Harrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

harrier standing on grass

Nicki1982 / iStock / Getty Images

The harrier is a medium-size hound dog breed from the United Kingdom with a short, smooth coat and strong resemblance to beagles and foxhounds. The breed is larger than a beagle but smaller than a foxhound. It’s a well-balanced and muscular dog, bred for good endurance. And it has an excellent nose for catching scents while on the hunt. Overall, the harrier is a cheerful and energetic dog that’s best for an active household.

Breed Overview

Group: Hound

Height: 19 to 21 inches

Weight: 45 to 60 pounds

Coat: Short double coat

Coat Color: Black, white, and tan; lemon and white, or red and white

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Friendly, energetic, sociable

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United Kingdom

Characteristics of the Harrier

The harrier generally has a very upbeat and outgoing personality. It loves people and even other dogs, though it might view smaller household pets as prey. High energy and a tendency to bark also help to shape this dog's temperament.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendliness High
Pet-Friendliness Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Harrier

The harrier’s origin story is murky. It’s believed that dogs resembling harriers appeared in England during the 1200s and were used for hunting hares (hence the breed’s name) and other quarry in packs. This is why today's harrier typically still gets along well with other dogs.

Some think bloodhounds, basset hounds, and other hound breeds played a role in the harrier’s development. Another theory is that the modern harrier is simply a smaller version of the English foxhound.

Harriers arrived in the United States during Colonial times and were favored among hunters. They also potentially contributed some genetics to American hound breeds. The American Kennel Club first recognized the harrier in 1885, and today it is rare to find in North America.

A depiction of an English hunting party
Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images 

Harrier Care

Plan to provide your harrier with lots of daily exercise. Fortunately, the breed's grooming needs are minimal. And it typically takes well to training, though it can be stubborn at times.


Harriers have a high energy level, as they were bred to run for hours on hunts. At least two hours of exercise per day is ideal to make sure your dog is calm and well-behaved when it’s in the house. A bored harrier might become destructive and engage in behaviors, such as unwanted chewing or excessive barking. Long walks, jogging, cycling, and hiking all are great ways to get some of their energy out. Dog sports, such as tracking and agility, also can help to challenge their minds along with their bodies. 

Always keep your harrier on a leash or in a securely fenced area when outside. These hunting dogs will quickly take off following a scent and often will ignore a recall command.


Brush your harrier’s short coat weekly with a soft-bristle brush or grooming mitt to remove loose fur and distribute skin oils. Plan on periods of higher shedding often when the weather changes in the spring and fall, during which you’ll have to brush more frequently. 

Bathe your dog every month or so, depending on how dirty it gets. But check its ears at least weekly to see whether they need cleaning. Trim your dog’s nails roughly once a month or as needed. And aim to brush its teeth daily.


Start training and socializing your harrier when it’s a puppy to instill good manners and prevent bad habits from forming. These dogs typically respond well to positive-reinforcement training methods, such as treats and praise. It’s also important to be consistent in your commands, as harriers can be stubborn at times. Don’t let bad behaviors slide. 

A puppy class can teach your dog basic obedience and social skills. Also, aim to expose your dog to different people, other dogs, and various locations to ensure proper socialization. 

Common Health Problems

The harrier is overall a healthy breed, but it is still prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Diet and Nutrition

Always provide fresh water for your harrier. And feed a nutritionally balanced canine diet typically via two measured meals per day. Be sure to discuss both the type of food and the amount with your vet to verify that you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Dietary needs can change with age, activity level, and other factors. Plus, be mindful of treats and other extra food to prevent overeating.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Harrier

Harriers are not a common dog breed in North America. But it’s still worth checking local animal shelters and rescue groups for a dog in need of a home. Put your name on a breed wait list if possible. Likewise, you might have to travel far and wait some time for a puppy from a reputable breeder, depending on where you live. And expect to pay around $1,500 to $2,500 on average.

For further information to help you find a harrier, check out:

Harrier Overview

  • Affectionate and playful

  • Often good with kids and other dogs

  • Low-maintenance grooming

  • Can be very vocal

  • Requires lots of exercise

  • Not recommended for homes without fenced yards

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, make sure to do thorough research on the harrier to determine whether it’s right for your lifestyle. Talk to harrier owners, reputable breeders, rescue groups, and veterinary professionals. Spend some time around harriers too if you can.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are harriers good family dogs?

    Well-trained and socialized harriers are generally gentle and affectionate with children. But dogs should always be supervised around young children.

  • Are harriers aggressive?

    Harriers are typically a friendly breed, even with strangers and other dogs, as long as they've received proper training and socialization. However, their prey drive might cause them to perceive smaller household pets as prey.

  • Are harriers good apartment dogs?

    Harriers generally do best in a home with a fenced yard that allows them to run freely. They are often too energetic and vocal for apartment living.

Article Sources
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  1. Harrier. American Kennel Club.

  2. Harrier Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.