Articles Index/Lure Coursing
Lure coursing is an activity geared to sight hounds. Those long-legged dogs of the desert, such as Greyhounds, Afghans, Salukis, and Whippets, whose keen eyesight enables them to spot game at great distances and whose long legs allow them to cover the ground in great leaps, excel at this game in which they pursue a lure around an athletic field or other large, open space. And then there are Norfolks. Terriers, too, seem to think coursing is a blast. As far as I know, Mary Fine's tylwyth contingent were the first of our breed to try coursing. Now the Folklore crowd are in (relatively speaking) swift pursuit, as well.
In lure coursing, spools are placed in the ground at regular intervals in a pattern that may range from one half to three quarters of a mile in total length. A motor and pulley arrangement powers a line that runs on the outside of the spools. The lure is attached to this line. Although we have coursed after a "fake fur" lure, its size and brown color made it somewhat difficult for the short-legged terriers to keep track of in a field that was fairly rugged. Our most successful - and crowd pleasing - experiences have been on courses set up on a level athletic field, where the lure was a hard-to-miss white plastic bag!
In my experience, the sight hounds are run one at a time, and their speed and elegance is certainly appealing; but when three or four Norfolk burst off in a flying wedge, the fun really begins. The operator of the lure controls the speed, keeping it just far enough ahead of the dogs so that it stays within sight but not within grasp. Occasionally, the lure reverses direction, adding an extra element of chaos to an already frenzied gallop. As the lure returns to the starting place, it is slowed down and then stopped, enabling owners and helpers to snare the panting dogs. Occasionally, the dogs may "catch" the lure (preferably at the conclusion of their run, not mid-course), thus giving them an extra dose of satisfaction.
Running flat out at these distances is tiring, especially for small dogs, and any dog entered should be fit and in good physical shape. When I have taken my dogs coursing, it has been done during the cooler morning or evening hours. I take care not to let them overdo it in terms of the number of times they race. I don't feed them before the run, and I have plenty of fresh water to offer them when they are through. Other than these few sensible precautions, they participate with abandon.
AKC coursing events for sight hounds are subject to a variety of rules and regulations, including a scoring system that takes speed and style into consideration. Our efforts, on the other hand, have been entirely informal. One time we were with a group of terrier owners who gathered on short notice, another time was in conjunction with an equestrian fund-raising event. The other occasions have been with a local kennel club which offers this fun activity as an adjunct to its yearly AKC sanctioned all-breed match show.
This is but another activity in the long list of events for which Norfolk have an amazing aptitude. If you can find a "just for fun" coursing event in your area, by all means give it a try.
ANTIC, Fall 1993
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