagle fell out of favor for chasing hare, but was still employed for rabbit hunting. In Anecdotes of Dogs (1846), Edward Jesse says:

In rabbit-shooting, in gorse and thick cover, nothing can be more cheerful than the beagle. They also are easily heard over long distances and in thick cover. They have been called rabbit-beagles from this employment, for which they are peculiarly qualified, especially those dogs which are somewhat wire-haired. [3]

In the United States they appear to have been employed chiefly for hunting rabbits from the earliest imports. Hunting hare with beagles became popular again in Britain in the mid-19th century and continued until it was made illegal in Scotland by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 and in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004. Under this legislation beagles may still pursue rabbits with the landowner's permission. Drag hunting is popular where hunting is no longer permitted or for those owners who do not wish to participate in hunting a live animal, but still wish to exercise their dog's innate skills.

The traditional foot pack consists of up to 40 beagles, marshaled by a Huntsman who directs the pack and who is assisted by a variable number of whippers-in whose job is to return straying hounds to the pack. The Master of the Hunt is in overall day-to-day charge of the pack, and may or may not take on the role of Huntsman on the day of the hunt.

As hunting with beagles was seen as ideal for young people, many of the British public schools traditionally maintained beagle packs. Protests were lodged against Eton's use of beagles for hunting as early as 1902 but the pack is still in existence today, [57] and a pack used by Imperial College in Wye, Kent was stolen by the Animal Liberation Front in 2001. [58] School and university packs are still maintained by Eton, Marlborough, Wye, Radley, the Royal Agricultural University and Christ Church, Oxford. [59]

In addition to organized beagling, beagles have been used for hunting or flushing to guns (often in pairs) a wide range of game including snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbits, game birds, roe deer, red deer, bobcat, coyote, wild boar and foxes, and have even been recorded as being used to hunt stoat. [60] [61] In most of these cases, the beagle is employed as a gun dog, flushing game for hunter's guns. [60]

Beagles are used as detection dogs in the Beagle Brigade of the United States Department of Agriculture. These dogs are used to detect food items in luggage being taken into the United States. After trialling several breeds, beagles were chosen because they are relatively small and unintimidating for people who are uncomfortable around dogs, easy to care for, intelligent and work well for rewards. [62] They are also used for this purpose in a number of other countries including by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in New Zealand, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and in Canada, Japan and the People's Republic of China. [63] Larger breeds are generally used for detection of explosives as this often involves climbing over luggage and on large conveyor belts, work for which the smaller Beagle is not suited. [64]

Beagles are the dog breed most often used in animal testing, due to their size and passive nature. In the United States, as many as 65,000 beagles are used every year for medical, cosmetic, beauty, and other chemical tests. They are purpose bred and live their lives in cages undergoing experiments. [65] The Rescue + Freedom Project (formerly Beagle Freedom Project) has successfully advocated for beagles to be released from labs. This organization has freed hundreds of animals. [66]

Beagles are used in a range of research procedures: fundamental biological research, applied human medicine, applied veterinary medicine, and protection of man, animals or the environment. [67] [68] Of the 8,018 dogs used in testing in the UK in 2004, 7,799 were beagles (97.3%). [69] In the UK, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 gave special status to primates, equids, cats and dogs and in 2005 the Animal Procedures Committee (set up by the act) ruled that testing on mice was preferable, even though a greater number of individual animals were involved. [70] In 2005 beagles were involved in less than 0.3% of the total experiments on animals in the UK, but of the 7670 experiments performed on dogs 7406 involved beagles (96.6%). [67] Most dogs are bred specifically for this purpose, by companies such as Harlan. In the UK companies breeding animals for research must be licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. [70]

Testing of cosmetic products on animals is banned in the member states of the European Community, [71] although France protested the ban and has made efforts to have it lifted. [72] It is permitted in the United States but is not mandatory if safety can be ascertained by other methods, and the test species is not specified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [73] When testing toxicity of food additives, food contaminants, and some drugs and chemicals the FDA uses beagles and miniature pigs as surrogates for direct human testing. [74] Minnesota was the first state to enact a Beagle Freedom adoption law in 2014, mandating that dogs and cats are allowed to be adopted once they have completed research testing. [75]

Anti-vivisection groups have reported on abuse of animals inside testing facilities. In 1997 footage secretly filmed by a freelance journalist inside Huntingdon Life Sciences in the UK showed staff punching and screaming at beagles. [76] Consort Kennels, a UK-based breeder of beagles for testing, closed down in 1997 after pressure from animal rights groups. [77]

Although bred for hunting, Beagles are versatile and are nowadays employed for various other roles in detection, therapy, and as family pets. [27]

Beagles are used as sniffer dogs for termite detection in Australia, [78] and have been mentioned as possible candidates for drug and explosive detection. [79] [80] Because of their gentle nature and unimposing build, they are also frequently used in pet therapy, visiting the sick and elderly in hospital. [81] In June 2006, a trained Beagle assistance dog was credited with saving the life of its owner after using her owner's mobile phone to dial an emergency number. [82] In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a Beagle search and rescue dog with a Colombian rescue squad was credited with locating the owner of the Hôtel Montana, who was subsequently rescued after spending 100 hours buried in the rubble. [83] Beagles were hired by New York City to help with bedbug detection, [84] while the role of such dogs in this type of detection may have doubts. [85]

  • Beagles appeared in funny animalcomic strips and animated cartoons since the 1950s with Courage the Cowardly Dog and the Peanuts character Snoopy was billed as "the world's most famous Beagle". [86][87]
  • Former US President Lyndon Baines Johnson had several beagles, and caused an outcry when he picked up one of them by its ears during an official greeting on the White House lawn. [88]
  • The ship on which Charles Darwin made the voyage which provided much of the inspiration for On the Origin of Species was named HMS Beagle after the breed, and, in turn, lent its name to the ill-fated British Martian lander Beagle 2.
  • An American bred 15 inch male Beagle with the registered name of Ch K-Run's Park Me In First and the pet name of "Uno" won the 2008 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. [89]
  • A Canadian bred 15 inch female Beagle with the registered name of Gr Ch Tashtins Lookin For Trouble and the pet name of "Miss P" won the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. [90]
  • Frodo, awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for animal bravery
  • Uno, who in 2008 became the first Beagle to win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show [91]
  • Miss P, winner of the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show [91]

a. ^ In this article "Beagle" (with a capital B) is used to distinguish the modern breed from other beagle-type dogs.

c. ^ The Harts posed the following question to a panel of 96 experts, half of which were veterinary surgeons and the other half dog obedience trial judges:

A dog may normally be quite calm but can become very excitable when set off by such things as a ringing doorbell or an owner's movement toward the door. This characteristic may be very annoying to some people. Rank these seven breeds from least to most excitable.

d. ^ The specific references in each of the author's works are as follows:
Shakespeare: "Sir Toby Belch: She's a beagle, true-bred, and one that adores me: what o' that?" Twelfth Night (c. 1600) Act II Scene III
Webster: "Mistress Tenterhook': You are a sweet beagle" Westward Ho (1607) Act III Scene IV:2
Dryden: "The rest in shape a beagle's whelp throughout, With broader forehead and a sharper snout" The Cock and the Fox, and again: "About her feet were little beagles seen" in Palamon and Arcite both from Fables, Ancient and Modern (1700)
Tickell: "Here let me trace beneath the purpled morn, The deep-mouth'd beagle, and the sprightly horn" To a Lady before Marriage (published posthumously in 1749)
Fielding: "'What the devil would you have me do?' cries the Squire, turning to Blifil, 'I can no more turn her, than a beagle can turn an old hare.'" The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749) Chapter 7.
Cowper: "For persevering chase and headlong leaps, True beagle as the staunchest hound he keeps" The Progress of Error (1782)
Pope: "Thus on a roe the well-breath'd beagle flies, And rends his hide fresh-bleeding with the dart" The Iliad of Homer (1715–20) Book XV:697–8

Watch the video: Beagle Dog Breed Giving Birth (September 2021).