The Beagle is a small to medium-sized member of the Hound Group and is very similiar in appearance to the Foxhound, save shorter legs and longer, softer ears. Orginally developed to track wild hare, the Beagle has an accutely developed scence of smell and is considered to be a scent hount. The Beagles olfactory prowess when combined with its exceptionaly friendly personality, eagerness to learn and diminuitive non intimidating size have made the breed the ideal choice for employment as both drug and contraband detection dogs.
The true origin of the Beagle, like that of many ancient breeds has been forever lost to time. Shrouded in mystery, there is no shortage of theories to explain the birth of the breed. Some place the conception of the Beagle around the 15th century in the time of King Henry VIII, while others place it thousands of years before, citing the Cynegeticus of the Elder Xenophon, son of Gryllus who lived from 430 – 354 BC. This document; a treatise on hunting includes a coursing guide, or guide to hunting rabbits with dogs, and makes reference to small Celtic hounds called Segusians which were used to hunt hare on foot. Five hundred years later, his work would be expanded upon in the ‘Cynegeticus' of Arrian (another comprehensive treatise on hunting), written around 150 A.D, Arrian considered his work to be a supplement to that of Xenephon's. Of these little hounds Arrian states:
“These dogs are called Segusians, deriving their name from a Celtic people, amongst whom, I suppose, they were first bred, and held in repute. But all that can be said about them has been anticipated by the elder Xenophon. For they manifest nothing different from others in their mode of finding, or hunting their game ; — having no peculiarity, unless one were inclined to speak of their shape, which I scarce think worth while, except merely to say, that they are shaggy and ugly ; and such as are most high-bred are most unsightly. So that the comparison of them to mendicants (beggers) on the highways is popular with the Celts. For their voice is dolorous (painful to the ears) and pitiful; and they do not bark on scent of their game, as if eager and savage, but as if plaintively whining after it. About these, then, I do not think anything memorable can be written.”
It should be noted that Arrian’s opinions of these early hounds is biased; as his sport of choice was coursing and his apparent distain for these little hounds probably had more to do with his love of the much faster early Greyhound, than with the actual short comings of Segusian beagles. Originally written in Latin, Arrian’s work was translated to English in 1831 by William Dansey; who added his own thoughts at the bottom of each page. In translating the above passage, Dansey makes a comparison to Beagles mentioned by 15th century English Poet Gervase Markham:
“It is to Gervase Markham, our " English master of economical philosophy," as Wase calls him, that we are indebted for the fullest description of “the little beagle, which may be carried in a man's glove;" — " bred," says Gervase, " for delight only, being of curious scents, and passing cunning in their hunting, for the most part tiring, but seldome killing the prey, except at some strange advantage." " Their musicke is very smalle, like reeds, and their pace Countrey like their body, only for exercise, and not for slaughter."
The Segusian dog mentioned by Arrian, in the third chapter of his Treatise on Coursing, as a sorry brute, quick-scented, with a pitiful and dolorous whine, instead of bark — rough and unsightly, and the more high-bred the more ugly — I believe to be identical with the last variety The Segusians are the bigles of the present day--perhaps the bassets, a small variety of terrier-beagle, used in rabbit-hunting.”
If the dogs mentioned by the Elder Xenophon and later Arrian are in fact Beagles, it would make the breed one of the oldest known, and the likely ancestor of many modern hounds. There is, however, no evidence to support this; save the readers interpretation of what was meant by a whiney Celtic dog that hunted rabbits by scent, not by sight. It is more likely that the dogs described were some generic indigenous hound type quite a bit larger than the modern Beagle. Probably closer in appearance to the much larger Kerry Beagle, which is believed to have stood 22 to 24 inches tall and is known to have been present in Ireland since Celtic times. Whatever breed the authors were actually referring to, it is likely that is was the progenitor to a variety of later hounds to include the Beagle as we know it today.
Additionally much of the confusion can likely be attributed to the naming conventions of the time, which labeled dogs according to the job they performed or the region from which they originated. Thus any number of individual breeds could have been labeled as Beagles, regardless of whether they were physically similar or not. Much in the same way that breeds like the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Curly Coated Retriever, Flat-Coated Retriever and a variety of Spaniels, Setters and Pointers were all at one time called a Retriever, simply because they could retrieve.
There is also confusion surrounding the origin of the breed’s name. Some assert that it is from the French word bugler or buegler (meaning "to bellow") or perhaps begueule (meaning "open throat" from bayer "open wide" and gueule "mouth"); while others claim it could be from an Old English, French, or the Gaelic word beag (meaning "little"); or the German begele (meaning "to scold"). Dansey believes it could even have derived from the ancient word bigla (meaning “guardhouse” or “police station”), which later through the natural process of language mutation became the Latin vigilia (meaning “vigilant” or “watchful”). It’s true origin, however, like the breed of the dogs mentioned in the Cynegeticus, shall remain a matter of speculation.
Author William Drury in “British dogs, their points, selection, and show preparation” written in 1903 points to the Beagles existence during the time of King Canute:
“Then we find the Forest Laws of King Canute prohibit dogs within the Royal Forests, "except the Velterer, which the English call Langehren [long eared], for manifestly they be too small to do harm to the King's deer." Evidently there was a well-known, popular breed in existence used in the forests, long of ear and too small to injure the deer. We may believe it to be the Beagle—at all events, such evidence as there is points to the Britons being assisted in the chase by a small breed of hounds admired and coveted by the Romans.”
He goes on to suggest the now extinct Talbot as the likely progenitor for the breed:
“It is quite possible that the "Talbot" is the progenitor of all our modern scent-hunting hounds. He may have been the "Langehren "; and as forest lands were cleared, he was bred faster and larger, becoming the " Talbot," and eventually the " Foxhound," On the other hand, to suit a thick and uncleared country, where he had to be followed on foot, small strains were doubtless carefully preserved to track and push out the game from the dense coverts. Care was naturally taken to develop their scenting powers to the highest pitch of perfection, and as it must always have been important to know where they were, great attention was naturally paid to voice. So we may get the delightful and ready music of a pack of Beagles.”
Drury’s opinion shares those of earlier authors like Delabere Pritchett’s whose 1840 work “An encyclopaedia of rural sports….”, also proposed the Talbot to be the progenitor of the breed:
“The talbot ( C. tagax Linn.) is supposed to be the original stock from whence all the varieties of the scent hunting hounds are derived. His own descent is, however, not so certain, although we have ventured to hold out the probability, that he is only a modified and lessened type of the bloodhound of early times. Few genuine specimens of the talbot now remain: we ourselves remember to have seen two only. . . . It remains, therefore, to state our conviction, that the staghound or foxhound, the harrier, the small harrier or beagle, and the otterhound, are but cultivated modifications of the talbot, whose effigy is tolerably preserved in the few remaining specimens of the old southern hound. These varieties all own the common property of degenerating when removed from the temperate parts of Europe, to which they are indigenous, and consequently may be considered as canine patricians.”
What is known is that from the 5th century up through the 15th, the name ‘Beagle’ was used to describe any number of small hounds; all of which are believed to have differed considerably from the modern breed. Entering the 16th century it becomes apparent that concerted breeding efforts had led to smaller more specialized types of hounds known as Beagles that had become popular with the nobility of the time; although still far from a uniform type. The 1868 zoological book "The Living World” tells of tiny Beagles that were popular with Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603):
“In Queen Elizabeth's reign was bred a race so small that a complete cry of them could be carried out to the field in a pair of panniers (saddle bags). That princess had little singing Beagles which could be placed in a man's glove! At present they are about twelve or fourteen inches at the shoulders, stout and compact in make, with long ears, and either marked with a bright streak or spot of white about the neck, on a dark brown coat, or white, with spots like the Harrier-, of black and rafous. They are slow, but persevering, and are sufficiently sure of killing their game.”
There is also the 17th century reference to Beagles in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” written around 1601; where the Beagle is mentioned twice:
Scene III. Olivia’s house- " She's a beagle, true bred," says the admirable Sir Toby of Maria; and in 'Timon' the misanthrope says to Alcibiades of Phrynia and Timandra— " Get thee away, And take thy Beagles with thee."
In viewing the work of Shakespeare, one can only but speculate as to what was meant by a “true bred” Beagle; as during and after this time it appears as though there were a great many types of Beagle. There were the small Beagles enjoyed by King James I (1566-1625), who is reported to have enjoyed using a pack to hunt hare. There were the Beagles of King George IV (1762-1830), who of the two types available at the time: the rough-coated or smooth-coated; preferred hunting with the latter; who while the Prince of Wales is said to have enjoyed hunting with a pack of dwarf Beagles which he used to hunt on the Brighton Downs. Colonel Thornton, a celebrated sportsman and early breeder of what he termed as "Lap Dog Beagles" wrote of them:
"Naturally I inspected the Prince of Wales's kennels, and particularly his Dwarf Beagles, which were originally of the same breed as my own. The Prince's Beagles were of much larger growth than mine and more mixed; but it is a rule with me to get the most stuff in the least room. The Beagle, in point of height, should be regulated by the country he is to hunt in; but he ought, at any rate, to be very slow. In a dry country free from walls he cannot be too slow: in the country where my pack hunt the turf is like velvet—a circumstance much in their favour; but the Prince's Beagles, in point of speed, are all too fast."
Throughout the entirety of the 19th century notable canine authorities and authors describe a wide range of Beagles. Sydenham Edwards work the “Cynographia britannica” of 1800 describes two types:
"Of the hound tribe the Beagle is the least, and is only used for the purpose of hare hunting. Their method of finding is very similar to the Harrier, but they are far inferior in point of swiftness ; yet to those sportsmen who hunt in a dry and enclosed country, where the coverts are not too large and strong, and who delight in unravelling the intricate mazes of the doubling hare, more than in the death, they afford no inconsiderable degree of amusement.
"The varieties are generally distinguished by the parts where they are bred, as the Southern Beagle, bearing a strong resemblance to the slow, deep-mouthed Southern Hound, but much smaller ; the Northern Beagle which is lighter formed, with shorter ears, and swifter. A cross between these two is esteemed preferable to either.
" The Southern Beagles are smooth-haired, with long ears, and generally so loosely formed that they cannot for a continuance be hunted in a heavy country without being crippled. Besides which they have frequently some very great faults in a hound, as crooked legs, tailing or lagging behind when they begin to tire, or are too small.
" The Northern, which are commonly wire-haired, straight-limbed, and better formed in their shoulders and haunches, endure bad weather and long exercise with less inconvenience than the Southern. They hunt hedge-rows, thread the brakes, and runset " (i. e., follows the hare through the mews or opening in the hedges which she passes backwards and forwards through) " with the hare with great spirit, but it is evident to the most common observer that neither of them are calculated to bear much fatigue.
" Beagles, like other hounds, are of various colours, and preferred as the fancy of the owner dictates. In height about twelve inches, and are hunted and treated in the same manner as the Harrier.
" The term Beagle has been indiscriminately used by many for the Harrier and the Beagle but it is now wholly confined to the latter. They are seldom crossed with others unless to diminish their size, and are apt to challenge any scent when hot, even that of birds."
In 1879, John Henry Walsh (better known as Stonehenge) wrote of three additional types in “The Dogs of Great Britain, America and Other Countries”:
“In external form the beagle resembles the southern hound, but is much more compact and elegant in shape, and far less throaty in proportion to its size, though still possessing a considerable ruff. There are three or four varieties, however, which differ a good deal among themselves in shape and make, and also to some degree in style of hunting. . . .
“The medium-sized beagle may be taken as the type of the others of the same name, and somewhat resembles a small old-fashioned Harrier in shape, but with a larger body and shorter legs in proportion to it. The head is very wide and round, with a short square nose, very full and soft drooping ears, good feet, and not much hair on the body, but with a slight brush on the tail. Their tongues are most musical, and their noses extremely delicate, being even more so than the harrier, but hunting in the same style, with the same tendency to dwell on the scent. In size they may be described as averaging about 12 or 14 inches.
“The Rough beagle is apparently a cross between the above little hound and the rough terrier, though by many people he is supposed to be a distinct breed, and as much so as the Welsh harrier, which he resembles in all but size. His origin is, however, lost in obscurity, and can only be conjectured. One chief reason why I have supposed him to arise from the above cross is, that he has lost in great measure the beagle tongue, and squeaks like the terrier, though not quite so much as that dog. He has, however, the full ear of the smooth beagle, or nearly as great a development of that organ, but the nose is clothed with the stiff whisker of the rough terrier, and the body generally has the same rough and wiry hair. It is maintained by some people that he has obtained this from the deerhound through the southern hound, but his dwarf size renders it more probable that it is derived from the terrier, which breed, however, very probably is descended from the deerhound, as indeed, I believe, is the case with nearly all our hounds. The size of this beagle varies greatly, the average being perhaps about 14 inches.
“The dwarf or rabbit beagle is a very small and delicate little hound, but with an excellent nose, and much faster than he looks. Some sportsmen have carried their predilection for small dogs to such an extent, as to use a pack of these beagles which might be carried about in the shooting pockets of the men ; and in this way have confined their duties to the hunting alone, so that they were not tired in trailing along the road from the kennel to the hunting- field and back again. The average height of these may be taken at 10 inches, but their bodies are disproportionately lengthened. Patience and perseverance are still more necessary in these hounds than in their larger brethren, and without them they soon lose their hare, as they must be content to hunt her at a pace with which a man can readily keep up on foot, horses being quite out of place with such a diminutive pack.”
Going back to William Drury in his “British dogs…”, he gives us yet three more types:
"The ‘ Pocket’ variety, which has also been called the ‘Sleeve,’ ‘Pocket,’ ‘Glove,’ and ‘Toy’ Beagle, must not exceed 10 inches in height, and should be an ordinary Beagle in miniature. Thanks to its extraordinary beauty and love of sport, this midget hound has become a general favourite wherever known. It is usually used for rabbit-shooting, drag-hunting, or rabbit-hunting when holes have previously been stopped….The true Pocket Beagle is a distinct and very old variety, and although the limit of 10 inches is a modern and an arbitrary one, chiefly for show purposes, it should always be ascertained by a reference to the pedigree if the strain is of small blood and that only then it must ever be remembered that he is a " hound," and should be built so as to be capable of performing a day's work— short back, powerful loin, and all the other points you look for in a working hound.
“Another variety is the Rough, or Wire-haired, Beagle. The absolute purity of his descent is doubtful, a cross more or less remote of the Terrier or the Otterhound being generally alleged. He is, however, a quaint, hard little hound found useful in a very rough country, and should in all respects be a copy of the ordinary Beagle, excepting for a stiff, dense, wiry coat. He is now seldom seen at shows or in the hare-hunting packs. A revival is urgently needed if the variety is to be rescued from oblivion, and it is well worth the attention of breeders.
“The Kerry Beagle is in reality not a Beagle at all, usually a black-and-tan hound the size of a Foxhound, and with much of the appearance and many of the characteristics of the old Southern Hound. The breed is seldom seen in England, and only occasionally met with in Ireland. These hounds are reputed to be very musical and most persistent workers.”
What is certain is that Beagles in one form or another have existed for centuries, with the modern version of the breed not beginning to take shape until the 19th century. Of its ancient history, interesting as it may be to some minds, it is not of much practical importance to the modern beagler. It does, however, have to be mentioned that prior to the emergence of the modern type in the 19th century, the breed as a whole, had largely fallen out of favor as a result of the trend toward smaller Beagles, starting with those of Queen Elizabeth I and continuing throughout the 17th century. These tiny Beagles, more lap dog and novelty than anything else, though popular with the ladies, were essentially useless for hunting. Numerous texts of the 18th and 19th century warn of their frailty or advice the hunter to carefully choose a hunting area that it is free from deep culverts which could easily drown these little dogs. Their lack of physical soundness and the corresponding rise in the popularity of fox hunting among those who wished to pursue a more exhilarating sport than watching hounds puzzle out the intricate mazes of the hare pushed the breed out of favor.
Entering the 19th century, seeing the damage these miniature toy Beagles had done to the image of his breed; Beagle fancier Reverend Phillip Honeywood established a pack in Essex England, in 1830 and began taking proactive steps to eliminate the trend toward tiny Beagles and bring the breed back into favor. His vision was to create a breed that was larger, sturdier and that possessed the stamina to run all day without tiring, but would still be small enough to chase hare and rabbit, and remain slow enough to follow on foot. Although details on the lineage of Honeywood’s pack was not recorded, it is thought that he used both North Country Beagles and Southern Hounds for breeding stock; there is also some speculation that Harriers were used.
The Reverend’s efforts which focused primarily on hunting ability produced a small, capable hunter, standing about 10 inches tall at the shoulder, and pure white according to John Mills (writing in The Sportsman's Library in 1845). Prince Albert and Lord Winterton also had Beagle packs around this time, and while royal favor may have provided some revival interest in the breed, the birth of renewed interest in “Beagling” (hunting rabbits with Beagles) is credited to Honeywood’s Beagles. In fact, his Beagles became so popular that he along with members of his regular hunting party were sometimes called the “Merry Beaglers of the Meadows,” and three of the group along with a large pack of Beagles were forever immortalized in a painting by Henrey Hall titled "the Merry Beaglers (1845).
As Honeywood’s Beagles spread throughout England riding a wave of renewed breed interest, fellow Englishman and Beagler Mr. Thomas Johnson came upon these effective but somewhat ugly specimens. Having hunted with Beagles near Whitchurch, Salop, about 1883, he decided to take Beagle breeding a step further by creating an attractive dog that was also a competent hunter; thereby combining the best of both worlds. To do this, Thomas instituted his own breeding program; selecting only those Beagles that had white fur with black and brown markings, with long rounded ears for breeding stock. Both Johnson and Honeywood are considered to be the forefathers of the modern Beagle, but it is Johnson that was primarily responsible for creating the appearance of the Beagles we see today. Johnson's efforts to breed a Beagle that could not only hunt well, but also excel in beauty, further promulgated the breed in England as it began to develop into a good-looking working hound. It should be noted the Johnson’s efforts produced not only a close representative of the smooth coated variety that we have today, but also a lesser known rough coated version. The now extinct latter variety is believed to have survived well into the 20th century, with records of one making an appearance at a dog show as late as 1969.
The formation of the English Kennel Club in 1873, brought with it regularly held organized dog shows. The first Beagles to enter the show ring, did so at the Tunbridge Wells Dog Society Show on August 21 and 22, 1884, with around nine Beagles participating. At this venue there were classes for Beagles of any size; and for the best hound less than 14 inches in this class, the winner received a silver cup and hunting horn. Although Beagles by this time were being hunted with again and had found their way to the show ring, there was no organization for either of these activities, so in 1890 The Beagle Club of England was formed to promote the breeding of Beagles for sport and show purposes. The club held its first show in 1896 and in 1895 published the “Standard of Points for the breed”; the Kennel Club would use to form the basis of the Breed Standard. The objectives of England’s Beagle Club, first published in 1899 remain unchanged to this day:
“It keeps wide open its doors and welcomes alike to the fold the Master of Beagles who wishes to maintain or form his Pack on ancient lines; the shooting man who keeps a few couples for driving out the rabbits, or putting up the pheasant; the drag hunter who gets an afternoon's healthy exercise with the pleasure of seeing hounds work and hearing hound music; the exhibitor who finds pleasure in breeding for perfection, so far as looks go, and performs most useful work by making the beauty of the breed more generally known; the lady who finds the Beagle the most intelligent and interesting of pets; last, but certainly not the least, the old sportsman whose sporting days are over, who has a keen remembrance of what has been and joins in, whilst his recollections and experiences are of inestimable value to a younger generation. All these are now united in the same effort."
In March, 1891, a second organization was created, the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB), a Beagle section being added to the already existing Masters of Harriers Association. The AMHB limited membership to those that kept registered packs actively engaged in hunting. That year the Association registered 107 packs of Harriers and 40 packs of Beagles. At that time the primary interest of the associations Beagle Committee was the improvement of the Beagle as a hunting hound through the establishment of a stud book and the inclusion of Beagle classes at the Peterborough Hound Show; which had started two years earlier in 1889 and which the association had assumed responsibility for running.
The regular showing of the breed and rigorous adherence to standards by both the Beagle Club and AMHB led to a the development of a uniform type, and the Beagle continued grow in popularity until the outbreak of World War I; at which time all shows were suspended. Following the war, the Beagle breed was in shambles, registrations fell to an all-time low and the Beagle found itself struggling for survival in the UK. The few remaining breeders banded together and resumed Beagle production and as the number of Beagles once again increased, so did interest in the breed, and by the onset of World War II, the breed was once again doing well. Although registrations dropped again after the end of this war, they recovered almost immediately. The popularity of the Beagle was increasing at an astonishing rate. In 1954 there were 154 registrations, leaping to 1,092 in 1959; the year Derawunda Vixen won "Best in Show" at Crufts. Registrations would continue to rise with 2,047 in 1961 and 3,979 in 1969 when it became the most popular dog in Britain. Since that time the popularity of the breed has slipped somewhat in the UK; Kennel Club rankings show the breed placing 28th and 30th in rankings of registrations for 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Although official records dictate that the first Beagles to arrive in America did so in 1876, early seventeenth century town records show they actually arrived centuries before. In Joseph Barrow Felt’s, “History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton,” (Massachusetts), published in 1834, he reprints the town records for the year 1642, in which the Beagle is mentioned as being kept as part of a canine militia force against wolves:
" Whosoever kills a wolf is to have ------- and the skin, if he nail the head up at the meeting-house and give notice to the constables. Also, for the better destroying or fraying away wolves from the town, it is ordered, that by the 1st day of 7th month, every householder, whose estate is rated £500 and upward, shall keep a sufficient mastiff dog; or £100 to £500, shall provide a sufficient hound or beagle, to the intent that they be in readiness to hunt and be employed for the ends aforesaid. The fine for not complying with this order, was 1s. each month, till it was obeyed.”
The Beagles mentioned probably bore little resemblance to the Beagles of today; they were likely larger and closer in appearance to the original Southern Hound or a small Bloodhound. Records at the University of William and Mary indicate that Bloodhounds have been present in what is now the United States since at least 1607, when they were imported to protect colonists from Native Americans. There are also no records of the breed continuing on, indicating that these early Beagles were eventually assimilated into the hunting hounds of the day.
Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, hunters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line used small hunting hounds to pursue fox and hare, the majority of which ceased during the war years. With the completion of the war in 1865, interest in the hunt and pursuit of game for both food and sport once again increased. Affluent hunters wanting to improve the quality of their stock began importing English hound breeds, of which included the Beagle. Of the 1876 Beagles, they were imported from England by American Civil War veteran and affluent hunter General Richard Rowett of Illinois. The General is also credited with starting the first beagle breeding kennel. His Beagles, locally known as Rowett Beagles became the basis of what would nationally be known as the American Beagle. The Rowett Beagles were known for their hunting prowess, consistency of type, and evenness of markings.
Another notable American breeder and importer of English Beagles during this period was Mr. Norman Elmore. He would import ‘Ringwood’ and ‘Countess’, with Ringwood becoming the primary stud dog in the development of his Elmore line of Beagles. Elmore was well aware of the General’s breeding program and collaborated with him in out breeding the strains together, producing what many believed to be the best Beagles of the time. Thanks to the efforts of these and other breeders, the popularity of the breed began to rise in both the United States and Canada leading to its acceptance by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1884 (the same year it was founded) under two size classifications; those over thirteen inches but not exceeding fifteen inches, and thirteen inches and under. That same year marked the creation of the first Beagle Specialty Club, the American-English Beagle Club. Soon after its establishment, there was some unrest amongst club members regarding the name; wanting to separate their Beagles from those of England the members voted to drop the English prefix, thus changing the name to the American Beagle Club. In 1885, a dog named Blunder would become the first AKC registered Beagle.
Established in the Philadelphia area, the American-English Beagle Club quickly adopted a breed standard that served to eradicate "bench-legged" Beagles (those with crooked forelegs) who were undoubtedly the result of early crosses between imported English Beagles and Dachshunds; the latter having also made its American debut in the 1870’s through the immigration of English and German families. It is believed that General Rowett, Mr. Norman Elmore and a Dr. L. H. Twaddell were the primary drafters of this first American standard for the breed.
In 1888, the National Beagle Club was organized as a specialty club for the improvement of the breed, and committed itself improving the beagle on the bench (show dogs) as well as in the field. The club applied for admission to the AKC as a specialty club, but was denied because the American Beagle Club, successor to the American-English Beagle Club, the then recognized AKC parent club for the breed refused to sanction its admission. The refusal was based upon the National Beagle Club’s desire to become involved in the showing and standards of the breed; areas which were under the American Beagle Club’s control. It did, however, agree to sanction admission if the National Beagle Club would strike any references to improving show dogs from its constitution, thus entering as a field and trial organization only. This counter offer was refused and the National Beagle Club’s president voiced the sentiments of the membership:
"The National Beagle Club has nothing to take back. This club was formed for the improvement in the field and on the bench of the beagle hound in America, and will enter the American Kennel Club with its constitution unchanged, if it enters at all."
Undeterred the National Beagle Club continued working to improve the breed to the extent that it was allowed. In 1890, eighteen entries participated in the clubs first National Beagle Club field trial; originally scheduled to be held in Hyannis, Massachusetts, the location was moved to New Hampshire on account of poor terrain. During this time, however, negotiations were taking place between the leadership of both clubs and in 1891, the National Beagle Club was merged with the American Beagle Club, which then changed its name to The National Beagle Club of America (NBC), which it has since retained. It was then admitted to membership in the American Kennel Club, and has since stood as the parent club of the breed. The newly formed National Beagle Club of America held its first Specialty show that same year and on December 21, 1901, a five-year-old female, Ch. Windholme’s Bangle, owned by Mr. Harry T. Peters, became the breed’s first all-breed Best in Show winner.
Unlike the UK during the First World War, Beagle breeding and showing activity in America, although it slowed, did not come to a halt. The Westminster Dog Show of 1917 recorded the entry of 75 Beagles; many of which enjoyed great success, taking first in the Sporting Group, Best Sporting Brace (two dogs compete together) and Best Sporting Team in Show. The Beagle faired equally well at the 1928 Westminster Kennel Club show and in 1939, Ch. Meadowlark Draftsman, owned by Mr. and Mrs. William DuPont, of Foxcatcher Beagles, captured the title of top-winning American-bred dog for the year, after having amassed 407 points in hound groups at 35 member-club shows that year.
As a purebred dog that has traditionally been more popular in American and Canada than in its native country; the Beagle would reign supreme from 1953 to 1959 as the AKC’s top dog; ranking first place in all breed registrations those years. Popularity for the breed has traditionally remained high, in 2005 and 2006, it would rank 5th out of the 155 breeds registered, and in 2010, 4th out of 167 registered breeds. As if the breed needed it, the Beagle would receive yet another boost in popularity when Ch. K-Run's Park Me In First, aka "Uno", became the first Beagle to win the Best In Show category at the 2008 Westminster Kennel Club Show.
Although originally bred for hunting, the modern Beagle is the epitome of versatility and can be found can be found fulfilling a variety of roles in today's society. Not only are they one of the most popular family pets, they can also be found in detection work, as therapy dogs, as search and rescue dogs, as disabled assistance dogs and in any other role requiring an intelligent, capable breed of its size that is eager to please. In Australia the Beagles acute sense of smell has led to their use as termite detection dogs. The Beagle Brigade of the United States Department of Agriculture uses them to detect contraband food items in luggage and prevent their entry into the United States. They are also used for this purpose at airports and ports of entry in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan and the People's Republic of China.
Because of their gentle nature and unimposing build, they are also frequently used to visit the sick and elderly as pet therapy dogs in hospitals and hospices. Belle, a trained female Beagle assistance dog was credited in 2006 with saving its diabetic owners life by using a mobile phone to dial 911 after her owner went into a diabetic seizure. She also became the first non-human to receive the prestigious VITA (Latin for “life”) Wireless Samaritan Award; given yearly by the Wireless Foundation to those people (or in this case, animals) that use a wireless phone to save lives, stop crime and help in other emergency situations. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a Beagle search and rescue dog with the Colombian Civil Defense rescue squad was credited with locating the Nadine Cardoso-Riedl; co-owner of the Hotel Montana, more than 100 hours after being buried in the rubble.
“We had a little dog, a beagle, that was up on the roof by the terrace, and he alerted, he picked up a scent, but when we brought other dogs to confirm, they couldn't smell her,'' said Camilo Monroy of the Colombian rescue squad. ``We went back the next day, and the same beagle smelled her, and we called, and someone answered. We brought over her son, and he said, 'I think that is my mother down there."
The breed’s unique combination of characteristics, love of life, inquisitiveness, and winning personality have cemented the Beagles place in modern society. Whether searching through luggage at an airport, chasing down every irresistible scent on a walk, rescuing those in need or simply, being a beloved pet, Beagles are here to stay.
One of the most popular dogs in the United States as of 2010, the demand for Beagles has led to a rise in individuals interested in breeding them for profit with little regard for the overall health and temperament of the dogs they produce. While it is reported that the typical Beagle will live between 10-13 years, which is average for a dog of their size, the breed as a whole is subject to a wide range of congenital health defects. Many of the problems currently found in the breed are directly attributable to unethical or backyard breeders and puppy mills that fail to genetically screen the parents and prevent animals with known defects from breeding.
The modern Beagle has been shown to be prone to epilepsy, hypothyroidism, dwarfism and is also considered to be a chondrodystrophic breed, meaning that like Dachshunds, they are prone to certain types of disk diseases. Another devastating but not necessarily genetic condition known to affect Beagles is obesity. It is important thate Beagle owners regulate their dogs consumption of food and only feed them a set amount. It is not advisable to leave food constantly available and expect the dog to graze feed as Beagles are notorious for over eating. Overweight dogs are more prone to joint injury, back problems and host of other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and stress on the heart.
Other conditions that have been reported to affect the Beagles include: