Beagle Hunting dogs were developed primarily for hunting hare, an activity known as beagling. They were seen as ideal hunting companions for the elderly who could follow on horseback without exerting themselves, for young hunters who could keep up with them on ponies, and for the poorer hunters who could not afford to maintain a stable of good hunting horses.
Before the advent of the fashion for foxhunting in the 19th century, hunting was an all-day event where the enjoyment was derived from the chase rather than the kill. In this setting, the tiny beagle was well matched to the hare, as unlike Harriers they would not quickly finish the hunt, but because of their excellent scent-tracking skills and stamina, they were almost guaranteed to eventually catch the hare.
The beagle packs would run closely together (“so close that they might be covered with a sheet” which was useful in a long hunt, as it prevented stray dogs from obscuring the trail. In thick undergrowth, they were also preferred to spaniels when hunting pheasant.
With the fashion for faster hunts, the beagle fell out of favor for chasing a hare but was still employed for rabbit hunting. In Anecdotes of Dogs (1846), Edward Jesse says:
In rabbit-shooting, in gorse and thick cover, nothing can be more cheerful than the beagle. They also are easily heard over long distances and in thick cover. They have been called rabbit-beagles from this employment, for which they are peculiarly qualified, especially those dogs which are somewhat wire-haired. beagle hunting