Lurchers

A Lurcher is not a specific dog breed; it is a type of dog. By definition, a Lurcher is a Sighthound cross, most often part Greyhound. Lurchers that are the result of a cross of two Sighthounds (such as, the popular cross of a Greyhound and Deerhound) are a subgroup of Lurchers called Longdogs. In America, a Deerhound Lurcher is often called a Staghound.

Greyhounds

Deerhounds
Although Lurchers have historically been the result of accidental cross breeding (as was typical during the middle ages), they are increasingly the result of planned breeding.


For example, many Border Collies are crossed with Greyhounds to produce exceptional sheep herding dogs. Those who want a smaller dog often cross small Greyhounds with Whippets (or Terriers).

Lurcher mix of
Greyhound, Deerhound,
and Collie.

Lurcher mix of
Greyhound and Terrier.
The Deerhound-Greyhound cross produces dogs with speed, stamina, loyalty, and gentleness. Our breeding Lurchers are a result of this cross and reflect these characteristics.
Many a county fair in Britain will offer Lurcher trials with conformation classes and lure coursing. At local pubs, Lurchermen (any Lurcher owner) will happily spend the evening arguing about which cross produces the best Lurcher. Most Americans are unfamiliar with the Lurcher, but in Britain, they are quite common as family pets and working dogs. Travelers (modern day Gypsies in the U.K.) are often accompanied by Lurchers trotting beside their wagons.
Britisher with his Lurchers


Probably the most common trait of the Lurcher is a great love of people. Lurchers, even if they have had a bad start in life, tend to be very affectionate. They are great characters with a genuinely human sense of humor. The calm and mild-mannered Lurcher can prove to be an enthusiastic playmate, but also a couch potato. True to their Greyhound parentage, they love to sleep most often belly up.

Typical Lurcher sleeping position.
 
History

Lurchers are ancient dogs and are documented in medieval manuscripts such as the Book of Kells.
Sketch of Lurcher

in the Book of Kells


The name "Lurcher" comes from the ancient Romany words for "lur" meaning thief and "cur" meaning a mixed dog breed.

Ancient sketch of lucher
with hunted game




In Britain, during the Middle Ages, only the nobility could own and breed purebred dogs like Greyhounds, Deerhounds, and Wolfhounds.
Noble Lady with Deerhound
The accidental crossbred pups were unwanted except by the peasants and gypsies who trained the dogs to poach (steal) small game from the royal forests. Hunting in these forests was a hanging offense, so the dogs were trained to bring the kill home for the pot, often providing their families with their only source of meat.

Gypsy with his Lurchers




In modern times, Lurchers retained their value as sport hunting dogs for a wide variety of wildlife, but were most commonly used to hunt hares.

Lurcher hare hunting sketches
 
Competition

Lurchers compete in Coursing - an event which is the fast pursuit of game using sight rather than scent. Animals coursed are hares and rabbits.

Lurchers with a hare
Coursing is the oldest recorded form of dog sport in the Western world. It originated as a hunting technique, was practiced by all levels of society (nobility, land owners, wealthy, and commoners) until the Carolingian hunting law (Forest Law) appropriated hunting grounds, or commons, for the king, the nobility, and other land owners.




The competitive version of hare coursing was given definitive form when the first complete set of English rules was created by Thomas Duke of Norfolk during the reign of Elizabeth I. Since the conception of coursing, it has been a tradition to give the hare a headstart, which later became "law," to minimize the chance of a catch and to increase the duration of the competitive work.
Catches are rare with the most common catches occurring with slower hares resulting in the survival and proliferation of faster hares. The fastest hares are the U.S. jackrabbits which are faster than the swiftest Sighthound: the Greyhound.
Lurcher hare coursing in the U.K.
The object of coursing is to test the dogs, not to kill the hare. Today in Ireland the dogs are muzzled. Muzzling allows hares to escape that might otherwise have been caught.




Most present day coursing competitions use artificial lures rather than live animals. The lures are mechanically pulled over a designated course with two or three dogs giving chase. Dogs are judged on speed, agility, and endurance.

In Britain, competitions often take place at country fairs where Lurchers are judged like show dogs, take part in straight racing, hurdle racing, simulated coursing, long jump, high jump, and even obedience tests where they have to be called off a lure that flies under their noses!

Lurcher in a time trial at a fair In Britain
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Web page last modified: 6/14/12. Web site designed by Wanda Smith.