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A short-coated brindle lurcher
|Country of origin||United Kingdom, Ireland|
|Notes||Lurchers may be registered with the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association (NALLA)|
|Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The lurcher is a type of dog originating in Ireland and parts of Great Britain. Brian Plummer identifies the Norfolk lurcher as the predecessor of the modern lurcher. While not a pure breed, it is generally a cross between a sighthound and any other non-sighthound breed, usually a pastoral dog or terrier, dependent on the attributes desired by the breeder, originally stealth and cunning. Collie crosses are popular, given the working instinct of a sheepdog when mated with a sighthound gives a dog of great intelligence plus speed—prerequisites for the hunter/poacher. In the USA midwest, crosses with large scent hounds are fairly common.
Lurchers, given their breeding to purpose, can be various sizes, as small as a Bedlington terrier or as large as a deerhound; but most, as a result of their keeper's requirements and thus breeding, are of a size similar to that of the greyhound.
The coat type too will again be variable dependent upon the crosses involved. As one would expect, types range from short and smooth like that of the greyhound, to slightly longer and thicker like that of the collie, to the extreme rough and broken—like that of a border terrier, for example.
Temperament is also variable, again dependent on parental influence. As could be expected, lurchers with dominant sighthound attributes have similar temperaments—often fairly lazy with a good eye—however, accordingly, others are influenced by their other, often more tractable, biddable, and slower parent. As with all dogs, temperament will be modified by socialising the puppy.
Many meanings of the word 'lurcher' have been suggested: from the Romany words lur meaning thief and "cur" meaning a mixed dog breed, or from Middle English, from lorchen, to lurk, perhaps from lurken. Indeed the archaic meaning of the word lurcher is a prowler, swindler, or petty thief.
A lurcher does not have to contain any greyhound, for instance a Saluki x collie, or a whippet x terrier is a lurcher. They do not have to be first crosses either.
It is fabled that in the 14th, 15th and early 16th century the English and Scottish governments banned commoners from owning sight-hounds, such as Irish wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds, and greyhounds, though no documentation from the time can be found to verify this. It is thought that lurchers may have been bred to avoid legal complications during this time. Generally, the aim of the cross is to produce a sighthound with more intelligence, a canny animal suitable for poaching rabbits, hares, and game birds. Over time, poachers and hunters discovered breeding of certain breeds with sight-hounds produced a dog better suited to this purpose, given the lurcher's combination of speed and intelligence.
Lurchers as pets
The lurcher has as many varied uses as types can be crossbred, but generally they are used as hunting dogs that can chase and kill their prey. Most lurchers today are used for general pest control, typically rabbits, hares, and foxes, although some of the larger types have been successfully used on bigger game like wild boar and deer. Lurchers can be used for hare coursing, although most hare coursing dogs are greyhounds. Sighthound heavy lurchers move most effectively over open ground, although different crosses suit different terrains, indeed many crosses are specifically engineered for the purpose of working cover. Some breeders kill or turn loose lurchers that are not successful hunters or have physical or behavioral problems.
Sighthound heavy lurchers excel at sports such as lure coursing and dog racing which are very popular in areas with little available hunting, or for people who dislike hunting. In the USA lurchers are eligible to compete in lure coursing events sanctioned by the National Lure Coursing Club.
Lurchers have also proven to be very good at dog sports such as obedience and agility, where suitable breed combinations create increasingly popular lurchers that combine speed and willingness to please.
In addition, lurchers are appearing in Alaska. Sled-dog breeders are breeding sighthounds with their sled dogs to produce a faster dog. Often in the first generation, pups that do not have the coat or temperament to create a good sled dog candidate are adopted out to new non-mushing homes.
Recognition and registration
Because lurchers are not purebreds they are not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs although the acronym HJCK serves in some circles: Hunt Jump Catch Kill. However, the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association was recently created to serve as a registering body for lurchers and longdogs in the United States and Canada.
In popular culture
- In the Sir Walter Scott novel Ivanhoe, Cedric the Saxon's swineherd Gurth owns a lurcher named Fangs that is crippled for hunting deer.
- In the Tim Willocks novel Doglands, the main character Furgal is a lurcher, the son of a greyhound and a mixed-breed.
- The Des Dillon novel My Epileptic Lurcher is loosely based on the author's life and his lurcher Bailey, who suffers from epilepsy.
- In Judith Krantz's novel Princess Daisy, the eponymous character owns a lurcher.
- In the 2000 film Snatch, two lurchers are shown hare coursing.
- A lurcher named Jook (the Roma word for "dog") is a character in Jacqueline Winspeare's 2008 Maisie Dobbs novel, An Incomplete Revenge.
- Plummer, Brian - The Complete Lurcher, The Boydell Press, 1979
- http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130123162956/http:/www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/lurcherclubs1.htm The Lurcher Submission for the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales
- Drakeford, J., The House Lurcher Swan Hill Press, Shrewsbury, ISBN 978-1-904057-34-5
- Lure Coursing Club
- GRWE (Greyhound rescue West of England)Greyhound and Lurcher rescue
- House Lurchers, a website for all non-working Lurchers
- Lurcher Link, discussion forum and lurcher rescue
- Evesham Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue
- Greyhound Gap - greyhound and lurcher rescue operating in the UK
- Lurcher Racing in Hailsham, Sussex, UK