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A Bevy of Beagles

According to recent polls, the beloved beagle is currently the fifth most popular breed of dog in the United States. This popularity, however, claims retrospective reaches in American history. Lyndon B. Johnson, the thirty-sixth president, owned three beagles named Him, Her, and Edgar. The British share our fascination with the breed as Queen Elizabeth I owned several pocket beagles, a pint-sized predecessor of the modern beagle. Additionally, beagles have appeared on the silver screen, in comic strips, and throughout the pages of favorite novels as loyal, loving companions.

A relatively small dog, the beagle proves a surprisingly versatile breed. First bred to assist their Roman masters on rabbit hunts, the modern beagle is the culmination of thousands of years of selective breeding. Their white-tipped tails were intended to serve as signal flags while tracking animals, and their long ears help beagles pick of even the faintest of scents. Their noses house an estimated 220 million scent receptors, an impressive article of anatomy considering humans only have about five million.

Many experts agree that the beagle remains the most vocal dog breed in existence. In fact, the English word beagle was originally derived from the breed’s French moniker, begueule, meaning “open throat” or “loudmouth.” Beagles showcase three distinct vocalizations: the bark, the howl, and the bay.

The beagle fills a litany of labor positions. This breed’s keen sense of smell makes it a perfect security officer, often policing airports in search of contraband items in passengers’ luggage. The Department of Homeland Security has dubbed this canine crew the Beagle Brigade. Beagles also use their powerful noses to detect bedbugs and to aid biologists in determining if captive female bears are pregnant.

If considering the possibility of making a beagle part of your family, be aware that these athletic animals are master escape artists capable of scaling fences, burrowing under barriers, and even climbing trees! However, the beagle’s sweet demeanor and infectious energy make this dog an ideal addition to almost any household.

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