Beagles are the perfect hunting dogs for small game animals. The breed was developed in the 1800s for small game, but lost popularity when fox hunting became a fad. They are fantastic dogs due to their energy and devotion in hunting. The breed has a very strong sense of smell and can effortlessly smell out rabbits without confusing it with larger game like deer. They have a very distinct bay that they use to alter the hunter when on a scent. And most effectively they don’t just run the rabbits, but they steer them back to the hunter.
My whole life I have only had one breed of dog, Beagles. My father is an avid rabbit hunter, and always has a hunting dog by his side. We have bred our dogs now for the past decade, starting with Angel, then Molly, and now Holly. My father will put up an advertisement in the local Beagle club, and find an owner with a male. He makes his choice on the dog by watching how the male hunts to be sure that the puppies have the best traits for hunting.
Molly, our now eleven-year-old hunting dog, was the best hunter we’ve had, so when we bred her with another good hunting dog we expected the same result. Holly, her puppy, is just as enthusiastic about hunting, but is significantly less talented, often running the rabbits alone and not working with the other dogs.
Even with breeding our dogs with unrelated dogs the gene pool for beagles is still limited. The common problems with the breed include intervertebral disk disease, hip dysplasia, cherry eye, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, distichlasis, CBS, dwarfism, hypothyroidism, patellar luxation, and epilepsy.
Though Holly was spared from many of these conditions her left hip has always caused her pain, sometimes forcing her to limp through the house. These symptoms became apparent after she began hunting, when she was a year old. After running rabbits she always spends the next day sulking over her leg. The solution you would think would be to not take her, but she knows when she is left out, and her reaction to that is far worse.