Beagles – Personality Traits, Health Conditions, Fun Facts & More

Physical Characteristics

Classification: scent hound

Weight Range M&F: 18-30lbs

Height at Withers M: 15 inches & F: 13 inches

Average Lifespan: 12-15 years

Conformation: muscular, deep-chested, floppy ears, slightly domed skull, long tail that is carried high

Coat: short, smooth and dense

Color: typically black, tan and white

Attention requirements: high 

Tendency to bark: high

Tendency to drool: low

Tendency to snore: low

Tendency to dig: low 

Grooming requirements: low


History of Beagles 

The early ancestry of the Beagle is obscure, but it is believed that they originated in Greece in 400 BC and in Great Britain in 200 AD. The first interbreeding between the indigenous dogs from Greece and those from Great Britain is believed to have occurred during the Roman Conquest of Britain. In the 11th Century, William the Conqueror brought Talbot Hounds, dogs that are believed to be the ancestors of the Foxhound from France to Great Britain. In the 15th Century, Beagles became popular throughout Europe for hunting hare. 

Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth I owned an entire pack of miniature Beagles as she is said to have loved their sweet-sounding “singing” voice. These miniature Beagles, known as “pocket Beagles” were tiny enough to fit into the pockets or saddlebags of hunters riding horseback. Due to their size, these dogs were effective at chasing quarry through the underbrush. By the 18th Century, fox hunting became very popular and the miniature sized Beagles were bred with larger Hounds. 

In the late 1800’s, General Richard Rowett from Illinois started the first recognized breeding program of Beagles in the United States. In 1885, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). By the 20th Century, the Beagle had become prominent and loved throughout the world for their hunting ability and their cheerful and affectionate personality. Today, the Beagle remains one of the most prominent household dogs in the United States. 

Personality Traits

Beagles are extremely cheerful, affectionate and loving companion dogs. They generally do well with children and other dogs. Since Beagles were bred to hunt rabbits and other small prey, it may be challenging for them to coexist with exotic pets. Beagles are intelligent, but known for being stubborn which can make obedience training a challenge. With that being said, they are highly food motivated. Their love of food and endless appetite is beneficial when it comes to training, however, this also increases their risk of obesity and other health-related issues, such as eating inedible objects. Obesity decreases overall quality of life and exacerbates symptoms of joint disease. It’s important not to exceed their recommended daily caloric intake, which can be calculated by your veterinarian if unsure. Beagles, like many other dogs, require mental stimulation and exercise at minimum 30 minutes/day. Without proper mental stimulation and adequate exercise, they are more likely to be destructive out of boredom. Hiding treats around the house is a fun activity that is mentally stimulating and gives them a chance to utilize their acute sense of smell. Another alternative is snuffle mats

You may say Beagles have “selective hearing” because of their stubbornness, desire to explore and lack of focus when they catch an interesting scent. For their safety, I recommend leash walking near roads or potential dangerous areas as there’s a good chance they may run off chasing a rabbit, squirrel or other small critter when given the chance.

While Beagles may appear to be lazy at times, they are great watch dogs. They are alert and aware of their surroundings. As hunting dogs, Beagles would bark to alert hunters of the whereabouts of prey. They are known to bark when confronted with unfamiliar scents, sounds and people. However, they are not good guard dogs because of their friendly nature towards people. Beagles are not known for being quiet, in general they love talking. Beagles are more than capable of adapting to apartment living. However, they are definitely not one of the first breeds I would recommend to an individual seeking a dog well-suited to apartment living because of this tendency.

Interesting Facts

Bark, Howl and Bay 

The origin of the name Beagle is thought to come from the French word “begueule” meaning open mouth or “beugler,” to bellow.  Beagles can speak in three different voices which include: barking, howling and baying. Their standard bark sounds like that of other dogs, however, it is typically deeper than expected for their size. Howling is used in wild canines to round up their pack during hunting. Most domesticated dogs rarely howl because they no longer require to hunt for their food. With that being said, dogs may howl in response to certain sounds, such as fire alarms, sirens, or another dog howling. They may also howl when their owner is not around out of loneliness. A bay is a cross between a bark and howl. The bay is a distinct “yodel-like” sound specific to Beagles. It’s the result of generations of selective breeding. It’s used to alert hunters of their whereabouts once they’ve spotted prey; as they get closer, the sound increases in intensity and volume. 

An Impressive Nose

Beagles have about 220 million scent receptors in their nose, 45 times as many as humans. A Beagle’s sense of smell is anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than humans. They are trained to be able to differentiate between 50 different smells, as well as remembering them for future exposure. A Beagle has big floppy ears that serve a special purpose. Aside from being adorable, their ears actually whiff scents toward their nose! Since Beagles have one of the best senses of smell, they are frequently used by law enforcement as drug or bomb detectors at airports and at crime scenes. 

Famous Worldwide

One of the world’s most famous cartoon dogs, Snoopy from Charles M. Schulz comic strip Peanuts is a Beagle. While some may think his physical representation is far from accurate, his affectionate, curious and loyal personality is spot on. It’s no wonder he is known and adored worldwide. Other famous animated Beagles include: Gromit from Wallace and Gromit, Odie from Garfield, Mr. Peabody from Rocky & Bullwinkle and Poochie from the Simpsons.

Health Conditions

Beagles, like all dog breeds, are prone to certain health conditions. Beagles should be evaluated by veterinary specialists for possible genetic and hereditary conditions before breeding. The following is an overview of conditions that beagles are predisposed to.

Eye Conditions

Glaucoma-  a painful condition that causes an increase of fluid pressure within the eye that can damage the optic nerve resulting in blindness. Treatment: several medicated eye drops daily, surgery if not responding to drops and/or complete vision loss.

Distichiasis- growth of eyelashes from an abnormal area on the eyelid, that increases risk of corneal ulcers. Treatment: cryoepilation, a surgery performed to remove existing hairs and freeze the follicles. 

Cherry eye – prolapse of the third eyelid. Treatment: surgical replacement of the gland. 

Progressive retinal atrophy – a non-painful eye condition that causes progressive vision loss due to destruction of the photoreceptor cells, rods and cones within the retina. There’s is currently no cure or treatment.

Symptoms Include…

  • squinting
  • rubbing their eyes
  • changes in appearance: cloudy, red gland protruding at their medial canthus (inner portion of eye where the upper and lower eyelids meet)
  •  redness
  • eye discharge
  • vision loss

Musculoskeletal Conditions, Include...

These multifactorial (hereditary + degenerative + trauma) conditions include: intervertebral disc disease, commonly known as a slipped disk or ruptured disc, cranial cruciate ligament disorder, rupture of the knee ligament and hip dysplasia, a deformity of the hip. 

Intervertebral disc disease: The spine is made up of several small bones that form the vertebrae. In between each vertebra are joints called intervertebral discs that aid in flexibility of the spine and serve as a cushion or a shock absorber. IVDD occurs when the innermost layer of these discs begins to protrude into the spinal canal exerting pressure against the spinal cord. It can result in hindlimb paralysis as well as involuntary muscles resulting in urinary and bowel incontinence. Surgery is often required to relieve the pressure, however the damage to the spinal cord can be irreversible.

Symptoms Include…

  • limping
  • lameness
  • reluctance to move
  • decreased activity/lethargy
  • pain
  • difficulty or reluctance to jumping or running
  • difficulty or reluctance to rising or climbing stairs
  • fear, aggression or guarding while attempting to touch or manipulate their spine, hip or knee
  • changes in behavior: decreased appetite, refusing to go outside, etc. 

Multifactorial Immune-Mediated/Autoimmune Conditions, Include...

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is an endocrine disorder that results from a decreased production of thyroid hormones. While this condition is relatively common and can develop in any breed, Beagles have a higher rate of incidence. Thyroid hormones influence metabolism, growth and development. There is no cure, however it can be controlled with daily medication, specifically levothyroxine. Symptoms include: weight gain without a change in appetite, lethargy, poor coat condition, excessive shedding, darkening of the skin and cold intolerance. 

Diabetes is a disorder that results from insulin-deficiency. There is no cure but it can be controlled with insulin injections and dietary changes.  Symptoms include: weight loss, increased thirst and urination, decreased appetite, recurring skin and urinary tract infections. Diabetic dogs are at a high risk of developing cataracts. Cataracts cause the eye to appear cloudy and may partially or totally obstruct vision. Diabetic cataracts can develop overnight.  Treatment requires a delicate and expensive surgery performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist that uses phacoemulsification to break up and remove the cloudy lens. It is unsafe to perform surgery until the diabetes is well-regulated. Cataract surgery is not required, however they may need daily eye drops to prevent secondary eye conditions such as glaucoma. Depending on the age and overall health of the patient, surgery may not be the best option. For a really old dog, cataract surgery may seem impractical due to the anesthetic risks and cost. 

Mast cell tumor is the most common malignant skin tumor occurring in dogs. The tumor contains mast cells, a white blood cell that responds to allergens and inflammation. Depending on the location and severity of the cancer, treatment options include: surgical removal of the mass, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. 

Beagles are prone to atopy, more commonly referred to as environmental allergies. Unlike humans who display several respiratory symptoms to environmental allergens, pets with atopy mainly develop itchy skin and commonly acquire secondary ear infections. Symptoms include: scratching, rubbing, rash, reddened skin, thickened skin,  patches of hair loss and recurring ear and skin infections.

Steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that is treated with medication. Symptoms include: fever, severe pain (specifically the neck region) and an abnormal, choppy gait. 

Bilateral Cataracts
Mast Cell Tumor

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Beagles are at a higher risk of developing idiopathic epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures. The exact cause of this disorder is unknown, but normally results from a sudden change of electrical activity in the brain. Its most likely to occur at times of excitement or while falling asleep and waking up. It cannot be cured but is managed with anticonvulsant medication. Symptoms include: uncontrollable repetitive jerky movements, stiffening, muscle twitching, loss of consciousness, drooling, tongue chewing/bleeding from trauma, foaming at the mouth, involuntary urinating and defecating. If this occurs, remove from potential environmental harm, like stairs and immediately seek medical treatment. Episodes of seizing do not always end quickly and may continue without medical attention.

Hereditary Conditions

A genetic abnormality passed from parents to offspring.

Musladin-Leuke Syndrome – a rare connective tissue disorder that affects the dog’s appearance and gait.

Hemophilia A – a coagulation protein disorder, that inhibits the body’s ability to form a clot, which prevents bleeding from a minor or major injury from stopping. 

Musladin-Lueke Syndrome aka Chinese Beagle Syndrome

Congenital Conditions

A condition present from birth, also known as birth defects.

Chondrodysplasia – a type of dwarfism caused by an abnormality in cartilage and bone. A dog with this condition will have an abnormal appearance. Their legs are short and crooked which may cause pain, as well as  affect their ability to walk. The front limbs are most commonly affected, however, it may also cause deformities in the hind limbs, skull and spine.

Pulmonary stenosis – a life-threatening heart defect affecting the pulmonic valve resulting in blood flow obstruction from the heart to the lungs. The severity of the disease varies. There is no cure. Symptoms may be managed with medication. Often times, a surgery called balloon valvuloplasty is required. Symptoms may go unnoticed for the first several months of life, however fatigue, exercise intolerance and episodes of collapse during physical activity or excitement may be witnessed in moderate to extreme cases. 

Beagle Rescues in the U.S.

Meet Some of ATC Pet Talk's Beagle Friends

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