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.
Since that time several lovely little hounds have been introduced, Mr. Crofton's Opera and Prima Donna, barely 10 inches in height, being, no doubt, the choicest of the smaller ones. Of the larger, Mr. Lord's Robin Hood and Lignum have never been excelled, and Mr. Joachim's Reader, Lonely, Lonely II., and Piccolo are as handsome a two couple as man need desire. At Brighton one annually sees a handy lot of beagles, which are used for work on the Downs, the master of them (Mr. F. Daniel) being ever foremost in advocating their interests.
Most of these smaller beagles are used for rabbit hunting and for working the coverts, which duties they perform most admirably. Mr. Lord has a very ingenious way to get a maximum amount of work out of his pets. Residing not far from large, uncultivated tracks of moorland, about three-quarters of an hour before unkennelling his hounds he sends out a man with a drag, who lays it for three or four miles, and then liberates a rabbit, the latter usually adding another mile to the hunt. His meets last season were every Saturday at ten o'clock from November to April. He also shoots rabbits over them. Mr. Lord's beagles are from 11 inches to 12 inches in height.
Mr. Crofton, who has kept beagles for more than twenty-five years, likewise uses his for rabbit hunting, rabbit shooting, and an occasional drag hunt. He prefers them 10 inches, or as much under as he can get them. His earliest hound was picked up in Winchester, an almost perfect little fellow, which belonged to a builder there; there was no pedigree with Pilot, but his blood must have been of the purest, as when mated with a bitch obtained from a gamekeeper not far from Stockbridge, excellent puppies resulted. Later, another bitch was added to these kennels from Sussex, but, owing to various circumstances, Mr. Crofton was never able to attain to the dignity of the mastership of a full pack. Still, he has always had a few couples of hounds not exceeding 10 inches, and his smallest were a couple which did not exceed 8 inches. These were excellent workers, and lovely little pets. One was presented to a lady who resided in London, and the way it contrived to find material to hunt in Kensington Gardens was extremely funny. It went away on the line, throwing its voice merrily, much to the amusement of everyone. Mr. Crofton doubts if he ever possessed a more perfect beagle than this little favourite called Tiny.
As to breeding beagles, Mr. Crofton says that he is in favour of breeding in and in to a considerable extent, but when he finds that the puppies are deteriorating in any point, he buys a young bitch whose pedigree he knows to be good, and particularly strong, even to exaggeration, in certain points where the others fail. This is better than using a strange dog hound. His beagles, with slight exceptions, are kept in kennels, and after a day amongst the rabbits care is taken that they are thoroughly dried before being fastened up for the night. By judicious treatment Mr. Crofton finds his little favourites to be quite hardy, well able to do severe work, and are not more liable than other dogs to disease. Moreover, he considers his smallest hounds the best workers, and the most intelligent and pleasant as companions. These rabbit beagles weigh pretty heavily for their size, owing no doubt to their thickness of bone and strong backs; such as are about twelve inches run from 131b. or 141b. to nearly 171b. each; whilst the eight and ten inch go up to 9 1b. or 10 lb. in weight.
Perhaps there is a fashionable future for these miniature hounds, especially as the Beagle Club is encouraging them. Previously they were heavily handicapped in the show ring by having to compete against larger hounds, and here, as in coursing and horseracing, "a good big 'un can always beat a good little 'un." Still, there is a quaintness and a character about these rabbit beagles which I always greatly admired, and their merry movements and silvery cry after their game delighted me much. It does not matter much what colour the beagle is; many prefer the blue mottles, but any hound colour will do - even black and tan.