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.
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 statistics.
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.
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.
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 breeds.
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 neighbors.
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.
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.
Even though Harriers are a rare breed, you can expect a puppy to cost generally $300 to $400.
Harrier Club of Americaor contact me via email at the address below.
c/o Kim Mitchell, Club Secretary
301 Jefferson Lane
Ukiah, CA 95482
***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.***