beagle hunting
Photo credit: Hedley Lamarr via Shutterstock

Hunting Dog Profile: The Adorable and Athletic Beagle

Beagles are one of the most popular dogs in the world. And, as hunting dogs, this miniature hound packs a serious punch of fun, grit, and rabbit-ready action.

You might not think of the beagle as a hunting dog. And yet, hunting rabbits is why this little dog exists. There’s actually a specific word for hunting with a beagle, and it’s an easy one to remember: beagling.

If you think beagling might be in your near future, read on for the basics, fun facts, and more things to know about this freakin’ adorable hunting breed.

The Ins and Outs of the Beagle

beagle puppies
Photo credit: Akita Meldes

Overall, the beagle is the sixth most popular dog in the United States and the most popular of the hound breeds, and for good reason. This affable little dog is athletic, loving, and happy-go-lucky.

There are two types of beagles, and this mainly has to do with size. The American Kennel Club breaks them up into beagles under 13 inches and beagles measuring 13-15 inches. The smaller of the two weighs less than 20 pounds, and the bigger one clocks in at 20-30 pounds.

Bred to thrive in packs, this pup has an easy temperament and a preference for social settings with canines and people. They have excellent noses, are good for beginners to train, and require a substantial amount of exercise.

It’s important to note that when not hunting, you’ll want to keep your beagle on a leash, as they’re bred to pick up a scent, follow their nose, and tune their owner out. As pets, this can make them more difficult for some than others. But as a hunting dog, it’s a great trait for locating small game with precision.

The other downside to living with a beagle can be her propensity to bay. Hounds are loud by design. But, it’s simply another bonus for the times you’re in the woods chasing down rabbits.

‘Beagling’ the Beagle

It’s estimated that folks have been hunting rabbits with beagles’ predecessors since before 55 B.C. Most closely tied to Great Britain in the mid-19th century, beagles were used for “foot hunting” rather than those hunting on horseback. This made them a popular and accessible hunting dog for the masses.

Most serious rabbit hunters don’t have just one. A small pack of beagles can be the most efficient way to hunt down rabbits and other small game, and two beagles can eat less than most medium- to large-sized breeds.

Although beagles are certainly rabbit specialists, they can also shed hunt, squirrel hunt, bird hunt, blood trail wounded game, retrieve game, and much more. Their sense of smell can certainly be tuned in many different ways, with some beagles being trained to even pick up the scent of cancer cells in humans.

GPS collar systems that pair with an in-hand device or your phone are great for beagling. Plus, keeping tags and bells on your dogs can help keep them safe while hunting.

Final Thoughts

Photo credit: Alexey Androsov

A quality hunting-bred beagle is much more affordable than your typical hunting-bred bird dog, and you can easily find pups in the $250-500 range. And, if you wanted to invest in a pup with a bit of hunting training under her collar, you can often find a nice hunting beagle for under $1,000.

Health problems for beagles include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, luxating patella (a dislocated kneecap), and eye disorders. But, responsible breeders will provide screenings for these issues. And it’s important to check your beagle’s ears on a weekly basis for any potential issues.

Beagles do great in small homes that head outside regularly. And, unlike many small dogs, beagles are great running and hiking companions in addition to being a great hunting pup.

Excellent with children, the beagle’s affable nature makes her a great all-around family dog. Another bonus: small game seasons often extend way past your typical deer hunting season. Extend the hunting fun by adding a beagle (or two!) to your pack.

Hunter with Rifle standing next to yellow Labrador Dog
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Nicole Qualtieri

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.