Harriers are a medium sized friendly, outgoing and people-oriented as well as swift and prey-driven. Outgoing and friendly, the Harrier is much larger than the Beagle but smaller than another close relative, the English Foxhound.
Among the AKC’s rarest breeds, there are probably more theories about Harrier origins than there are Harriers in the United States. Among the agreed-upon facts of this old breed is that they were bred for hunting hare (the breed name is based on the word “hare”) and that the first packs appeared in England sometime in the 1200s. Harriers have been in America since Colonial times.
Harriers are 19 to 21 inches tall and weighs 45 to 60 pounds. They are sturdily built with large bones for their size. Harriers have long, dropped and soft-furred ears, and their feet have thick pads that enable them to run for hours through rough terrain. In the United States, Harrier coats are tri-color (black, white, and tan) or red and white. Markings and shading vary greatly within both coat color options. Determining how the puppies coloring will change as it matures is impossible because their coat may darken or lighten as they grow. The Harrier’s short, thick, glossy coat is easy to groom requiring minimal maintenance. A weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush or a hound glove helps to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. They only require the occasional bath (using a gentle shampoo) can help keep him from having a doggy odor.
Harrier life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. They are very social and people-oriented and will not be not be happy in the yard by themselves 24 hours a day. They want to be part of the family and like to spend quality time with their owner. They like to play games, be on your lap when you watch television, and in your room, preferably in your bed, when you sleep. Bored Harriers can be a destructive and they absolutely need to have a securely fenced yard. The fence needs to be secure at the top and the bottom. Many Harrier owners line their fence with chicken wire to prevent digging out or add an electric wire to zap them if they get near the fence. Underground fences or invisible fences don’t generally work well with Harriers. If your Harrier gets loose and they catch a good scent, their nose will hit the ground and they will go off to follow it. Without proper training, they won’t come back no matter how loud you yell “Come”, and unfortunately, there are far too many dangers out there such as cars and other dogs that will kill your dog. Harriers can be talkative and they have a very distinctive singing voice which they use when they are excited. How much the Harrier talks depends on him and, more importantly, the owner. Harriers can be taught to be quiet and teaching them when it is appropriate to make noise, to allow them an outlet, can be helpful.
Caring for a Harrier
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Harrier.
The Harrier should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age and activity level. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with overly high fat content. Harriers adore food and most of them will eat as much as you want to give them and they will try to convince you that they are always hungry. Controlling their intake is important to stay healthy and attractive. If you want to be able to leave food on a table or counter top, you will have to teach your Harrier not to steal it.
Harriers were bred specifically to spend hours in the field chasing after prey, so they need ample exercise everyday. Without sufficient exercise, a Harrier may become bored and destructive. If they get all the activity they need, they can be adaptable to a range of home situations. While they are happiest living indoors with their human family, they make great companions on long walks or hikes. Because they were bred to hunt and chase animals and to follow a scent, they should only be allowed loose in areas that are securely fenced, and any walks must be taken on a leash.
Harriers are loving and amiable but also tend to have an independent, stubborn nature. Training takes consistency, patience, and an understanding of scent hound temperament. They respond well to calm, loving, but firm leadership. Early socialization and training classes help to ensure that the Harrier grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. Harriers like to dig. A few dig for the joy of it, some dig after critters, and many will dig out of boredom. They need to be trained not to dig or they need a place to dig like a sandbox or designated area in the yard and train them to use that.
Overall, Harriers are a very healthy breed. Of course, Harriers are subject to many of the acquired problems and diseases that can affect all breeds of dogs. Some diseases are genetic or run in families, but the Harrier has very few genetic issues of which we are aware.
Canine Hip Dysplasia is the most common problem that plagues the Harrier. Briefly, hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that causes malformation of the hip joint. This malformation can cause pain and arthritis. In moderately to severely affected dogs, surgery may be required. Hypothyroidism may or may not be a problem in Harriers. While there have been some cases reported, there haven’t been nearly enough hounds tested to ascertain the extent of the disease within the breed.
The ears should be inspected weekly and cleaned if needed with soft gauze and an ear-cleaning solution to avoid infection. Never use cotton swabs as they can damage the ear canal. The nails should be trimmed often if not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause the dog discomfort and problems walking and running. The teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Poor dental care can lead to infections causing organ damage.