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The history of the Beagle is clouded. Since very early times, small hounds similar to the Beagle have existed for the hunting of hare in the British Isles, particularly in Wales. The original form probably came with the Celts, although certainly crossing with types such as the hounds of Artois or others created this modern breed. Throughout the world, dogs are requisitioned by sporting enthusiasts to be hunted individually or in small packs for squirrel, rabbit and hare, and Beagles are particularly suited for this task. They are determined, keen hunters, and their "music" during a hunt brings goosebumps to neophytes and the oldest pro alike. During the days of King Henry VIII and his daughter, Elizabeth I, Beagles were sometimes wire-haired. They were also very small, often diminutive enough to be carried to the field in the pocket of a hunt coat. It has even been reported that 10 or 12 couples of Beagles could be carried in saddle baskets! Over the years the size has somewhat increased, but the little "pocket" Beagles still occasionally crop up in a litter. American top size is 15 inches, although in England they allow them up to 16 inches.

Hounds of the Beagle sort were brought into the States throughout the Colonial period, but type varied until further imports from England arrived in the 1880s and 1890s. The Beagle's ability to drill a trail and work the rabbit back around to the waiting hunter have contributed to his demand as a hunting companion. But his small size and happy personality have also been a factor. Needing little grooming, they are easy to maintain and are wonderful playmates for children.
Laboratories traditionally use Beagles in research of diseases, medicines and other medical matters. Large colonies are bred for this pur-pose, often with certain specific characteristics or proclivities, such as to cancers. This breed is chosen for this heart-rending but medically pertinent task due to its easygoing personality and its adaptability to kennel or pack life, as well as its overall sturdiness.
These same qualities, plus longevity, secure it a permanent place in the heart of dog lovers. In the USA, the Beagle has remained in the top ten registrations for many years, boasting a brief stay in the number one spot during the 1950s. His cocky show strut and merry performances in obedience make him a joy to watch. He is a much-loved pet and companion, although one may have to deal with his hound's voice and a bit of a stubborn streak. This hound's inquisitive, happy-go-lucky nature and voracious appetite can take him out of his master's good graces, however. To avoid this, training and crating in the owner's absence are advised by breeders.
Beagles are so popular that a verb has been coined, and fanciers are said to be "beagling." The breed is seen frequently in the winner's circle at dog shows, and nearly 3,000 sanctioned Beagle Field Trials are offered each year. Even with all these dogs involved in competitions, the great majority of Beagles enjoy a hunt individually or in pairs with their masters.


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