Beagles

Authors

Ellen Parr, harriers@oregonsbest.com
http://www.oregonsbest.com/~harriers/
Sharon Reid, sereid@mi.net

With significant contribution from Claudia Anderson, canderso@teleport.com

Copyright 1995-1998 by Ellen Parr and Sharon Reid.

Version 3.2, updated May 15, 1998

Table of Contents


History

Beagles, as a breed, have been in existence for quite some time, although their precise origins are only vaguely known. Beagle-type dogs are described in documents dating from 400 B.C. Greece and A.D. 200 Britain. The Romans are also thought to have transported to England with them small rabbit hunting hounds and bred them with the local hounds. Talbot Hounds were brought to England from France during the Norman Conquest in 1066 and are considered to be ancestors to the Southern Hound, the Beagle and the Foxhound.

Beagles became quite popular with the British monarchy in the 1300 and 1400's. Edward II and Henry VII both kept packs of Glove Beagles, so named since they were small enough to fit on a glove. Elizabeth I kept packs of Pocket Beagles which were only nine inches high at the withers.

By the 1400's Beagles existed in Britain, Italy, Greece and France. The word "beagle" has two possible origins. It either originates from the Celtic word "beag" which means small or from the French word "begle" meaning "useless or of little value".

By the 1700's two types of hounds existed for hunting rabbits: the Southern Hound and the much quicker North Country Beagle. Since fox hunting was becoming increasingly popular, Beagles were being kept less and less in favour of Foxhounds. Fortunately for the continuing existence of the Beagle, farmers in England, Ireland and Wales continued to keep packs to hunt with.

In the mid 1800's Reverend Phillip Honeywood established his pack in Essex, England which is thought to be the progenitor of the modern Beagle. He was breeding for hunting skills though, not looks. A fellow Englishman, Thomas Johnson, was responsible for breeding lines of Beagles that could hunt and look attractive.

Beagles were imported into the United States in 1876 and accepted as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1884.

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Description

The AKC homepage http://www.akc.org has all the breed standards available via the page. The English Breed Standard follows, please keep in mind that there are some differences. Should you require the American Standard, please contact your local breed club or the AKC.

English Beagle Standard (Revised 1988)

GENERAL APPEARANCE A sturdy, compactly-built hound, conveying the impression of quality without coarseness.

CHARACTERISTICS A merry hound whose essential function is to hunt, primarily hare, by following a scent. Bold, with great activity, stamina and determination. Alert, intelligent, and of even temperament.

TEMPERAMENT Amiable and alert, showing no aggression or timidity.

HEAD AND SKULL Fair length, powerful without being coarse, finer in the bitch, free from frown and wrinkle. Skull slightly domed, moderately wide, with slight peak. Stop well defined and dividing length, between occiput and tip of nose, as equally as possible. Muzzle not snipey, lips reasonably well flewed. Nose broad, preferably black, but less pigmentation permissible in the lighter coloured hounds. Nostrils wide.

EYES Dark brown or hazel, fairly large, not deepset or prominent, set well apart with mild appealing expression.

EARS Long, with rounded tip, reaching nearly to the end of nose when drawn out. Set on low, fine in texture and hanging gracefully close to cheeks.

MOUTH The jaws should be strong, with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e., the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth, and set square to the jaw.

NECK Sufficiently long to enable hound to come down to scent easily, slightly arched and showing little dewlap.

FOREQUARTERS Shoulders well laid back, not loaded. Forelegs straight and upright, well under the hound, good substance, and round in the bone, not tapering off to feet. Pasterns short. Elbows firm, turning neither in or out. Height to elbow about half height at withers.

BODY Topline straight and level. Chest let down to below elbow. Ribs well sprung and extending well back. Short in the couplings but well balanced. Loins powerful and supple, without excessive tuck-up.

HINDQUARTERS Muscular thighs. Stifles well bent. Hocks firm, well let down and parallel to each other.

FEET Tight and firm. Well knuckled up and strongly padded. Not harefooted. Nails short.

TAIL Sturdy, moderately long. Set on high, carried gaily but not curled over back or inclined forward from the root. Well covered with hair, especially on underside.

GAIT/MOVEMENT Back level, firm with no indication of roll. Stride free, long reaching in front and straight without thigh action. Hind legs showing drive. Should not move close behind nor paddle not plait in front.

COAT Short, dense and weatherproof.

COLOUR Any recognized hound colour other than liver. Tip of stern white.

SIZE Desirable minimum height at withers 33cm (13 ins). Desirable maximum height at withers 40cm (16 ins).

*** Please note, in the USA, there are two recognized sizes.
13 inches (Not exceeding 13 inches at the withers.)
15 inches (Not exceeding 15 inches at the withers.)

FAULTS Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

NOTE Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I've heard beagles are hard to train and they are very stubborn. Is this true?

There is no simple answer to this question because, like people, and most other breeds of dogs, individuals do vary. However, in general, most hounds are somewhat more challenging to train. When talking about beagles, it is often said that they "live on their own agenda". This doesn't necessarily make training difficult, it just means you have to find the training method that works for your dog. Most people find that food is the best motivator for beagles. The use of food in training is not accepted by all dog trainers, so when you take your dog to obedience school, it is important to find both an instructor who understands beagles (or scent hounds in general) and is willing to use different methods, depending on what is effective for your beagle. Beagles are actually quite intelligent dogs, and very good problem solvers, which can cause problems in training. They can get bored very quickly with an exercise and find another way to have fun. Which might mean teaching you how to stop a training session.

You should count on having several short training sessions *everyday* for at least the first two years of your dog's life if you want a perfectly obedient dog. There aren't many beagles out there with Obedience titles, but there are some, and it can be done.

If you want a dog that is easily trained to be a 100% reliable dog, don't get a beagle.

*Everyone* says beagles are hard to housebreak, is this true?

As stated above, beagles can be a bit more challenging to train than other breeds, and this can (but not necessarily does) carry over into housetraining.

There are many methods for house-training dogs. Your best bet is to read up on as many methods as possible and to choose the one that will work for you and your dog. You may find that you like one method, but your dog does not respond, don't despair, just try another way.

For many beagle owners, crate-training has proved to be invaluable in house-breaking (as well as other problems such as destructive chewing). Crate training is fairly easy, both on you and the dog, and allows you to establish a schedule, which is very important in house- training. Consistency and vigilance will almost always result in a properly trained dog.

Be warned however, there are some beagles that take up to a year to be fully house-trained, and there are the odd few that are never completely reliable.

What are beagles like with children?

Beagles generally adore children and will play for hours with them, however, like any breed of dog, beagles need to be socialized properly with children, and also like any breed, you should never leave young children and beagles alone together. If socialized properly and supervised properly, you shouldn't have any problems. However, there are two things you should be aware of. First off, beagles play rambunctiously and can accidentally hurt younger children. Secondly, beagles are often "mouthy", which means they like to play with their mouths, or chew on things. This is not biting, but rather grabbing on to things with their mouth, it is not done in anger or fear, but is for beagles, a way to play. This can of course be trained out of them, but it seems to be rather instinctive in many beagles and something that you should be aware of when considering a beagle.

Do beagles shed? Do they require regular grooming?

Yes, beagles shed. Don't be fooled by the short coat, however, the shedding is sometimes not as noticeable because the hairs they shed are so much shorter. The Beagle's coat is actually classified as a medium length, as opposed to a breed like a Doberman, which is a short coated breed. Also, the coat is a double-coat, meaning that they have a coarser outer coat and a soft undercoat. They will generally shed more in the spring, as their coats tend to thicken over the winter. This isn't necessarily due to climate. Dogs hair growth is dependent more on how much light there is as opposed to the cold. In the winter, there is less day-light and this encourages hair growth. However, Beagles will also go through a shed in the Fall as well as the spring. Beagles should be brushed with a medium bristled brush or a hound glove at least once a week. This will help loosen and remove dead hair and allow for new hair growth, as well as being good for the skin. A product called 'Zoom Groom' is also very popular with many Beagle owners.

Beagles are fairly clean dogs and as long as they aren't rolling in really-nice-dead-things, they don't require frequent baths. However, if you are trying to control fleas, you may be bathing more often.

Because beagles have ears that hang, their ears must be checked at least every two weeks for any sign of infection or waxy build-up. There are many ear washes you can get from your vet that will help clean out the ears. If you ever notice odor from your dog's ears, it is likely that the dog has a yeast build-up or some other kind of infection and may need stronger treatment. Other signs of ear infections are constant head shaking, scratching at the ears, and scratching just below the ears.

Do beagles bark, or otherwise make noise, a lot?

Beagles do not tend to be 'yappy' dogs, however, they can and will bark when given the right stimulation. Most will bark/growl when strange dogs/people/things-you-can't-see come in their territory. They will also bark when excited, although this varies from dog to dog. Most beagles will become very vocal if they are left alone a lot. Some beagles can be extremely vocal, although this can vary by individual as to amount of vocalization and type.

Beagles can also howl, this sound was useful in hunting as it would alert the hunters when the beagles had cornered their prey. Again, not all beagles will howl, but you should be prepared for the possibility.

A third noise beagles can make is hard to describe, kind of like a half-howl, called baying. Beagles will often make this noise when they catch the scent of something, again, this was useful in hunting.

The amount of any barking/howling/etc will always vary from dog to dog. If you want your dog to be quiet, you can train them to be. But again, when training beagles, patience is the key, it could take several months for your dog to understand the 'quiet' command. Some beagles never do understand the idea that you want them to be quiet, and if this is a necessity for you, you may want to consider another breed, or more radical training methods such as anti-bark collars, or to have the dog surgically altered.

What colors do Beagles come in?

The most common color you will see is called tricolor. It means a black saddle, white legs, chest, and belly, with a tan head, and often around the edges of the saddle. Many dogs have a white blaze on their face, but a solid tan face is common too. Tricolor puppies are born black and white, the tan develops as the puppy gets older.

Red and White: There is no black at all, and the red can range from a light tan to a darker red. These puppies are born as red and whites, or sometimes even a solid white, with the color developing later.

Lemon and White: The lemon varies from an off-white, to a dark lemon. These puppies are often born completely white, with the color developing later.

Black and White: Very rare.

With all of these colors, you can have freckling, mottling, ticking, and grizzling. Occasionally, an all white hound appears, but this is very very rare. These are not albinos, simply white dogs.

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Personality and Temperament

When looking for a companion in your life, it is very important to understand the personality, temperament, and traits of that companion. For most dogs, their temperament is based on the purpose for which they were bred. Beagles are scent hounds, bred to track prey over the country side. This makes them energetic, independent, outgoing, and sometimes, stubborn dogs, as they wish to follow something to it's conclusion. There is no difference in temperament in the two varieties of Beagles (13 inch and 15 inch).

Beagles that were bred in puppy mills can often be extremely difficult to housetrain, due to the fact that they are kept in very unclean conditions. When examining a litter, how clean the mother is helps to determine how easily housebroken the puppies will be. Another reason to buy a dog from a responsible, ethical breeder.

Beagles were also bred and kept in packs. This has resulted in a near genetic need for companionship. If they don't get it from another dog, they will demand it from you. This is not to say that a lone Beagle will be underfoot, begging for attention all the time, but they will require a substantial amount of your time in play and companionship. If they are not given enough stimulation from their 'pack', they will find ways to amuse themselves and this can mean trouble! The list of what some beagles have eaten/chewed/destroyed is astonishing!

Beagles do not make good 'outside' dogs, especially if you only have one. Again, they need to be kept occupied and if regularly left in a backyard, they will usually start digging, barking, and looking for ways to get out and have fun. If you are dedicated to walking them in the morning before work and spending lots of time with them when you get home, they should be able to handle spending the day in a securely fenced backyard, however, most Beagle owners keep their dogs inside while gone. For many reasons, including possibility of theft, escape, or torment by neighborhood children/dogs, having a secure indoor place for your Beagle is the best bet.

As stated in the frequently asked questions section, the Beagle's independent and stubborn nature makes obedience training a necessity and a challenge. Be sure to get into some kind of training routine early in your Beagle's life. If you attend obedience classes, make sure your instructor understands the hound personality. Beagles require a firm trainer , but not a physical one. Beagles neither respect, nor acknowledge physical force.

Beagles have loads of energy and are well-suited to someone who likes to take long walks. Beagles can be kept successfully in apartments, however, you must be extremely dedicated in taking your dog out for regular walks. Bred to run cross-country in pursuit of rabbits and foxes, they don't mind going for long runs. Keep in mind however, that, you should wait until the dog is at least a year old before starting any running program and you should start slowly. Talk to your vet for more information on running with your dog.

Because Beagles were bred as a pack animal, they generally get along well with other dogs, and often, cats. Beagles should not be aggressive towards other dogs, however, they will protect their territory, usually, this means just growling and other posturing. More often than not, your Beagle will end up playing with the intruder as opposed to fighting with it. Beagles should *never ever* be aggressive towards humans, however, due to their independent nature, they can sometimes try to be dominant over you. You should not allow this and if you are having problems, see a good dog trainer on how to correct it.

Beagles generally adore children, if they are socialized properly with them. Small children and dogs should never be left unsupervised, but in general, you will find that Beagles make wonderful companions for kids and adults alike.

When looking for a Beagle, you need to be sure to go to a reputable, responsible breeder. Beagles are one of the top puppy mill dogs because they produce such adorable puppies. Dogs from puppy mills, usually those purchased in a pet store, can be extremely timid and/or aggressive. In addition, they can suffer from numerous health problems. Please read the section on genetic problems for more in depth information on the problems poorly bred Beagles can suffer from. Please also see the section on Responsible Breeders to aid you in your search.

Overall, Beagles are fun-loving, happy dogs, and as long as you understand the Beagle personality, they can make a great addition to your family. One Beagle owner was heard to say that "Beagles belong in Disneyland, they are the happiest dogs on earth."

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Genetic Disorders

Beagles, like all breeds, should be bred carefully and by knowledgeable people to help minimize hereditary disorders. Some disorders that are found in Beagles are:

Eye Disorders

Cherry Eye -- Very Common
swelling of the gland of the third eyelid
Glaucoma
increase in fluid pressure inside the eye
Cataracts
clouding of the eye lens
Retinal Dysplasia
folding or displacement of the retina, may lead to blindness
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
cells of the retina deteriorate over time causing blindness 

Other Disorders

Epilepsy -- Very Common
brain dysfunction resulting in seizures
Elongated Soft Palate
soft palate at the back of the throat is elongated and interferes with the larynx
Hypothyroidism -- Very Common
Dysfunction of the thyroid gland, causing numerous clinical signs including wieght gain poor hair coat, reprodcutive problems and more.
Cleft Lip and Palate
opening between oral and nasal cavities, can impede pup from nursing
Monorchidism
one testicle does not descend
Cryptorchidism
both testicles do not descend
Intervertebral Disc Disease
degeneration of the intervertebral discs, causing severe neck and back pain
Pulmonic Stenosis
heart defect, may cause heart failure
Kidney Failure
Bladder Cancer

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What to look for in a Responsible Breeder

Author: Lisa Frankland

Starting the Search:

Responsible Breeders DO:

Responsible Breeders DO NOT:

Phrases to be aware of in breeder's ads:

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References and Recommended Reading

Although there are many books on the market about Beagles, the best reference you can find is The New Beagle. You can get great information from other books, but The New Beagle is the all around handbook.

  • Musladin, Judith M. et al, The New Beagle: A Dog for All Seasons, 1998, Macmillian General. ISBN 0-87605-028-3
  • Musladin, Judith, Musladin, A.C. and Lueke, Ada. The New Beagle, 1990, Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-025-9.
  • AKC, The Complete Dog Book, 1992, Howell Book House. ISBN 0-87605-464-5.
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    Email Listservers

    There are currently (as of September, 1995) two email listservers where discussion of Beagles is welcomed.

    Instructions on joining both groups follows.

    Noses-L

    To subscribe to NOSES-L, send email to: listserv@apple.ease.lsoft.com. In the body of the message include the single line:

    subscribe NOSES-L yourfirstname yourlastname

    NOSES-L is currently an open list, which means that all requests to subscribe and unsubscribe are processed by the listserver. You may subscribe or unsubscribe from the list at any time.

    Ibarc:

    To subscribe to I-BARC, send email to: listserv@apple.ease.lsoft.com. In the body of the message include the single line:

    subscribe I-BARC yourfirstname yourlastname

    I-BARC is currently an open list, which means that all requests to subscribe and unsubscribe are processed by the listserver. You may subscribe or unsubscribe from the list at any time.

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    Publications

    Show Beagle Quarterly, P.O. Box 2340, Redlands, CA 92373, $15.00/year.

    The Rabbit Hunter, P.O. Box 244, Hoskinston, KY, 40844-0244

    Hounds and Hunting, P.O. Box 372, 554 Derrick Road, Bradford, PA, 16701

    Better Beagling, P.O. Box 142, Essex VT 05451

    The Small Pack Option Magazine, P.O. Box 718, Whitney Point, NY 13862

    BONE (Beagle Obedience Network Excellent) Denise Nord, 14605 34th Avenue #317, Plymouth, MN 55447 dmnbgl@usinternet.com

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    Beagle FAQ
    Ellen Parr, harriers@oregonsbest.com
    Sharon Reid, sereid@mi.net

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