The Beagle has a long history of being a hunting dog, and has been used in farms and homes both as a companion dog and as a working dog. Here are some facts about this breed’s history.
There are mixed opinions on the origin of the very first Beagles
Some historians believe that there were hound-like dogs that were kept by the ancient Greeks a few hundred years before the birth of Christ. However, there is also a school of thought which says that these hounds were first heard of around 200AD. So, although we know that the Beagle is descended from other hound type dogs, we can only speculate as to the exact origins of the breed.
There are a also a few theories on the origin of the name “Beagle”
One of these theories is that the word comes from an old French word “be’guele” which means “open mouth”, perhaps a name that was given to the Beagle because of the breed’s penchant for howling. Another theory is that the name comes from similar words in various languages which all translate as “small” including:
- The French word begle
- The Old English word begele
- The Celtic word beag
Beagles were first popular in England in the 1300s
One thing we do know, is that the Beagles we see today first emerged in England where they were used to hunt hares. It wasn’t until a hundred or more years later in the 1400s that the term “Beagle” began to be used in reference to these dogs. Later on during the reign of Elizabeth I, the nobility kept “pocket Beagles” that hunted rabbits and other small game. These hounds were several inches smaller than the Beagles we know and love today. However, once fox hunting came into vogue these hounds fell out of favour because they were too small to hunt such large creatures. Bigger dogs were used instead, but the Beagle’s obsolete status didn’t last for long. In the 1800s, Reverend Philip Honeywood and other breeders began to produce hunting packs of Beagles and people also began to take an interest in dog shows and producing dogs to show in the ring. Towards the end of the century, Beagles were being bred in America too, where people were also catching on to the idea of dog shows. In 1890, the first Beagle Club was formed.
The Beagles we see today are only about a hundred years old
The breed has been refined over the past century to get to the stage where it is today. In the process, breeders have come up with a strict set of breed standards which purebred Beagles must conform to in order to be shown in the ring.