Friday, March 23, 2012

Beagle in History of Foxhound

The origin of the name Beagle is not certain, but there are a number of theories. Squire of Low Degree, first published in 1475, is the first mention of the Beagle (by name) in English literature. “With theyr beagles in that place and seven score raches at his rechase.” Some people believe the word to be derived from the Old English word begle. The French beigh and the Celtic beag are also possibilities all mean “small.”

The author Beckford wrote in about 1750 of Beagle and described them as being exceptionally lively in temperament as well as fleet of foot. He records that he crossed his Harriers with them to give more dash and drive. Also mentioned are Rough-Coated Beagles and Wire-Haired Beagles, who almost certainly are the same, since both were found mainly in Devon in the South of England and in nearby Wales. William Youatt claimed the Wire-Haired Beagle was the stronger, stouter and better variety. Those familiar with both Fox Terriers and Beagles realize that there is cause to believe that Fox Terrier blood exists in present-day Beagles, perhaps the source of the Beagle’s legendary stubbornness.


Kerry Beagles are also mentioned repeatedly by scholars and were quite different from the general idea of what a Beagle should look like: upstanding, rather lightly built, black-and-tan and in many ways resembling the Bloodhound. This breed was said to have existed in Southern Ireland for hundreds of years, and the Ryan family of Scarteen claims to have owned them since 1735. They were not seen in England until the early twentieth century. Some think the presentday Beagle gets his keen nose from the Kerry Beagle, who was in color and general appearance a miniature Bloodhound.

Stonehenge, in his Manual of British Sports (1861), gave the varieties of Beagles as follows: “First, the medium Beagle, which may be either heavy and Southern-like or light and Northern-like; second, the dwarf or lap-dog Beagle; third the Fox Beagle, and fourth the rough or Terrier Beagle.” Through the centuries, British royalty has favored the Beagle. During the reign of Henry VIII, Beagles are said to have been popular. There exists written evidence of Beagles during the reign of Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I (1558–1603), as well as pictures that depicted members of her Court hunting with Beagles. There is also a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I with a Beagle at her side. Interestingly, the Beagles in Elizabethan times were very small. Described as dwarfs, Pygmy Beagles or Pocket Beagles, they ranged in height from 8 to 10 inches at the top of the shoulder and were small enough to be occasionally carried to the chase in a pair of panniers on the horse’s back.


Another royal who favored the Beagle is King James I (1566–1625), who enjoyed the sport of hunting the hare with his pack of Beagles. A century later, during the reign of King George IV (1762–1830), English Beagles were described as rough-coated or smooth-coated, with King George preferring the smooth-coated Beagle. While Prince of Wales, he enjoyed hunting with his pack of dwarf Beagles. These very small Beagles did not enjoy popularity much past this period.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, organized dog activities began. The aristocracy, long committed to the hunt, owned packs of Foxhounds, Harriers and Beagles. They hunted mostly on horseback, chasing fox with the larger Foxhounds and Harriers, and hare with the smaller Beagle. “Beagling” is described as the art of hunting the hare in its natural surroundings with a pack of small hounds that rely solely on their noses to work out the intricate paths the hare has taken. Beagling became popular with the commoner, too, since the smaller Beagle could be followed on foot.

Beagle Puppies

England’s Kennel Club was formed in 1873 and dog shows were then held on a regular basis. The first recorded mention of Beagles being shown in England was at the Tunbridge Wells Dog Society Show on August 21 and 22, 1884, with eight or nine Beagles entered. There was a separate class for Beagles of any size, and the best hound under 14 inches in this class was presented with a silver cup and a hunting horn.

The Beagle Club of England was formed in 1890, held its first show in 1896 and published its first Year Book in 1897. World War I (1914–1918) stopped much of the Beagle activities, but interest increased again during the two successive decades. World War II (1939–1945) again interfered, and Viscount Chelmsford is credited with restarting the club. The UK’s Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles was founded in 1891. The association’s members were limited to those who were keeping, or had kept, registered packs that regularly hunt the hare. The object of both clubs was to further the interest of the Beagles. In the early 1950s, there was a great deal of renewed interest in the Beagle that carries through to this day. Since 1962, a number of regional Beagle clubs have formed around the British Isles. Today, Beagles have classes at most of the Open Shows in the United Kingdom and at all of the General Championship Shows that come under the rules and regulations of The Kennel Club. Entries are large, often 100 or more, and sometimes twice that number.

In France, during the reign of the Bourbons (1589–1848), the lavishness of the chase was unparalleled. At Chantilly, where Prince Louis Henry de Bourbon resided, records of the sport have been preserved. The records from 1748 to 1779 show that 77,750 hare were accounted for in the chase, as well as 3,364 stags and hinds. The Foxhound is thought to have descended from four different types of French hounds. In George Turberville’s Art of Venerie, written around the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the French hound types were described, “...the White, used principally for stag hunting; the Fallow, used on all sorts of game, mainly the stag; the Dun, used more frequently than any other hound breed and good on any game and the Black or St. Hubert’s, of many colors and no doubt the forebear of the Bloodhound and the Southern Hound.” The Southern Hound, when crossed with the smaller Harrier (often called a small edition of the Foxhound), is thought by many experts to be the forebear of the Beagle.

As in the breed’s British homeland, fanciers of the Beagle on the Continent enjoyed the merry little hunting hound as the all-around dog, a devoted hunter on a variety of game as well as an attractive companion for the drawing room. In modern times, the Beagle’s popularity has remained strong and the breed a major entry at dog exhibitions through Europe.

Beginning in Colonial times, Europeans emigrating to America brought dogs with them, some to serve as guards, some to pull carts and others to secure game for food. Some of these dogs were brought because of their innate ability to scent, to trail and to capture game. The first recorded mention of the Beagle was in Joseph Barrow Felt’s History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton, published in 1834. The book was based in part upon early town records and, in the records for the year 1642, the Beagle is mentioned as having helped local hunters to keep wolves from the town. Prior to the Civil War (1861–1865), hunters in the Southern states used small hunting hounds, including Beagles, to pursue fox and hare. During the war, almost all hunting ceased, but, after the war, interest again picked up. Wanting to improve the quality of their stock, some more affluent hunters imported Beagles from Europe.

In the early 1870s, General Richard Rowett from Illinois became highly interested in Beagles. He imported dogs from England and from them bred what fanciers during those times thought were very good representatives of the breed. The Rowett Beagles were known for their consistency of type, evenness of markings and ability in the field. Another noted breeder of that period was Mr. Norman Elmore, who imported some influential dogs in the development of his Elmore line. Ringwood and Countess were two of these imports, with Ringwood being used at stud extensively and his offspring often taken to the Rowett strain. The two gentlemen, General Rowett and Mr. Elmore, worked together and the two strains produced what many thought were the best Beagles of the time.

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