Harriers originally were bred to hunt hares and foxes. Today, the dog breed isn’t especially popular, but his excellent sense of smell and tireless work ethic makes him a great fit for hunters.
Sources have widely conflicting stories about the origins of this breed. According to one, the earliest Harrier types were crossed with Bloodhounds, the Talbot Hound, and even the Basset Hound. According to another, the breed was probably developed from crosses of the English Foxhound with Fox Terrier and Greyhound. And yet another, the Harrier is said to be simply a bred-down version of the English Foxhound. The first Harrier pack in England was established by Sir Elias de Midhope in 1260 and spread out as a hunting dog throughout the west of England and into Wales. Although there are many working Harriers in England, the breed is still not recognised in that country.
In any case, today’s Harrier is between the Beagle and English Foxhound in size and was developed primarily to hunt hares, though the breed has also been used in fox hunting. The name, Harrier, reveals the breed’s specialty. The Harrier has a long history of popularity as a working pack dog in England.
The Harrier is the most commonly used hound by hunts in Ireland, with 166 harrier packs, 37 of them mounted packs and 129 of them foot packs, spread throughout the country. More commonly in Ireland it is used to hunt both foxes and hares, with some packs hunting mainly foxes.
This breed of dog is recognized in 1885 by the American Kennel Club and is classified in the Hound Group.
The harrier is a smaller version of the English foxhound, more suited for hunting hares. It has large bone for its size, and is slightly longer than tall. It is a scenting pack hound and should be capable of running with other dogs, scenting its quarry and hunting tirelessly over any terrain for long periods. It has a gentle expression when relaxed and alert when aroused. The coat is short and hard.
The harrier is somewhat more playful and outgoing than the foxhound, but not as much as the beagle. It is amiable, tolerant and good with children. Its first love is for the hunt, and it loves to sniff and trail. It needs daily exercise in a safe area. Most are reserved with strangers. It tends to bay.
- Some Harriers can be stubborn and difficult to housetrain. Crate training is recommended.
- Harriers tend to be vocal and some love to howl.
- Some Harriers like to dig and have been known to dig under fences to escape and chase after something.
- Harriers are hunting dogs and will take any opportunity to pursue game or follow a scent. A secure fence is a necessity if you have a Harrier. Underground electronic fences are not effective with Harriers because they have a high pain threshold and the brief shock they get from crossing the invisible line does not deter them from chasing or investigating things beyond its boundaries.
- Harriers are high-energy dogs and have a great deal of stamina. They are perfect for active families or athletic people who like to jog or bicycle with their dogs alongside (on leash so they don’t take off on a chase), but they may become obese or destructive if living in a more sedentary home.
- If not properly trained and socialized, your Harrier may see cats and other small furry animals as prey and act accordingly.
- Harriers are good watchdogs who will bark if they feel that someone or something is threatening their territory, but they are not good guard dogs. After raising the alarm, they are likely to greet strangers as long-lost friends.
- Harriers can stay outdoors if given adequate shelter from the heat and cold, but being pack animals, they are at their best when they are around other dogs or their family.
- The Harrier’s long ears prevent adequate air circulation to their ears and they may be prone to ear infections.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.