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Kerry Beagle: Pictures, Guide, Info & More

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Beautiful female Kerry Beagle

Although called the Kerry Beagle, the breed is closer to the hound category of dogs than to the Beagle. But, in any case, the breed is an efficient and prized hunter and also makes a loyal and loving pet. It has also been used as a guard dog, and its combination of the effective hunter and guard dog helped popularise the breed, although it did suffer a dip in popularity, like all breeds, following the Great Famine in the 19th Century.

It is one of the oldest breeds of Irish dogs. There are records of Kerry Beagles dating back to 1794, and the breed likely existed before that time. Unfortunately, the lack of records before this time makes it difficult to know exactly which breeds were used in its development.

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The Earliest Records of Kerry Beagles in History

There are pedigrees dating back to 1794 when they were used predominantly as hunting dogs. Because there are no records before this date, it is impossible to know for certain what breeds went into the development of the Kerry Beagle. However, experts believe that the Old Southern Hound and Celtic Hounds were most likely used in their development.

Although the Kerry Beagle remained popular for several decades, it suffered as a result of the Great Famine in the 1840s. All breeds were devastated by the famine, but the breed was kept alive by the Scarteen House, an equestrian and dog training facility in Limerick County. All modern dogs of this breed can be traced back to the dogs from Scarteen House at that time.

Although a few of the breed have made it abroad, the Kerry Beagle is really only known and followed in Ireland. Irish immigrants did take some Kerry Beagles to the U.S. and the breed was used as the foundation for others, but the Kerry Beagle itself is very difficult to find in the country.

Kerry Beagle dog laying down
Image Credit: DannyWalsh, Shutterstock

How Kerry Beagles Gained Popularity

The Kerry Beagle is a hound dog and was widely used for hunting. It has a good sense of smell and is energetic and tenacious. They were also pack dogs, and if you are lucky enough to get one of this breed today, it will exhibit the same pack tendencies.

A lone Kerry Beagle may suffer anxiety if it is the only dog in a house, and it can suffer separation anxiety if left alone. The breed’s properties made it very popular with hunters, and because it also had a tendency to bark an alert at any sign of trouble, it also found purpose as a guard dog.

Formal Recognition of the Kerry Beagle

Despite being one of the oldest breeds in the country, the Irish Kennel Club only formally recognized the breed in 1991. Since its inclusion, the organization has tried to encourage breeding to ensure that the breed does not disappear. Because the Kerry Beagle is not really seen outside Ireland, it is not widely recognized by any other kennel clubs as being a pedigree breed.

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Top 3 Unique Facts About Kerry Beagles

1. It Isn’t a Beagle

Despite being called a Kerry Beagle, the breed isn’t a beagle breed at all. It is a hound dog. Hound dogs are those that are used by hunters to track and chase prey, and a beagle is a small hound dog. The Kerry Beagle is larger than a beagle, which means it isn’t a beagle.

2. It Is a Pack Dog

Like most hound dogs, the Kerry Beagle is a pack dog. Hunters would have used packs of several Kerry Beagles to chase their prey. Even when kept as a pet, the Kerry Beagle maintains its pack dog tendencies. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a pack of them, but a Kerry kept as a lone dog can suffer anxiety and will be prone to suffering separation anxiety if you leave the house for too long a period.

Traditional fox hunting with Kerry Beagle dogs
Image By: Henk Osinga Photography, Shutterstock

3. Kerry Beagles Need Plenty of Exercise

Another throwback to the breed’s hunting past is its need for exercise. Expect to provide an absolute minimum of 60–90 minutes of exercise per day if you own one, and ideally include some kind of agility or canine sports. This type of exercise will be more physically and mentally fulfilling for the dog and will help ensure that it is fit, healthy, and happy.

Does the Kerry Beagle Make a Good Pet?

Historically, the Kerry Beagle was kept as a hunting dog or as a guard dog. It is still used for this purpose today and is considered excellent for this purpose. The breed is intelligent, loyal, and friendly. It will usually form a close bond with its humans and will get along with other pets, although it does retain a lot of its hunting instincts, so you will need to be careful if you let yours have time off the leash away from the yard.

Grooming is easy because the breed is a short-haired dog, and it is generally quite a hardy dog. As long as you have the time to dedicate to exercising one, the patience to train it well, and you don’t leave the dog alone for several hours at a time, every day, the Kerry Beagle can make an excellent companion and family pet.

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The Kerry Beagle is one of the oldest dog breeds from Ireland, but while other Irish breeds have gained in popularity and are found in countries across the world, it is very unusual to see one of these breeds anywhere other than in its homeland. However, it is a skilled hunting dog, makes a good guard dog, and is also a good choice of family pet for the right owner.

The Kerry Beagle does require a lot of exercise and can be prone to separation anxiety, though, so you do need to ensure you can meet these needs before adopting one or buying one for yourself.

Featured Image Credit: DannyWalsh, Shutterstock

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