Descended from small Eastern breeds, namely the Greek Alopekis and old Russian and Balkan hunting dogs, crossed with with a variety of European foxhounds and harehounds, such as the French Briquet, the Beagle has existed in a range of types since the 12th century. Common in a number of countries in the past, it is believed that the modern Beagle was developed by using both the French and British stock of dogs. It received its name in the 1470's, meaning "small" in old Celtic, Welsh, English and French dialects. The Beagle posesses an excellent sense of smell and is a commited tracker of game. A favourite hare hunter of the British nobility for over five centuries, this lovely hound was also very popular with Queen Elizabeth the First, who kept a pack of the smallest variety, known as the "Pocket Beagles", which were reportedly under 9 inches tall. The breed's appeal was immense, seing how they were slow and detailed workers and were easily followed by the hunters on foot. The Beagle's size also made it an easy dog to transport to the fields by the men on horseback, who carried them in saddle-bags and oftentimes their pockets. Introduced to America in the 1600's, the Beagle became instantly popular and has influenced the development of a few American hound breeds. In the 1800's, the breed became a popular contestant in staged field trials and eventually found its way into the Show rings of the United States and England. The Beagle's beauty, intelligence and friendly personality also made it a common family pet, which it remained throughout the 20th century.
Tolerant of other dogs, the Beagle is most commonly employed as a pack hunter, but is also a reliable single tracker when trained and handled properly. Its wide chest, strong legs and compact built make this breed a tireless and resilient worker, but unfortunately the Beagle's popularity has caused some hereditary health problems due to overbreeding, especially in the United States. However, a well-bred pure Beagle is a long-lived dog and a remarkable pet.
The coat is flat and dense, accepted in a variety of so-called "hound colours", most commonly white with large patches of fawn and black shades. The height varies from country to country, but the AKC recognizes only the 13" and the 15" varieties.