Breed Group:
Hound Dogs

Middle Age: 5 years

Senior Age: 7 years

Geriatric Age: 10 years

Life Span: 10 to 14 years

Beagle Characteristics & Breed Background

  • Hare hunting was popular in England by the 14th Century. Larger Harriers were initially the breed of choice but an even smaller dog that hunters could more easily follow on foot was desired, so Harriers were probably bred down in size to create the Beagle.
  • The name Beagle was only used starting in 1475, but its origin is controversial. It may come from the old French “be’geule,” meaning “gape throat” and referring to its baying voice. Or it may be from Old English “begele” or Celtic “beag,” meaning small.
  • By the 1800s they came in several sizes. The “pocket-size,” only about 9 in. tall, was even easier for slow people to follow and became especially popular. That size no longer exists.
  • Beagles were in America by the 1600s. However, the modern American Beagles descend from later post-Civil War imports from England.
  • Beagles were one of the first breeds to be AKC recognized. In the 1880s, the first full decade of AKC existence, they were among the ten most popular breeds in America. They have stayed near the top ever since.
  • Family: The AKC places the Beagle in the Hound group. It is a member of the scenthound family, those hounds that trail their prey by scent.

Body:

  • Beagles look like small Harriers, which in turn look like small Foxhounds.
  • They are square bodied with moderate bone, a sturdy four-square stance, a strong but moderately proportioned head—in short, a breed of moderation rather than exaggeration.
  • The AKC recognizes two varieties: 13 inch (13 inches and under); and 15 inch (over 13 inches but under 15 inches). Both types were developed so that hunters could follow them on foot.
  • The deep muzzle allows abundant room for olfactory receptors. Beagles are noted for their sense of smell.
  • The melodious bay is an essential part of the breed, enabling hunters to follow the dogs even when obscured by deep cover.

Beagle Temperament & Personality

  • Beagles were bred to run in packs with other Beagles. Fighting would have been so disruptive that offenders would not have been tolerated or bred from. Thus, Beagles are known for their easy-going temperament.
  • This also means that Beagles were not bred to be loners, and they need other dogs or people for companionship.
  • Their tolerant personality makes them ideal children’s pets.
  • However, like all hounds, they live for the hunt and are very independent . They are apt to catch a scent and just run off after it, oblivious to pleas to return.
  • They can be very clever and some are escape artists.
  • They are quite vocal.
  • They love to eat!

Maintenance:

  • Coat care consists of brushing once a week.
  • They are low to moderate shedders.

Activities:

  • Beagles are fairly energetic and need to go on a walk around the neighborhood or a good run daily.
  • They do tend to wander off if they find an interesting scent, and when on a scent can be oblivious to calls to return. Thus they should only be let loose in a very safe area.
  • They make good jogging partners, but not for marathons.
  • They can be good hiking companions, but because of enticing scents, should hike on leash.
  • They are pleasant dog park attendees.
  • They like toys, but may not bring them back!
  • They are not great obedience or agility competitors because they are easily distracted by scents.
  • They can compete in a variety of Beagle field trial competitions.

Beagle Training Information:

  • Beagles are naturally amiable but still need socialization.
  • They can be stubborn but there is little that a tasty treat can’t entice them to do!
  • Keep training sessions lively to prevent the nose from wandering to the ground.

Beagle Health Problems and Longevity

Typical Beagle lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

  • Beagles have a higher rate of hip dysplasia than most dogs their size, with 18% reported abnormal.
  • Intervertebral disc disease, which is best known in dwarf and long-backed dogs, is also surprisingly common in Beagles. This causes back pain and in severe cases, paralysis.
  • The gene for degenerative myelopathy, the canine equivalent of Lou Gehrig’s disease, has been reported in about 20% of Beagles DNA tested.
  • Beagles have a high rate of inherited autoimmune hypothyroidism, in which the body’s antibodies destroy thyroid cells. Almost 17% test positive for thyroid autoantibodies.
  • Distichiasis, is which eye lashes are oriented inward toward the cornea, causing corneal irritation, is present in 17% of Beagles reported.
  • Beagles have a very high rate of periodontal disease.
  • Chinese Beagle Syndrome (Musladin-Leuke Syndrome, or MLS) is a hereditary disease found in Beagles in which the bones, skin, muscle and heart are affected. They have very tight skin, with slanted eyes, high ear sets and because their tendons contract, the dogs walk on their toes. Affected dogs live a normal lifespan. A DNA test is available.
  • Beagles have a hereditary form of dwarfism (chondrodystrophy). They have shortened legs that twist so the paws point to the sides, short neck, broad head and chronic arthritis. Although a DNA test is not yet available there may be one in the near future.
  • Beagles have an increased incidence of seizures.
  • They have an increased incidence of bladder and urethral tumors compared to other breeds.
  • Some predominantly white Beagles are deaf in one or both ears due to pigment related deafness seen in dogs with extreme piebald pattern.
  • Beagles have a higher incidence of a type of kidney disease called renal amyloidosis compared to dogs of other breeds.
  • Other disorders seen in Beagles at a slightly elevated rate include pulmonic stenosis, cherry eye, diabetes mellitus (females only), allergies and beagle pain syndrome (juvenile polyarteritis).

The National Beagle Club suggests the following tests:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye exam
  • MLS (Chinese Beagle Syndrome) DNA test
  • Heart exam (optional)
  • Thyroid exam (optional)

Related Links:

National Beagle Breed Club

Beagle Rescue