203 – Love the Breeds: Harriers – Rare, Smart, Vocal

Love the Breedssome love (3)

Harriers Are Small in Numbers, Big in Personality

Fewer than 300 Harriers, total, are registered in the US, according to breed experts. Just two litters were whelped nationwide in 2017.

“There are probably more tigers in the U.S. than Harriers,” said Donna Smiley, the only Master of Harriers in the country.

PureDogTalk host Laura Reeves caught up with some of the breed’s most ardent supporters at the Harrier Club of America National Specialty.

Ancient breed now endangered


Donna Smiley’s book about the Harrier is one of few modern resources available.

One of the first five breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, records of Harrier packs in England date back to 1100 AD. Harriers are believed to predate both Beagles and Foxhounds in England. They were bred to hunt hare, which was one of three “appropriate” quarry, along with boar and stag, for royalty to hunt. Foxhunting is a more recent tradition.

“They are an endangered species,” said Linda Johnston. “And they’re just as cuddly as Pandas!”

While there are hundreds of Beagle packs and at least 40 Foxhound packs in the US, Smiley owns the only Harrier pack in competition.

“We never want to see a dichotomy,” Smiley said. “We don’t want to see a show hound/pack hound divide.”

The Harrier’s quarry, the hare, is a different and larger species than a rabbit. The snowshoe hare and the jackrabbit are hares in the US.

“Hares when pursued, will cover miles in a circle,” Smiley said. “Rabbits, when pushed too hard, will bolt down a hole.”

Adaptable problem solvers

Harriers are good in a household and will adapt to their owners’ lifestyle, said Kevin Shupenia.

“They are as active as you want to be. We have several with marathon runners. But they are not a breed to ignore. They will find their own fun if left to their own devices. It’s important they don’t get bored.”

Contrary to popular myths, hounds are not dumb, these experts agreed. They are independent and self-thinkers. On the issue of trainability, Smiley noted that other dogs, such as sporting breeds were developed to take direction from people. Pack hounds, not so much.

“It was their job to figure it out,” Shupenia said. “They are not being directed. They are problem solvers.”

Kristi Bowers, the newest member of the group, laughed that “if harriers went to college they’d study engineering.”

Harriers in general are very healthy but they are not good off leash dogs. They thrive on routine and they are vocal.

“They’re job was to tell the hunter they were on a scent,” Smiley said. “Don’t try to make them in to a dog that is silent.”

Many thanks to our panel:

Donna Smiley, Erick Arceneaux, Kevin Shupenia, Linda Johnston and Kristi Bowers. For additional information on this ancient and little-known breed, visit some of the links below.



And don’t miss Allison Foley’s Tip of the Week from the Leading Edge Dog Show Academy on  Appropriate Attire for the dog show!


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