This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
During the past few years the wire coated beagle has not been much in evidence, and few seem to care for them now that Mr G. H. Nutt has given over his pack. It has been said most of these "wire-hairs" contained a terrier cross, which showed itself in the production of shy puppies distinctly deficient in voice. Mr. Gwynne, of Folkington, Sussex, however, owns a nice little pack of wire coated hounds which are entirely free from any suspicion of terrier strain. Some fifteen or sixteen years ago Mr. Gwynne obtained two and a half couples which he was told had been produced with wire coats through a remote cross with the otter hound. Long before that time a Sussex farmer kept a few couples of the wire haired beagles at Chiddingly; they stood about fourteen inches, and bore a reputation of " always being able to kill their hare, however bad a scenting day it was." Mr. Gwynne keeps them chiefly for rabbit shooting, and they work wonderfully well. The kennels contain some seven or eight couples (not including puppies), and the endeavour is to keep them to about thirteen inches in height, but some are an inch less, others an inch or so over the standard. Since Mr. Gwynne has devoted attention to them, he has been compelled to use a smooth beagle as an out-cross.
In 1892, a stud book of packs of beagles was published by Waterlow's, it forming part of the one for harriers already alluded to. The first volume contained the names of a dozen packs only (there were over double that number in existence), which are supposed to be a foundation stock, but I am afraid that some of the entries are not so pure as many of our show hounds, which were not included; nor were Mr Crane's, Mr Nutt's, and Mr Ryan's, the latter the Kerry beagles, alluded to later on. The volume has been continued yearly, but with no improvement, so far as the hounds specified are concerned.
It is common knowledge that masters of hounds abominate dog shows; still when the very best of a variety are to be found oftener on the bench than in the field, animosity against exhibitions must be sunk. Most of the packs entered in the Stud Books, consist of big, rather large hounds, many from thirteen to sixteen inches, and the oldest pack is the Royal Rock, hunting from near Birkenhead, Cheshire, established in 1845 by Colonel Anstruther Thompson, who brought them out of Essex. The Bronnwyd beagles, Sir Marteine Lloyd's, with the kennels at Llandyssil, South Wales, in his family since 1846, have been carefully bred from true strains. The Cheshire Beagle Hunt Club have some hounds good both in appearance and work, which on more than one occasion have won leading honours at Peterborough. Christ Church, Oxford, has beagles of its own, originally established in 1874, but the pack experienced vicissitudes, especially in 1886, when, dumb madness breaking out, the entire kennel were destroyed. The then Master, Mr. F. B. Craven, soon obtained twelve couples of merry little hounds, and the establishment is now as strong as ever. Near London, at Surbiton, Colonel Turner and Mr J. Fisher are joint masters of the hounds which Mr. R. W. Cobb got together in 1882, and the Stud Book (1895) includes the Cursis Stream Beagles, with kennels at Chapelizod, near Dublin, Mr. J. Godley being master. The Peover, Cheshire, Mr. R. L. Crankshaw master, is also an important pack. According to the hunt tables in the Rural Almanac, there are about forty packs of beagles hunting in various parts of the country, some of which no doubt have more than a dash of harrier blood in their veins.
In appearance the beagle is a diminutive harrier, with equally long and pendulous ears, not so level in back as a foxhound, but in other particulars much like him. However, the best beagle colour is certainly the "blue mottled," already mentioned, but in addition the ordinary hound markings are good, and black and tans, not of the Kerry size, are repeatedly met with, and are evidently admissible. The smooth coated hounds are usually understood to be most desirable, but the rough, or wire haired variety is admired by many persons, and in all respects is equally as good as the other. In hunting, the beagle is a merry, keen, hard worker, he can make casts for himself, and possesses a peculiarly bright, clear, and silvery voice. The smaller, or rabbit beagles, are especially sweet in their cry, and no doubt on this account obtained the name of "singing beagles," by which title they were known hundreds of years ago. In height there is much variety, those used for rabbits varying from nine inches, the standard of the late Mr. Crane's, at Southover, up to, say, twelve inches.
Others vary from twelve to sixteen inches, but when we reach the latter height, there is a near approach to the harrier, and so to the foxhound; the cross with the latter having been made with the idea of improving the legs and feet of the smaller hound, a change of blood that naturally has a tendency to do away with type.