The Harrier, also known as the Hare Hound or the Heirer, is a hardy hound, with a strong nose, that was developed in England to hunt hare. The root of the name "Harrier" is uncertain, but it may pertain to the Norman word "harier," which in Saxon means "raches," or hounds. The word "harier" was used to refer to all hounds – not just hare hounds - until the mid-1700s, and as far back as 1570 there are references to "stag- and fox harriers" in English literature. The Harrier has been described as a smaller version of its larger relative, the English Foxhound. This breed has a long history in the United States, where it has been used for hundreds of years for pack hunting purposes. As long as they are given the proper amount of attention, the Harrier also makes a wonderful family companion. They do not make particularly good watch dogs due to their outgoing, friendly disposition. The Harrier was approved by the American Kennel Club for registration in its Hound Group in 1885.
The Harrier should stand from 19 to 21 inches at the withers, with variations of one inch in either direction being acceptable under the American breed standard. They typically weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. The Harrier's short, dense coat is very easy to care for and sheds minimally. Color is not regarded as important in this breed.
The exact origin of the Harrier is shrouded in mystery. Even the great English authority on dog breeds, Stonehenge, only cautiously suggested that the Harrier descends from the old Southern Hound, with an infusion of Greyhound blood and possibly some contribution from the Fox Terrier, as well. While the Southern Hound is touted as being the ancestor of all scenthounds in Great Britain, little is known about its heritage. Most experts believe that the old Southern Hound came to England with the Normans. In any event, the first Harriers in England were developed by Sir Elias de Midhope in the mid-1200s, making it one of the oldest British breeds. Packs of these dogs, initially called Penistone Harriers, existed for at least five hundred years. Their original purpose was to track the large, slow European hare. Hare hunting has always been popular in England, sometimes being even more popular than fox hunting because hunters could trail their hare hounds on foot, without the need for the many horses required to follow fox hounds on the hunt. Moreover, hare hunting was never reserved to royalty; it was always accessible to commoners, who could add their few Harriers to a "scratch pack" made up of hounds owned by different people and still participate in the sport.
Reportedly, in 1825, the slow-moving Harrier - in size between the larger English Foxhound and the smaller Beagle - was crossed with Foxhounds to improve its speed and enable it to better hunt fox in addition to hare. The first stud books for Harriers published by the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles in England began in March 1891, and they continue to this day. However, there was a decline in the sport of hare hunting in Britain in the early 20th century. According to one authority, there were 110 packs of Harriers working in England by 1895. By 1902, there were 97 packs, and by 1914 there were 84 packs. World War I intervened, and by 1930 there were only 41 packs of Harriers in Britain. World War II worsened the situation even further. By the 1960s, only 28 Harrier packs remained in England, with only 23 of those exclusively hunting hare. Harriers remain less popular than the Beagle or Foxhound, but they still have a devoted following of fanciers.
The Harrier has been used for hunting in the United States since the 1700s, during Colonial times. The American Kennel Club accepted the Harrier for registration in 1885, making it only the fourth hound breed accepted into the AKC. Today, the Harrier is still used as a pack hunting hound in this country, and it continues to work tirelessly, no matter the terrain. They are equally popular in the conformation ring, in performance events and as a companion animal.
The average life span of the Harrier is between 10 and 12 years. They generally are a very healthy breed, with hip dysplasia and epilepsy being occasionally reported.
Harriers are playful dogs who have sometimes been called a Beagle on steroids. They have energy and stamina to spare and may seem like puppies well into adulthood. Harriers love attention, but they do not demand all eyes on them. They will accept a belly rub from just about anyone willing to give it, and after a long day in the hunting field, like nothing more than to curl up a his owners' feet for a nap. Harriers are excellent with children, playful and patient, and can be trusted around kids from outside his own family. They are pack animals, which means they love to be around lots of people and are even happier around lots of dogs.
Harriers were designed for stamina in the hunting field, and they require a lot of vigorous activity to be happy and healthy. This dog doesn't catch animals with his speed, but rather runs prey until they are too tired to keep going, so lots of exercise is a must. Their medium size may seem ideal for an apartment, but this is not an apartment dog, even in the city where he may have a lot of indoor space. Harriers are country dogs and are best suited for homes with large yards. Hunting is their favorite activity and they can endure long days in the field in most any conditions. If your family doesn't hunt, you can raise a happy Harrier by allowing him to run several times a day and involving him in tracking activities. Long walks, hikes and jogs are also excellent ways to burn off energy. One to two hours per day of vigorous activity is the guideline for a well-adjusted Harrier.
Harriers have a stubborn side and can be a challenge to train. While they pick up hunting commands quickly, being told what to do in the house is a different story. Calm-assertive leadership is important, and lots of treats should be kept on hand. Harriers to best when training is conducted in short sessions. Harsh tones and discipline lead to avoidance behaviors and a dog that won't listen to anybody.
Harriers can not be trusted with non-canine pets. They are chasers and hunters and their instincts remain strong. Even if raised alongside cats, at some point the Harrier will want to chase and hunt them. They get along well with other dogs, but cats and rodents should be avoided.
Like other hound breeds, Harriers can be prone to barking and howling, especially at night or when left alone for long periods of time. It is important to exercise a Harrier before he will be left by himself, and to always leave him with interesting activities to occupy his time while you are away. Not only will bored Harriers bark, they are also prone to destructive chewing. Because they are pack dogs, Harriers can be less anxious if they have a companion dog to keep them company while the family is out of the house.
Developed in England to hunt hare in packs, Harriers must have all the attributes of a scenting pack hound. They are very sturdily built with large bone for their size. They must be active, well balanced, full of strength and quality, in all ways appearing able to work tirelessly, no matter the terrain, for long periods. Running gear and scenting ability are particularly important features. The Harrier should, in fact, be a smaller version of the English Foxhound.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--19 to 21 inches for dogs and bitches, variation of one inch in either direction is acceptable. Proportion is off-square. The Harrier is slightly longer from point of shoulder to rump than from withers to ground. Substance--Solidly built, full of strength and quality. The breed has as much substance and bone as possible without being heavy or coarse.
The head is in proportion to the overall dog. No part of the head should stand out relative to the other parts. The expression is gentle when relaxed, sensible yet alert when aroused. Eyes are medium size, set well apart, brown or hazel color in darker dogs, lighter hazel to yellow in lighter dogs, though darker colors are always desired. Ears are set on low and lie close to the cheeks, rounded at the tips.
The skull is in proportion to the entire animal, with good length and breadth and a bold forehead. The stop is moderately defined. The muzzle from stop to tip of nose is approximately the same length as the skull from stop to occiput. The muzzle is substantial with good depth, and the lips complete the square, clean look of the muzzle, without excess skin or flews. A good nose is essential. It must be wide, with well opened nostrils. Teeth meet in a scissors bite or they may be level. Overshot or undershot bites faulted to the degree of severity of the misalignment.
Neck, Topline, Body
The neck is long and strong with no excess skin or throatiness, sweeping smoothly into the muscling of the forequarters. The topline is level. Back muscular with no dip behind the withers or roach over the loin. Body--Chest deep, extending to the elbows, with well sprung ribs that extend well back, providing plenty of heart and lung room. The ribs should not be so well sprung that they interfere with the free, efficient movement of the front assembly. The loin is short, wide and well muscled. The tail is long, set on high and carried up from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock, depending on attitude. It tapers to a point with a brush of hair. The tail should not be curled over the back.
Moderate angulation, with long shoulders sloping into the muscles of the back, clean at the withers. The shoulders are well clothed with muscle without being excessively heavy or loaded, giving the impression of free, strong action. Elbows are set well away from the ribs, running parallel with the body and not turning outwards. Good straight legs with plenty of bone running well down to the toes, but not overburdened, inclined to knuckle over very slightly but not exaggerated in the slightest degree. Feet are round and catlike, with toes set close together turning slightly inwards. The pads are thick, well developed and strong.
Angulation in balance with the front assembly, so that rear drive is in harmony with front reach. Well developed muscles, providing strength for long hours of work, are important. Endurance is more important than pure speed, and as such, the stifles are only moderately angulated. Feet point straight ahead, are round and catlike with toes set close together, and thick, well developed pads.
Short, dense, hard and glossy. Coat texture on the ears is finer than on the body. There is a brush of hair on the underside of the tail.
Any color, not regarded as very important.
Perfect coordination between the front and hind legs. Reach and drive are consistent with the desired moderate angulation. Coming and going, the dog moves in a straight line, evidencing no sign of crabbing. A slight toeing-in of the front feet is acceptable. Clean movement coming and going is important, but not nearly as important as side gait, which is smooth, efficient and ground-covering.
Outgoing and friendly, as a working pack breed, Harriers must be able to work in close contact with other hounds. Therefore, aggressiveness towards other dogs cannot be tolerated.