harrier, breed of medium-sized hound whose origin is obscure but whose existence in England dates from the 13th cent. It stands from 19 to 21 in. (48.3-53.3 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs from 40 to 50 lb (18.1-22.7 kg). Its short, dense coat is glossy and usually a combination of black, tan, and white in color. Many authorities believe the harrier to be a descendant of hounds brought to England by the Normans. However, the dog we know today is most probably a bred-down version of the foxhound (see English foxhound), of which it is an exact replica except for its smaller size. The harrier was originally and still is used in packs to hunt hares. In England, this sport had a much broader-based popularity than foxhunting since harriers can be followed on foot. Today it is also kept as a house pet. See dog.
harrier, bird: see hawk.

Any of about 11 species of hawks (subfamily Circinae; family Accipitridae) that are plain-looking, long-legged, long-tailed, and slender. Harriers cruise low over meadows and marshes looking for mice, snakes, frogs, small birds, and insects. They are about 20 in. (50 cm) long and have a small beak and face feathers that form a facial disk. They nest in marshes or tall grass. The best-known harrier is the marsh hawk (Circus cyaneus), commonly called hen harrier in Britain, which breeds in temperate and northern regions throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Other common species are found in Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia.

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