Harrier dog breed is a medium-sized scenthound from the England. Both in size and temperament, these dogs fall between the English Foxhounds and the Beagles. Originally used for hunting hare and even fox, individually, as well as and in packs, they were extremely popular at one time. These high energy dogs are great as companions for active people, and make good family dogs as well, since they take well to their human pack. However, the Harrier dog breed has become very rare today.
Hounds of all types were generally referred to as Harriers in England, which makes it difficult to trace the exact origins of this breed. It is thought that this breed is one of the oldest among the scenthounds of today.
Its similarity to the English Foxhounds have resulted in this breed being considered a smaller version of the Foxhound breed that had some mixing with the Fox Terriers. It is also thought to share its lineage with several breeds such as the Brachet dogs and St. Hubert hounds, as well as the now extinct Talbot dog. The French Basset also might have contributed to the Harrier dog breed.
The result was a dog with a keen sense of scent to track hare while hunters followed on foot. The Harriers used for tracking foxes were faster and facilitated hunting on horseback. The versatility of Harriers made them popular among both the gentry and the commoners alike. Sir Elias de Midhope is reputed to have had the first Harrier pack. Their popularity spread to Wales and other nearby countries. Introduced into the United States during the colonial times, these dogs were just as popular in the country, and recognized by AKC in 1885.
Even though Harriers are not very common in the US today and not even recognized in its homeland, this breed is valued greatly in Ireland where several packs are used for hunting hare and fox.
The Harrier dog breed is very similar to English Foxhounds in appearance, but a bit smaller in size. They are often compared to Beagles, and are often sportingly referred to as “Beagles on Steroids.”Measuring 21 to 24 inches at the withers, and weighing up to 65 pounds, these dogs have a muscular body with large bones.
They have a body that is slightly longer than their height. Their thin, medium-long tail is carried high when alert or working. The ears are large and folded. Harriers have a short, hard coat that mainly comes tricolored, with white, tan and black, but red and white dogs too occur. The extremities are typically white in true hound fashion. The white on the tip of their tail helps hunters keep track of the dogs in the undergrowth.
The Harrier dog breed is known for its cheerful disposition. They are even-tempered and sweet mannered. They are good with children, and get along very well with other dogs, but the same cannot be guaranteed about non-canine pets, as they may trigger the hunting instinct in these dogs.
Harriers love the outdoors; they should ideally spend the day in a secure yard as they can develop destructive behavior if restricted to the house for too long. There is nothing that these scenthounds love more than an opportunity to sniff and explore the area while on a trail. But these dogs should not be let off the leash, except in an enclosed area, as they have a tendency to take off after a scent.
Grooming and exercise
The short coat of Harrier dog breed requires only minimal grooming. A weekly brushing may help remove dead hair from their coat and reduce the amount left all over the place. They are moderate shedders.
Harriers require their daily quota of exercise, which should include brisk walks or jogs and some vigorous activities in the yard. These dogs are not an ideal choice for apartment dwellers unless they have access to open spaces.
Harriers can live outdoors in mild climates if they are provided soft bedding and plenty of warmth. But, being very sociable dogs with a strong pack sense, they are better off spending the nights with their family. They like to play with their family members, and love human and canine companionship, without which they can get bored and frustrated.
Common health issues of Harrier dog breed
The Harrier dog breed is quiet healthy with no serious health problems other than hip dysplasia. Epilepsy, hypothyroidism and perianal fistula are some of the minor problems that occasionally occur. A blood clotting genetic disorder referred to as von Willebrand’s disease is seen in this breed, but very rarely. The average life expectancy is 10 to 12 years, but these dogs can live up to 15 years with proper care.