Harrier

Table of Contents

harrier dog portrait
Unleash the adventurous world of Harriers, the hidden gem among dog breeds! These energetic hounds, often dubbed "beagles on steroids," are a delightful mix of intelligence, stamina, and sociability

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Harrier is ideal for active individuals or families seeking a loyal, energetic, and sociable companion. These versatile hounds thrive in homes with ample space to explore and burn off energy, making them perfect for rural or suburban environments.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEHarrier
ORIGINUnited Kingdom
BREED GROUPHound Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT19-24 inches
WEIGHT40-65 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSLow
EXERCISE NEEDSHigh
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK193rd
harrier in the snow
Photo: Kutredrig/Getty Images

Appearance

The Harrier is a medium-sized, muscular hound with an athletic build that exudes strength and agility. These captivating canines showcase a well-proportioned body, making them perfect for their original role as scent hounds in hunting expeditions.

When it comes to height and weight, male Harriers typically stand between 21 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder, while females range from 19 to 22 inches. In terms of weight, males usually weigh between 45 to 65 pounds, whereas females tip the scales at around 40 to 60 pounds. Despite these differences, both sexes exhibit a balanced and sturdy appearance.

The Harrier’s head is broad and slightly rounded, with a medium-length, square-shaped muzzle. Their large, brown or hazel eyes have a gentle, intelligent expression that speaks volumes about their warm and friendly nature. The breed’s ears are medium-sized, pendant-shaped, and set wide apart, folding down close to their cheeks. This characteristic adds to their endearing, approachable demeanor.

Harriers boast a straight, strong back and a deep chest that extends to their elbows, providing ample room for their lungs and heart – essential features for a dog built for endurance. Their well-developed shoulders, powerful hindquarters, and muscular legs further contribute to their exceptional stamina and speed.

The breed’s tail is long, set high, and carried upright with a slight curve, often referred to as a “sabre tail.”

One of the most notable aspects of the Harrier’s appearance is its short, dense coat. The coat is designed to protect them from harsh weather conditions and rough terrain encountered during hunts.

The Harrier’s coat comes in various colors, including tri-color (black, white, and tan), red and white, lemon and white, and pure white. Some Harriers may also exhibit a predominantly black or tan coat with white markings.

The breed’s overall appearance is one of grace and power. Its physical characteristics not only lend themselves to the Harrier’s original purpose as a scent hound but also make it a striking and attractive companion for dog lovers.

harrier's face close up
Photo: lo-chef/Getty Images

Temperament

The Harrier is known for its delightful temperament and affable personality, which make them excellent companions for individuals and families alike. These canines are friendly, outgoing, and sociable, with an innate desire to form strong bonds with their human counterparts. Their cheerful disposition and amiable nature make them a joy to be around, quickly winning the hearts of those who encounter them.

Harriers possess a high level of intelligence that contributes to their versatility and adaptability. They are eager to learn and respond well to positive reinforcement, making them a pleasure to work with in various settings. While they were originally bred for hunting, their sharp minds and amicable personalities have allowed them to excel in other activities such as agility, tracking, and therapy work.

One of the most endearing traits of the Harrier breed is its playful nature. These dogs love to engage in games and interactive activities that stimulate their minds and bodies.

Harriers are known for their sense of humor and can often be found initiating playtime with their favorite humans or canine friends. This fun-loving attitude makes them an ideal choice for families with children, as they are gentle and patient playmates who can keep up with the energy and enthusiasm of young ones.

Despite their friendly demeanor, Harriers also possess a natural instinct to protect their loved ones. They are vigilant and attentive, making them effective watchdogs without being overly aggressive. Their alertness and loyalty ensure that they will notify their family of any perceived threats or unusual occurrences.

It’s essential to note that while Harriers are not typically aggressive towards people, their hunting background means they may have a high prey drive. This trait can make them more likely to chase smaller animals such as cats, squirrels, or rabbits, although early socialization can help mitigate this behavior.

Harriers are known for their adaptability and easygoing nature, which makes them suitable for various living situations. They can thrive in both urban and rural settings, provided they have ample opportunity to socialize and engage in stimulating activities. These dogs are not overly demanding when it comes to their environment, but they do appreciate the company and attention of their human family members.

It’s also worth mentioning that Harriers can be quite vocal, as they were bred to communicate with hunters during the chase.

This characteristic means they may be prone to barking or howling, especially when they are excited or want to alert their family to something. While this trait can be charming and endearing, it’s essential for prospective owners to consider whether they can accommodate a more vocal canine companion.

Ideal Environment

The Harrier thrives in an environment that provides ample space, exercise opportunities, and a loving family.

Ideal Owner

These energetic hounds are well-suited for active pet parents who can dedicate time to their physical and mental stimulation. Harriers excel in rural or suburban settings with access to large yards or nearby parks, allowing them to stretch their legs and indulge in their natural scent-tracking abilities.

Other Pets

When it comes to cohabiting with other pets, Harriers generally get along well with other dogs, especially if they’ve been socialized from a young age. Their pack mentality and sociable nature make them amenable to sharing their home with canine companions.

However, due to their hunting background and prey drive, they might be inclined to chase smaller animals like cats, birds, or rodents. Early socialization and proper training can help manage this behavior and promote harmonious relationships between Harriers and other household pets.

Physical Environment

While Harriers are adaptable to various living situations, they may not be the best choice for apartment dwellers due to their size, energy levels, and potential vocalizations. However, if an urban Harrier owner is willing to provide daily exercise and outdoor activities, this breed can still make a delightful companion in a smaller living space.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, Harriers are relatively versatile. Their dense, short coats offer protection from cold weather, allowing them to enjoy outdoor activities during winter months. However, it’s essential to monitor them for signs of discomfort or hypothermia during extreme cold and provide them with a warm shelter when necessary.

On the other hand, Harriers can also tolerate warmer climates but may require extra precautions to avoid overheating or dehydration. In hot weather, it’s crucial to provide them with shade, fresh water, and limit their physical activity during the hottest parts of the day.

harrier relaxing at home
Photo: Aleš Kouřil / 500px/Getty Images

Grooming

The Harrier has relatively low-maintenance grooming requirements compared to many other breeds, making them an appealing choice for those who prefer a more manageable grooming routine. Their short, dense coats are designed to be weather-resistant and require minimal upkeep to keep them looking their best.

Coat Care

One of the primary grooming tasks for Harriers is brushing their coat. Although they don’t have long or elaborate fur, brushing them once or twice a week helps remove dead hair, distribute natural oils, and keep their coat in good condition.

Using a slicker brush or a rubber grooming mitt can effectively remove loose hair while providing a gentle massage that most Harriers will enjoy. During shedding seasons, typically occurring in spring and fall, you may need to increase the frequency of brushing to manage the increased hair loss.

Bathing a Harrier is generally only necessary every couple of months or as needed, depending on their level of outdoor activity or if they happen to get particularly dirty. Overbathing can strip the coat of its natural oils, leading to dry skin and potential irritation. When bathing your Harrier, use a mild dog shampoo, ensuring it’s thoroughly rinsed out to avoid any residual irritation.

Dental Care

Regular dental care is crucial for maintaining your Harrier’s overall health. Dental issues such as plaque buildup, gum disease, and bad breath can be minimized with consistent dental hygiene.

It’s recommended to brush your Harrier’s teeth two to three times a week using a dog-specific toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush or a finger brush. In addition to brushing, providing dental chews or toys can help promote oral health and reduce tartar buildup.

Nail Trimming

Another essential aspect of a Harrier’s grooming routine is nail care. Regular nail trimming is important to prevent overgrown nails that can cause discomfort, pain, or even infection. Ideally, you should trim your Harrier’s nails every three to four weeks, depending on their rate of growth and wear.

Using a guillotine or scissor-style nail clipper designed for dogs is recommended, and it’s essential to be cautious not to cut the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain.

Ear Care

Don’t forget to check and clean your Harrier’s ears as part of their grooming routine. Examine their ears weekly for any signs of redness, irritation, or unusual odor, which could indicate an infection. You can clean your Harrier’s ears using a dog-specific ear cleaning solution and a cotton ball or gauze pad, gently wiping the outer ear canal without inserting anything into the ear canal itself.

harrier sitting against white background

Exercise

The Harrier is an energetic and active canine that requires a significant amount of exercise to stay healthy, happy, and well-behaved. As a breed originally developed for hunting, Harriers have strong stamina and endurance, which necessitates regular physical activity to meet their needs.

Exercise Amount & Types

When it comes to exercise, Harriers typically require at least one to two hours of daily physical activity. This can be divided into multiple sessions throughout the day, including walks, playtime, or other forms of exercise.

Long walks or hikes are particularly appealing to these scent hounds, as they allow them to engage their natural tracking instincts while exploring new environments. Off-leash play in securely fenced areas can also provide an excellent opportunity for Harriers to burn off energy and indulge their love for running and chasing.

Dog Sports

In addition to walks and playtime, Harriers can benefit from participating in structured activities or dog sports. Their athleticism, intelligence, and cooperative nature make them well-suited for various canine competitions, such as obedience trials, agility courses, scent work, or even rally.

Engaging your Harrier in these activities not only provides them with physical exercise but also offers mental stimulation, which is essential for their overall well-being.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Harrier, it’s crucial to consider their safety and well-being. In hot weather, it’s essential to provide ample shade, water, and limit their physical activity during the hottest parts of the day to avoid overheating or dehydration. Similarly, in colder weather, ensure they have proper protection against extreme cold and monitor them for signs of discomfort or hypothermia.

It’s important to remember that every dog is an individual, and your Harrier’s specific exercise needs may vary depending on factors such as age, health, and fitness level. Regular veterinary check-ups can help you determine the most appropriate exercise routine for your Harrier’s unique needs.

Training

Training a Harrier can be a rewarding experience, as these intelligent and eager-to-please hounds are generally responsive to consistent, positive training methods.

However, it’s important to note that Harriers possess an independent streak, which is common among scent hounds. This trait may sometimes make them appear stubborn or challenging to train, but with patience and persistence, they can excel in various training endeavors.

When training a Harrier, it’s crucial to establish a strong bond and trust between you and your canine companion. Building this relationship will help your Harrier become more receptive to training and eager to please.

Positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, or play, are highly effective in motivating Harriers to learn new commands and behaviors. They respond well to rewards-based training, which helps to reinforce desired behaviors and discourage undesirable ones.

It’s essential to start training your Harrier from a young age, focusing on basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, and heel.

Early socialization is also vital for exposing your Harrier to various people, animals, and environments, helping them develop into well-rounded and confident adults. Puppy training classes or group obedience classes can be an excellent way to provide structured training and socialization opportunities for your Harrier.

Given their strong scent-tracking instincts, Harriers can benefit from scent work or nose work training. These activities not only provide mental stimulation but also allow them to utilize their natural abilities in a controlled and productive manner. Engaging your Harrier in scent work can help channel their energy and focus, making them more responsive to other training exercises as well.

One aspect to consider when training a Harrier is their high prey drive, which may cause them to become distracted by interesting scents or small animals. It’s important to work on building a reliable recall and teaching them to refocus their attention on you during distractions. Consistency and repetition are key factors in ensuring your Harrier remains engaged and responsive during training sessions.

Diet & Nutrition 

The diet and nutrition of a Harrier play a critical role in maintaining their overall health, energy levels, and well-being. Providing a well-balanced and appropriate diet can help ensure your Harrier thrives throughout their life.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting a food for your Harrier, it’s essential to choose high-quality options that follow the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food contains all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for your dog’s optimal health.

There are various types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, or raw diets. Regardless of the type you choose, it’s crucial to ensure the food meets AAFCO standards and is appropriate for your Harrier’s age, size, and activity level.

The amount of food your Harrier requires will depend on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and overall health. As a general guideline, Harriers typically need approximately 1,800 to 2,500 calories per day, divided into two meals. However, this can vary based on individual needs, so it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate feeding plan for your specific dog.

Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs and will need more frequent meals to support their growth and development. Harrier puppies should be fed three to four times a day with high-quality puppy food that meets AAFCO guidelines. As they grow and reach adulthood, the number of meals can be reduced to twice daily.

Treats

Treats can be an excellent way to reward your Harrier during training sessions or as a token of affection. However, it’s important to remember that treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake to avoid overfeeding and potential weight gain.

Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats, and consider using fruits or vegetables such as carrots, green beans, or apple slices as a nutritious alternative.

Water

Proper hydration is crucial for your Harrier’s overall health. Ensure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times, regularly checking and refilling their water bowl as needed. This is especially important during hot weather or after exercise when your dog may be more prone to dehydration.

Health

The Harrier is generally a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of around 12 to 15 years. However, like all dog breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. Being aware of these potential concerns can help you take proactive steps to maintain your Harrier’s health and well-being.

Some common health issues associated with the Harrier include:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket, leading to arthritis and discomfort over time. Regular check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a developmental disorder that affects the elbow joint. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help improve mobility and reduce discomfort.

Ear Infections: Due to their long, floppy ears, Harriers can be more susceptible to ear infections. Regular ear cleaning and monitoring for signs of irritation or infection can help prevent this issue.

Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, resulting in symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most dogs can live a normal, healthy life.

Eye Conditions: Harriers can be prone to various eye issues, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. Regular eye examinations and early treatment can help preserve your dog’s vision.

To keep your Harrier healthy, providing a balanced diet with high-quality food that meets the AAFCO guidelines is essential. This ensures they receive all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for optimal health. Maintaining a healthy weight is also crucial, as obesity can contribute to several health issues, including joint problems and heart disease.

Regular veterinary check-ups are vital for monitoring your Harrier’s health and catching any potential issues early. These visits typically include a physical examination, vaccinations, and routine screenings for common health concerns. Staying up to date with vaccinations and parasite prevention is essential in protecting your Harrier from various diseases and infections.

History

The Harrier boasts a rich and fascinating history, tracing its origins back to England, where it was primarily developed as a hunting hound. While the exact ancestry of the breed remains uncertain, it is widely believed that Harriers are descended from a combination of ancient hounds, including the now-extinct Southern Hound, Bloodhound, Talbot Hound, and Greyhound.

The development of the Harrier dates back to the 13th century when they were bred for their scent-tracking abilities and endurance in hunting hare and other small game. The name “Harrier” is thought to have originated from the Norman word “harier,” meaning “hound” or “dog used for hunting.” Alternatively, the name could also be derived from “hare,” the primary prey of these hounds.

Throughout the centuries, Harriers continued to be prized for their exceptional hunting skills and stamina, which allowed them to pursue their quarry for extended periods. They were particularly adept at hunting in packs, using their keen sense of smell and relentless determination to track and catch their prey.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Harrier packs became increasingly popular among British hunters, who appreciated the breed’s versatility in various terrains and their ability to hunt both hare and fox. The Harrier’s popularity extended across all social classes, unlike the more aristocratic Foxhound, which was primarily associated with the upper class.

The Harrier breed was first brought to North America in the early 1700s, where they continued to be utilized as hunting dogs. Their adaptability to various climates and terrains made them well-suited for the diverse landscapes of the New World.

In the United States, Harriers were often used in hunting raccoons, rabbits, and other small game, and they played a significant role in developing other American hound breeds, such as the Redbone Coonhound and the Treeing Walker Coonhound.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Harrier breed in 1885, making it one of the earliest breeds to be registered by the organization. Despite their recognition and long history, Harriers have remained relatively rare in the United States and around the world.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Harrier in the United States is the Harrier Club of America (HCA). Founded in 1991, the HCA is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and protecting the Harrier breed.

The club provides valuable resources and information about the breed, as well as organizing events and activities for Harrier enthusiasts. The official webpage for the Harrier Club of America can be accessed here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Harrier’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Harrier, it’s essential to be prepared for their exercise and training needs, as well as providing them with a loving and supportive environment. Before bringing a Harrier into your home, ensure you have the necessary supplies, such as a crate, collar, leash, food, and water bowls, and toys.

Rather than purchasing a Harrier from a breeder, consider rescuing or adopting one in need of a loving home. Rescue organizations often have dogs that are already trained and socialized, making the transition into your family smoother. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Harrier Club of America can provide resources and information on Harrier rescue organizations and adoption opportunities.

FAQs

Are Harriers good family dogs?

Yes, Harriers make excellent family dogs. They are known for their friendly and outgoing temperament, making them wonderful companions for families with children. Their sociable nature also means they typically get along well with other dogs and pets.

Are Harriers the same as Beagles?

While Harriers and Beagles may appear similar, they are distinct breeds. Both breeds are scent hounds, but Harriers are larger than Beagles and were primarily bred for hunting hare, while Beagles were developed to hunt rabbits.

How rare are Harriers?

Harriers are considered a rare breed, especially outside of hunting circles. The breed ranks 193rd on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds in the US.

Do Harriers bark a lot?

Harriers have a moderate tendency to bark, which is typical of many scent hound breeds. Barking may occur when they catch an interesting scent or if they are bored. Providing mental stimulation and regular exercise can help reduce excessive barking.

Can Harriers live in an apartment?

While it is possible for a Harrier to live in an apartment, they are an energetic breed that requires daily exercise and mental stimulation. If you can provide sufficient activity and outdoor time for your Harrier, they may adapt to apartment living. However, a home with a fenced yard is generally more suitable for their needs.

Are Harriers hypoallergenic?

No, Harriers are not considered hypoallergenic. They have a short, dense coat that sheds moderately, making them less suitable for individuals with allergies to pet dander.

How much exercise do Harriers need?

Harriers require at least one to two hours of daily exercise due to their high energy levels and strong hunting instincts. Daily walks, play sessions, and opportunities to explore off-leash in a secure area are essential for their physical and mental well-being. Engaging them in activities such as scent work or agility can also provide additional stimulation and exercise.

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