The Beagle has a somewhat domed skull; a medium-length, square-cut muzzle; large, hound-like hazel or brown eyes; long, low-set ears (big), turning towards the cheeks slightly and rounded at the tips; a medium-length, strong neck without folds in the skin; a broad chest narrowing to a tapered abdomen and waist; a short, slightly curved tail; an overall muscular body; and a medium-length, smooth, hard coat. They appear in a range of colors, not limited to the familiar tricolor (white with large black and light brown spots). Beagles that only have two colors are known as "lemon beagles".
Beagles (or their ancestors) appear to have been used for hare hunting in England as early as the reign of Edward III, who had a pack of up to 120 hare hounds with him on the battlefield during the Hundred Years' War. The first mention of the beagle in English literature by name dates from 1475. The origin of the word "beagle" is uncertain, although it has been suggested that the word derives from the French begueule (meaning "open throat") or from an Old English, French, or Welsh term "beag", meaning "small." It is possible, but less likely, that it comes from the French word "begle" meaning "useless or of little value".
Beagles were originally used for hunting, and still are in some places. Beagling has been referred to as "the poor person's foxhunting," as a Beagle pack (30-40 dogs) is followed on foot, not horseback. The usual quarry is the hare. Beagles are admired by some for the bloodcurdling "Beagle music" they emit when in full pursuit. Beagling, like foxhunting, is banned in England. Drag hunting is another Beagle sport.
Due to their trusting and gentle nature, beagles are the dog most often used in animal experiments.
The Beagle's ears are long and floppy, which can prevent air from reaching the ear canals. Careless bathing can get water into their ears, potentially causing ear infections. Sometimes their eyelashes grow into the eye and irritate the eye; this might require surgery to remove the eyelashes. Obesity is a common health problem in Beagles; they need exercise and a controlled diet. Beagles may also become prone to congenital heart disease. They generally live for 12 to 15 years.
The Beagle has a very good temper. Beagles are intelligent, but are stubborn and may be hard to train (due to their strong will). They are an especially loyal breed and are very friendly. They rarely show signs of aggression and are excellent with children. Beagles also get along with other dogs, provided that they have been socialized correctly.
They are playful and energetic dogs that enjoy long walks. Beagles have minds of their own and can get into trouble because of this. Beagles also don't like being left alone and sometimes howl, bark, or cry when they are left alone. Getting a companion dog may improve or prevent this problem.