Working Wednesday: The Beagle
The Beagle is the smallest of British Hounds and were originally bred to hunt hare, followed on foot which appealed to people who couldn't follow larger hounds on horseback. Queen Elizabeth kept a pack of miniature Beagles that were so small they could be carried in a saddle pocket, the miniatures have become less popular in the UK but are excelling in the USA.
Beagle Fun Facts:
Beagles are well known as being very vocal dogs and their name even translates to "loudmouth" - 'bee gueule' is 'wide throat' in French, however more literally translates to loudmouth!
All pure-bred Beagles will have white in their tail, whether it is a few hairs or a fully white tail. If a 'beagle' has no white on the tail it is most likely a crossbreed.
They aren't usually a dog for just one, as they enjoy being part of a pack/large family.
Beagles are thought to have been around since as far back as 500 BC.
Alongside the Bloodhound and Basset Hound, the Beagle has one of the best developed senses of smell of any dog.
Similar type of dogs can be traced back to Ancient Greece around the 5th Century BC and have been referred to as small hounds hunting hares that can be followed on foot which is similar to today's description.
In the 11th Century, William the Conqueror brought the Talbot Hound to Britain which was a predominantly white, slow and big throated scent hound which descended from the St. Hubert Hound - developed in the 8th Century. At some point these were crossed with Greyhounds to give them a boost of speed as they were slow dogs previous. However now the Talbot is long extinct their strain is included in the Southern Hound which is thought to be an ancestor of the modern day Beagle.
The modern breed developed hen Reverend Phillip Honeywood established a Beagle pack in the 1830's. This pack is believed to have formed the basis for the modern breed. Although the details of the breeding hadn't been recorded it is thought that the North Country Beagles and Southern Hounds were strongly represented in the breeding, and Harriers formed the majority of the Bloodline.
Honeywood is seen as responsible for the creation of the breed however he only focused on producing dogs for hunting and it was Thomas Johnson who refined the dogs to produce ones that were both attractive and capable workers. This led to two strains, the rough-coated and smooth-coated, the rough survived until the 20th century but is now extinct as they weren't popular enough so were absorbed by the smooth coated.
By 1887 the threat of extinction was raised as there were 18 Beagle packs left. The Beagle Club was formed in 1890 with the first standard drawn up. The following year the association of masters of Harriers and Beagles was formed, both organisations aimed to improve the breed and increase numbers. By 1902 the number of packs rose to 44.
Beagles were primarily developed for the activity known as Beagling - which is hunting hares. They were seen as great hunting companions for elderly/young/poorer hunters that couldn't maintain a good stable of horses and had smaller ponies. Beagling has always been used for excitement and thrill as they are much smaller than most other hounds they are used for the adrenaline of a chase rather than kill. Beagle packs run close together rather than widely spread and continue to work as a team throughout the whole event and no dogs lost astray.
In thick undergrowth they used to be the preferred dog rather than today's common Spaniel when hunting for pheasants. After this, they fell out of favour for hare chasing, however still enjoyed rabbiting. This is now preferred as they are easily heard over long distances and can easily enter thick cover, their somewhat wire-haired coat helps protect them in cover.