This is a recurring theme. A dog breed was bred for some purpose that has faded somewhat in importance or has become somewhat obsolete; humans get the idea of using the skills that that breed was bred with for some other, quite useful purpose. The Beagle is one of the breeds that have found itself in this situation. Beagles have an incredibly keen sense of smell and love following their noses; this, along with other characteristics regarding temperament and personality, have made the Beagle an excellent detection dog used by a variety of organizations around the world to discover a wide spectrum of substances and items, including contraband agricultural and food products, narcotics and even insect pests.
Not only is the Beagle a keen sniffer, but it also is a very amiable dog with a great personality, lacking aggressive tendencies and happy to please its owner. It has also a VERY highly developed food drive and is more than willing to work for treats. All agencies that have worked with Beagles have agreed that they are one of the most efficient breeds to be used in detection; situations where they are not employed usually require a bit more muscle and aggression than Beagles are capable of. One of the fields in which Beagles are receiving quite a deal of praise is termite detection. A variety of agencies are now using Beagles to enter homes and search for the presence of live termites; these agencies have tested the suitability of many breeds and have found the Beagle to be their favorite; their outgoing, sociable personality, their enthusiasm for sniffing and their willingness to sniff for the pure pleasure of sniffing has allowed them to excel at their work. Beagles are used for this kind of work around the world; indeed, it has even been reported that Beagles are being used in Taiwan to detect the presence of deadly fire ants.
One of the jobs that Beagles have become famous for is the detection of contraband agricultural and food products, as part of the US Department of Agriculture's Beagle Brigade; numerous teams of Beagle detection dogs and handlers are found in a large number of international airports around the country, working to make sure that food and plant diseases do not make it into the country. Again, this is an agency that experimented with various breeds and finally settled on Beagles. Beagles are not large dogs and they do not cause panic in individuals who are afraid of dogs; someone having a panic attack because they are approached by a large dog is not a desirable scene in a crowded airport. Also, Beagles are low maintenance dogs, quite smart (though stubborn) and, a very popular trait with detection agencies, they love to work for and with food, any kind of food, at all times. They have an amazing power to pick up even the faintest of smells and can distinguish one smell from another; they can be taught what smells they need to alert their handler about and what scents they can ignore. The Beagle Brigade program has been so successful that similar programs, using Beagles, have popped up in a number of other countries.