Harrier hounds - they look like a super-sized beagle and they may soon be working at the border to protect New Zealand from imported pests and diseases.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is currently trialling two harriers (Morley and Muse) to see whether the breed could upsize its detector dogs.
“Harriers could be a great asset for our border protection work”, says Brett Hickman, MPI Detection Technology Manager.
“Harriers are very much like beagles in appearance, only taller. And similar to beagles, they have great drive, excellent noses for the food and plant materials we are looking for. They also are good with people. I’ve heard them described as “beagles on steroids.”
“The extra height would come in handy with passengers carrying backpacks or with baggage stacked on trolleys. Reaching up to sniff baggage can put strain on the hind legs of beagles.
“MPI thanks the New Zealand Hunts’ Association, who are the New Zealand custodians for the harrier breed, for their cooperation and help with this initiative.
NZHA president Andy Morison says: “We are pleased our sport can make a contribution to help manage New Zealand’s biosecurity system, which is so crucially important to the primary export sector.”
MPI recently announced a range of measures to make it harder for materials containing fruit fly to get past the border, introducing 100 percent screening of passengers and baggage by detector dogs.
MPI currently uses beagles and labradors as biosecurity detector dogs. It runs a beagle breeding-programme.
Photo of trainee harrier hound available on request.