In existence for over 2,000 years, the name 'Beagle' was originally applied generically to all variations of smaller hound, which would have differed greatly from the modern Beagle we now know. Primarily bred for pack hunting hare, pheasant and various other small game, the Beagle was a favourite amongst royalty, reputedly owned by Edward II, Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth I. Achieving great popularity in its early development, the Beagle has never really lost this, and remains one of the most popular of canine breeds in the United States and Canada. Whilst still utilised in hunting, it is currently favoured as a family pet.
Due to its keen hunting and tracking instinct, sharp senses and versatility, the modern Beagle is progressively used in policing, utilising its strong sense of smell for the purposes of illegal drug and explosives detection. Alongside the Bloodhound, the Beagle has the most developed natural senses, which when combined with its inherent boldness, vigilance and stamina, makes it the ideal, all-round policing companion. The Beagle is recognisable for its muscular frame, large eyes and natural tricolouring, common in variations of white, tan, red-brown and black. Beagles are also known for their distinctive howl, most apparent when pack hunting.
Despite being a dogged scenthound, the Beagle is known for its affectionate, gentle and easy temperament, making it a popular breed choice for modern families. Additionally, the Beagle is sociable, fearless and curious, comfortable when confronted with new situations and people. Having retained its natural hunting instinct, the Beagle is inclined to follow its nose and the chase, so extra vigilance is necessary when off-lead. The average weight of a healthy adult Beagle is 9-11 kg, with a life expectancy of approximately 12-15 years when cared for accordingly.
Generally a healthy, long-lived breed, the Beagle is susceptible to certain common ailments, including epilepsy - which can be managed with medication - optical and cardiac disease and issues relating to allergy. Beagles are also subject to mast-cell tumours and weight-related illness.