(also: Long Dogs, Long Bodies)
More popular in the United Kingdom than anywhere else, a lurcher is the result of crossing a number of different breeds, at least one of which is usually a sighthound or sighthound cross, depending on the job of work that is required by its owner.
Generally speaking (but not always), the term longdog or longbody refers to a blend of two sighthound breeds, often a Greyhound and a Deerhound. The lurcher refers to a combination of a sighthound and a non-sighthound breed, the most popular crosses being to working terriers or herding dogs. Lurcherman and prolific author D. Brian Plummer describes lurchers as “mongrelised greyhounds.”
Frank Sheardown, another experienced lurcherman/author, describes a lurcher as: a crossbred between any longdog and a breed other than a longdog – the expression longdog including the pure-bred Greyhound, Whippet, Deerhound, Wolfhound, Borzoi, Saluki, Afghan hound or any cross between these pure breeds.
There are large, medium and small lurchers, depending on the breeds drawn upon. Again, the intended purpose shapes the combinations used. The lurcher may not always be an attractive animal, although most of them are very handsome indeed – the ability to hunt efficiently is always the primary goal, not to win a beauty contest. The lurcher must be sturdy, fast, courageous, cunning, clever (but biddable), and have great endurance. What more could one ask of any sighthound?
In the United Kingdom lurchers can be exhibited (according to size and type), raced on flats or ovals, raced over hurdles, publicly coursed according to the rules of the National Coursing Club (England), coursed privately, and, of course, just plain hunted with. There are also events held under the auspices of the National Lurcher & Race Club, which publishes a magazine, a Code of Ethics, hunt schedules and a show calendar.
The outcast of dogdom, not recognised as a breed by any kennel club or society, and frowned upon by dog-lovers and sportsmen. But the true lurcher is a true breed all the same, breeding true to type, and very carefully bred by certain Gypsy families. Originally a cross between the greyhound and the Bedlington Terrier. A dog of great speed, hardiness, and wisdom, which can be trained to do all manner of almost incredible feats. A true lurcher should not exceed 24 inches in height, and should weigh about 50 lbs. The coat be short and harsh, with long thin, tapering tail. Head of greyhound type with small pricked ears. Colours grizzle, black or black-and-tan.
Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald, circa 1948
Plummer, in The New Complete Lurcher (1998), doesn’t necessarily agree with the Bedlington part, believing that working bearded collies were probably crossed with greyhounds to produce hardier and more durable lurchers.
Lurchers are used primarily on rabbits and hares, as well as on foxes, game birds and even rats. Owners can choose various methods for hunting with their hounds: lamping at night, netting (the hounds need some herding instincts here), or hunting with ferrets (trained hunting ferrets). Lure coursing on artificial lures is also done.
Lurchers cannot compete in any formalized competitions in North America at this time (hopefully this will change), but they are still used to hunt in the American Southwest and other parts of the country. In addition to being superb jackrabbit dogs, they are formidable hunters of fox and coyote in areas of the country where such wild canines are considered pests.
There is a very interesting British Internet magazine available called EarthdogRunningDog that publishes many articles on lurchers, terriers, ferreting, and all sorts of hunting with dogs. It can be found at www.earthdogrunningdog.com. It’s worth reading all the articles, not just those having to do with lurchers or longdogs
A new organization was formed in the U.S. in 2007 to organize and register Lurchers & Longdogs for more formal competition, the North American Lurcher & Longdog Association, or NALLA. Please click on the NALLA links to the left for more information.
From Sighthounds Afield, (c) 2004 Denise Como, all rights reserved
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