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Harrier

Harrier Breed Information

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- In Depth

In the line-up of nearly identical hounds, the Harrier falls in size between the English Foxhound and the 15” Beagle. Like all of the other scent hounds, the Harrier will follow his or her nose wherever it leads. Care must be taken to keep the dog on-leash and under your control when outside your home or the dog may dash off into traffic in search of a squirrel, chipmunk, rabbit, or other prey.

harrier
Like all of the other scent hounds, the Harrier will follow his or her nose wherever it leads.

Harrier History

As the name implies, the harrier’s raison d’etre is to chase hares, although they have also been used to hunt small foxes. There are many stories as to how the breed was developed, but we know for certain that the first pack of Harriers was established in England as early as the middle of the 13th century by Sir Elias de Midhope.

Ironically, the English Kennel Club does not recognize the Harrier as a distinct breed. Instead, the dogs are registered in packs with the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB). AMHB registry indicates size and type of hunting rather than specific pedigree, so many of the hounds registered as Harriers are actually small Foxhounds or large Beagles.

Harriers were imported to the United States in the 18th century, where they were recognized by the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America. Today, hunting using packs of dogs with mounted riders is nearly an extinct art on the US, and Harriers are now primarily bred for conformance shows or as family companions.

What does the Harrier look like?

Some say that if you want to know what a Harrier looks like, you should simply imagine a Beagle on steroids. The large Beagle is 15” tall at the shoulders, while the Harrier stands between 21 and 24 inches. Adult Beagles should weigh no more than about 30 pounds, but Harriers weigh in somewhere between 45 and 65 pounds.

The Harrier is a little bit longer than he is tall, and should be very muscular. The medium-length tail is carried level to the back. Rounded ears hang down, similar to any of the other hounds. The nose should be black and the eyes are either brown or hazel.

harrier
Some say that if you want to know what a Harrier looks like, you should simply imagine a Beagle on steroids.

As for the coat, any color is acceptable in the show ring. Most commonly, Harriers will be either red and white or tri-color (black, white, and tan). Tri-colors are born black and white, but tan replaces the black as the puppy grows to adulthood. The tan color can range from pale tan to deep red, and may replace so much of the black that the dog is mistaken for a red-and-white variety. Neither is more important than the other, so this is simply an aesthetic difference. You may see white, lemon, or black and tan dogs, particularly outside of North America.

Are Harriers Healthy?

This hard-working breed has a very good health history, primarily because they are not overly inbred. Because Foxhounds and Beagles are often used in breeding, the Harrier gene pool is not limited enough to create genetic problems. The average lifespan of a Harrier is 12 – 15 years.

The most common health problem among Harriers is hip dysplasia. In this disease, the hip joint is malformed and tends to develop arthritis easily. Hip dysplasia is passed on from parent to child, and prospective puppy buyers should ask to see documentation on the parents from either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the PennHIP program. Responsible breeders use only dogs who are free from any signs of hip dysplasia as breeding stock.

Breeders should also be able to produce certification from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, even though eye problems are uncommon in the Harrier.

Does the Harrier make a good family dog?

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard, the Harrier’s temperament should be outgoing and friendly. Aggression toward other dogs cannot be tolerated, as the dog must be able to hunt with a pack.

harrier
Harriers are also great with children, but (like all dogs) must be supervised with small children.

Harriers are also great with children, but (like all dogs) must be supervised with small children, until the children prove that they know how to interact with a dog. As pack animals, Harriers love to be with their families; this is not a dog you can stake out in the yard and leave alone for long periods.

Harriers who are not kept busy may become destructive out of sheer boredom. If your dog will be home alone all day while you are at work, you will probably want to try a different breed or at the very least, provide a canine playmate for him.

Harriers require lots of exercise because they are bred to run after rabbits all day long. If you will not be taking the dog out running, you must provide a large, fenced-in area where the dog can romp but not escape on a hunting expedition by himself. According to the Harrier Club of America, “Anyone who gets a Harrier expecting to be able to train it not to wander away from an unfenced yard or not to follow its nose is going to be very disappointed and frustrated. And their Harrier will be unhappy and frustrated as well…”

We can’t stress enough the need for a very secure fenced-in yard with a Harrier, as with any other scent hound. Harriers have avery strong prey drive and will employ extreme measures to chase anything that moves. Buried invisible fences do not usually provide enough of a deterrent to keep your Harrier in your yard. Some families even resort to electrifying their standard chain-link fences to zap the dog if he or she tries to tunnel out or climb over. Harriers may dig out of boredom, or in an effort to get to small tunneling animals like moles or chipmunks.

Obedience training is essential for a Harrier. They are smart dogs and will train easily as long as you are consistent. You will never overcome their inherent need to chase small animals, but obedience training will help you keep the dog under your control in the house or show ring. Positive training methods must be used to keep your Harrier from becoming resentful and resisting training on principle.

Some Harriers have been known to bay, which can be a problem if you live close-by your neighbors. When the dog becomes excited over a rabbit or chipmunk, you can expect a full concert, particularly if the prey is outside of the fence.

Is the Harrier the right dog for my family?

If you’re looking for an active dog who is good with children and other dogs, the Harrier may be just the breed for you. They are a little hard to find in the United States, with the Harrier’s popularity ranking 171st out of 175 breeds recognized by the AKC in 2012. (This ranking is based on the number of purebred dogs of each breed registered with the American Kennel Club during a calendar year.)

If you have no time to provide mental and physical stimulation for your dog, or if you don’t have a securely fenced-in yard, you might want to consider other breeds.


 

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