The Beagle originates from England and is a dog of medium size – it has short legs which affords it the title of the smallest of the Scent Hound Dogs. It was originally bred to hunt small game such as rabbits and hares. Most Beagles were used in packs – making a loud, deep baying noise alerting hunters to their location.
As a pet the Beagle is cheerful, alert, energetic, and loves to be part of the family.
The Beagle’s ancestors date back as far as the Greeks who were known to hunt with packs of dogs. The Romans were no doubt responsible for the spread of this type of breed throughout the realms of the Roman Empire. The history of England is long and colourful and is highly influenced by the French, and the French language. This occurred during events such as the Norman Invasion of 1066 and it will come as a revelation to many that the only spoken language of the famed English King, Richard the Lionheart, was in fact French. It is therefore no surprise that many French words have found their way into the basis of the English language – beagle being a prime example. Beagle is derived from â€œBegleâ€ a French term meaning â€˜gape throatâ€™ referred to the animals tendency to bay making what has been described as the the bloodcurdling “beagle music”.
The Beagles are a scent hunting dog, used by hunters on foot, and they are the perfect size for trailing and back trailing their normal quarry of rabbits and hares. Although famed for hunting in packs, of between 12 and 24 dogs, the Beagle’s size made it popular with commoners and poachers. The size of the Beagle varied through different strains which were dependent on the hunting terrain – the smaller Beagle Hound was suited to the open fields whereas the larger Beagle was better suited to the hills. The smallest strain of Beagle measured standing at just 10 inches high and could be carried in a saddle bag or even about the hunter’s person as the nickname â€œPocket Beagleâ€ implies.
Their prowess as scent hounds have found the Beagle new employment in the modern day – they are used as ‘sniffer’ dogs for drug and contraband detection.
References to the Beagle appear before the 19th century in works by such writers as William Shakespeare, John Webster, John Dryden, Thomas Tickell, Henry Fielding and William Cowper, and in Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad.
Beagles appeared in comic strips and animated cartoons from the 1950s with the Peanuts character Snoopy (billed as the “the world’s most famous Beagle”), Odie from the comic strip Garfield, Walt Disney’s Beagle Boys and Beegle Beagle, the constant companion of Hanna-Barbera’s Grape Ape. Also as Gromit, from Wallace and Gromit.
They have appeared in numerous films, taking a central role in Cats and Dogs, and the title roles in the adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s book Shiloh and the live-action version of Underdog. They have played supporting roles in films including Audition, The Monster Squad Chungking Express and The Royal Tenenbaums, and on television in Star Trek: Enterprise and The Wonder Years.
Bagel, one of Barry Manilow’s two Beagles, appeared on several of his album covers. 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.