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The Breed Report: The Beagle

Our expert,  Paul M. Howey, is an author, humane educator, and therapy dog volunteer. His book Freckles: The Mystery of the Little White Dog in the Desert is a true story about his dog Freckles and how she was found as a stray in the Sonorah desert in Arizona with her six puppies. Paul currently lives with four dogs, including one beagle and one beagle mix.

Vital Stats

Origin: Beagles are an ancient breed and their history has been debated significantly. Small hunting dogs resembling beagles were described by Greek writer Xenophon in the “Treatise on Hunting” in about 400 BC. The name beagle doesn’t appear in literature until 1475, where it is written as “begle” in the British story “The Squire of Low Degree.” It is unclear whether the beagle is a native Briton or was developed from the Mediterranean hunting dogs that came to the area during the Roman invasions. Today’s beagle was standardized by British and American kennel clubs in the late 19th century.

A.K.A. English Beagle

Average Height: 2 varieties: below 13" and 13" to 15"

Average Weight: 18-31 lbs.

Average Life Span: 11-15 years

Appearance: Beagles are small, sturdy dogs with long ears and straight tails. Most beagles are black, white, and tan tri-colors, though they can also be seen in red and white or occasionally with blue or silver coloring.

Genetic problems: Hyperthyroidism, beagle dwarfism, hip dysplasia, patella luxation, eye problems

The Nose Knows

“The most succinct and accurate overview of beagles is humorist Dave Barry’s observation about his in-laws’ dog: She was ‘a beagle, which means she is, biologically, a nose with feet.’ The most important thing one should know about caring for a beagle is contained in that statement. The safety of your beagle depends upon your respect for his/her nose.” (See “Shelters” below)


“Beagles shed quite a bit. Regular brushing is as important to them as it is to the general condition of your house. If your beagle is prone to dry skin and general itching, I recommend oatmeal shampoos and oil treatments.

“As your beagle ages, be sure to maintain good dental hygiene. Beagles are notorious for having yellowed teeth as senior citizens, and yellowed teeth are often the precursors of more serious tooth and gum problems.”

Children: “Beagles are wonderful with children. Those that are not good with children are usually the product of poor training (or no training at all) and/or poor socialization. Of course, small children should never be permitted to be alone with any pet. I consider it crucial to train your dogs and your children. In all, the beagle’s personality and disposition are delightful complements to those of children!”
Other Animals: “It is my experience that beagles do exceptionally well with other animals. When we’ve brought hurting, abandoned animals into our home, it is our beagle who is the first to welcome them. He ‘invites’ them to share his blanket with him and takes naps with them side-by-side to comfort them.”

While every dog is unique, knowing that one breed likes to herd and another likes to lap-nap may help caretakers provide a better temporary home—and locate the ideal permanent one.

Read other editions of The Breed Report:


“Beagles are adorable but frequently stubborn little students. Beagles respond quite well to training ... unless, of course, there’s something more interesting to smell or play with.

“It’s critical for all dogs to be trained, and that training must be continually reinforced throughout the dogs’ lives. Beagles are no exception. My personal experience tells me not to expect anything approaching perfection.”

“During my years in rescue work, the most common reason for surrender I heard was that the beagle’s barking was causing trouble with the neighbors.”
Adoption: “If a potential adopter is considering a beagle, they need to accept that beagles bark. Beagles love to bark so much that I am convinced they soon forget why they started barking and just continue to bark for the sheer enjoyment of it. A potential adopter should know that their prospective new family member will be a vocal one.

A Note about Beagles in Research
Because of their size and temperament, beagles are used as test subjects in research laboratories. Tests on beagles are conducted for cardiovascular research, drug discovery, and toxicity. Many of these tests can cause the beagles to suffer significant pain and distress. If you would like more information about beagles or other animals in research and how you can help them, visit

“Beagles love to smell things. Their noses control their brains. A beagle will be playing and romping with you in the yard and suddenly stop as a beagle-intriguing aroma passes by his nose. You no longer exist. The game you were playing no longer has any interest. The beagle’s entire existence is now consumed by following the new scent. It is absolutely critical that any potential adopter recognize this inborn trait and accept the responsibility to keep their beagle safe. That means a safe fenced yard in which to play. That means never letting your beagle run free. That means always having your beagle on a leash when out and about.”

Beagles as Hunting Dogs

“A lot of people have beagles as hunting dogs and do not regard them as companion animals. They often keep their beagles in cages unless hunting with them. It is a serious misconception to think that these dogs do not need or deserve affection and attention. Their lives are often spent with their noses pushed against the wire mesh of the cages, hoping, just hoping, that someone will let them out and play with them.”


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