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Beagles: The AKC Breed Standard

The Beagle belongs to the AKC Hound Group. Like other hounds, their noses are the envy of the dog world. Beagles use their noses to hunt down scents for a number of purposes. But if you want your Beagle to participate in conformation shows, like those you see on TV, it will have to match up the AKC breed standard. So, just what is the AKC breed standard for Beagles, anyway.

Appearance standards

The AKC standard specifies that a Beagle has to look solid enough to participate in a hunt and run down the prey. Cute is all well and good, but he has to look sturdy too. The following is a picture of an ideal Beagle.

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If you plan on showing your Beagle, check with the AKC for more information and to see if your Beagle qualifies. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a nonprofit organization that's devoted to the advancement of purebred dogs. The AKC maintains a record of all registered dogs; sponsors a variety of dog, such as shows and agility competitions; and establishes the ideal standards for each recognized breed.

Of course, the standard does much more than offer a big-picture description of what a Beagle should look like. The standard places far more emphasis on exactly how specific parts of the Beagle's body should appear.

  • Size: Beagles come in two sizes: the 13-inch Beagle (no taller than 13 inches at the withers) and the 15-inch Beagle (between 13 and 15 inches at the withers).

  • Head: A Beagle's skull should be fairly long, with a slight dome at the back part of the head. The skull should be relatively broad and full.

    There should be a distinct separation between the top and bottom of the face when seen from a profile.

    • The ears should reach almost to the end of the nose if drawn out straight, and they should be rounded at the tips.

    • The eyes (hazel or brown) should be large, set far apart, and have a gentle, pleading expression.

    • The muzzle should have a square shape.

  • Body: There should be no wrinkles in the skin around the neck and throat. The shoulders should slope downward into a relatively short back. The dog's chest should be deep and broad but proportionate to the rest of the body.

  • Legs: The Beagle's front legs should be straight, not crooked. The hips and thighs should be strong and muscular.

  • Tail: The tail needs to be fairly high on the rump and carried in a jaunty fashion, but it should not curve over the back.

  • Coat: The coat should be of a medium-length and lie close to the body. The coat should feel hard to the touch. No silky fur here.

  • Color: The standard is vague here, saying only that any recognized hound color is OK. The most common color is the tri-color (black, white, and tan), but it can also be red and white, chocolate tri-color (solid chocolate brown instead of black), and shaded tri-color (varied shades of brown instead of black). So, too, is ticking.

Appearance defects

The AKC standard also discusses how judges should rate the less-than-perfect Beagle. Among the defects that would cause a judge to disqualify a Beagle from or deduct points in the show ring are the following:

  • Height exceeding 15 inches

  • A narrow skull

  • A cranium that's too high

  • Small eyes

  • Protruding eyes

  • Excessively short ears

  • Ears set too high on the head

  • Ears that rise from their point of origin before falling

  • Excessive skin folding at the throat

  • Straight shoulders

  • Excessively deep or shallow chest

  • Swayed or excessively long back

  • Cow hocks

  • Excessively long tail

  • A tail curved forward or over the dog's back

  • Lack of feathering at the end of the tail

  • Soft coat

  • Thin coat

Few, if any, Beagles meet all the standard's criteria for perfection. Some deficiencies are no big deal in the show ring, while others are considered so serious that the dog can't be shown. Still, disqualification from the conformation show ring certainly doesn't mean that the affected Beagle won't be a wonderful, healthy pet or participant in other dog activities and competitions, such as agility.

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