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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Other namesPoacher's dog
OriginGreat Britain and Ireland
Coat Any
Colour Any
Litter size variable
Dog (domestic dog)
engraving of a rough-haired dog of sighthound type
Lurcher, illustration from The Sportsman's Cabinet by William Taplin, 1803; engraved from a painting by Philip Reinagle

A lurcher is a crossbred dog resulting from mating a greyhound or other sighthound with a dog of another type such as a herding dog or a terrier. The lurcher is not a "breed," but is a generic descriptor of a group of varying dogs. It was for hundreds of years strongly associated with poaching; in modern times, it is kept as a hunting dog or companion dog.


Lurcher is an old English term for a crossbred dog; specifically, the result of mating a sighthound with a dog of another type, typically a working breed. The term was first used with this meaning in 1668; it is considered to be derived from the verb lurch, apparently a variant form of lurk, meaning lurk or steal.[1][2][3] The tendency to "wrench" and "cut" rather than "course" was considered to be unfair and a violation of "The Law of the Leash."[4]

In England from 1389, the right to keep a dog of any kind used in hunting[5] was limited by law to those qualified by possessing lands, holdings, or income worth more than ten pounds per annum; in other words, royalty, nobility, the gentry, and the wealthy.[6] This law, though repeatedly modified, remained in force until 1831.[1]

In the nineteenth century, the word was used to describe some rough-haired regional greyhounds, which were banned from competition by coursing clubs such as Swaffham and Newmarket, due to the perception that they cut "turns" to kill instead of working the hare to gain points.[7]


A lurcher is a cross, generally between a sighthound and a working dog breed. 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 that the crossing of certain breeds with sighthounds produced a dog better suited to this purpose, given the lurcher's combination of speed and intelligence.[8] In more recent times, the crossing of different sighthound breeds with each other (e.g. A greyhound with a saluki) has become more common. These dogs were traditionally called longdogs but these days "lurcher" is applied to them as well.[9]


Lurchers were traditionally bred in England to assist poachers in hunting rabbits and hares. Around the world they are kept as sporting dogs and family pets,[10] or to compete in sports such as lure coursing and dog racing. In the United States they may compete in lure coursing events through the AKC and the UKC.[11][12] Cross-breeds are not registered and formally recognized by any major kennel club. In North America, the Canadian Kennel Club can deprive individual members of their club rights if they have been proven of crossbreeding any breed as in creating lurchers; in the US lurchers can be registered with the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association.[13]


  1. ^ a b Russell 2018, p. 29.
  2. ^ lurcher, n.4. Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required).
  3. ^ lurch, v.1. Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required).
  4. ^ Johnson, Thomas Burgeland (2023) [1848]. The sportsman's cyclopaedia : comprising a complete elucidation of the science and practice of hunting, shooting, coursing, racing, fishing, hawking, cockfighting, and other sports and pastimes of Great Britain, interspersed with entertaining and illustrative anecdotes [LeatherBound]. p. 193.
  5. ^ As stated in an act of Parliament: "None shall hunt but they which have sufficient living" in the Anglo-Norman and English of the time: null leverer, ne lerce, nautre chien pur chacer,[1] translated as "no greyhound, hound nor other dog to hunt"
  6. ^ "A dictionary of the Norman or Old French language : Collected from such Acts of Parliament, Parliament rolls, journals, Acts of state, records, law books, antient historians, and manuscripts as related to this nation". 1779.
  7. ^ Russell 2018, p. 88.
  8. ^ Plummer, David Brian (1979). The Complete Lurcher : a manual. Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eng.: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-118-3. OCLC 15674881.
  9. ^ "Why Lurchers Make Great Pets" (PDF). Galway SPCA. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  10. ^ Drakeford, J. (2003). The House Lurcher. Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press. ISBN 978-1-904057-34-5.
  11. ^ "Lure Coursing". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  12. ^ "Lure Coursing | United Kennel Club (UKC)". www.ukcdogs.com. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  13. ^ "Lure Coursing, Amateur Whippet & Sighthound Racing - NALLA Overview". Lure Coursing, Amateur Whippet & Sighthound Racing. Retrieved 21 December 2015.


Further reading[edit]

  • Arthur W. Coaten (1909). British Hunting: A Complete History of the National Sport of Great Britain and Ireland from Earliest Records. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co
  • E. P. Thompson (1975). Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act London: Allen Lane
  • P. B. Munsche (1981). Gentlemen and Poachers: The English Game Laws, 1671–1831. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Harriet Ritvo (1987).The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
  • David Cannadine (1990). The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy New Haven: Yale University Press
  • Roger B. Manning (1993). Hunters and Poachers: A Social and Cultural History of Unlawful Hunting in England, 1485–1640. Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.
  • Emma Griffin (2007). Blood Sport: Hunting in Britain since 1066. New Haven; London: Yale University Press
  • Barry Lewis (2009). Hunting in Britain: From the Ice Age to the Present. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press