Harrier Basics


A brief look at a very old, and rarely seen, breed of hound


Brief Description:  The Harrier is a medium-sized pack hound originally bred for hunting hares by scent.  They fall between the Beagle and the Foxhounds in size – 19 to 21 inches, and 45-60 lbs.  Harriers have short hair, brown or hazel eyes, and are found in almost all hound colors, with tri-color (brown, black & white) being the most common.


Origins and History:  The Harrier is certainly an ancient breed of hound, with records of Harrier packs dating back to the 1200’s in England, their country of origin.  No one is exactly certain how they were developed; some theories suggest a mixture of an older English hound with a little bit of greyhound, but that’s open to debate.


• Harriers were originally bred to be slow hunting hounds that were ideal for hunting hares on foot, rather than on horseback.  But Harriers are by no means slow – today, where they are still hunted in packs in England, it is with mounted riders in pursuit of either fox or hare.


• Harriers retain all of their original hound instincts and traits:  superior nose, determination, intelligence, independence, endless energy.  They can make great hunting partners while still being wonderful family companions.


General Breed Characteristics:


Temperament – Harriers have a truly outstanding temperament – friendly, outgoing & fun-loving.  And they seem to innately love children; they are sturdy and patient enough to put up with endless play, grasping fingers and clumsy feet with hardly a complaint.  When raised as a household companion, they are very affectionate, sweet and loving hounds.  In addition, Harriers usually fit in nicely with other pets – dogs, cats, horses, etc.


Activity LevelHarriers are active hounds that require lots of exercise.  They can play forever with people or other dogs without getting tired or bored.  They are ideally suited to participating in your athletic activities such as jogging, bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, etc.  Harriers are generally not recommended as apartment pets for most people.


Maintenance Requirements – Harriers are normally sturdy, healthy, happy, low-maintenance hounds.  But of course, as it is with all dogs, proper veterinary care is required.


• Harriers require only a minimum of grooming – a good brushing and nail-trimming once a week should be sufficient.  Their long hound ears also require an occasional cleaning.  Harriers shed year round, but the majority tends to be seasonal.


• Like most hounds, Harriers can be independent, with an occasional stubborn streak.  Housebreaking, however, shouldn’t be a problem as long as consistency and positive reinforcement are used.  Harriers are generally eager to please their owners, and respond well to training.  Obedience training is highly recommended!


• Harriers can also be vocal – some love to howl, as they were bred for centuries to do when trailing after game.  Some also love to dig (under fences, into flowerbeds, etc.).  Training and proper care are needed to keep both of these traits in line, especially if you have close neighbors.


A securely fenced yard is a necessity.  If given the opportunity (such as an open gate or broken fence), most Harriers will not think twice before taking off in pursuit of any interesting scents that they chance upon.


• The majority of Harriers need interaction with other dogs on a regular basis to be truly happy.  You can accomplish this either by owning another dog of similar personality & activity level, or by taking your Harrier regularly to a dog park or a neighbor’s yard to play & socialize with their dog.


• If you are seriously considering a Harrier as a pet, please be aware that you may have to wait a while to find one.  There are only a handful of breeders in the entire country, and litters are normally few and far between.  Contact the Harrier Club of America to find out what litters are planned, or if hounds may be available through Harrier Rescue.  Additionally, you should only buy from an HCA breeder that has signed the Club’s extensive Code Of Ethics.


Harriers in the Show Ring:  Harriers are a great drip-dry show dog (practically zero grooming time)!  They are normally shown completely natural (whiskers included) with perhaps only the tip of their tail rounded.


• Harriers are an ideal choice for Junior Showmanship; they are medium-sized, with minimal grooming, and they take hand-staking.  They are also very lively, so that Juniors have to utilize their skill in showing them.


• While very few Harriers have ever received performance titles (obedience, agility, tracking), that does not mean that they are unsuited for it!  They are very athletic hounds that are responsive to their owners, and they can make good consistent workers.


– A Note of Caution –


* Please be aware that Harrier pups are occasionally found in pet shops.  Do not support the Puppy Mill industry by buying a pup from a pet store – they will undoubtedly be overpriced and will not have had the healthy upbringing & socialization required to give you a well-adjusted family companion.


* Unfortunately Hip Dysplasia is found in Harriers.  The exact rate of incidence is currently estimated around 17%.  Conscientious breeders are trying very hard to accurately map the problem and to reduce it’s occurrence in the breed. Choose a breeder that can provide you with proof of OFA certification for both parents as well as grandparents and siblings if possible.


Harrier Club of America, Inc.

Secretary Mindy Isham

PO Box 7388

Fremont, CA  94537

(510) 683-9564