The Beagle-Harrier is a breed of scenthound native to France. This breed was clearly developed from prior English scenthounds that had been imported to France, although it is unclear if the breed was the result of crossing Beagles and Harriers or if it was bred from an older breed such as the long extinct Southern Hound that is believed to have lent it's genes in the creation of both Beagles and Harriers. The Beagle-Harrier is known for its keen sense of smell, strong hunting drive, and sweet and friendly temperament. The Beagle-Harrier remains a very rare breed in its native land and is almost unheard of elsewhere. This breed is also known as the Beagle Harrier and the French Beagle-Harrier.
There is substantial disagreement about the history of the Beagle-Harrier. Some say that it may have existed in France since the Late Middle Ages or Early Renaissance, while others claim that it was not developed until the 19th Century. There is also a debate as to how the breed developed. Many claim that the Beagle-Harrier was developed by crossing Beagles and Harriers, but a number of other fanciers insist that the dog was developed directly from the mutual ancestor of both the Beagle and the Harrier. Proponents of both theories agree that the breed was almost certainly crossed with medium-sized French hunting hounds as well.
Part of the reason for the confusion over the Beagle-Harrier’s origins is that there is substantial dispute over the origin of the Beagle and Harrier. There have been scenthounds similar to the modern day Beagle and Harrier present in England since at least Roman Times, but it is unclear what if any impact these dogs had on the creation of modern breeds. The names Harrier and Beagle entered the written record in the 1200’s and 1400’s respectively, and were used to describe dogs very similar to the modern breeds. However, many claim that these older breeds actually became extinct and were replaced with modern recreations developed from the English Foxhound in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Interestingly, many also claim that the English Foxhound was partially descended from Beagles and Harriers. The debate between proponents of different origins of the two breeds is quite opinionated, but until new evidence comes to light, the truth will probably never be known. In the opinion of this writer, the full truth is probably a combination of the different theories. There were probably ancient breeds that were very similar to the modern Harrier and Beagle in existence for many centuries, and possibly millennia. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, these older breeds were probably heavily crossed with the English Foxhound to develop the modern breeds. It has also been suggested that Beagles and Harriers were traditionally the same breed, and that the terms were just used to describe individual dogs of different sizes. This is very possible, and in fact was the case for Cocker and Springer Spaniels well into the 20th Century.
However and whenever the Beagle and the Harrier were developed, at some point they were introduced into France. Many claim that the first introduction came between the 11th and 15th Centuries. In 1066, William the Conqueror (a vassal of the King of France) invaded England. This invasion resulted in several centuries of Norman (French) rule in England. However, England’s Norman rulers maintained possession of massive land holdings in France, especially in the regions of Normandy and Aquitaine, much of which they possessed until the Hundred Years War concluded in the 1400’s. During this 400 year period, the English and French Nobility were in close contact and often exchanged hunting dogs. Some supporters claim that either Beagles and Harriers or the mutual ancestor of both breeds entered Southwestern France during this time. This theory is bolstered by the fact that Southwestern France is where the province of Aquitaine is located. If true, the Beagle-Harrier was probably influenced by some of the oldest French hunting breeds including the Saint Hubert Hound and the Grand Bleu de Gascogne.
It is more frequently claimed that the Beagle-Harrier was developed in the 19th Century. Technological advances made possible by the industrial revolution drastically increased the ease, speed, and safety of travel. This made it cheaper and easier to transport dogs than ever before and would have provided canine fanciers in the United Kingdom and France with the ability to regularly import dogs from around the world. It is quite possible that either Beagles and Harriers, or some intermediate form of the two arrived in Southwestern France at this time. Unless more evidence can be found for an older origin, this theory is the more likely of the two. If this theory is true, then the Beagle-Harrier was probably influenced by more recently developed French hunting breeds such as the Petit Bleu de Gascogne, the Braque Francais (Pyrenees), and the various breeds of Basset. Proponents of this theory often claim that the breed was developed by the French nobleman Baron Gerard who is known to have kept a pack in the 19th Century. However, others claim that Baron Gerard was one of several breed developers or that he merely bred dogs that had been present in the region for centuries.
Whatever the true origins of the Beagle-Harrier, the breed became a highly skilled and adaptable hunting dog. The Beagle-Harrier looks virtually identical to both the Beagle and the Harrier, with the only difference that the breed was intermediate in size between the two. Although in England and North America Beagles and Harriers have traditionally been used almost exclusively to hunt rabbits and hares (and sometimes foxes), in France the Beagle-Harrier was used on much more varied game. Although the French primarily used the Beagle-Harrier for small game, they also found that the breed was quite capable of hunting larger prey such as deer and wild boar. The Beagle-Harrier is almost always hunted in a medium to large pack in a manner similar to most English hounds. The Beagle-Harrier is most frequently followed on horseback like a Harrier or English Foxhound, but is sometimes followed by hunters on foot like a Beagle or Basset Hound.
Although the Beagle-Harrier became established in France, the breed never obtained much popularity. Most French hunters strongly preferred native French scenthound breeds, or at least the Anglo-Francaises, which are crosses between English and French scenthounds. Because the Beagle-Harrier has been traditionally used exclusively as a working dog, fanciers showed very little interest in the breed receiving formal recognition with major canine organizations. Like nearly all European scenthounds, the Beagle-Harrier population was dramatically reduced during the World Wars, although it does not appear that this breed was as affected as many others. In 1974, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) granted full recognition to the Beagle-Harrier for the first time. FCI recognition did not increase the Beagle-Harrier’s popularity to the extent that it has with many other breeds, and the Beagle-Harrier remained very rare.
The Beagle-Harrier remains a rare breed to this day, and is probably in danger of eventual extinction. This breed is very rare in France, and is essentially unknown in other countries. A few individual Beagle-Harriers have been introduced into other nations, but the breed has yet to become established outside of France. There are some indications that the breed’s numbers are increasing in France, but it is not clear to what extent. It is also not clear if any Beagle-Harriers have been imported to the United States, but the breed has been granted full recognition with the United Kennel Club (UKC) since 1996 and is also recognized by the Continental Kennel Club (CKC) and a few other smaller canine organizations. The Beagle-Harriers faces substantial challenges if it is to gain a larger following. Hunting with hounds is becoming increasingly unpopular across much of the world, as are the breeds used to participate in it. The Beagle-Harrier is also so similar to the extremely popular Beagle that it would be challenging for the breed to find its own unique identity. Because of the Beagle-Harriers precarious position, many experts think that the breed could go entirely extinct in the near future if efforts are not made to conserve it.
The Beagle-Harrier is virtually identical in appearance to both the Beagle and the Harrier, and unless placed next to a feature that allows for size comparison is essentially indistinguishable from them. The Beagle-Harrier is almost exactly mid-way in size between the Beagle and the Harrier, and many small or large breed members match the standards of those other breeds. The ideal Beagle-Harrier stands between 18 and 20 inches tall at the shoulder, with males usually being slightly larger than females. Although weight is heavily dependent on height, gender, build, and condition, most Beagle-Harriers weight between 30 and 50 pounds. The build and body type varies substantially from individual to individual. While most breed members have a taller, slightly leaner build similar to a Harrier, many have a shorter, slightly stocky build reminiscent of a Beagle. The tail of the Beagle-Harrier is long, high-set, and usually carried in an upright saber-like position.
The head of the Beagle-Harrier is generally proportional to the size of the dog’s body but is usually somewhat broad. The head and muzzle are distinct from each other but still blend in quite smoothly. The muzzle itself is as long as the skull giving it the maximum possible area for scent receptors. The muzzle tapers slightly towards the end but never enough to appear snipish or pointed. The lips of this breed are slightly pendulous but definitely not enough to be described as jowly. The nose of the Beagle-Harrier should always be black regardless of the dog’s coat color. The ears of the Beagle-Harrier are of medium length and width, and droop down closely to the cheeks. The eyes of this breed are well-open and dark in color. The overall expression of most breed members is lively, intelligent, friendly, and slightly pleading.
The coat of the Beagle-Harrier is thick, not-too-short, and flat. Unlike Beagles and Harriers which exhibit several different colorations, the Beagle-Harrier is exclusively a tri-color dog. This breed must exhibit three different colors of markings. One must be white, another must be black or grey, and the third must be tan, fawn, brown, or orange. While all tri-color markings and patterns are acceptable, many of these dogs exhibit the black saddle shaped marking on the back common to so many scenthounds of English descent. Occasionally a Beagle-Harrier will be born in an alternate color pattern such as white with orange markings. These dogs are penalized in the show ring and should not be bred but otherwise make just as acceptable pets or working dogs as any other breed member.
The Beagle-Harrier has a temperament which is virtually identical to that of the Beagle, although this breed is generally more energetic and driven. The Beagle-Harrier is an extremely affectionate breed, and one that is often a serious face-licker and tail-wagger. This breed is known for its loyalty, and these dogs tend to form extremely close attachments to their families. These dogs want nothing more than to be in the constant company of those they love, and this breed can develop severe separation anxiety. The Beagle-Harrier makes an excellent family companion as most breed members are very gentle and friendly with children once properly socialized. In fact, many breed members seem to greatly enjoy the company of children, especially those that provide them extra treats and attention.
As a hunting dog, the Beagle-Harrier had to work with strange hunters with no problems. As a result this breed is generally very tolerant of strangers and exhibits very low levels of human aggression. When properly trained and socialized, the vast majority of Beagle-Harriers are polite and friendly, and most are eager to meet potential friends. This breed is so friendly that it can become an inappropriate greeter and often must be trained to not jump up and lick guests. Some Beagle-Harriers are alert enough to make effective guard dogs, but not all breed members are. The average Beagle-Harrier would make a very poor guard dog as most individuals would warmly welcome and intruder and follow them home before showing any aggression.
Like many other scenthounds, the Beagle-Harrier is traditionally kept in large packs of several dozen dogs. Even the smallest amount of dog aggression would be intolerable in such an environment, and it would have been quickly eliminated. Beagle-Harriers generally get along very well with other dogs once properly socialized. In fact, most breed members absolutely crave canine companionship and do much better in homes with other dogs, and the more the merrier. The Beagle-Harrier was bred to track down and pursue other creatures, and many of these dogs will chase strange animals. However, this breed exhibits very low levels of animal aggression in comparison to many similar breeds, and most breed members will not trouble any creatures with which they have been socialized.
The Beagle-Harrier is considered a highly intelligent problem solver, but like most scenthounds is considered very challenging to train. Although definitely not openly willful and defiant like many Terriers, the Beagle-Harrier is definitely strong-willed and extraordinarily stubborn. When a Beagle-Harrier decides that it is not going to do something, essentially no amount of correction or reward will get it to change its mind. This breed does respond much, much better to training methods that emphasize food based rewards, but they do not guarantee success. This does not mean that a Beagle-Harrier is impossible to train, but it does mean that working with this breed will require much larger amounts of time, patience, and effort than many other breeds and may never end in the desired results. In particular, when this dog gets on a scent it is almost impossible to train to come back. That being said, those looking for exclusively a companion or hunting dog and do not care about advanced behaviors or tricks will probably be very satisfied with one of these dogs as Beagle-Harriers take to basic manners, socialization, and scent trailing very quickly.
The Beagle-Harrier is capable for working long hours in the field, and is quite energetic. This breed definitely requires daily exercise and should get at least 30 to 45 minutes of physical activity every day. Unless provided daily activity, Beagle-Harriers are likely to develop behavioral problems such as destructiveness, hyperactivity, and excessive barking. Once one of these dogs has been provided enough outdoor playtime, they tend to be very relaxed indoors. A properly exercised Beagle-Harrier will spend hours lounging around the home. As is the case with Beagles, the relaxed indoor attitude of the Beagle-Harrier can lead owners to giving their dog’s too little exercise, which can lead to obesity.
Although Beagle-Harriers generally make excellent and affectionate pets, they continue to be bred primarily as hunting dogs and display many behaviors that can create some difficulties. Beagle-Harriers were bred to bay loudly when on the trail so that hunters could easily follow them. This breed is not only very vocal but also extremely loud. Training and exercise will greatly reduce these tendencies but will not eliminate them. Because of their voices, Beagle-Harriers are not ideal pets for apartments or zero-lot line housing developments because they often result in noise complaints there. Beagle-Harriers also love to follow their noses. They will continue to follow a scent that interests them regardless of what is going on around them. They will frequently ignore (or not even notice) calls to return and should be kept on a leash at all times when outside of a safely secured enclosure. This breed will also follow a trail for many miles if it gets out, so owners must be extremely careful to keep their dogs enclosed.
Beagle-Harriers absolutely love to eat. Like most pack hounds, these dogs had to eat as quickly and whatever they could before other dogs could. Owners must be very careful to carefully secure any potential food sources form a Beagle-Harrier, otherwise they will raid any counter, knock over any trash can, and rip open any bag to get at it. It is extremely common to see similar breeds become obese and not unheard of for them to eat so much at one sitting that their stomachs literally burst.
The Beagle-Harrier has very low grooming requirements. This breed should never require professional grooming, only a regular, thorough brushing. Beagle-Harriers do shed, and many shed very heavily, although the actual amount varies significantly between individuals. Owners of this breed have to take special care to thoroughly clean the ears of Beagle-Harriers on a regular basis. Otherwise, the large drooping ears will trap particles such as dirt, food, and water which can lead to irritations and infections.
It does not appear as though any health studies have been conducted on the Beagle-Harrier which makes it impossible to say anything about the breed’s health with certainty. Most fanciers seem to believe that the Beagle-Harrier is in relatively good health, which is the case for most similar breeds. However, the Beagle-Harrier may be at risk of developing a number of health conditions due to its very small genetic pool. Most sources put the life expectancy of a Beagle-Harrier at between 10 and 13 years, although it is unclear where this estimate comes from.
Because skeletal and visual problems may occur in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
Although health studies have not yet been conducted on the Beagle-Harrier numerous ones have for closely related breeds such as the Beagle. The results show that the Beagle-Harrier may be susceptible to a number of inherited disorders such as: