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Kerry Beagle: Facts, Origin, Pictures & History

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

kerry beagle lying on the grass

Kerry Beagle: Facts, Origin, Pictures & History

Despite the name, the Kerry Beagle isn’t actually a Beagle at all. Instead, the Kerry beagle is a medium-sized scent hound that looks like a Beagle but is a different breed altogether. In fact, this is the only scent hound that is only found in Ireland.

Breed Overview


13 – 15 inches


18 – 30 pounds


10 – 15 years


Black, white, tan, red, tri-color; “any hound color”

Suitable for:

Families with children and other pets


Gentle, loving, lazy

As you’d imagine, this canine is not very common outside of Ireland. Because scent hounds are pretty common, the Kerry Beagle hasn’t spread much outside of Ireland itself. Therefore, to adopt one, you often have to find a breeder inside Ireland.

Beagle Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


Earliest Records of the Kerry Beagle in History

The Kerry Beagle is one of the oldest dogs in Ireland. Currently, detailed pedigrees go all the way back to 1794. However, the breed itself was likely in Ireland before these pedigrees. Typically, only monks were able to write and keep pedigrees of dogs, so these pedigrees do not take common dogs into account. It’s very likely that average people and nobles kept Kerry Beagles, as well as monks.

We don’t know exactly how this breed came to be.

With that said, this breed had a lot of ups and downs over the years. Because they are a purely Irish breed, their history is directly tied to Ireland. For instance, the Great Famine of 1845 directly impacted many species of animals, as humans were no longer able to take care of them.

During this time, only the canine training facility of Limerick Country was able to maintain and continue to breed their Kerry Beagles. Therefore, today, most Kerry Beagles are descended from these dogs. Most modern dogs can trace their ancestry back to the Scarteen House.

These dogs are thought to be the founding breed of many other modern breeds, such as the Coonhound.

Kerry Beagle dogs
Image By: Henk Osinga Photography, Shutterstock

How the Kerry Beagle Gained Popularity

The Kerry Beagle never really gained as much popularity as other breeds. Even today, they are pretty unknown outside of Ireland. If you want to adopt one of these dogs, you often have to adopt them from Ireland itself. Of course, importing a puppy in this way can be quite expensive.

In Ireland, this breed was once quite widespread. However, it has been pushed out by other breeds today. When immigrating to America, many Irish immigrants brought their Kerry Beagles with them. Therefore, this breed is thought to be the foundation of many breeds in America.

Still, despite being a foundation breed to many of the common breeds in America, the Kerry Beagle itself is not particularly popular.

Formal Recognition of the Kerry Beagle

This breed is extremely rare outside of their home country. For this reason, they are not recognized by many kennel clubs, despite the fact that they are obviously their own breed. However, many descendant breeds from the Kerry Beagle are recognized by many kennel clubs, such as the Coonhound.

With that said, the Irish Kennel Club did recognize this breed in 1991. Since then, the kennel club has aimed to encourage the breeding of the Kerry Beagle to prevent its extinction. After all, this breed is exceedingly rare outside of Ireland.

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Top 5 Unique Facts About the Kerry Beagle

1. Kerry Beagles are one of the oldest Irish breeds.

Many Kerry Beagles can trace their lineage far back into history. In fact, many pedigrees go as far back as the 17th century. Therefore, this breed is easily one of the oldest ones in Ireland.

2. They almost went extinct many times.

Because this breed is only found in a small area, it’s heavily affected by economic problems in those areas. Therefore, the breed has almost gone extinct numerous times due to economic hardship in Ireland, which affects people’s ability to keep and breed dogs.

3. Kerry Beagles are hardly Beagles.

Despite the name, these dogs are not as small as other Beagle breeds. Therefore, they are hardly considered Beagles at all.

4. They require a lot of exercise.

While hound dogs are notoriously lazy, that is not the case with this breed. They require regular walks and free runs on a daily basis, which can be a bit much for most people to handle. Therefore, you should ensure that you can exercise this dog properly before adopting one.

5. Their pack instincts are obvious.

This breed prefers to be with a pack and was bred to live with a large group of dogs. Therefore, some of them are prone to separation anxiety, especially if they are not taught how to be alone from a young age.



Does the Kerry Beagle Make a Good Pet?

Despite being bred mostly for hunting purposes, the Kerry Beagle is commonly considered to be a very good family pet. These canines are fun-loving and well adapted to living closely with people. However, they are not so people-oriented that they become obsessive like many other breeds.

These dogs are a great size for children. They are large enough to not be injured by most toddlers, which reduces the odds of the dog feeling the need to protect itself. Most dog bites on children occur in smaller breeds, who are more likely to “defend” themselves from the child.

At the same time, the Kerry Beagle isn’t so large that they become dangerous around children.

However, their high energy needs can be a bit of a handful for many families. These dogs do best in active families with fenced-in backyards they can run in. They do not do well off-leash, as they tend to run off. Therefore, they need to be kept in a fenced-in area when possible.


In Conclusion

Kerry Beagles are a rare breed that is mostly only located in Ireland. Therefore, seeing them outside of Ireland is strange indeed. Typically, if you want to adopt one, you’ll have to import them from Ireland (or live there yourself). Because of their rarity, they are not accepted by any kennel club that isn’t in Ireland.

These dogs are a bit big to be Beagles. However, they do look fairly similar to modern Beagles. Likely, their name comes from an Irish word for “small.” These Beagles likely predated our modern Beagles.

In fact, they are likely the foundation breed for many different breeds. Because they were brought to the Americas by Irish immigrants, they helped develop many of the American breeds we have today, including the coonhound.

Featured Image Credit: DannyWalshm Shutterstock

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