The Beagle is one of the oldest breeds of dog, but his exact origins are lost to antiquity. Some sources say that Beagle-type canines are described in Greek documents as far back as 400 B.C. There are also accounts of packs of hounds in England before the times of the Romans, and these dogs are thought to be the basis of both sight and scent hounds (dogs that hunt by sight or by scent, respectively).
To add to the confusion, experts have differing opinions about which breeds are the Beagle's true ancestors. Here are just a few of their theories:
The Talbot: Many sources believe the Beagle is a descendant of the Talbot—a scent dog that originated in France and was brought over to Great Britain. Although Talbots were considered scent dogs, some breed experts argue they weren't very skilled at it and therefore cannot be related to the Beagle.
The Foxhound: The Beagle shares several similarities with the English Foxhound. To this day, many people believe that the Beagle is a miniature Foxhound. The two breeds were developed in Great Britain around the same time and are similar in appearance. Of course, others strongly dispute this theory.
The Kerry Beagle: In addition to having the word "Beagle" in his name, the Kerry Beagle has strong scenting abilities and is presumed to be linked to the Beagle.
The origin of the word "Beagle" is another source of disagreement. It is believed to have originated either from the Celtic word "beag" which means "small," or from the French word "begle" meaning "useless or of little value."
No matter when, where, or from which breed the Beagle originated, his popularity has only grown throughout the centuries. Today, Beagles are so well loved that a verb has been coined in their honor. Fanciers of the hound are said to be "beagling." While the breed is frequently seen in the winner's circle at dog shows or following a scent on the hunting trail, he is equally valued for his role as loving family pet.