Although the Harrier Hound is still relatively uncommon within the United States it is a recognized member of the Hound Group through the American Kennel Club. According to the AKC registration breed ranking the Harrier is the 153rd most registered dog in the United States out of a possible 156, with numbers slowly declining. The Harrier Club of American reports that there are fewer than 50 puppies whelped per year in the United States, with only 24 puppies in total registered with the AKC in the Harrier Hound breed in 1999. The relative scarcity of Harrier Hounds in the United States is the exact opposite in the United Kingdom where there dogs are still incredibly popular in rural areas and with hunters.
The history of the development of the Harrier Hound is much less well known than most of the other hound breeds. Many Harrier owners and breeders believe that the dog is a smaller version of the original English Foxhound, and there is significant evidence to show that this certainly could have been the case in breeding only the smallest of the English Foxhounds to create a smaller dog. Another theory is that the Harrier is a combination of several types of hounds including the Basset and the now extinct, all white, Talbot Hound that was developed from the Bloodhound lines. Still another theory is that the English Foxhound was crossed with the much smaller but similar Fox Terrier and the longer legged, faster Greyhound to produce the modern Harrier. Regardless of the lineage the Harrier has been found in the United States since early Colonial times and was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1885, making it one of the first formally recognized breeds in the country.
With a terrific nose and a typical hound gait and determination the Harrier Hound should have become much more popular in the United States than it actually has. It could be that the natural prey of the dogs, typically hares or rabbits and foxes were simply not that big of a game animal in the United States compared to its home country of Great Britain. In addition the Harrier Hound, unlike the American developed hound breeds does not tree, and they are not considered a coonhound, the popular hunting option with dogs in the southern and eastern United States.
The Harrier resembles a cross between a Beagle and an American or English Foxhound and may hybrid are falsely reported to be Harriers, even without any Harrier in their lineage at all. They typically have the short, dense coat of all hounds and typically have the tri-colored coat typically seen in both Beagles and English Foxhounds. They can be a variety of colors with all colors acceptable ranging from lemon and white through to tan and white with or without a black saddle and markings. They have a very intelligent, gentle looking face, typical medium size pendant hound ears and a square muzzle. The body is slightly longer than it is tall and the dogs are not light of bone or muscle, but also not heavy, cobby or bulky in appearance.
The average Harrier will measure between 18 and 22 inches at the shoulder and will typically not weigh more than 60 pounds, with many being much closer to 50 pounds at maturity. As a breed they are moderately active dogs that need lots of outside time, brisk walks and play time in order to stay happy and healthy. An under exercised Harrier will become very challenging to work with and will engage in destructive behaviors such as digging, chewing and excessive barking.
As a true pack hunter used with hunters on foot, the Harrier loves to be around both people and other dogs. They are still a scent hound and are very focused on following a trail, even when not trained specifically as hunting dogs. A Harrier must be on a leash or in a secure fenced yard at all times to prevent them from simply taking off after an interesting smell. Like all hounds they are oblivious to dangers around them when on a scent and will run into a road regardless of traffic, plus they will also travel for miles tirelessly after their prey. The Harrier has a typical hound voice although baying is not as pronounced with the breed as seen in some of the coonhounds and scent hounds. They are also prone to vocalizations when they are happy, excited and just wanting to get some attention. These sounds are musical types of moaning, talking sounds that owners find very endearing.
The Harrier is a great family pet and they are definitely one of the most playful and clownish of all the hounds. They remain so well into their senior years and are not a dog that is above doing whatever it takes to make the owner laugh. They are highly affectionate dogs both with people and other dogs but may be difficult to socialize with cats if not raised together from the puppy stage. This breed is not recommended for houses with any rodent types of pets. Most breeders do not recommend the Harrier as a single dog in a family; however the companion dog doesn't have to be another Harrier or even a hound. Ideally the dog should be about the same size and energy level to provide companionship and a good exercise option for the Harrier when left alone.
The Harrier is great with children and is a friendly dog towards kids, strangers and the family. They will bark as a watchdog but don't typically back up the bark with any type of territoriality or possessiveness. Once the dog has been introduced to a new person they are immediately welcomed as a friend, making these dogs easy to socialize. Early socialization helps to reinforce this behavior and ensure the dog will be friendly and calm in new situations.
The Harrier has adjusted to living outside of a pack and can be a wonderful family pet. With basic obedience work that accounts for the unique, somewhat independent natural of the breed they can make outstanding competition dogs. Agility is also an area where the Harrier really excels and they are also good at scent type events and tracking.