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Beagle goes for walk, returns home with human skull

A beagle returned home with an unusual find that has led to a criminal investigation in the town of Gallup, New Mexico: a human skull.

The dog found the remains Saturday evening and carried them home. Its owner, who lives on the west end of Gallup’s airport, then alerted authorities, John Allen, deputy police chief, told msnbc.com.

Police have determined the skull was from an individual believed to be a man, roughly 35 to 45 years old, who probably died about three years ago, Allen said.

Police decided to search a field around where the beagle lives since they figured the canine couldn’t have walked too far with the skull due to the dog's size. Their search turned up other human bones that “we believe are related to this skull,” Allen said.

“It is a criminal investigation at this time and until we determine otherwise, or receive other information, we’re going to continue along this path,” he said. “We’re attempting to identify who this individual may be … we may possibly have a lead and we’re looking into that right now.”

Gallup Police Det. John Yearley said dogs and coyotes unearth human remains a few times a year. In one case last year, dogs found bones that led police to a homicide case.

Police put the beagle on a leash to see if it could lead them to more remains, but the dog didn't, Yearley said. More bones were found near a coyote den, said Yearley, adding that he believed the body had been buried.

Of the beagle, he said, it is "quite the rabbit hunter. How he switched off from rabbits to the skull, I don't know."

Beagles have the best ground scenting ability among popular dog breeds, a trait that made them popular rabbit hunters in centuries past, according to SPCA International.

Gallup is a rural area that is home to about 20,000 people and borders the Navajo reservation, Allen said. It is about 140 miles west of Albuquerque.

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