THIS is perhaps the only variety of hound that has profited by the institution of dog shows. He has done so because he is small and affectionate, pretty and docile, and in many respects admirably suited to be a "pet dog." Unfortunately, he is so true to his instincts of hunting the rabbit, and even the hare, as to prove rather a nuisance than otherwise in country places, where his bell-like, melodious voice will be continually heard in the coverts where the little hound is bustling the game about, much to the annoyance of the head keeper and his under strappers.


The beagle, by some writers said to be the "brach" of past generations, can boast of ancient lineage. Perhaps he was one of our original British dogs, but, as an old writer very truly observes, "his origin is lost in the mists of obscurity." Whether he actually was the "brach" or "brache" is quite a matter of question, for this name was applied to any dog which hunted by scent; even the bloodhound was so called. The earliest appearance of the word appears in the Arthurian legend of Garvaine and the Green Knight (1340). "Braches bayed, therefore, and breme (loud) noise made." Markham uses it as applied to a bitch, thus: "When your bratche is near whelping," etc. Caius does likewise. Shakespeare and other writers use the word in varying senses; Jameson, in his Scottish dictionary, defining it as a hound which found and pursued game by scent. However, it does not matter much whether the "brach" was the original beagle or not, but the latter came from under his cloud about the time of good Queen Bess, who was said to be the fortunate possessor of a pack of hounds so small that they could be carried in a lady's glove. Well, either the hounds must have been far smaller than the least of our toy terriers of to-day (which is extremely unlikely), or the glove of more capacious dimensions than a "fives Dent and Ald-croft" of the present time (which is extremely improbable), or the story an exaggeration (which is perhaps true). So there is only one conclusion to be arrived at, that these so-called "singing beagles" of our virgin queen were somewhat of a myth, or that one of them, and not the whole pack, could be ensconced in "my lady's gauntlet." William III also kept a pack of beagles, and when, in 1695, he hunted them during a visit to Welbeck four hundred horsemen were out, a number which is not approached at the present day, when such hounds are usually followed on foot.

Approaching more modern times, George IV. had a pack of beagles of which he was so fond that one of the best portraits of himself was taken in their company, he being surrounded by his merry little pack; and most typical hounds they are, full of character, and almost better than any we know at the present day. Colonel Thornton hunted with them on Brighton Downs, and expressed himself surprised with the pace they could go, and found a good hunter more useful than a pony in following them. A good beagle is slow but sure; he dwells on a cold line until he puzzles it out, and, throwing his musically sweet voice, calls the remainder of his fellows to him and away they gallop and cry, crawling through fences or topping stone walls, on the scent of poor puss. Beagles run very keenly, but are not so savage on the line as a foxhound.

The author of "Thoughts on Hunting," having heard much of the excellence of a certain pack of beagles, sent his coachman to fetch them, in order that the diminutive hounds might be given a fair trial. The coachman was evidently not the proper person to have the charge of hounds, and, in bringing them along the road, they became terribly riotous, going for pigs, sheep, horses, cattle, birds, deer, and almost everything that moved in front of them. However, in due course the pack arrived at its destination with the loss of only one hound; and, on being asked what he thought of them, the coachman replied that they were the "best hounds he ever saw, for they would hunt everything." At the close of last century Colonel Hardy had a pack of beagles which were taken to the meet and to the kennels again, when possible, in a couple of hampers strapped across the back of a pony. It is said that these hounds, kennelled in a barn prior to hunting next day, were stolen therefrom; hampers, horse, and all disappearing, nor was their whereabouts ever discovered.

"Stonehenge," in "Dogs of the British Isles," gives an interesting account of the late Mr. Crane's rabbit beagles, a Dorsetshire pack, which all round has certainly never been excelled for excellence in the field, and beauty on the show bench. "Idstone," the writer of that article, says:-

"He has seen them on a cold, bad scenting day work up a rabbit and run him in the most extraordinary manner, and although the nature of the ground compelled the pack to run almost in Indian file, and thus to carry a very narrow line of scent, if they threw it up it was but for a moment. Mr. Crane's standard is 9m., and every little hound is absolutely perfect. I saw but one hound at all differing from his companions, a little black-tanned one. This one on the flags we should have drafted, but when we saw him in his work we quite forgave him for being of a conspicuous colour. Giant was perhaps the very best of the pack, a black-white-and-tanned dog hound, always at work, and never wrong. He had a capital tongue, and plenty of it. A bitch, Lily, had the most beautiful points. She is nearly all white, as her name implies. Damper, Dutchman, Tyrant, are also all of them beautiful models. The measurement of Damper was: Height, gin.; round the chest, 16in.; across the ears, 12m.; extreme length, 2ft. 4m.; eye to nose, 2 1/8 in. Mr. Crane's standard is kept up with great difficulty. He has reduced the beagle to a minimum. Many of the mothers do not rear their offspring, and distemper carries them off in troops. Single specimens may occasionally be found excessively dwarfed and proportionately deformed. These hounds would perhaps be wanting in nose or intelligence if they could be produced in sufficient force to form a pack; but Mr. Crane's are all models of symmetry and power, and are as accomplished and as steady as Lord Portsmouth's hounds. The Southover beagles are as small as it is possible to breed them (in sufficient numbers to form a pack) without losing symmetry, nose, intelligence, and strength."