These lovable hounds are happy, playful companions. Find out more about why they make perfect pets.
1. Their origins are mysterious.
The beagle is such an old breed that its ancestors hunted rabbits with the Ancient Romans. Unfortunately, origins are hard to trace when they stretch that far back. No one is really sure when or where the breed's ancestors first emerged, but the beagle as we know it can be traced to the 19th century.
2. Pocket beagles predated the ones we know today.
Hunters in the 13th century employed pocket beagles, which are exactly as tiny and adorable as they sound. These miniature pups were only about eight inches tall. Today, beagles are about 13 to 15 inches tall.
3. You’ll hear a lot from them.
We may not know everything about their origins, but we do know how they got their names. Most likely, beagle comes from the French word begueule, which means “open throat.” The name is pretty accurate: Beagles have impressive vocal cords that are much fuller and louder than other dogs.
4. Beagles have different barks for different occasions.
Beagles are so talented at vocalizing, they do so in a few different ways. There’s the standard bark for everyday things like alerting when there's someone at door. Then there’s baying, which sounds a lot like doggy yodeling. This throaty yowl is used on the hunt to alert when they've picked up an interesting scent. Finally, there's the forlorn howl. Beagles will howl if they are sad or bored—or if others are howling first.
5. Rabbits need to steer clear.
Beagles were bred to be efficient hunting hounds. Their short legs keep them low to the ground, which means they can take in scents without having to stop. Big, floppy ears also help them notice smells by wafting them toward the dog's nose. And their white tipped tails help hunters keep track of the dogs as they run through brush and shrubbery.
6. Beagles have powerful noses.
The little hounds have some of the best noses in the dog world. With more than 220 million scent receptors, beagles are basically super-sniffers. A wet nose helps attract and hold scent molecules for better evaluation. Even more impressive: they can differentiate smells and remember them in the future.
7. That sense of smell can land them a job.
With their powerful noses and portable size, beagles are great working dogs. A common form of employment for beagles is sniffing out bedbugs (the only silver lining of contracting these pests is getting a visit from a pup). Another (slightly) more glamorous job is sniffing polar bear poop: Beagles can smell the droppings of female bears and determine if they are pregnant.
8. There’s even a Beagle Brigade.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided that beagles are the most effective (and adorable) way to prevent the spread of insects and disease. The Beagle Brigade is a trained task force of dogs that patrols airports all over the country. Using their powerful sniffers, the dogs can find meat and produce that might be carrying foreign bugs or diseases. According to the American Kennel Club, to become one of these investigative pooches, beagles must undergo 13 weeks of training.
9. Beagles are known to roam.
Beagles are prone to wanderlust: If they catch a good smell, they’re going to follow it. As a result, you’re going to want to keep your pup on a tight leash. Fenced-in areas might work for some dogs, but many beagles are skilled diggers and climbers. The little escape artists are known for scaling fences, or burrowing underneath. Some are even capable of climbing trees.
10. A number of beagles have made it into the cartoon world.
11. Lyndon B. Johnson kept beagles in the White House.
A version of this article originally ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.