The Harrier, also called the Harrier Hound, was originally bred for hunting foxes, hares, and other small game. Even though the popularity of this breed has declined drastically over the past few decades, hunters still appreciate the Harrier for his excellent sense of smell and his unending energy during the hunt.
Harriers are in the upper range of the medium-sized dogs at about 1.5 feet tall at the shoulders and can live about 10 to 12 years.
General Overview of the Harrier
Harriers tend to resemble very large Beagles and have often been confused with them as well. They are very lively and active hound dogs that were used to hunt mostly foxes and hares because of their excellent sense of smell. These dogs hunt best in a pack. They also make very good companion dogs for the family.
Because these dogs are considered to be quite rare you will probably never see one in your lifetime. Back in 1994 there were only four litters born in the U.S. according to the American Kennel Club.
The Harrier is a heavy-boned thick-bodied dog. This design is meant for a hard-working breed and that is what the Harrier is. Their muzzles are quite long with wide, opened nostrils. The eyes are dark and very alert. The Harrier's stamina is what makes them great hunting dogs because they are not fast. This allows them to run down their prey until exhaustion. When the prey is exhausted the Harriers will circle around it preventing its escape and then start baying to tell the hunters.
The ears of the Harrier are drooped and long. They also have very thick pads on their paws which allows them to run through very rough terrain. Their chests are very wide which allows plenty of room for their lungs and heart. The harriers carry their tails upright and this allows the hunters to see them from a distance or in tall grass.
Harriers are also very playful and outgoing. They love the company of people and other animals. They are very sweet-natured animals that tolerate children very well. This trait makes them excellent family companions.
These dogs are definite pack dogs which is why they get along well with other dogs and people. However, when it comes to other animals and pets in the house you need to keep an eye on the Harrier. These dogs are absolute hunters and any other animal in the house will most likely be considered prey to them. Also keep them on a leash when walking them in a park as they tend to love chasing squirrels and other small rodents.
The Harrier is a dog that was bred to have a lot of energy and stamina. This means that they are self-thinkers and can figure things out for themselves. Because of this they tend to be great escape artists. If you crate these dogs you need a good sturdy crate with at least a double locking system. If you give them plenty of exercise during the day they will not become bored while in a crate so they shouldn't try to escape.
These are great dogs who love to be around their owners but do not need much attention from their owners. They will entertain themselves. Your job as an owner of one of these dogs is to supervise them so that they stay out of trouble.
Because these dogs can think for themselves they can be very stubborn. Obedience training is often necessary for the Harrier. Enrolling them in some sort of performance sports such as rally or agility will definitely help to keep them busy as well as to aid in getting rid of all their excess energy. As for being inside the house they tend to be inactive animals. They are not, however, recommended for people who live in apartments unless you are willing to give them at least two hours of vigorous exercise every day.
Being very loyal to their owners and the family Harriers make great watchdogs. They will alert you to the presence of strangers and visitors to your home. They will even bark at every strange noise they hear which is another reason they are not recommended for apartments. They are usually quite friendly towards strangers as they will greet them as if they have known each other for a long time.
These dogs are not recommended for first-time dog owners because of the amount of daily exercise that is required as well as their stubbornness.
Below is a general listing of some of the major highlights of these dogs:
- Harriers can be very stubborn and are often difficult to house train. Because of this it is recommended that you provide crate training.
- Harriers are howlers and can be quite vocal at time.
- A securely fenced-in yard is an absolute need for these dogs as they will chase any game that they see or follow any scent that they pick up.
- Harriers tend to be diggers and will dig up your yard as well as dig under any fence. It is recommended that you fence goes underground at least four feet so they won't dig themselves out of the yard before you notice their digging. A Harrier can dig a hole two feet down in a very short time.
- Electronic fences do not work on these animals because they tend to have a very high pain threshold.
- Harriers are good watchdogs that are very vocal when they feel threatened.
- Harriers make great pets for very active families. They will tire you out before they get tired. They also love to run and make great jogging companions.
- They need to be properly socialized to prevent them from seeing cats and other pets as prey.
- Harriers are pack animals and thrive best in households which have other dogs and lots of people.
- Because of their long ears they tend to be prone to ear infections because of the lack of air circulation around the underside of the ears.
History of the Harrier
Harriers have a long history with several conflicting stories on how the breed came about. If you look at the word Harrier itself you will realize that it is a Norman French word which basically means hound or dog. With this in mind it is possible that these dogs are descendants from a cross of Talbot hounds and possible even Basset Hounds. Both of which have their origins in the French-Belgium countryside.
The Harrier breed itself was actually developed in England back around 1260. From these first Harrier-type dogs Sir Elias Midhope established the Penistone pack which became the basis for the present-day breed. This pack was common for at least 500 years lasting well into the 18th century.
The original purpose of these original Harriers was to hunt hare by tiring out the prey until the hunters arrived on foot. That meant that they had to be much slower and more methodical than the present-day Harriers.
It wasn't until the sport of fox-hunting came along that these dogs were further developed to have more speed and stamina. This is also probably when they developed their own reasoning powers so that they could outsmart their new prey.
At the time that the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles was founded in March of 1891 the Harriers had become more popular that Beagles. The AMHB's Stud Books of 1891-1900 show that there were 107 packs of Harriers registered. Because there was no general guidance in place at that time many of the registered Harriers were in fact small foxhounds. The evidence here tends to show that the name "Harrier" was actually used to describe the type of hunting hound as well as its size and not its pedigree.
Since 1971 the Harrier has not been recognized as a proper breed of dog by England's Kennel Club. This is not the case with the Canadian Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, and the world canine club (Fédération Cynologique Internationale). And the last Harrier to be shown in a kennel club show was in 1915.
Reports suggest that the earliest date in which Harriers were introduced into the United States was sometime in the early 1700s. As a matter of face, several packs were established in the U.S. at that time. A few were even registered with the AMHB in England.
Harriers make great family companions, however, they are not, and have never been, a popular breed of dog. For instance, only 949 Harriers were registered with the American Kennel Club between 1884 and 1994. But it is also worth noting that during the same time period 182 became American Kennel Club Champions of Record. That is a high percentage of dogs that were registered as champions.
Although registrations in the early 1900s were few Monarch became the first Champion of Record in 1936 as well as the first to win Best in Show. This dog was bred from Harriers that were imported from England and he was owned by the Monmouth County Hunt.
At the beginning of the 20th Century there were several Harrier packs in the United States. The most notable at that time were the Cobbler Harriers between 1936 to 1938. These were owned by a Colonel George S. Patton.
Between 1940 to 1958 there was a lack of registrations of Harriers with the American Kennel Club but there were some registrations with the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America. And just as in England in the U.S. most of the registered Harriers belonged to hunting packs which is why they weren't registered with the AKC.
Early in the 1960s some Harriers were shown in American Kennel Club shows. During this time a dog by the name of Breesewood Chop Chop became the second AKC Champion of Record in the year 1965. Thirty years after the first Champion of Record.
Things started picking up in 1969 where a Harrier named Naabeehos Harvey became the winner of Best in Show at the Superstition Kennel Club show and earned himself 5 points towards his championship. Then in 1970 Lady Elizabeth of Byron Mewes as well as Johnson's Pretty Boy Floyd received the Best in Show awards.
The best known Harrier for shows was a dog named Brentcliffe Jill. This dog won her first Best in Show in 1978. She has the honor of being the all-time-top-winning harrier with 52 Hound Group wins and 17 Best in Show wins.
Today the Harrier is basically a family companion. However, some dogs are still used to hunt rabbits and other game that are too fast for most Beagles.
Harriers are not large dogs but medium-sized. They have a height of about 19 to 21 inches (48-53 cm) and weigh about 45 to 60 pounds (20.5 to 27.2 kg).
The Harrier is a pack hound which means that they are used to working as part of a group with other dogs. They are also very gentle, outgoing, and friendly, never showing aggression towards other dogs.
Being a typical hound dog the Harrier is an independent thinker which can make him a stubborn dog. When training these dogs it is important to let the dog think that the obedience training is his idea and not yours. Positive reinforcement during training is an absolute must for these dogs.
As a watchdog they are excellent. They will immediately alert you to visitors and strange sounds. When you are not home he will probably greet the burglar and let him have his way with your property. But when you are home it is a completely different story.
These dogs need to be socialized at an early age and the socialization must continue throughout his life. He needs to be exposed to many people and animals as well as sights, sounds, and events. Good socialization skills will help in preventing this type of dog seeing other animals in the home and around the neighborhood as potential game.
The Harrier Hound is generally a very healthy type of dog breed. However, just like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health conditions. The most noticeable being hip dysplasia which is a heritable condition in which the thighbone does not fit tightly within the hip-joint. This condition may cause pain in the animal as well as lameness in the rear legs. As the animal ages this may develop into severe arthritis.
When choosing a Harrier as your companion it is best to go to a recognized breeder. Animals from breeders are usually screened against any inheritable conditions. Breeders will also give proof of medical screening when asked which should help to place you at ease as this indicates that the animal is less susceptible to developing hip dysplasia later in life. It is not, however, a 100% guarantee against the condition. Animals can also acquire the condition through their environment and living conditions, as well as through a high-calorie diet and injuries to the back legs.
Obtaining an animal which has been screened should allow you to get health insurance on the animal which covers hip dysplasia.
It is also a good idea to get an animal which has had their eyes and sight screened against potential hereditary visual conditions. Although the Harrier is not a high-risk animal for eye conditions there are some conditions of the eye which can be inherited in all breeds.
Caring for the Harrier Hound
Being an active animal with a lot of stamina these dogs need a lot of exercise every day. A lack of exercise in these dogs causes them to become destructive to property. A large fenced-in yard is best for these animals as they will have plenty of room to run and burn off their excess energy. It is important that the fence also go underground so they will not dig under it and be high enough so that they can't jump over it either. They are not recommended for apartments.
Harriers can be kept outside as long as they have shelter from the heat and cold. However, being pack animals they will be happier living indoors with the family whom they will consider to be part of their pack.
Harriers are bayers. In other words, they have a very prolonged bark. They will do this constantly when they are bored or lonely as a way of getting attention. However, you may not want the particular type of attention that this may bring from your neighbors.
Although these dogs prefer to be with their human companions they do not need, or demand, attention. They will entertain themselves as well as you in the process. You do need to keep an eye on them so that they don't get themselves into any kind of trouble. Taking them on a long walk is a great way to release some of their excess energy.
Harrier pups need a little more specialized attention than older dogs. The pup should be enrolled in a puppy kindergarten. This type of training school will teach the pup socialization as well as other training and they will get the necessary exercise that the pup requires. In addition to this they will also need two play periods of 20 minutes each with you in the morning and again before bedtime.
Once they are about 4 months old they should be enrolled in a weekly obedience school that handles Harriers. At the same time they will need to have their daily walks extended to half-mile walks twice a day with you. You will also have to give them play times of about 40 minutes twice a day with you. playtime should be carried out in the early morning and mid evenings. Not during the heat of the day as they tend to overheat rather quickly.
At about a year of age the Harrier should be quite well socialized and have an established routine. This is a good time to start jogging with the dog. It is preferable that when running that the dog not run on concrete or hard surfaces. This may cause damage to the hip-joint because of their weight. Also keep the jogging distance short for the first six months. After that time you can increase the distance gradually on a monthly schedule to allow the dog to build up his endurance.
Harriers should be fed 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality dry food daily divided into two feedings. Puppies often need more food, up to 4 cups, divided into three equal meals per day.
The amount of food that your dog needs depends on his level of activity, build, metabolism, age, and size. No two dogs are the same and need to be fed according to their individual requirements. Also, the better the quality of food will ultimately result in feeding less food.
A well fell and cared for Harrier will appear very muscular. They will not look fat or even feel fat. If the animal appears to be overweight it is best to decrease the amount of food given and increase the level of exercise. Incremental adjustments is recommended.
Coat and Grooming
The coat of the Harrier is short, thick, and shiny with very soft ears. They are available in a multitude of colors with the more common being tri-color (black, tan, and white) as well as red and white resembling a small English Foxhound.
Being a short-coated animal they are very easy to groom. Brushing should be done twice a week with a rubber burry brush or a hound mitt which is a type of rubber glove that fits over the hand. Shedding is usually not a problem as they a moderate shedder and regular brushing will help to keep the loose hairs to a minimum.
The ears need to be checked for foreign objects and burrs regularly. Clean the ears out weekly to prevent ear infections due to a lack of air circulation into the ear canal. And if they are allowed to run in fields they should be checked regularly for fleas and ticks.
The teeth of the Harrier needs to be brushes at least twice a week (three times is preferred) to remove tartar build-up and bacteria. This will also prevent their breath from becoming sour.
Nails should be trimmed regularly. A very active dog will probably keep them worn down on their own. But if you can hear the nails click on a hard surface when the animal walks they will need to be trimmed by you.
Harriers need to be accustomed to the grooming process. Start this when the animal is a young pup. If you don't take the time to do this the dog will not stay still for you and it will be a losing battle.
As you go through the grooming process you should also check the dog for sores, bruising, blemishes, parasites, rashes, tenderness, or any other kind of inflammation on the skin. Also check the ears, eyes, nose, in the mouth, and on the paws for any abnormalities and have them attended to by a veterinarian if necessary. Catching potential problems during the grooming process is the first step in having a healthy animal.
Other Pets and Children
Harriers get along great with children. They will let them push, pull, and rough house them all day long. When they get tired of this sort of activity they will just walk away and find refuge in some other part of the house.
With other pets it is a completely different story. If your Harrier is not properly trained and socialized they will see other pets as game. However, even if they have the proper training and socialization it is a good idea to keep an eye on the dog when other pets are around so that they won't hunt them. Being a pack animal they will enjoy the company of other dogs.
Finding a Harrier Hound
The Harrier is a rare breed of dog. Because of this they are quite hard to find. One resource that may be able to connect you with a breeder (probably not in your area) is the Harrier Club of America.
Harrier Hound Puppy Pics
Harrier Hound Puppy Pics