Where do Beagles come from?

By Valdette Muller| September 4, 2013 | Blog

snoopy - keep looking upWe all know Snoopy, the most famous beagle on earth. In the comic strip, he is a highly evolved beagle who loves root beer and pizza and the most likely place to find him is on the rooftop of his doghouse reading Tolstoy. But beyond the funny pages, the beagle hound as we know them today has evolved from humble beginnings to one of the world’s most loved dog breeds.

Where do they come from?

Beagles have existed for over 2000 years. Ancient hunting dogs were divided into two categories. There were those who were bred to hunt primarily by scent and the others by sight. The Beagle was known as a scent dog.

The actual origins of the breed are uncertain. Some sources claim that ancient Greeks and Romans used small dogs that hunted by scent as far back as 400 B.C. It is the Romans that are thought to have brought them to England in the 1400. They interbred with existing hounds and it was only in 1475 that the word beagle was used to describe this type of hunting dog.

What is in a name?

The jury is still out on where the name Beagle comes from. It is either from a Celtic word meaning small of a French word meaning open mouth or loud mouth. Beagle owners will argue that the latter theory seems more likely, if you take their susceptibility for baying and howling into account. But considering their ancient descent, the term “beagle” was used as a generic term describing small hound dogs. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I kept a breed known as the Pocket Beagle. They were small enough to fit into a saddle bag so that they can ride along on the hunt.

How the breed progressed

The modern breed we know today, though, developed in Great Britain around 1830. Some say they were an offspring of the English foxhound, called the North Country Beagle. Others suggest that modern day Beagles is the mixed offspring of the Talbot, Bloodhound, Greyhound and the Harrier or a combination of these. Since some of these breeds got extinct, it is difficult to trace the exact genetic origin.

One thing is for sure, that beagles were bred to be attractive and capable hunters.

Puppy Beagle

Their great sense of smell and tracking instinct in combination with their repellent coats was a superior combination. They became the favourite hunting dog for English gentleman and they were soon exported to the United State where the breed made it big; they even made it into the White House!

The modern day beagle is a very popular breed and besides having them as pets, they are used by law enforcement to detect illegal drugs and agricultural products because of their strong sense of smell. Even exterminating companies have used them to detect termites.

If only Snoopy had a testimonial this impressive, he wouldn’t have had to read Tolstoy to impress us.

Featured image via Raewan Todd on Pinterest

Images in post via Cathy Lecoutre and Emile Blythe on Pinterest

 

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