The Beagle club was founded in 1890 and soon after issued a Standard of Points. This included a special paragraph relating to the Pocket Beagles, which read: “Pocket Beagles must not exceed ten inches in height. Although ordinary beagles in miniature, no point however good in itself should be encouraged if it tends to give a course appearance to such minute specimens of the breed. They should be compact and symmetrical throughout, of true beagle type and show great quality and breeding.” As previously mentioned, the Beagle Club’s standard was drawn up by a number of hare-hunting enthusiasts who value the beagle solely for its prowess in the field. It is surely, in the highest degree unlikely that men of their standing in the hunting world would have deemed it necessary to make special references to the ten inch and under hound unless the variety was at the time well known, generally recognized and widely kept.
As a boy in the pre-1914 days I saw several packs of Pocket Beagles at shows and elsewhere and was strongly attracted by them. During the war years all these packs were disbanded and breeding was almost totally suspended, with the result that when hunting and showing were resumed about 1920 the Pocket Beagle was seldom seen either in the field or on the bench. Even thirteen-inch and under hounds were difficult to find. Through the 1920’s circumstances prevented me from taking active steps to realize a long cherished ambition to own a small pack of miniature hounds, and when in the 1930’s I set about trying to revive the ten inch beagle it was too late.
That admiration of the smaller type is not a modern craze as shown by the following extract from an article published in the Sportsman’s Library close on a century ago: “Beagles to be very choice can scarcely be bred too small. The standard of perfection is considered to be from ten to eleven inches and the latter should be the maximum height. Nothing can be more melodious and beautiful than to hear the pygmy pack open at a hare and, if slow comparatively speaking in running her, should the scent be good she stands but little chance of escape from them in the end.”
In an article bearing the title “Foot Hunging” which appeared in the Stock-Keeper about 1900, the author in discussing the relative merits of packs of different sized Beagles wrote: “First, Pocket Beagles. The smaller a perfect specimen can be obtained the more valuable it is…Under certain circumstances a pack of Pocket Beagles is invaluable… Some of these little packs are as keen as mustard and afford untold pleasure and interest.” In the same periodical a Mr. Lord who owned and hunted a pack of ten inch beagles wrote: “Rabbit is the legitimate quarry of the Pocket Beagle. The hound is so small and active that he can fly thru the rabbit meshes.”
These few quotations should suffice to show how unreasonable is the assertion that the Pocket Beagle was never a stablized variety that all ten inch hounds were freaks produced by accident and were too toyish to be used for serious field work. Many packs of such tiny hounds were kept in many parts of the country up to the outbreak of the 1914 war and were shown both at hound shows and, less frequently, at larger dog shows, like Crufts and the Crystal Palace. The maximum height of ten inches was rigidly adhered to – several very typical specimens of eight inches were exhibited – and it is safe to say that practically all the hound seen were members of working packs.