These sturdy and bold little dogs have kindly expressions and are compact and athletic. They have short coats that are dense and weather-resistant and come in a range of colours and patterns (see the breed standard for details). They stand at 33-40cm and weigh around 10-11kg.
Around the mid-16th century, hounds began to be classified according to their purpose, i.e. sight hounds, scent hounds, etc. Around this time a small hound, bred to kill rabbit and hare, was assigned the name 'Begles', a French term meaning 'gape throat.' This referred to the animals' tendency to 'tongue', i.e. bay as a pack. The anglicised version, of course, is 'Beagle'. The breed owes its ancestry to the Foxhound, the Harrier and a small bloodhound known as a 'Kerry Beagle.'
Beagles are good-natured and, as they were bred to be pack animals, will get along with most other dogs. They love children but need to be exposed to cats at an early age in order to develop good relationships with them. The Beagle is a good watchdog, barking at anything unusual, although once the burglar is indoors, the Beagle may prefer a game with him!
Beagles are generally a robust and healthy breed. However as with many breeds, they can suffer from hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important. Epilepsy and a type of meningitis (Beagle pain syndrome) also occur more frequently in this breed.
The Beagle needs a great deal of exercise – around two hours or more a day. Because of his strong hunting instinct, he should not be let off-lead until he's extremely well trained to return when called, or else let out in an enclosed area. One way of keeping your dog well exercised would be to let him utilise his natural scenting talents. Field dog trials are also popular with some Beagle owners.
Small dogs have a fast metabolism, meaning they burn energy at a high rate, although their small stomachs mean that they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.
This breed is easy to keep, requiring a quick brush once a week to remove dead and loose hairs. One slight problem is that Beagles do love to roll in foul smelling material. Luckily, they are quite easy to bathe. The ears should be checked on a regular basis to ensure they are clean and free from infection.