By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 17, 2009

The Harrier was developed in England as a pack-hunter. Its primary prey was hare, so it had to be active, strong, tireless and reasonably fast. The breed is effectively a small Foxhound.

Physical Characteristics

The long and bony build of the Harrier lends it a large look. Being a scenting pack hound, it runs perfectly with other dogs and hunts tirelessly on any kind of land for long periods. It has a hard and short coat. When the Harrier is excited, it has an alert expression, which changes into a gentle one while resting. One can describe the Harrier as a smaller type of English Foxhound and it is best adapted for hunting hare.

Personality and Temperament

The Harrier behaves well with kids and is friendly and tolerant. Hunting, sniffing, and trailing are something that the dog loves. Most Harriers are very reserved with unknown people and may bark or bay when alone or bored. These playful and outgoing dogs require daily exercise in an enclosed area.


This breed can stay outdoors in cold climates only if bedding and warm shelter is provided. Daily exercise is a must for the Harrier; it is also best if it is taken out for outdoor games, a jog, or a long walk. The dog's coat, meanwhile, needs only the occasional brushing to remove dead hair. As the breed is fond of company, it does not like to be left alone. Many Harriers are at their best when playing with other dogs.


The Harrier, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, is prone to problems like epilepsy and perianal fistula. The major health issue affecting this breed is canine hip dysplasia (CHD). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend hip and eye exams for this breed of dog.

History and Background

The Harrier gets its name from the Norman word harier, meaning a dog or hound, making it difficult to figure out the true ancestry of the breed. However, it is speculated that the Harrier might be an older scenthound, with references going back to 13th-century England. Some think that the breed might have descended from St. Hubert and Talbot hounds, the Brachet or the French Basset. It is guessed from this ancestry, that the Harrier was a dog that could track hare by its scent at such a pace that hunters could easily follow the dog on foot.

Not only the gentry, but poor hunters used the dogs. The hunters generally combined their dogs, to make a good pack. It might be possible that small English Foxhounds were bred with the Harriers in the early 19th century to produce faster and longer-legged hunting dogs.

The Harrier has been known in the U.S since colonial times, but the dog has not really gained popularity as a pet or show dog, in spite of its handy size and classic proportions.

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