The Science Behind the Beagle’s Incredible Nose
The science behind the beagle’s incredible nose. Why is it that beagles are always following their noses into trouble? And just how accurate is the beagle’s nose? Well, it’s possible for a beagle’s sense of smell to be around 10,000 times better than yours! Interested in learning how? Stick around.
In this episode, we’ll be discussing the facts and science behind the beagle’s incredible nose and their amazing scent-tracking abilities. And that all starts right now on The Smart Canine The only show that explores the most interesting stories and facts behind dogs.
But before we dive in, hit that subscribe button and notification bell for more incredible dog stories like this. Beagles are often called the “goldilocks of the dog world.” They’re not too aggressive nor too shy, friendly but not over-pleasing, and energetic but also docile.
This even-temperament has made the beagle well-suited for all types of people. It’s why they’re one of the top 10 popular breeds in North America. And while they are popular companion dogs today, this wasn’t the case hundreds of years ago.
In fact, in the early days of dog domestication, most dogs weren’t seen as companions. Rather, they all served a very specific role or purpose in society, mostly benefiting humans in one way or another.
Labradors retrieved game. Dobermans were guard dogs. Border collies herded sheep. Even the little cute Yorkshire terrier hunted rats. But believe it or not, beagles were hunting dogs too – and this job was all thanks to their incredible noses.
No, they weren’t hunting dogs that fiercely took down wild animals. To be specific, they were tracking dogs that primarily hunted in packs and alongside humans. Their specialty lies in locating a wide variety of small games, such as gophers, rabbits, bobcats, snowshoe hares, foxes.
..you name it! But just how did the beagle become the dog-of-choice for scent tracking? Of course the answer lies in the nose. The beagle has a powerful nose that rivals some of the best in the business, including the bloodhound and the basset hound.
Here’s a fun comparison: humans only have 5 million scent receptors in their nose. However, beagles have roughly 44 times as many – or about 220 million scent receptors. However when put to use in the real world, the difference is exponential.
According to researchers, the beagle’s sense of smell is between one thousand and ten thousand times greater than a human’s sense of smell. What’s even more amazing is that beagles are able to smell their owners from over 20 kilometers away or just over 12 miles.
No wonder they say that a beagle never stays lost for long. If they want to return home, they just have to follow their noses. But just because they have an amazing sense of smell, doesn’t mean that they’re great at tracking, right? After all, how can they find something when there are so many odors flooding their scent receptors? Well, what’s special about the beagle’s nose is that they’re so effective and perceptive at differentiating between odors.
Just imagine the number of scents that a transportation security beagle encounters every day at the airport. Without the ability to differentiate between odors, how is it possible that they can sniff out narcotics, explosives, and illegal foods.
In reality, a beagle’s nose can actually recognize as many as 50 different scents in an enclosed area when properly trained. So no matter how many people are traveling through the airport at a given time, you can count on the beagle to be able to follow the trail of a specific odor.
And just because the nose of a beagle contains more receptors than others doesn’t automatically make them better at tracking. In fact, there’s plenty of physical attributes that help these dogs locate, differentiate, and track these scents.
Obviously the beagle’s nose is built differently than the human’s nose. But it’s also built differently than the nose of many other dog breeds. And of course, the nose structure plays a huge role in enhancing or inhibiting the overall sense of smell.
So, if you take a good look at the breed’s nose, you’ll notice a few things. For instance, the beagle has a long and wide nose. This gives the nose more surface area to hold more cells dedicated to detecting or differentiating between scents.
So thanks to the wider nose of the beagle, they’re able to pack the same amount of scent receptors as the German shepherd, which weighs roughly three times more! On the other hand, dogs with short noses, such as the bulldog or pug, have a limited amount of space to hold scent-detecting cells.
It’s a huge reason why they’re not great hunting dogs. And have you ever wondered why healthy dogs typically have a moist and wet nose? Well it’s because this helps trap molecules that come in contact with the nose.
With that said, a wider nose is just a bigger and better magnet for absorbing molecules in the air. Another reason for the beagle’s superior sense of smell is the connection of the nose to the brain, which serves a crucial role in identifying and processing scents.
The beagle’s olfactory lobe is far more developed than other animals, including humans. But what exactly is it? Located in the brain of the beagle, the olfactory lobe is essentially a mass of neural tissue that helps with processing information regarding scents.
When compared to brain size, the beagle’s olfactory lobe is relatively four times larger than a human’s! This is why beagles have a way better sense of smell than humans. They’re just a lot more efficient at processing scents than us.
But aside from the nose or brain, beagles possess many other physical attributes that also help them with scent tracking. Like have you ever wondered why beagles are so oddly shaped? Well this wasn’t by accident – they were bred this way for a reason.
For example, the beagle’s neck is long and durable. With a longer neck, beagles have an easier time dropping their nose to the ground, which in turn, makes it much easier to follow scents on the ground.
And because odors travel from higher to lower elevation, you can bet most of the odors can be found low on the floor. Likewise, the short legs of the beagle aren’t so that they can look adorable and cute.
Shorter legs means that the dogs can stay lower towards the floor and as a result, brings their nose closer to the scent trails on the ground. All this means is that beagles can continue sniffing a trail without having to stop.
They can walk or run with their nose stuck to the ground. Another signature trait of beagles is of course the long and floppy ears. They’re so long that the ears actually reach the end of the dog’s nose when the dog lowers its head.
Once again, this was no mistake. The long ears of the beagle actually helps by collecting the scent particles – sweeping them towards the nose. It’s like having your own broom that sweeps dust into your vacuum at the same time! It doesn’t get more efficient than this! And when you finally combine all these physical advantages, along with the incredible nose of the beagle, you have yourself the ultimate tracking machine.
However, there are some environmental factors that can actually affect a beagle’s sense of smell. Thus when traveling upwind, the scent or the prey, may catch wind and travel towards the dog, thus increasing their chances of picking up the trail.
Tracking dogs might also perform better in wetter regions because humidity tends to improve nasal humidity and helps the nose trap more odors and scents. Beagles will also have a heightened sense of smell in colder climates.
When the temperature drops, scent molecules become more dense and provide a higher concentration of smell. But it’s not all enhancements of their sense of smell. Thick vegetation, heavy rains, snow, or overly dry environments, can also make it more difficult for your beagle to pick up on a scent.
So how well your beagle can track on a given day really depends on the environmental conditions and weather on that day. For many centuries, beagles have been prized for their amazing and accurate sense of smell.
And while they started off as the ultimate hunting companions, they’ve evolved into many other roles in modern society. The most popular modern job of the beagle is of course the sniffer dog.
They’re so good at their jobs that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security actually employs over 120 beagles. The special k-9 group is called the Beagle Brigade and they’re currently stationed at 88 major international airports all across the United States.
These beagles are specially trained to detect and locate plant or animal products that are prohibited from entering the country. In some cases, they’re tasked with sniffing out large sums of cash, illegal substances, or explosives.
Outside of the Beagle Brigade, this dog breed has been making headlines in the medical industry as well. Their noses are so powerful that they can sniff out cancer in humans. In a recent study, researchers trained three beagles for eight weeks.
They were given blood samples for both healthy and lung cancer patients to learn from. By the end of the training session the three dogs were able to make a clear distinction between cancer and non-cancer blood samples with a 96.
7% accuracy rate. It’s simply incredible. But researchers aren’t stopping there. Some beagles are being trained to sniff out other types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer. But what’s even more impressive is that the beagles are learning to detect cancer from a person’s breath.
So what do you think about the beagle’s amazing nose? Is there any other animal that can compare? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think. If you enjoyed this video give us a thumbs up and subscribe to The Smart Canine for the most interesting stories and facts behind dogs.