All New Zealand hunting packs are Harrier hounds with 95% Harrier and traces of Foxhound. Harriers are smaller than Foxhounds but bigger than Beagles. Harriers hunt like Beagles but have the drive of a Foxhound. We can have anywhere between 18 and 22 couple of hounds at Northland Hunt – hounds are always counted in couples (pairs). Traditionally a “couple” is 2 collars attached together by a short chain. Young hounds are introduced to working with the pack by being “coupled up” to an older hound hence the counting them in couples.
We generally breed 2 litters a year, keeping the ones with the best conformation and the rest being “drafted” to other hunts. Puppies are introduced to hunting from a very young age – generally about 16 weeks old. They are taken out almost daily walking in the forestry where they learn to negotiate wire fences and get used to farm stock etc. Hounds have a 4-month holiday after hunt season ends, then start in November by exercising on the road, following the huntsman on his bicycle. By the 1st of January they are ready to start hunting twice a week with the huntsman. This is the time the newest members of the pack learn the ins and outs of hunting without the pressure and distraction of horses.
Every single hound has a name, knows it and will come to a call. Dogs and bitches are kept mixed together, with the bitches being separated only when in season. The hounds here have been bred for a great temperament which makes them very easy to deal with and lovely to be around.