Coursing is the pursuit of game by dogs, generally the sighthound breeds that catch their prey by speed and sight. In early history it was a means of hunting food for survival and as time passed it became the pastime of the nobility. The first formal rules of Greyhound coursing were established by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century and it became known as “the sport of queens”. The 19th century in England saw the sport develop into Greyhound racing, the start of the sport as we know it today.
Dean Wolstenholm (1757-1837)
Modern lure coursing is a competition sport for dogs that involves a pair of dogs chasing a mechanically operated lure around a grass track of about 300m in length. Its aim is to preserve, develop and demonstrate the functions for which sighthounds were originally bred. The lure is usually made of plastic bags or strips tied to a rope that is pulled around a series of spindles and pulleys propelled by a motor. The irregular course of the lure is meant to simulate escaping prey. Greyhounds usually run in braces (pairs). To start the course, the Greyhounds are released by a person called the slipper. The dogs are slipped from a pair of leather collars attached to a leather lead with a wire cable down the middle. There is a releasing mechanism in the handle. Each dog is scored on speed, agility, enthusiasm, follow (intent to take the lure) and endurance.
In the past when live prey was used, there were different types of coursing. Open which is the original form of the sport and was conducted in an open paddock. Enclosed in which the dogs and prey were in a fenced area and speed coursing which was on a straight track. The first sporting use of Greyhounds in Australia is recorded as coursing in the 1860’s with hares introduced from England as prey. Coursing declined with the increasing popularity of racing in the 1920’s. In Australia and many other countries, live game is no longer used in lure coursing trials or training and it is illegal to do so. The RSPCA has endorsed the sport in their policy advocating cruelty-free alternatives to the hunting of animals for sport in Australia.
If your Greyhound is healthy and active, lure coursing might be a great way of keeping it fit and physically and mentally stimulated. As in all sports, the dogs can sustain injuries and the dog’s well-being is of the utmost importance at all times. Obviously any previous injuries need to be considered before starting the sport. There are some schools of thought that lure coursing may stimulate prey drive. This may be the case with some dogs and not in others. It is up to the owner to decide if this is the right activity for their dog.
Lure coursing clubs in different states vary in the approach to the sport with some just being for Greyhound enthusiasts (mostly retired racers) in a fairly competitive environment. Other clubs are purely for fun and open to all breeds. The NSW Afghan Club is one such club which runs regular fun days at Erskine Park in Sydney.
Again, it is important that you do some research to ensure lure coursing is an appropriate and safe sport for your Greyhound to participate in, both physically and behaviourally.
The NSW Afghan Hound Club www.afghanhoundclubnsw.org.au
Queensland has very strong lure coursing groups and has a very informative website.
Queensland Lure Coursing Assn www.qldlurecoursing.com