If you’re feeling a bit of confusion relating to the Harrier, don’t worry, you’re not alone. No, this isn’t the English Foxhound nor is it a bird, an expensive piece of aircraft, a mix breed or the Beagle. Nope, this medium size, high energy breed is distinctive in their own right.

In fact, before the turn of the 20th century, they were way more popular than the Beagle. 

Yet those were the days when the breed had recognition from their home country’s Kennel Club. That’s not the case today.

So what is with this breed? Are they disappearing? Is this breed right for you?

Here is what you need to know about the Harrier.

History

“Oh Harrier, where are thou history?” Some people have said that the Harrier is a “Beagle on steroids,” while others class them as the “Beagle with a gym membership.” As funny as these claims may be, there is some sadness to this breed’s story. For starters, they are extremely rare, which may shock those who once were so reliant upon them. Are they a disappearing breed? There are no numbers to argue that they aren’t. However, in places like Ireland and New Zealand, there does seem to be a market for the breed. Furthermore, the Continental Kennel Club estimates that Ireland is where the breed is most popular with nearly 150 hunting packs.

Which is where the breed truly belongs or seemingly so. Accounts claim the breed first began appearing in England and were bred as hunting pack dogs around 1260. Hunters would use them to track or trace the scents of hares. It is that word, which the breed gets their name from. The Norman word, “Harier,” allegedly meaning, “Hound.” It is likely that these packs of hounds in the 13th century were the most prominent. Sir Elias de Midhope is said to be man responsible for breeding and establishing the Harrier. The name of his pack, “Penistone Pack,” would continue its bloodlines for some 500 years.

So which dogs were behind the creation of the Harrier? This is the debatable part of the breed and a good one. For one, looking at the dog, they appear to be a smaller English Foxhound or a larger Beagle. The classic “Monkey in the Middle.” However, this may not apply to the breed. It is possible, that over time, these breeds were an integral part of this breed’s infusion. Yet, other historians credit the Harrier’s existence to the Talbot and St Hubert hounds. Others speculate there could have been a mix of Greyhound and Basset Hound thrown into the fray. 

That said, these hunting hare Harriers were very popular in the mid to late 1800’s. In fact, there were more Harriers than Beagles in America during the 1890’s. First, the breed was given recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1885. This would help bring awareness about the breed as hunters with great scenting abilities, that could work with hunters on horse or without. Moreover, there was 107 pack registrations for Harriers and only 40 for Beagles in 1891. Yet, in 2017, there were only 18 packs to 55 packs of Beagles, according to the Festival of Hunting. 

This would tow the line of what the Harrier Club of America made for a claim. In 1999, the breed had only 6 puppy registrations, which equates to 24 puppies with the AKC. In comparison, the Beagle had a whopping 49,000 puppy registrations in 1999.

Aside from numbers, the breed would gain recognition with the UKC in 1949, but lose recognition with the Kennel Club in 1971. Losing recognition with the Kennel Club, their home country, was a big loss for the breed. It was largely due to the fact that there weren’t any dog show entries for most of the 20th century. In fact, the last Harrier to make an appearance at a Kennel Club show was in 1915.

With that in mind, the breed today lists as the 186th most popular breed out of 194 in the AKC. They are still wonderful companion dogs, albeit rare when you find one in the U.S. That said, the breed is still popular in Ireland as scenthound hunting dogs.

Size

The tease on the Harrier is that they are a smaller English Foxhound and a Beagle on steroids. This medium size breed should stand between 19 to 21 inches. Either male or female should weigh between 45 to 60 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

It’s an astonishing thing that the Harrier is as rare as they are here in the United States and most places in the world. That’s because this is one of the sweetest, easy to get along with breeds out there today. They are good with children and are very outgoing. In fact, the Harrier will enjoy having the companionship of children. That is, if the child treats the dog well, of course. The breed is also friendly with other dog. And why wouldn’t it be as a hound dog that would work side by side with others.

When they get outdoors, this is a breed that is capable of many things including running free. They will also trace a scent and may go off in that fashion. As an outdoor dog, they are vocal, often letting their master know who is around. The Harrier will often show their excitement and they do this by vocalizing.

Wonderful and easy to train breed, the Harrier as a people’s dog is eager to please. Don’t kid yourself, however, they will make you work for it. The Harrier needs a challenge just as much as they want to dish out a challenge. Let it be said, this breed can be bought by treats as they are driven by food.

All in all, this is a wonderful family dog, that may mouth off on occasion. Driven by food, great with children, thanks to their patience and determination. The breed should never be aggressive and is generally good around strangers. You’ll have to keep your eye out on this dog, as they have a knack for fleeing. Digging may be a problem, of course, but in general, once you teach this dog something it shouldn’t do, they will ensure it’s not happening again.

Health

If you thought getting along with the Harrier was simple, well, you’ll enjoy the health report on this breed. In fact, the Harrier is a very healthy and hearty breed, that if you watch out for, should see 12 to 15 years of life.

When you buy from a breeder, you should always make a purchase from a reputable breeder. This person should be able to provide you with the proper documents and health clearances. In addition, you should schedule your Harrier regularly with the veterinarian. If you do this, along with other things, your dog will live a long and meaningful life.

Harriers don’t have much “known” health complications. Of course, one of the more common problems found in dogs today is an orthopedic condition, Hip Dysplasia. According to the survey from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Harrier ranks 69th at a 15.8% dysplastic rate. That puts the breed along the ride with breeds like the Bouvier des Flandres. What’s more, the OFA found between the years of 2011 to 2015, out of 22 evaluations, an uncomfortable 27.3% dysplastic rate. Hip dysplasia is the malformation of the hip joint, which can invite other issues orthopedically down the road. It is important to schedule visits to see if your dog suffers from this condition. 

Interestingly, the Harrier Club in America isn’t confirming whether or not the breed has a problem regarding Hypothyroidism. They say there is a chance. Hypothyroidism is a problem for other breed, in which a dog can suffer from a lack of hormonal production. This will lead to issues pertaining to the dog’s coat, energy levels and temperament. Nobody is quite sure why any particular dog encounters this hormonal deficiency. 

Lastly, Bloat and epilepsy may be present in the Harrier. 

Care

Some of the most important things to remember if you decide to purchase this incredible breed. For starters, it helps to have a nice big yard. But if you live in a neighborhood or a community, it is your duty to provide adequate fencing. you’ll also want to invest in a lengthy leash as well. With that in mind, this is no outdoor dog, and they should be indoor with their family. 

You’ll want to watch them around smaller animals, as these are old hunting dogs historically. They may wander off and engage in prey drive. Supervision is necessary until each animal is comfortable around each other. Which is why early training and socialization is crucial. Positive reinforcement and patience will get the job done with the Harrier. Snacks or treats are okay, but be sure to watch how much you give the breed.

They will obviously need a fair amount of exercise daily. Between 45 minutes to an hour a day should suffice their energy requirements. Obedience and agility will keep them busy and happy as well as a job or important role within the family.

Trim their nails regularly to help prevent overgrowth and cracking nails. You should check their ears to inspect for bacterial infections. A bath will go a long way for this breed monthly. You’ll want to protect your garden by building up a border due to their digging proclivities. This isn’t much of an apartment dog, so it is important that you never leave them alone for too long and possibly purchase a fellow companion dog to help break any chance of boredom and neurotic behavior.

Feeding

These food driven dogs should be getting roughly 1.5 cups to 2 cups of top quality dry food per day. Of course, as with any other dog, how much your Harrier eats will depend on their age, activity rate and metabolism. Either way, the breed should get two meals instead of one per day. This will help reduce the opportunity of Bloat. Bloat is a deadly health complication due to an excess of gas or air distending in the stomach.

Harriers are a hunting dog, and they will need protein sources like chicken or turkey to help build their muscles. Their meals should animal based protein or a meat first ingredient. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids is best for the Harrier’s skin and coat. Fruits and veggies are never a bad idea. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian about technical questions pertaining to your Harrier.

As always, you should provide your Harrier with fresh drinking water, the most important nutrient of all for a working breed with high energy requirements.

Coat

The coat should have a glossy finish to it and give off that elegant appeal. Your Harrier shouldn’t demand a ton of grooming time but you will need to brush at least once a week. Their short and dense coats, with a hard texture is rather simple to care for as occasional shedders.

The American Kennel Club claims the breed comes with three acceptable colors: black white and tan, lemon and white, red and white. There are no markings, according to their standard.

Fun Harrier Facts

  • Allegedly, in a 100 year time span, between 1884 to 1994, there were only 949 Harrier registrations with the American Kennel Club.
  • Specialist writer, Karen White, claims there are only 300 Harrier packs worldwide.
  • Harriers still hunt fox in countries like Australia, New Zealand and British Isles.

Closing Words

Many believe that their may be more Harriers around than what the numbers reflect. One theory has it that owners believe they have a Beagle or English Foxhound and aren’t properly registering their Harriers as Harriers. That, or kennel clubs are purposely registering them as Beagles.

Whatever it may be, or whatever the reason for their decline, it is a big shame considering how wonderful of a dog the Harrier is. Not only are they disciplined workers, who are very healthy and easy to groom, but they make such wonderful overall family dogs, that are incredibly friendly and fun to be around.