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10 Howling Good Facts About Beagles

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These lovable hounds are happy, playful companions. Find out more about why they make perfect pets.

1. Their origins are mysterious. 

The beagle is such an old breed that its ancestors hunted rabbits with the Ancient Romans. Unfortunately, origins are hard to trace when they stretch that far back. No one is really sure when or where the breed first emerged. 

2. You’ll hear a lot from them. 

We may not know the origin of the beagle, but we do know where the name comes from. Most likely, it comes from the French word begueule, which means “open throat.” The name is pretty accurate: Beagles have impressive vocal cords that are much fuller and louder than other dogs. 

3. They have different barks for different occasions.  

Beagles are so talented at vocalizing, they do so in three different ways. There’s the standard bark for everyday things like the doorbell or getting a new treat. Then there’s baying, which sounds a lot like doggy yodeling. This throaty yowl is used on the hunt to alert fellow dogs that they've picked up an interesting scent. Finally, there's the forlorn howl. Beagles will howl if they are sad, bored—or if others are howling first.

4. Foxes need to steer clear. 

Beagles were bred to be the ultimate fox-catching hounds. Their short legs keep them low to the ground, which means they can take in scents without having to stop. Big, floppy ears also help them notice smells, by wafting them towards the dog's nose. And their white tipped tails help hunters keep track of the dogs as they run through brush and shrubbery. 

5. Their noses are powerful. 

The little hounds have some of the best noses in the dog world. With more than 220 million scent receptors, beagles can pick up more than 50 distinct odors. A wet nose helps attract and hold scent molecules for better evaluation. Even more impressive: they can differentiate smells and remember them in the future. 

5. That sense of smell can land them a job. 

With their powerful noses and portable size, beagles are great working dogs. A common form of employment for beagles is sniffing out bedbugs (the only silver lining of contracting these pests is getting a visit from a pup). Apparently the parasites give off a “sweet yet musty scent” that only dog noses can pick up on. Another (slightly) more glamorous job is sniffing polar bear poop: Beagles can smell the droppings of female bears and determine if they are pregnant. 

6. There’s even a Beagle Brigade. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided that beagles are the most effective (and adorable) way to prevent the spread of insects and disease. The Beagle Brigade is a trained task force of dogs that patrols airports all over the country. Using their powerful sniffers, the dogs can find meat and produce that might be carrying foreign bugs or diseases. To become one of these investigative pooches, beagles must undergo 12 weeks of training. 

7. An electric fence might be your best bet. 

Beagles are prone to wanderlust: If they catch a good smell, they’re going to follow it. As a result, you’re going to want to keep your pup on a tight leash. Fenced-in areas might work for some dogs, but many beagles are skilled diggers and climbers. The little escape artists are known for scaling fences, or burrowing underneath. Some are even capable of climbing trees

8. A number of beagles have made it into the cartoon world. 

Sure, most people know that Snoopy, Charlie Brown's companion, is a beagle. But he’s not the only one. Odie from Garfield, Gromit from Wallace and Gromit, Poochie from The Simpsons, and Mr. Peabody from Rocky and Bullwinkle are all beagles as well. 

9. Pocket beagles predated the ones we know today. 

Hunters in the 13th century employed pocket beagles, which are exactly as tiny and adorable as they sound. These miniature pups were only about eight to nine inches tall. Today, beagles are about 13 to 15 inches tall. 

10. LBJ kept beagles in the White House. 

Lyndon B. Johnson was a big fan of the breed and had two, named Him and Her. After Him died, J. Edgar Hoover gave the president another beagle named Edgar

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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