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Nicole Cosgrove

June 9, 2021


The Harrier is a medium to large purebred in the hound class that looks like a smaller version of the English Foxhound though in fact it is a different breed. It was bred to hunt primarily fox and hare in packs, and still today remains a pack animal. It is also called the Harehound or the Heirer and it comes from England. It is not a common breed today even in the UK but even less so in the US however with enough attention it makes a great family dog.

The Harrier at A Glance
Name Harrier
Other names Harehound, Heirer
Nicknames None
Origin UK
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 35 to 60 pounds
Average height 19 to 21 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Rough, short, harsh, thick, shiny
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black and tan, red, white, grey, brown
Popularity Not popular – ranked 188th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – above average
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle warm to hot weather but nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle cold weather but nothing too cold or extreme
Shedding Moderate – will be some hair around the home
Drooling Low – not prone to lots of drool or slobber
Obesity Average – can gain weight if allowed to overeat and under-exercised
Grooming/brushing Low maintenance – brush weekly
Barking Occasional – some barking but not constant
Exercise needs Very active – needs up to two hours of vigorous exercise a day
Trainability Moderately difficult – with experience it could be easier but it has a stubborn side
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Good but best with someone with experience
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization – this is a pack dog
Good with other pets Low to moderate – socialization essential but even then supervision is a must
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization – approachable breed
Good apartment dog Low – not a dog suited to apartment living
Handles alone time well Good – can be alone for short periods and can entertain themselves
Health issues A healthy breed – a few issues are hip dysplasia, eye problems and hypothyroidism
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $235 a year for basic training, miscellaneous items, license and toys
Average annual expenses $840 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $750
Rescue organizations Several including the Harrier Club of America
Biting Statistics None reported

The Harrier’s Beginnings

Details of dogs used in its original breeding and development in England are not known precisely. The Southern Hound is one of its ancestors, (it is actually said to be the ancestor of all scenthounds in the UK), but not much is known about the breed apart from being brought to the UK by the Normans. One theory suggest there is also some Greyhound and perhaps some Fox Terrier too. Another says the Basset Hound, Bloodhound and Talbot Hound were involved and a third theory suggests it is just English Foxhounds that were just bred down. It was first used as a pack by Sir Elias de Midhope in the mid 13th century and it is one of England’s oldest dogs still around today.

For over 500 years these dogs, then called Penistone Harriers were kept in packs and used to hunt. Originally its purpose was to hunt the large and slower European hare. Hare hunting was popular in England, hunters could keep up on foot with their hounds which made it something anyone could do, from the royal down to the commoner, as there was no need for horses as there was in fox hunting. In the US the Harrier has been there since at least Colonial times, likely brought over with settlers. It was a popular hunting dog used in packs there as it was in the UK. In 1885 it was recognized by the AKC.

Up until the early 1800s the Harrier was a slow moving dog but it was then that the Foxhound cross is believed to have happened to make it faster and more able to also hunt fox. A breed club was formed in 1891 called the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles. But the early 20th century saw the hare hunt become less popular and between 1895 and 1914 the number of working packs dropped from 110 to 84. Then with World War I as with other breeds its numbers dropped again and by 1930 only 41 packs were left. After World War II this dropped even further and by the 1960s there were 28 packs left and only 23 of them were hunting just hare.

New Lease on Life

Today Harriers are still around but have a small and dedicated following, amongst the common people the Foxhound and the Beagle are more popular. It can be a great family dog though in the US it has always been one of the least popular ranked by the AKC and has several periods of time where none were registered at all in the 20th century. This is partly because since most Harriers are part of a hunting pack they are not registered. Interestingly while it is recognized by the AKC and other kennel clubs around the world it is not by the Kennel Club in England! Currently it is ranked 188th by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium to large dog weighing 35 to 60 pounds and standing 19 to 21 inches tall. It does look very much like a small English Foxhound being muscular, sturdy and large boned and a bit longer than they are tall. They have a level topline, broad chests and tails that are set high, are medium length and do not curl over the back. There is a reason for the tail being set high, that way hunters following the dogs can see them over distances or through thick brush. It has cat like feet and the front toes can turn in. Its coat is short, sleek, shiny and rough. It can be any color but common ones include black and tan, white, grey, brown, white and red.

Harriers have a head that is proportionate to their size with a strong forehead and the muzzle is close to the same length as its skull. It is also strong and squared and ends with a wide black nose that has open nostrils. It has ears that are wide set, soft and pendant. They are medium sized and hang down to their cheeks with rounded tips. Its eyes can be hazel or brown and are medium sized.

The Inner Harrier


Harriers are a playful and happy dog with a lot of energy and stamina. Some even go as far as to describe them as a Beagle on steroids! Be prepared that even into maturity it can still retain that puppy enthusiasm and bounciness. While it is an alert dog it may not always be the best of watchdogs as some are just so friendly and social they are happy to get attention and greet whoever is entering the home. It especially loves a tummy rub and will take it from whoever will give it. As much as they love attention though they are also quite able to have time on their own and can handle short times of separation, though being a pack dog it would prefer to have other dogs at home with it when you are out. It tends to see its family as its pack too.

This is not a dog breed best suited to new owners, it does better with those who have experience and it will also need to be with people who are active. If you are not taking it out regularly to hunt with it needs plenty of activity, but at the end of the day will love to curl up with you when it is time to relax. Be warned as with most hounds it is prone to frequent barking, baying and howling, particularly when it has been left alone for a long time. When anxious or bored it will also become destructive. Otherwise when happy it is sweet, tolerant, social and cheerful.

Living with a Harrier

What will training look like?

Harriers as with most hounds have a stubborn side that is for sure. They can be challenging to train which is why experience is so beneficial with them. In terms of learning hunting commands that can go more easily, they are engaged and interested and geared towards them. But other commands can be trickier. It is important to be clearly establish yourself as pack leader but to be calm and positive with your approach not negative. Keep the sessions short and interesting and avoid becoming overly repetitive. Be consistent and clear in your expectations and stick to the rules you have set. Along with starting training early you also need to start socialization. To get the best out of your dog, to help it have more confidence and be a dog you can trust, you need to expose it to different places, people, animals, sounds, situations and so on.

How active is the Harrier?

This breed has a lot of stamina and needs plenty of activity to keep it healthy and happy. It is not built for huge speed but will keep going, hare and fox drop from exhaustion when running from a Harrier pack. It is not best suited to apartment living, it needs a large yard or even better some land. If it is not being kept as a hunting dog it will need to go out for a couple of vigorous walks of some length and also have some run time off leash somewhere safe. It would enjoy time at a dog park for example where you can play games with it, it can run free and socialize. It would also do well joining you when you go jogging, hiking, running or cycling. In total be prepared to see it gets up to two hours a day of vigorous activity not gentle. Do not let them off leash where it is not enclosed, if they catch a scent they will go after it. Any yard or land should be well fenced in to prevent it from escaping after a scent too.

Caring for the Harrier

Grooming needs

Throughout the year the Harrier sheds a moderate amount so there will be some hair around the home. Brush once or twice a week to keep up with it and to remove any dirt or debris. Use a hound mitt or brush and comb. There will not be any need for trimming and bathing can vary, some may need a bath every month to 6 weeks, some can go longer. Try not to do it too often as it does dry out their skin and lead to skin problems.

Its ears need some attention being long they are more prone to ear infection so check them weekly for signs such as a discharge, sensitivity, redness or wax build up. Also check for and remove foreign objects like burrs or foxtails from running around outside. Then also weekly give them a clean making sure you only wipe the parts you can reach, never insert anything down into the ear. You can use a warm damp cloth or a cotton ball and dog ear cleaning solution. Ask your vet for recommendations. Also give the ears a gentle drying after outings in the rain or bath time.

Its nails will need to be trimmed if they get too long, though if it is getting a lot of activity outside it may wear them down naturally. If they do need trimming you can have your vet or a groomer do it, or you can do it. Should you opt to do it make sure you use proper dog nail clippers and you do not cut too close to the quick of the nail, it will hurt the dog and cause bleeding because of the nerves and blood vessels there. Its teeth need regular care too to keep them and the gums healthy and to help with its breath! Brush at least two to three times a week or even daily if it will let you. If you start these things from a very young age the dog will at the least get used to it, even if it is not its favorite time of the day!

Feeding Time

Harriers eat about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day that should not be fed all in one meal, but should be split into at least two. How much it needs can vary from one Harrier to another depending on size, age, health, metabolism and level of activity.

How is the Harrier with children and other animals?

This dog does very well with children which is part of why it is such a great family companion. It has enough stamina for even the tireless children who want to play, it is loving and affectionate towards them, and patient when needed, especially when raised with them and socialized. Be sure to teach the children how to approach, touch and play with the Harrier in a kind and appropriate way. It is also very good with other dogs, being a pack dog it loves to have other dogs around in fact. If you are out of the home but there are other dogs there to keep it company it will be a lot less likely to bay or act out. However with other pets, cats, rabbits and such it is not good with them, socialization is essential but even still it is best in a home where there are not other types of pets. Even when raised with other pets it will still want to chase/hunt them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of a Harrier is about 10 to 12 years and it is really a healthy breed too. There are a few issues that it might have like hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, ear infections, eye problems and bloat.

Biting Statistics

In dog attack reports over the last 35 years in the US and Canada, where the attack lead to bodily harm, there is no mention of the Harrier. This is not an aggressive dog towards people but the fact is there is no dog that is 100% safe from ever attacking someone. Every dog regardless of size or breed has the potential. Perhaps something obvious triggers it, perhaps it is not something obvious. Dogs can have an off day, so while Harriers are more small critter aggressive rather than people, there is still a possibility. There are things you can do as a good owner to lessen those risks though not completely eliminate them. Make sure your dog gets enough activity and stimulation, that it has the attention and company it needs, that it is cared for, fed, socialized and gets at least basic training.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Harrier puppy is not an easy thing to find in North America, even from just a pet quality trustworthy breeder and you can expect prices to start at about $750. You can also expect to be put on a waiting list. For a top breeder of show quality dogs that waiting list might be longer and those prices will certainly be higher. There have been years where only 31 puppies were born. At rescues and shelters you are not likely to find a purebred, but you may find a mixed breed that catches your heart, and there are certainly too many dogs needing new homes. This would cost less too around $50 to $400 plus it will have some basic medical needs seen to. Do not be tempted to use backyard breeders, puppy mills or pet stores just because you do not want to wait. Many if not most mistreat or neglect their animals, have poor breeding practices and cannot offer health clearance assurance.

After you have your puppy or dog you need to go to a vet to get it check over, have a physical, have blood tests done, be dewormed and vaccinated, have a microchip put in, and if old enough be spayed or neutered. This will cost about $270. There are some things you also need to buy for the home, like a crate, bowls, carrier, collar and leash for example and these will cost around $200.

Yearly costs are another factor to be aware of before you choose a dog. Make sure you can afford its routine care as well as be prepared for the surprise costs that come along with it. Feeding a Harrier will cost about $145 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food. Medical care can vary depending on your dogs health, but basic care like check ups, shots and tick and flea prevention along with pet insurance will start somewhere around $460 a year. Then there are the miscellaneous items you might need each year, a license, basic training costs and toys. These miscellaneous costs come to at least $235 a year. This gives a yearly estimated starting figure of $840.


Looking for a Harrier Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Harrier needs active owners who have experience with dogs, as it does have a stubborn side. It is not a dog that can adjust to apartment living as it needs space outside. It is also not a dog to keep if you have very close neighbors who like things to be quiet, as it does bay, howl and bark as all hounds do. This is a friendly and social pack dog, so it would love to have another dog or two to keep it company, but it does not get on well with other pets. It is loyal and affectionate and after a day of activity it will love laying with you on the couch to watch tv.

Featured Image Credit: evaleenage, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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