This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
Sundry packs of harriers, running to not more than 18 inches, are to be found in Wales; whilst other excellent hounds in the list of the Rural Almanac are the Windermere harriers (late Colonel Ridehalgh's), of which Mr. Bruce Logan is the master; they hunt round about Bowness and Windermere in the Lake district. Although, comparatively speaking, small - they are about 18-inch hounds - I can scarcely call them pure harriers, though useful hounds, that have to hunt and "find" for themselves, and surmount "the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn" often enough when the meet lies near the foot of the mountain at Wythburn. Heavy hounds would no more do for hunting the hares here than they would do for killing foxes. And with the Windermere harriers the runs are longer and actually more interesting than they usually are with bigger and, therefore, speedier hounds.
There are something over one hundred and twenty packs of hounds hunting the hare in England, less than half a score in Scotland, and about thirty in Ireland. The standards of their height vary very much indeed, from the 24-inch Sandhurst and the 23 inches of the Edenbridge and the Penistone to the 16 and 17 inches of the Aberystwith. Some are called pure harriers that have little claim to the name; others bear a variety of appellations which signify "cross-bred." It is, however, likely some greater uniformity may be reached, as a Harrier Stud Book (Waterlow and Sons) is now published, and its editor seems to be taking pains to make it reliable and useful as a work of reference.
The harrier in his purity is difficult to obtain; he should not exceed about 19 inches in height, and, as a rule, his skull is broader and thicker in proportion to the width of the muzzle than is the case with the foxhound. The harrier is often coarser in his coat than the foxhound, which may be ascribed to crossing with a rough Welsh hound, which, though rare, is still to be found in some parts of the Principality. He has not, or ought not to have, his ears rounded, and masters are not nearly so particular about their marking or colour; in fact, blue-mottled harriers, with a dash of tan in them, were often enough to be found, and considered a favourite colour until the foxhound cross was introduced. We have seen that show judges will award prizes to black and tan harriers, but foxhounds of that colour would soon be sent to the right about.
One of the most notable harrier packs is the Peni-stone, that are not "harriers" at all, but old Southern hounds, said to be without foxhound or other cross for two hundred years; and equally old and pure are the Edenbridge, which are called pure Old English hounds.
The Hon. C. Bampfylde had the Aldenham Piper and Valiant at Peterborough in 1891, when one of our best hound judges described the first named as about the best hound he ever saw, so straight in front, where they often fail, Belvoir tan marked and generally as "handsome as paint." This from a "foxhound man," who can, as a rule, see no hound so perfect as his own fancy, is praise indeed. Other noted packs are Mr. J. S. Gibbon's (the Boddington); the Craven, hunting from Gargrave, in Yorkshire, and from whence some hounds were sent to America last century; the Fox Bush, the old pack was destroyed on account of rabies in 1880; the Holcombe, perhaps the oldest of all; the Marquis of Angle-sea's; the Taunton Vale, and Mr. Sperling's, the latter kennelled at Lamerton, in Devonshire. As already stated, few of them are without the taint of "cross."
Generally speaking, the pure harrier should have distinguishing characteristics of his own. He ought to be from 16 inches to 19 inches, and no more, not thick and cumbersome in bone, deep in chest, and not so high on the legs in proportion to his height as the foxhound; ears unrounded and set on rather low, head thicker in the skull, and tapering more towards the muzzle than is the case with the foxhound; legs and feet as good as they can be had, but it is exceptional to find the former perfectly straight in front, and so the pure hounds are at a disadvantage when competing against the "absolutely straight" foxhound cross. Stern carried gaily, loins as strong as possible, with stifles well turned and muscular. The true harrier is not such a level topped hound as the foxhound. Colour anything you like of the hound shade, although the "blue pied," with a dash of tan about the head, is handsomest; and one authority goes so far as to say that he never saw a bad hound of this colour; coat like a foxhound's, though sometimes it is longer and harsher. I have shown that some authorities admit black and tan, and who shall say that they are not correct?
I should apportion the points as follows:
Head, ears, and character
Shoulders and chest ...
Back and loins............
Stern and hind quarters
Legs and feet ............
Size and symmetry......
Coat and colour .........
Grand Total 100.
It is not very often that classes for harriers are provided at our shows, though such are occasionally met with in addition to those alluded to elsewhere. Darlington, that lies in an excellent sporting district, in the autumn of each year holds a great exhibition of horses and dogs, has had some excellent groups of harriers, most of which were from packs hunted on foot; harriers likewise have classes provided for them at Peterborough, and at the Exeter dog show there is always a capital entry.
So far as hunting the hare on foot is concerned, the most enjoyable part, to my mind, was when the meet took place at, say, eight o'clock in the morning. The scent or line of a hare was struck. This the hounds would slowly work out, and perhaps occupy the greater part of an hour in what was called the "quest." Puss was in fact, hunted fairly to her "form," or "seat," was then "see-hoed," and, after a ringing run, which all enjoyed, was killed in the open or on the road. Such hunting is seldom seen nowadays, when the meet is at 11 o'clock. The hare is roused from her " seat," and if the fast hounds, hurried on by excited horsemen, do not rush into her straight away, the run seldom lasts half an hour.
The harrier can boast of a pack of its kind whose "master" is a lady, and Mrs. Pryse-Rice shows the best of sport two days a week round about Llandovery, in South Wales. One day in December, 1896, there was an excellent meet at Pentretygwyn schoolhouse, and a hare was soon found which simply "flew," for a matter of forty-five minutes leaving horses and men far in the rear, and finally was lost to her pursuers amongst the rocks near Craigyrwyddon coverts. From the heather on Bwlch-gwyn another hare was soon afoot, and she first made her point for the open mountain, but, turning back ere she got to the fence, crossed Berthddu, Maesforch, Gorllwyn, etc, to Bronydd, and bent to the right over many farms, by Ffosywhied to Waunlwyd, where she was viewed dead beat; time one hour and twenty-five minutes. Unluckily, a fresh hare jumped up, and, it being impossible to stop them, hounds went away over Blaenglyn, Troedyrhiw, Maesbwlch, Tirygroes, and topped the open mountain for Trecastle. Turning back on the far side, they were stopped at dark on Dolfawr. Hard lines no blood after three such runs. But the gallant little pack, with their sterns up, did not seem to think so as the "master" gathered them together and proceeded on her weary trot of twelve miles back to kennel. Mrs. Rice's harriers are 15½ inches, and have extraordinary noses, as well as being able to go a great pace. The above "day in December" is just mentioned here to show that harriers are not by any means deficient in pace, and it is extremely likely that in a hilly country, for actual hunting, they are much better than the ordinary foxhound of the shires. A couple of hours is by no means an unusual run in the mountainous districts of Wales, where, perhaps, at the present time "harriers and hare" may be seen at their best.