Beagles are happy and entertaining dogs that are considered to be great family dogs. They are also known for their frequent vocalizations and high energy levels. They’re hound dogs; all it takes is one look at their droopy ears to give that away.
But were Beagles bred to hunt, or was there a different purpose? Yes! Beagles are absolutely hunting dogs. Read on to learn more about this breed.
Are Beagles Hunting Dogs?
It’s a dead giveaway if you see a Beagle next to its similar-looking but larger hound cousin, the Foxhound. The Beagle is a scent hound originally bred primarily for hare hunting. They are not as fast as many larger hounds, but their small size makes them effective at following prey through the underbrush.
While the origin of these hunting dogs is not clear, they have existed in some form since medieval times. Beagle-type dogs were kept by Queen Elizabeth I, King Edward II, and King Henry VII. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have called her Beagles “singing Beagles,” and the hounds were allowed to roam the court during parties and dinners, often entertaining guests with their antics.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that modern Beagles began to become more specific and distinct as a breed. Prior to that, many small Beagle-like dogs were generally referred to as Beagles. Early modern Beagles existed in smooth-coated and rough-coated varieties, much like Collies. Rough-coated Beagles existed until at least 1969, when a rough-coated Beagle was entered into a dog show. However, rough-coated Beagles have since gone extinct.
Are Beagles Good at Hunting?
Beagles are exceptionally good hunters. They were carefully bred with specific traits that make them suitable hunters, including a compact, strong body and an exceptional sense of smell. They have such a strong sense of smell that many Beagles are employed as scent dogs for drugs, weapons, and most impressively, agricultural imports and restricted foods.
Beagles consistently rank alongside breeds like the Bloodhound in terms of scent capabilities. It’s believed that their long jowls and ears help to trap scents near their nose, making them even more effective hunters. In a 13-year-long study of dog behavior, scent trials were run to determine which breeds had the best sense of smell. In these trials, a mouse was hidden at random in a 1 acre field and dogs of various breeds were timed during their attempts to find the mouse. While Fox Terriers took around 15 minutes to find the mouse and Scottish Terriers could not find it at all, Beagles found the mouse in approximately 1 minute.
Beagles were bred to be hunting dogs and are quite effective at it. Many Beagles are happy not to participate in hunting, but they are active dogs that do best in active homes. Finding ways to keep your Beagle’s brain busy with scent games and puzzles is a great way to increase their intelligence and confidence while allowing them to practice skills that have been ingrained in their breeding.
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