Snoopy, Shiloh, Garfield's Odie, and Gromit are some of the most famous canines in today's pop culture. They also all happen to be the same type of dog – the Beagle.

Breed History

Beagles have been around at least since the 15th century and their ancestors are believed to have come from hounds brought to Great Britain with William the Conqueror in the eleventh century. The origin of the name “beagle” isn't truly known, but similar words for “small” or “loud-mouth” exist in the French, Welsh, German, and Celtic languages. Interest in the breed died out in the 1700's until the first beagles were brought to the United States in 1876 and the breed was registered in 1884.

Physical Description

The stereotypical beagle is usually tricolor, meaning white with large brown and black spots, but they can be found in many other colors. In addition to the tricolor form, they are also found in red and white, brown and white, and light tan and white. Very rarely some solid color beagles or beagles with a ticked pattern can be found. The color can also change as the beagle matures; browns can take up to two years to fully develop. In any color, the coat is a “double-coat” that will shed, usually more heavily in the Spring. Beagles are fairly small, between 18 and 30 pounds, and are usually divided between two size classes within this range. Beware of a breeder selling “pocket beagles”. This small medieval variety has long been extinct and the name “pocket beagles” is not recognized by any organization as a true breed. It may be a sign of poor breeding practices and more possible health conditions later in life.


This breed is first and foremost a hunting hound. They have historically been used to hunt rabbits and hares using their very strong sense of smell. Never take a beagle off a leash; they will start tracking a scent determinedly, possibly out of your sight or into traffic and danger. Animal control organizations pick up hundreds of beagles every year who have wandered away from their owners. Their determination and “wanderlust” also make them difficult to train. Start basic obedience training early in puppies, but even older dogs can be trained – it just takes more effort. This behavior gets especially bad if the beagle is bored. They are pack animals and are happiest when they have lots of attention or another dog to keep them company. Since they are hounds raised to hunt small furry things like rabbits, they don't usually get along too well with cats or other small furry pets like hamsters.

Beagles come with another good news/bad news clause, other than their perseverance for the hunt. Good news: they don't bark. Bad news: they howl. Very loudly. Beagles were bred to howl when hunting their prey so their owners could follow the sound (called “tonguing”) but in a modern home this means they howl when a squirrel is in the backyard, when the mailman walks past the front door, as they beg for food, or when they are bored or home alone. It is hard to train them to not howl or bay since its part of their natural behavior. If you plan on being away from home all day (or longer), it would be a good idea to find someone to dog-sit or make sure your beagle has a friend to play with and no views of the backyard where he might see some “prey”.

Health and Care Considerations

Like any other breed, there are some medical conditions that beagles are more susceptible to regardless of breeding. Their floppy ears can trap moisture, possibly causing ear infections. Keeping the ears clean and dry will help avoid these infections. Beagles can also be vulnerable to eye infections and epilepsy, as well as obesity and diet related hip dysplasia. They don't require much grooming to keep their coat healthy; usually weekly brushing and the occasional bath as needed is all that is necessary.

Beagles are not quiet dogs to let sit placidly on your lap. They are energetic, playful, and attention-loving animals. They love children and company and have long been working dogs used for search animals and therapy animals as well as family pets and cultural icons. If you have the time and energy to devote to a smaller dog, look for a beagle near you needing a home. Reputable breeders and rescue organizations likely have a few beagles looking for good homes in your area.