The harrier is a medium-sized dog breed used for hunting hares. It is similar to the English Foxhound but smaller, but not as small as a beagle. The breed has been used for hunting since the mid-13th century.
In this article, we will look at the history of the harrier breed, its physical characteristics, temperament, and suitability as a family pet.
Origin and history of the harrier dog breed
The harrier is a medium-sized dog belonging to the hound class of dogs originally bred in England to hunt hares for sport.
The breed has existed in America since Colonial times. The American Kennel Club recognized the harrier breed in 1885. It is classified in the Hound Group.
There are many different stories about where the harrier came from. Some say they were crossed with Bloodhounds, Talbot Hounds (extinct), and Basset Hounds.
Others say they were crossed with English Foxhounds, Fox Terriers, and Greyhounds. Still, others say the harrier is just a bred-down version of the English Foxhound.
About the harrier breed
The harrier is a breed of dog between the Beagle and English Foxhound in size.
This breed was developed primarily to hunt hares, but they have also been used for fox hunting.
The name “Harrier” reveals the breed’s specialty. This is because “harehound” means a dog that hunts hares.
The harrier has a long history of popularity as a working pack dog in England.
The harrier is the most common hound used by hunts in Ireland. There are 166 packs of harriers in Ireland, with 37 of those packs using mounted hunters and 129 using foot hunters.
These packs are spread throughout the country and used to hunt foxes and hares.
The Harrier dog breed is taller than the beagle but shorter than English Foxhounds, a breed used to develop the harrier and a more muscular breed than the beagle.
Harriers have a short coat, low-set, velvety ears; an irresistibly sweet face; and enough muscle and sinew to endure a long day’s hunt.
Are harriers intelligent dogs?
A harrier’s temperament is as intelligent and good-natured a dog as its outside appearance suggests.
The harrier is generally easy to train (with patience), gentle around children and other dogs, and has an excellent nose for sniffing rabbits.
The Harrier temperament is friendly, but harriers will be more mouthy if not socialized with other dogs and people early on in life.
The American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club classes the Harrier dog breed as a hunting dog bred to hunt hares.
They are considered “medium-sized” dogs, typically weighing between 35 and 50 pounds.
They have a 12-14 years lifespan, which is good compared to other dog breeds.
Some of their common health problems include hip dysplasia, eye problems, and ear infections.
The appearance of the gentle harrier
The harrier hound is a distinct breed and sturdy, well-balanced dog that enables them to hunt for prolonged periods.
They have floppy ears on their pronounced heads, with alert and dark hazel or brown eyes and a dense coat.
The forequarters should have sloping shoulders above straight, bony legs.
Harriers have a wide nose with prominent nostrils for keeping scents, square jaws, muscular necks and bodies, and level toplines.
Their tail stands upright to help others know their location.
The harriers’ white or off-white markings on their chest, feet, muzzle, throat, stomachs, and tails help them stand out in the woods.
Standard colors for harrier hounds include black & tan with brown eyes.
A male Harrier
Harrier Temperament and Personality
A Harrier does best when he always has human or canine company.
When they’re not out hunting and don’t have anything interesting to do, Harriers can become destructive.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home, and start socializing with family and friends until he’s been trained.
Train your dog with firmness, consistency, and positive reinforcement through praise and food rewards.
When a Harrier is eight weeks old, he will soak up everything you can teach him, so start training as early as possible.
Are harrier dogs good family dogs?
Harriers are very gregarious pack hounds and do best when they live with other harriers or at least other dogs.
A harrier needs room to run and explore but tends to wander off if allowed out of sight for long periods.
Most are happiest with another dog to play with.
The coat is easily cared for, needing only occasional brushing to remove dead hair. Harrier needs daily exercise with a long walk, jogging, and vigorous play in your yard.
The Harrier breed makes an excellent family-friendly pet.
They’ll be alert and wary of strangers and can get along well with cats.
As pack dogs, they won’t have any issues with living and playing with other dogs.
Due to their being bred for hunting rabbits and hares, they have a strong prey drive and may go after your hamster, mice, or bird.
They’re friendly canines that will greet guests but don’t have issues with socialization with other possessions without early socialization and are great for kids.
Is the harrier an active dog?
The harrier is an active, high-energy dog that needs at least an hour of vigorous exercise daily.
This can be in the form of a long walk, run, playing fetch, or other games in your backyard.
A typical hound, a bored harrier, might become destructive and engage in behaviors such as unwanted chewing or excessive barking.
Long walks, jogging, cycling, and hiking are great ways to get some of their energy out.
Harriers will make excellent jogging companions, and if not taken on a daily jog, they need to be taken on a long, daily, brisk walk.
In addition to physical activity, the Harrier dog breed also needs mental stimulation through training.
Dog sports, such as tracking and agility, can also help challenge their minds and bodies.
Always keep your harrier on a leash or in a securely fenced area outside.
These hunting dogs will quickly take off following a scent and often ignore a recall command.
Diet and nutrition
The harrier is a high-energy dog that needs a diet that provides them with the energy they need to sustain its activity levels.
A diet high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates is best for this breed. In addition, a healthy diet and lots of regular exercise will help the harrier achieve a long life span.
High-quality kibble designed for active dogs will have the right mix of ingredients to keep your harrier healthy and happy.
Harriers also need access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Give them plenty of opportunities to drink throughout the day, especially after exercise.
How much food should I feed my harrier?
The amount of food your Harrier needs will depend on his size, age, activity level, and metabolism.
Talk to your vet about how much food is suitable for your dog, and follow their recommendations.
What you need to know about harrier health – common health problems
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease.
Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems.
Harrier Hounds are relatively healthy and have a long life span, but like all dogs, they’re susceptible to certain health disorders.
Reputable breeders will be honest about health problems and the incidence with which they occur.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, life span, and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him.
A common illness they may have is canine hip dysplasia, where the thigh bone doesn’t fit the hip joint.
It’s also best that a Harrier’s pup’s parents have clearances for elbow and hypothyroidism.
Other health issues harrier dogs may have include;
- hound ataxia
- anal furunculosis
- perianal fistula.
Ask a breeder to show evidence that both a puppy’s parents have hip clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. The eye clearance should have been performed within the past year.
Puppies shouldn’t be allowed to run for long periods on hard surfaces until their bones are fully developed.
If a breeder says she’s never had problems in her line, you should find a more rigorous reputable breeder.
How long do harrier hounds live?
The average life span of an adult harrier is around 12–14 years, which is good compared to other dogs.
Are harriers rare?
The harrier is classed as a rare breed of dog. However, in the last century, the number of Harrier packs has decreased significantly, probably due to the hare and fox hunting decline.
The basics of harrier grooming
The short, dense coat of a Harrier is easy to groom.
Brushing the dog with a soft bristle brush, hound mitt, or rubber curry brush will remove dead dog hair and loose hairs and distribute skin oils.
Like many hounds, weekly brushing to remove dead hairs will keep the harrier’s short coat nice and healthy, while regular nail trimming will keep them looking their best.
Bathe the dog as needed but not too often. Trim the nails every week or two.
Brush the teeth with vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Brush the rounded hanging ears clean and dry, and keep the ears clean.
Choosing a harrier breeder
The Harrier Club of America has an ethical code of ethics to encourage good breeders to match you with the right puppy.
The American Kennel Club may also have a harrier breeder list.
Red flags include puppies always available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and being able to pay online with a credit card.
Ask your veterinarian for referrals to a reliable source for healthy puppies.
An adult dog might be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.
You can find an older dog through breeders or shelters.
If you want to adopt a dog that needs a new home, you should try and find a good breeder in the U.S.
Where can I adopt or buy a Harrier?
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that adage “let the buyer beware.”
Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations.
You can start talking with local experts in your area about your desire to adopt a harrier.
Ensure you have a good contract with the seller or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides.
It would help if you also asked breed rescue groups about any health issues the dogs may have or are a valuable resource for advice.
Take your dog to your veterinarian soon after adoption, and you can set up a preventive regimen to help you avoid many health issues.
How much does a Harrier dog cost?
Purebred Harrier puppies can be priced between $1,000 and $2,500.
Avoid pet stores, puppy mills, and backyard breeders by researching and knowing the right questions to ask before signing a contract.
What is the difference between a beagle and a Harrier?
Harriers and Beagles are two different breeds of dogs. The harrier and beagle are both hound-like breeds that originated in England and were used as hunting dogs to hunt game such as hares and rabbits.
Both beagles and harrier dog breeds are high-energy dogs with a strong hunting drive, including chasing small animals with speed, endurance, and agility.
Both beagles and harriers are friendly dogs and make good family pets.
The main difference between the two breeds is that harriers are larger and heavier than beagles. They also have a longer, more powerful neck.
A harrier, beagle, and other hounds
Five interesting harrier dog facts
- The harrier may have been brought to England when the Normans invaded in 1066.
- The breed is primarily a pack hound with a scent hound temperament, but that is no barrier to his ability to be a companion dog.
- Harriers are sweet and affectionate, but they are a highly energetic and active dog breed because of their hunting heritage.
- First-time dog owners should be careful to maintain a securely fenced yard to ensure that he doesn’t escape and go hunting alone.
- Harrier dogs like to ‘talk” and will communicate with you using moans and groans, grumbles, and mumbles.
Harrier hounds are highly energetic, active dogs and an intelligent breed, so make sure you have a securely fenced yard. Harriers can be sweet and affectionate, but because of their hunting heritage, they’re also prone to escape if given a chance. To avoid any issues with your new dog from Harrier Rescue or Shelter Adoption, you must set up a good contract with them that spells out responsibilities on both sides and ask for advice on potential health conditions before adopting.