Showsight Presents The Harrier

The Evolut on of HARRIERS

Through selective breeding, huntsmen created Hounds that do the same thing when hunting – they circle back to the hunter in very large loops when searching for quarry. “Foxhounds cast for- ward, Harriers (and Beagles) cast back” is an old huntsman’s adage, which is definitely true. These characteristics, as well as other physical traits nec- essary for successful hunting careers, were bred into the Hounds to best match their quarry. To fully appreciate Harriers, you must further understand how they are bred and used in their homeland, the UK. There Harriers are only found in the few remaining handful of hunting packs currently registered with the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB). Harriers are never kept as individual housepets and are never shown in Kennel Club shows. They are a working animal, bred for centuries for one pur- pose – the successful pursuit of the large European hare and/or the red fox. The hunts are generally owned and managed by a committee, with one or more Masters governing the entire process and responsible to the members for providing good sport on the hunting days. They achieve this by tailoring their own individual pack to be the best suited to hunting their particu- lar countryside and quarry. In the southeast, where the countryside is most- ly f lat open fields and where the mounted riders prefer fast Thoroughbreds, the Harriers tend to be more up on leg, a bit lighter in bone and sub- stance thereby making them faster in the open country. However, in the northern parts where the countryside is more hills and valleys, with rougher terrain and more rock walls, thickets and gorse, the riders choose slower draft horse/thoroughbred crosses, so the Hounds consequently tend to be stockier with a bit more bone and substance to handle that terrain and hunting conditions. If the pack hunts fox as well as hare, their sea- son starts in early fall with “cub hunting”, which is an informal training period where the young untried Hounds just brought back into the pack are worked with the older, experienced Hounds in chasing and disbursing the yearling fox cubs from their mother’s home territory. The formal hunt season usually begins in earnest in November, and continues through early spring. During this time,

hounds will be hunted two or three times a week. This is where sound conformation, endurance, heart and hunting ability are put to the test. Depending on territory, most hunts will typically cover 20-30 miles in a day. Multiply that by two or three times a week for five months a year, and you’ll realize that Harriers are expected to cover 800 - 1,000+ miles each season. Now perhaps you can begin to understand why Harriers have to be constructed the way they are. Moderation in all things, incredible stamina, rugged durability and unceasing determination are their hallmarks and their legacy. This is the work- ing standard to which the huntsman breeds: if a Harrier hunts successfully for several years, it is bred; if it doesn’t hunt well or isn’t built well enough to hunt satisfactorily, it is culled. A tough but utilitarian standard to be sure. These characteristics are what give us correct “Harrier type”. Correct Harrier type is NOT one single look. It is a working standard that lays out the blueprint for correct type, and allows for a wide variety of styles within that framework. Remember that each pack in the UK looks slightly different from the others because their own style of Hound has been created to be best suited for their particular needs. Yet each pack has the correct underlying foun- dation of a medium-sized solid Hound that is mod- erate in all ways so as to have the durability and stamina necessary to cover a thousand miles a year for five, six or seven years. Because Harriers in the US all trace back some way or another to the various packs in the UK, you will see a variety of styles in the show rings today. No one style is better than the others, as long as the individual Hound still fits within the medium- sized, moderate, durable scent-hound type. Breeders, exhibitors and judges will have their own preferences in style, and the Harrier standard is written loosely enough to accommodate that. The next time you see a large entry of Harriers at a show, take a few minutes to look at the vari- ous styles. And then look beyond the obvious dif- ferences to see the underlying similarities that are truly the correct measure of Harrier breed type.

By Donna Smiley-Auborn

S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • F EBRUARY 2010 • 97

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