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In these modern days, when a hundred and twenty-two packs of harriers are listed in the official publication under such names as “ Stud - Book Harriers," “ Pure Harriers,” “Harriers,” “Southern Harriers,” “Old English Harriers,” “Welsh Harriers,” and “Modern Harriers," not to mention such ramifications as “Crossbred Harriers,” “ Harriers and Cross-bred,” “ Harrier and Beagle Cross," “ Black and Tan and Old Southern," “ Mixed Harriers,” “ Mostly Pure Harriers,” “ Harriers and Black and Tan," " Dwarf Foxhounds and Southern Cross,” “Dwarf Foxhounds,” and “Foxhounds,” and when the heights of these various packs range from 17 to 23 inches, one is a little prone to wonder where the survival of the fittest comes in, and which is the Simon pure! And yet the harrier, or “harer," as it was sometimes anciently called, the Canis Leverarius of Dr. Caius, of blessed memory, is a very old and classic breed, and one with an ancestry such as many owners of modern breeds of dogs would give their ears to possess for their favourites, whilst here is this scion of five centuries playing skittles with its pedigree purity.
Doubts have been cast on that purity by many writers. Goldsmith would have us believe that the foxhound, the harrier, and the beagle were all one and
the same, for he states that “although the bitch is covered but by one of them, in her litter are found puppies resembling all three.” Beckford, a great authority, admits that his own famous pack was a cross-bred production, into which the composition of the slow-hunting southern hound entered. “Nimrod” wrote seventy years ago, “ The modern harrier bears no greater resemblance to the one in use fifty years ago than the hunter of the present day to the one bestridden by our grandfathers. In fact, he is now nothing less
After Reinagle. than a foxhound in miniature, which it is the endeavour of all breeders to have him. Their qualities are as opposite as their form, the one (harriers) delighting to dwell upon the scent, the other a little inclined, perhaps, to the other extreme.” Reinagle, a hundred years ago, makes the hound heavier, cloddier, and more compact than the foxhound, which it otherwise very much resembles, as may be seen from my illustration.
The coarser head and thicker, shorter neck are especially noticeable. This was the animal, probably, concerning which “Nimrod” writes, “Before the old-fashioned harrier the hare had time to play all sorts of tricks, to double
on her foil, and so stain the ground that she often escaped by such means.” Says an authority in the middle of the last century: "The true harrier is a dwarf foxhound, standing from 18 to 20 inches high. In 1842 the Prince Consort formed a fine and nearly perfect pack of harriers, and since then much attention has been given to the breed. The original harer was known as long ago as the reign of Henry V., when it was used for chasing deer and hunting hares. In Wales, at the present day, many packs of harriers are kept and prized." To Sir John Dashwood, who flourished rather less than a century ago, we owe a great improvement in the breed of harriers ; he kept them for more than thirty years in Gloucestershire, hunting the staunch and stubborn hares of the Cotswolds. This pack was descended from a dwarf foxhound drafted from the Duke of Grafton's kennel, and named Tyrant. On Sir John's death his pack was purchased for 700 guineas by Lord Sondes, which is said to be a record price.
The modern harrier is a very different hound from the old-fashioned one, which quested long and hunted at a moderate speed, often scenting the hare to her form before he chased her out of it, and killed her after a plodding run that afforded plenty of sport. The harrier of to-day hunts much faster, it has more of the foxhound dash, and a run is often over in half an hour. Moreover, it is often used for hunting the stag or the wild deer, and does not refuse a chance at a fox, for neither of which pursuits would the harrier that was followed afoot have been any good. The scarcity of hares, owing to modern legislation, has had no little to do with diverting the hound from the single quarry it should, by nomenclature, chase. There are still masters of packs of harriers who pride themselves on the purity