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rec.pets.dogs: Harriers Breed-FAQ
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997
There are nearly 100 FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is"
without express or implied warranty.
Copyright 1995 by Donna Smiley-Auborn.
Table of Contents
* General Health
Harriers are a type of scent hound bred for hunting hares and foxes in
large packs. They are one of the few truly medium-sized breeds of
dogs. Harriers stand between 19 and 21 inches at the shoulder, and
weigh 45-60 lbs. They have short hair, hanging ears, and come in a
variety of color patterns. A humorous, yet fairly accurate short-hand
description of a Harrier is "a Beagle on steroids."
Harriers should have lots of bone and substance for their size -- they
should appear willing and able to work all day long, no matter the
terrain. The muzzle should be square, of good length, with a
well-developed nose and open nostrils. Eyes should be dark, alert and
intelligent. Since pure speed was not part of their job description,
their front and rears are only moderately angulated, which is better
suited to providing stamina for long hours of work. The ribs should be
well-sprung and extend down past the elbows to provide lots of heart
and lung room. The feet on the Harrier should be tight cat-feet with
well-developed thick pads that will hold up to rough terrain and lots
of work. The tail is set on high and carried up; a brush of hair
should be seen on the underside. The hair on the rest of the body is
short, and on the ears is fine and soft. Dewclaws are removed from the
front feet, and from the rear if they happen to be born with them.
Coat color is not regarded as important in Harriers, so no color is
preferred over the other. The typical Harrier is tan, black & white,
with a black saddle blanket, tan on the head, ears & legs, and white
on the feet, muzzle, chest, underside, blaze and on the end of the
tail. However, tan, brown & white, or open-markings with lots of white
are also fairly common.
In the UK
Harriers were developed in England as a scenting pack hound. The
earliest records of a pack of Harriers dates from the 1200's.
Originally, they were used to hunt hare with the hunters on foot, so
used to be a much slower, more methodical hound more reminiscent of
the bloodhound type. Eventually, when foxhunting became the fashion,
Harriers were adapted to hunt in front of mounted riders. Harriers are
still used today in the British Isles, Australia and Nwe Zealand, with
most packs hunting both fox and hare.
In the US
Harriers first came to the US in colonial days. There were even
several Harrier packs in the US through the early part of this
century. General George S. Patton (then a Colonel) was Master of the
Cobbler Harriers from 1936 to 1938. The last US Harrier pack
disappeared in the late 1960's when the hunt changed over to
Harriers were one of the first breeds admitted to the AKC Stud Book in
1885. Two Harriers were exhibited at the very first Westminster Kennel
Club show in 1877. Never a popular breed in terms of numbers, Harriers
consistently rank at or near the bottom of yearly AKC registration
In the US today, the vast majority of Harriers are first and foremost
housepets. Some also have careers in the show ring or obedience ring.
A few are also used by rabbit hunters, as they are outstanding on
snowshoe hare and other game too fast for most Beagles.
As with most dog breeds, due consideration must be given to their
original purpose when looking at a Harrier as a companion. A true
hound, they are energetic, independent, self-willed and persistent.
Harriers were bred to work absolutely all day long (covering 20-40
miles) out in front of hunters, to think things out for themselves, to
never give up the chase no matter what happened. Harriers perform
their function remarkably well; hares and foxes are known to collapse
from sheer exhaustion when pursued by the tireless Harrier.
Because of their naturally independent, sometimes stubborn, nature,
obedience training is highly suggested for Harriers. If you are
looking for a dog to be constantly underfoot demanding attention with
a tennis ball in their mouth or waiting on your next whim, then
Harriers aren't for you. They love being with you, but are not
dependent on you for entertainment. Because they will entertain
themselves, care needs to be taken to see that Harriers are not
allowed to get into unsupervised mischief!
Harriers are full of energy, but are not hyperactive! They are ideally
suited to participating in your athletic activities such as jogging,
bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, etc. In the home, they are
generally very sensible about their activity level, and love to share
a lap, wrestle with the kids on the floor, or lay on a rug and chew on
toys. However, Harriers are generally not recommended as apartment
pets for most people; except for those willing to put forth the extra
effort to provide adequate training and lots of daily exercise.
Developed as a working pack hound, Harriers are by nature a
gregarious, friendly hound that gets along well in large numbers. They
should never be aggressive to either people or other dogs. They
usually fit in nicely with other pets - dogs, cats, horses, etc.
Harriers have a truly outstanding temperament - friendly, outgoing and
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, although of course dogs and young
children should never be left together unsupervised. They are very
affectionate, sweet and loving hounds that tend to view every stranger
as just an old friend that they haven't yet met. As such, they do not
make good guard dogs. Harriers are, however, good watch dogs. They
will most certainly notice anything unusual and will sound the alarm
with a loud, alert voice.
Harriers are generally sturdy, healthy, happy, low-maintenance hounds.
But of course, as it is with all dogs, proper veterinary care is
Because they are a short-coated hound, 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.
Like all short-haired dogs, Harriers do shed, but the majority of this
tends to be seasonal.
While Harriers are independent (with an occasional stubborn streak),
housebreaking should not be a problem as long as consistency and
positive reinforcement are used. Unfortunately, quite a few all-breed
reference books put forth the mistaken idea that Harriers are
difficult to housebreak - NOT TRUE! In fact, quite a few people who
have had other breeds prior to Harriers have commented on the ease
with which their Harriers were housebroken as opposed to their other
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
A securely fenced yard is essential. 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. While they will usually return home if they are able, a
secure yard will prevent them from getting lost, injured or killed.
The scarcity of Harriers has helped to make the breed as healthy
genetically as it is. Because there has never been a high demand for
Harriers, breeders have always had to give careful consideration to
their breeding decisions, and normally only breed the very best to the
Hip dysplasia is very rare in Harriers, but has been found on two
occasions. Those two were diagnosed through routine OFA exams, not
because the hounds were lame. Most Harrier breeders are careful to OFA
prior to breeding. CERF testing is also highly encouraged among
breeders, and so far no eye problems have ever been found. Prospective
buyers should ask for OFA & CERF certification.
In the past, several Harriers were known to have epilepsy. Currently,
however, as a result of careful breeding, epilepsy has not been seen
in many years.
Genetic shyness ("squirrelly-ness," for lack of a better term) is
occasionally seen in Harriers. Hounds with this problem will usually
be normal at home in familiar surroundings. But they can "freak out"
over silly things - a stranger with an umbrella, the garden hose, a
white for-sale sign, etc. This is not caused by lack of socialization,
because this has occurred even in hounds that were extensively
socialized from a very young age. Prospective buyers should check the
pups to see how they react to strange stimuli - they should be
outgoing, curious and confident.
As mentioned previously, Harriers are one of the rarest AKC breeds. To
illustrate this, in all of 1994 there were only four Harrier litters
born in the entire US (resulting in only 31 puppies). So if you are
seriously considering a Harrier as a pet, please be aware that you may
have to wait a while to find one -- you will not be able to go out
next weekend and get one! There are only a handful of breeders across
the US, and litters are normally few and far between. If you are
willing to consider an adult instead of a puppy, sometimes breeders
have adults that are in need of homes too.
Even though Harriers are a rare breed, you can expect a puppy to cost
generally $300 to $400.
If you would like a listing of HCA members and breeders nearest you,
_Harrier Club of America _
c/o Kim Mitchell, Club Secretary
301 Jefferson Lane
Ukiah, CA 95482
or contact me via email at the address below.
_***NOTE: The Harrier Club of America (HCA) does not recommend,
guarantee, endorse, nor rate breeders, their kennels, or their stock.
Individual dogs are not examined by the HCA. Buyers should be certain
to check all matters relating to AKC registration, health, quality,
and stud agreements with the breeders, sellers or stud owners before
making any decision.***_
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