Complete Guide To The Harrier: Exercise, Personality, Feeding and More

Bred to hunt hare in Medieval England, Harriers are as scarce as knights in shining armor. The rarest among hounds, only a lucky few are privileged to make their acquaintance.

I’ve only recently become acquainted with Harriers in my veterinary practice. There’s no way you would mistake one for a Beagle physically but they are pretty similar in many ways.

How Big Do Harriers Get?

Male19″ – 21″ at the shoulder50-60 lbs
Female19″ – 21″ at the shoulder45-55 lbs

What Do Harriers Look Like?

Harriers are larger than a Beagle but smaller than a Foxhound. Sporting the same sturdy build and well-balanced musculature, they’re hard to differentiate them from their cousins at first glance.

Official colors are similar and include:

• Black, White and Tan
• Lemon and White
• Red and White

Like the Beagle, the Harrier’s low-set ears pitch forward, framing a square muzzle and large nose. Eye color varies from yellow to brown. Tails are held high, tapering to a fine point with a tiny tuft of hair.

What Is The Personality Of A Harrier?

Harriers are outgoing with people and other dogs — pack hunters, it doesn’t pay to be stubborn. Yet they tend to be independent, a valuable quality on the trail. With training and firm leadership, they can be exemplary family dogs.

Good-natured with children, they don’t mind their antics or loud voices — exuberant and vocal, they’re a perfect match. With enough activity, they’ll adapt to most environments — beware of nuisance barking/baying if they become bored or nervous. Happy as long as they have human or canine companionship they’re playful, loyal and easygoing.

How Much Exercise Does A Harrier Need?

Harriers were bred for long hours on the move. Without enough exercise, they’ll be frustrated and destructive — plan on an hour of daily activity or more.

Scenthounds, they’ll chase anything interesting, so keep their play area secure. They like to dig, so fences should extend into the ground. Keep them on a leash for walks, their favorite pastime.

The good news for busy owners is that Harriers will entertain themselves. Give them room to roam or another canine companion, and they’ll have all the fun they need. If you enjoy canine sports, they’re a whiz at rally.

How Much Grooming Does A Harrier Need?

Harriers have short, hard coats. Glossy, their hair feels stiff to touch everywhere but their ears which are often described as velveteen. They shed continually and a little more in the spring and fall, but grooming is effortless with the right tools.

Weekly brushing with a hound glove removes surface dirt and loose hair, distributing skin oils that make their coat gleam. Prone to doggy odor, a bath every few months keeps them fresh.

Like other hounds with heavy ears, Harriers are vulnerable to infections. With no light or air reaching the ear canals, it’s easier for bacteria and yeast to grow. Clean them monthly with a gentle, alcohol-free cleansing solution.

Energetic, most Harriers get enough exercise to wear down their nails naturally. But their feet are small and their toes close together, so any overgrowth can be uncomfortable. Trim them every two to three weeks with a clipper or grinding tool.

What Is The Best Food For A Harrier?

Personally I believe that most foods are fine for most dogs. Some dogs may not do well on some foods. However, as a rule I don’t blanket-prohibit any dietary ingredient from any breed at this time.

Best Puppy Food For Harriers:

Best Adult Food For Harriers:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. Have your vet go over with you exactly where to feel to know when your dog is too big.

How Long Does A Harrier Live?

12-15 years

What Health Problems Can A Harrier Have?

As active, outdoor-loving dogs, Harriers have similar health issues compared to other dogs its size. The most common ones would include:

  • Arthritis in the elbows and knees as they age
  • Hip Dysplasia is a risk in most breeds
  • Obesity as they age – watch that food intake!

How Can I Learn More About Harriers?

Harrier Club of America has tons of resources for you to read.

AKC Breed Profile

Where Can I Find A Harrier?

There’s not a list of breeders that is available to the public that I’ve found. Instead, the Harrier Club of America requests that you contact them to be matched with a quality breeder in your area. Typically, breed clubs do this in part to try maintain the breed standards by not encouraging people to go just anywhere for a dog.

How about an adult Rescue Harrier? Check this page to see if the national breed club has any adult rescue dogs.

Interesting Facts About the Harrier

Harriers may look like Beagles, but they have their own identity. Here’s what you need to know about this charming, talented breed.

• Hare-iers?

Superb rabbit hunters, some assume Harriers were named after their favorite quarry, the hare. A less intriguing but more likely explanation is that the term reflects the Norman word “harier,” meaning hound.

• A Mysterious Heritage

Far less is known about the history of the Harrier than of its cousins. They first emerged in England in the 13th century. Researchers believe they were selectively bred down in size from the English Foxhound.

Sir Elias de Midhope established the first known pack in 1260. Known as the Penistone pack, it endured for half a millennia.

• Harriers Are Rare in the United States

Harriers were a fixture among colonialists, so they’ve been on American soil for centuries. Yet fewer than a thousand were registered with the American Kennel Club between 1884 and 1994. Recognized since 1885, they had no official parent club until 1996, despite numerous attempts.

Today, they rank just 189th of 197 breeds on the AKC’s list of most popular dogs, but with dedication and community outreach, fanciers hope to spur renewed interest in the breed.

Eh Tu, England?

Despite the Harrier’s rich history in England, the English Kennel Club hasn’t recognized the Harrier since 1971. The last time one was shown on British soil was in 1915. The problem, however, isn’t popularity — consensus among Brits is that they’d rather hunt with Harriers than show them.

• Meanwhile, in Ireland

Harriers are Ireland’s favorite hounds. Lauded by Irish hunters for their versatility, they maintain more than 600 packs, most of which hunt fox.