This snapshot, taken on
18/08/2008
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
 
 
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.


 

The Lurcher Submission

 

by Deborah Blount, M.B.A.

February 2000

ASSOCIATION OF LURCHER CLUBS


 

The Lurcher Submission

Contents

To jump straight to a particular question/section click on the question/section number

1,

Executive Summary 1
2, The Lurcher It’s characteristics and ‘type’. 3
3, The Working Lurcher 5
  Lamping 5
  Ferreting 8
  Other Methods (of hunting) 9
  Coursing 9
  The Poaching Problem 13
4, Lurcher Organizations 16
  Other Lurcher Shows 17
  Independent Lurcher Clubs 17
5, Animal Welfare 19
6, The Lurcher Survey 23
  The Number of Lurcher owners 24
  The number of Lurchers 25
  The Economic Contribution 27
7, A Ban ? 29
Appendices    
Appendix I The National Lurcher & Racing Club  
Appendix II Lurcher Show Schedules  
Appendix III This is Lurcher Work (leaflet)  
Appendix IV Lurcher Survey Results  
Appendix V Lurcher Mania (video)  
Appendix VI List of Lurcher Clubs (strictly confidential)  
Appendix VII The Association Of Lurcher Clubs  
Appendix VIII Newspaper Letters  
Appendix XI ‘Illegal Coursing’ correspondence  
Appendix X Wildlife Network Critique, by P. Garner  
Appendix XII Show Diary - Countryman’s Weekly  
Appendix XIII All Lurcher Clubs (strictly confidential)  
Appendix XIV Previous published research  
Appendix XV Letter from a lurcher owner  

Back to top

1.0 Executive Summary

1.1 This report will provide an interesting and comprehensive submission about lurchers, and the people who work (hunt)them The report will define and describe a ‘lurcher’ and will provide evidence that it is one of the most commonly kept hunting dogs in Britain. The different ways in which lurcher are worked will be described and discussed, It is considered that a discussion of Rabbit control is relevant to the Inquiry because more rabbits are hunted with dogs than any other quarry species. This section will also include a discussion about the problems created by the small minority of lurcher owners who poach, and it will relate the problems in policing these, and to the difficulties which may occur in respect of the possible implementation of a ban on hunting with dogs.

1.2 The report contains a concise section on lurcher organizations, full details of the two main groups, the Association of Lurcher Clubs and the National Lurcher & Racing Club, are contained in their respective Appendices. The section will also provide evidence and discuss the many independent local lurcher clubs.

1.3 A further section will discuss animal welfare, especially in respect of comparing the use of lurchers with other methods of control. However, for the main discussion on animal welfare, in order to avoid repetition, the report refers the Committee to ‘Can’t See The Wood For The Trees ? The Animal Welfare Perspective’, a separate submission by the same author.

1.4 A substantial section of the report relates to The Lurcher Survey which was conducted during 1999, by Deborah Blount in association with the Countryside Alliance Campaign Group. The survey was completed voluntarily by respondents. The questionnaire was structured to provide statistical evidence relating to the following area’s:

- To provide a quantitative estimate of the number of lurcher owners, and of the number of lurchers owned by each.

- To ascertain the range of lurcher activities, and the number of participants involved in each.

- To investigate the popularity of lurcher clubs.

- To provide evidence of the value of the lurcher as a method of pest control.

- To provide evidence for analysis regarding the value of services provided by lurcher owners to the farming community.

- To provide quantitative evidence of the economic contribution relating to lurcher activities.

The questionnaire was distributed as widely as possible. The following methods were used selected:

- To individuals via lurcher clubs and organizations.

- To readers of sporting interest magazines, ie: Countryman’s Weekly.

- To individuals attending lurcher shows and game fairs.

1.4 The final section of the report will discuss the potential implications of the proposed ban on hunting with dogs, and it discusses the effects of repeated legislative attempts on the people who support the activity.

1.5 Please note that all references are listed at the end of the report.

Back to top

2.0 The Lurcher

2.1 The lurcher is not a ‘breed’ of dog, as defined by the kennel club, but a ‘type’ of dog. Sheardown explains that the lurcher is originally produced by cross breeding two different breeds; "The lurcher is an intentional cross between a long dog and a herding dog, or the offspring of parents so bred". Historically, the two breeds used were the greyhound and a herding dog, such as the border collie. This was because these were the breeds which were most readily available as breeding stock.

2.2 The origins of the modern lurcher may vary widely of cross matings between working breeds; collies, German shepherds, Australian heelers, bull terriers and Bedlington terriers; and a selection of sight hounds; greyhounds, whippets, salukis, deerhounds, and even the exotic borzoi or pharaoh hound have been advertised as the sire or dam in the ‘pups for sale’ columns in magazines such as The Countryman’s Weekly.

2.3 Some illustration of the wide variety of lurcher ‘types’, is provided by the National Lurcher & Racing Club’s leaflet: ‘The Lurcher & The Long dog’, (Appendix I). The leaflet also provides a useful overview of both the lurcher’s origins and it’s modern day role. It also offers a clear definition of the difference between a lurcher and a long dog. Briefly, whilst a lurcher is originally produced by cross mating two very different breeds of dog, ie; collie x greyhound, with the aim of retaining the speed of the latter and the stamina and tractability of the former . A long dog is originally produced from a cross mating between two pure bred sight hounds, ie; a greyhound x saluki.

2.4 The need for two distinct ‘types’, as recognised by the definitions of ‘lurcher’ and ‘long dog’, has evolved with the popularity of specialist hunters. The lurcher is most commonly used for catching rabbits and all round vermin control, whilst the long dog is highly regarded by as a supreme athlete by lurcher coursing enthusiasts. Although both are cross bred ‘running dogs’ and will henceforth be referred to as ‘lurchers’.

2.5 It is also important to note that lurchers are not only selectively bred for their working abilities. Most lurchers are also ‘family’ dogs, and must therefore be sociable and of sound temperament. It is widely known that lurchers are commonly placid, well behaved, friendly and obedient dogs.

2.6 That the lurcher / long dog can, and does, vary enormously in it’s type is evident. It may be rough or smooth haired, a single colour, brindle or pied. It may stand 18 inches at the shoulder, or it may stand at 27 inches. The popularity of all of the many varieties of lurchers is best demonstrated by a quick glance at a typical show schedule, Appendix II. That the schedules also contain a terrier show programme is testament to the close working relationship of both lurcher and terrier owners and their dogs. And, owing to the close working relationship, many shows also include a ferret schedule.

2.7 However, the reason for the variance is not only due to the original parentage of the individual dog, it is also due to lurcher x lurcher matings. It is interesting to note that first cross matings reliably produce similar pups of a particular type (Harmar - details of all references are provided at the end of the report), for example; the border collie x greyhound will always produce a smooth coated, more heavily built progeny. Lurcher x lurcher matings can produce a very wide variety of coat types, height, build and overall confirmation - even in pups of the same litter.

2.8 However, the reason for these matings, is exactly the same as for the original lurcher; to produce a type of working dog, of sound temperament, that will instinctively hunt the desired quarry on the type of terrain available to the dogs owner. The aim of all lurcher breeding is to produce dogs that are ‘fit for purpose’.

2.9 The report will show that the lurcher is one of the most commonly kept hunting dogs in Britain, and can be described as follows:

...an all rounder should take rabbits and hares, mark, work with ferrets, be a retriever, jump, be obedient, and be stock broken. But lurchers can also take rats, foxes, and sneak the odd pheasant or two...

Adapted from: Roger Seaman, Countryman’s Weekly, March 5th, 1999.

Back to top

3.0 The Working Lurcher

3.1 Introduction

The following section will fully describe the wide variety of hunting methods, and will discuss the reasons for them. But it is important to note that for each method of hunting, the owners will always select a lurcher of a suitable size, type and temperament to match the terrain and the quarry species being hunted.

3.2 Lurcher work is briefly described in the Countryside Alliance leaflet; ‘This is Lurcher Work (Appendix III). It is clear that the lurcher is not only adaptable regarding the choice of quarry species hunted, he is also adaptable in the way that he hunts. Traditionally, a lurcher will hunt alone with only his master as a partner. But often the modern lurcher may hunt with another, especially in respect of hare coursing, or he may hunt with several other dogs. On occasions, even a terrier or two may make up the number.

3.3 The lurcher hunts a wide variety of quarry species, and it would not be wrong to say that for each species hunted, that there is a lurcher who can and does. The usual quarry of the lurcher is the rabbit, hare and fox, although some lurchers will also hunt many different species; from rats and squirrels to feathered quarry.

3.4 It is important to note that both the Lurcher Survey results (Appendix IV), and anecdotal evidence supports the known situation that the majority of lurcher owners are granted permission to hunt their dogs in exchange for vermin control, or other services to the farming community. In the case of land plagued only with rabbits the negotiation is usually quite straight forward. But if a lurcher owner requires, for example; coursing permission, a farmer who is also troubled by foxes may grant permission more willingly if the lurcher owner will also consent to controlling the foxes. Rabbiting enthusiasts may also gain coursing permission in this way, or the lurcher owner may control rats or even moles for the farmer.

3.5 It is also emphasized that lurchers are not ‘trained’ to hunt. They are simply taken out and given the opportunity to follow their natural instincts ( Holmes, Pipe, Willis, Sparks.) They are encouraged, by a process of continual experience, to pursue some quarry species, rabbits, hares and foxes for example, and discouraged from pursuing other mammals, especially rare or protected species and farm livestock. Lurchers are very intelligent, natural hunters, and learn extremely quickly.

3.6 Lurchers are generally trained to retrieve the majority of their catch, (rabbits and hares), in order that the owner may promptly and humanely despatch it, usually by the swift breaking of the neck. The retrieval of rats or foxes is not encouraged. In respect of these, dogs which have the natural ability to ensure an immediate kill are highly regarded. The despatch of animals hunted by lurchers is discussed in more detail in the ‘Animal Welfare’ section. Although it is interesting to note that the retrieval of edible quarry is encouraged, while the inedible is not.

3.7 It is emphasized that, in terms of animal welfare, this report considers that there is no difference between the hunting of rabbits with dogs, and the hunting of other mammals. That the focus of anti hunt propaganda restricts itself to selected species is a telling sign that the sole motivation for a ban is not the welfare of animals. Genuine concrn for the welfare of animals would not resrtict itself to select species. Especially in resect of hunting with dogs, as the number of rabbits pursued and caught significantly exceeds that of other species.

Back to top

3.8 Lamping

Whilst other dogs and hounds are strictly daytime hunters, the lurcher is most commonly seen working at night with the aid of a high powered spotlight. Although

this may appear unusual to the unitiated, lamping is a method of hunting which is the most efficient way to catch the largely nocturnal quarry species. For example; rabbits do not generally become truly active until dusk and feed mostly during the hours of total darkness. Hares and foxes are also active at night.

3.9 Lurchers are generally dogs which are hunted with the aim of controlling agricultural vermin such as rabbits. Other species such as foxes and hares are only pursued if the landowner so wishes. With the rabbit as the main quarry, this is the reason why lamping is the most popular method of hunting with lurchers (Appendix IV).

3.10 Lamping is an activity which is conducted at night when the majority of the quarry is out in the fields, and therefore it is easier for the dog to catch greater numbers. The high powered spotlight, or lamp, is used to illuminate the individual quarry animal. The lurcher pursues the illuminated quarry. The use of the lamp is essential, in that it saves the dog’s energy and time by removing the need for the dog to hunt up by scent.

3.11 A typical night’s lamping is best viewed live, but the video ‘Lurcher Mania’, Appendix , is recommended viewing. The lamping enthusiast will wait for a suitable night before venturing out. Lamping is not a method suitable for all weather and light conditions. A windless, moonlit night is virtually useless to the lamper. The best conditions are the darkest of nights, with a good wind blowing. The reason for this is that rabbits and other quarry will travel to feed further away from their warren, and the lamper may move upwind of the quarry without the wind carrying the warning of his scent toward the them. Wet conditions are usually of little consequence with the exception of heavy dew, for some reason, probably the rabbits preference for a dry underside, rabbits do not travel far in such conditions. In order to be successful, the hunter must know the quarry species, and it’s habits, well.

3.12 Having made prior arrangements with the landowner / tenant farmer / gamekeeper, the lamping enthusiast will wait for darkness before setting out lamping. He may go alone, or he may go with a companion (s). If there are many rabbits on the land, more than one dog may be taken, this is to allow each dog a rest between each pursuit. The way that a lurcher runs is often equivalent to an Olympic 100 meter medalist.

3.13 The lamper will wear suitable clothing, boots or wellingtons, and clothes sufficient for protection against the weather. The equipment carried by the lamper will include some sort of bag, rucksack, or home made carrier, in which to carry the catch. The people who work lurchers either eat the catch, market it, or use it to supplement the diet of their dogs and ferrets (Appendix IV). The lamper will also carry his lamp (illustrated), which is powered by a battery. The lurcher is often held on a slip lead, although well trained, experienced dogs walk freely at their masters side until signaled to run.

3.14 Many lamping enthusiasts live in towns and cities. Evidence of this is demonstrated by a glance at the addresses of the lurcher clubs which are listed in Appendix VI (the addresses of these clubs must be treated as confidential information.) ....So, a drive to the lamping permission is usually necessary, although a few lurcher enthusiasts are fortunate enough to own their own land (Appendix IV). Once there, the lamper will set to work...with the aim of keeping the wind blowing from the quarry toward him, the lamper will walk the area of his permission, illuminating any individual quarry animals and keeping them illuminated whilst his lurcher engages in pursuit. If a rabbit is caught, the lurcher will usually retrieve it, and the owner will promptly despatch it. The vast majority of runs are over in seconds, rather than minutes. The lamper will continue working his permission in this way until he has covered all of his ground, or until the dog is tired. He will also cut short his work, if he has caught enough for his pest control requirements.

3.15 There are many misconceptions about lamping. Some people believe that the lamp mesmerizes the rabbit. It is true that some rabbits, especially ones who have no previous experience of the lamp, will squat. But many of these run for their warren as soon as the dog approaches. Many more rabbits run as normally as they would in any other circumstances, and this is demonstrated in the video; Lurcher Mania (Appendix V). Others think that lampers catch greater numbers because the light slows down or disables the quarry. The simple and honest explanation is that more rabbits and other quarry are out and active at night. The lamp simply makes them visible. This is why lamping is so effective as a form of pest control.

3.16 The skilled lamper may sometimes succeed in using the lamp to help the dog to catch. An example of this would be if a rabbit were about to disappear through a hedge or fence, the lamper would strobe, ( cause the light to flicker), and this sometimes causes the rabbit to turn back into the field and away from it’s escape route.

3.17 Lamping hares is also occasionally conducted for pest control purposes only, in much the same way as for lamping rabbits. Although this practice is becoming much less popular as the growth in lurcher coursing increases. Evidence of this is provided by the increase in Association of Lurcher Club coursing club memberships over the last four years. Appendix XIII provides evidence in the form of the last two years membership details for the A.L.C.

3.18 In respect of lamping foxes with a lurcher, the procedure is slightly different. The lamper will call or squeak to attract the foxes interest, as the fox moves sufficiently close to the lamper, which he does out of sheer curiosity, the lamper will signal the dog to pursue the fox. The run is usually very short, within perhaps fifty yards, when the fox will either escape or will be caught. Only Lurchers which have a natural aptitude for foxes are worked on this quarry, some lurchers show complete disinterest and are strictly ‘rabbit’ or ‘hare’ dogs.

3.19 Controlling agricultural pests at night can be very hard work, the rabbits are heavy to carry , the terrain is often rough, and many miles are sometimes walked for only a few rabbits. It is an activity which is done at night, sometimes in the early hours when the rest of the population is asleep. The people involved often pursue their interest in between the lampers employed working hours. And, of course, the unofficial but generally respected lamping season is from September/October to February/March (according to the landowners instructions). It is during the season when weather conditions can be at their most hostile. Lamping is, more often than not, extremely exhausting.

3.20 So what is the attraction ? It’s effectiveness as a method of pest control - certainly. But lampers mostly prefer to hunt this way because of a great love, enjoyment and pride at seeing the skill employed by their dogs at work. It is the pride and pleasure of seeing a dog be everything that he can be, and of him achieving everything that he can achieve, and of working with him in a strong and trusting partnership. This is the driving force behind all lurcher work.

Back to top

3.21 Ferreting

It is considered that a discussion of Rabbit control is relevant to the Inquiry because more rabbits are hunted with dogs than any other quarry species. Ferreting is a daytime activity. It is done while the rabbit is residing in his burrow. Many lurchers are worked with ferrets to catch rabbits. Next to lamping, it is the most popular method of working lurchers (Appendix IV). Lurchers are usually socialized with ferrets when they are young, and if this is done, the two always work well together. Ferreting does not always require the assistance of a dog, but it is much more effective with one, as the dog will ‘mark’ or indicate which rabbit burrows have residents. The lurcher is also on hand to help catch any escaping rabbits as they run out of their holes.

3.22 In terms of animal welfare, it is interesting to note that genetically, ferrets are the same animal as the wild polecat. Which in turn, is a member of the Musteliad family. This also includes weasels, stoats and badgers. With the exception of badgers, who dig rabbits out, especially young ones during the breeding season, when these predators hunt rabbits, they enter a rabbit hole in search of their next meal. If the rabbits are alert, and are warned by scent, sound or sight of the predator, they will usually run out of their warren in order to escape. In view of this, it is considered that ferreting is also an extremely natural method of controlling rabbits.

3.23 The process of ferreting differs only to the natural process of a wild mustelid hunting, in that the ferreter will usually cover the rabbit holes with nets, which are anchored with a small peg. The rabbit is then caught in the net as it ‘bolts’ away from the predator. Once a rabbit is in the net, the ferreter will promptly despatch it, by swiftly breaking the neck. Sometimes, ferreting is done without the aid of nets. This may often be because the holes are inaccessible, in these instances the dog waits for the rabbits to bolt. The dog is also essential when occasionally, the net does not succeed in catching the rabbit, or two rabbits may bolt simultaneously, in which case, the net will only hold the first bolting rabbit. The help of the lurcher is invaluable , as he is always ready to chase the escaping rabbit.

3.24 Sometimes, ferrets do succeed in catching a rabbit underground. The modern method of working with ferrets is to fit them with a small locator collar. Their underground location can then be very quickly identified, and the ferreter will dig down to the animals and despatch the rabbit very quickly.

3.25 Ferreting obviously requires much more equipment than lamping. The ferreter will usually have at least one ferret, and a purpose built box in which to carry it, a dog(s), a locator kit, a spade, sufficient nets for the size of rabbit warren being worked (this may be anything from half a dozen to over a hundred), occasionally a long net (illustrated) may be employed, a bag or rucksack to carry the rabbits, and suitable clothing. Ferreting is often best done on very frosty mornings, and there can be periods of long inactivity while the ferret searches for the rabbits underground. The ferreter can get very cold in these conditions and usually dresses warmly. Sometimes, burrows are in very difficult places, such as brambles or thick thorn hedges, and in these places the ferreter will usually wear thorn proof clothes.

Back to top

3.26 Other Methods

Many lurcher owners also work with their dogs during the day, simply by walking out with them and allowing them to freely hunt up and pursue quarry, (rabbits, hares and foxes.) Lurchers are always strongly discouraged from showing any interest in farm livestock, so this is not a worry for the lurcher owner or farmer. Sometimes a lurcher will hunt alone in this way, but at other times, especially if the land has lots of cover, the lurcher will hunt with another dog(s). If a number of dogs are hunted together, this is sometimes referred to as a ‘bobbery pack’, and a terrier or two often make up the number. The terriers, or smaller lurchers, are especially useful for flushing rabbits or foxes out from deep cover, such as brambles or gorse, the waiting lurchers are ready to pursue the exiting quarry. It can be very rewarding to watch dogs ‘teamwork’ in this way.

Back to top

3.27 Lurcher Coursing

Introduction

Lurcher coursing has two distinct forms, one is formally recognised as a ‘field sport’ by the Countryside Alliance, this is ‘double - handed’ coursing. The other is not a formally recognised ‘sport’, and this is called ‘single - handed’ coursing.. However, in terms of animal welfare, and of how the coursing is perceived by the majority of those directly involved, an approved ‘sporting’ definition is irrelevant.

3.27 In respect of double - handed coursing (two dogs), there is very little difference to greyhound coursing, except that lurchers are hunted instead of greyhounds. It is an activity which is conducted, as far as is applicable, under National Coursing Club Rules. The only real differences are that the hares are ‘walked’ up, that is those involved form a line across the field and walk across the field with the aim of disturbing any hares which may be there, and that the judge is mounted on horseback rather than the lurcher judge who is on foot, (due to financial constraints.) Any hares which may be disturbed are then, at the slipper’s discretion, coursed by the lurchers who are only released, or ‘slipped’, after the hare has gained sufficient head start, this is in accordance with the rules. Because lurcher coursing is conducted in this way, the hares suffer no disturbance prior to being coursed. The course itself may last slightly longer than with greyhound coursing, though this is not always so. The reason for this is that lurchers are very tenacious dogs, with slightly less initial speed than greyhounds, but considerably greater stamina. However, the course may still last little more than a minute longer than greyhound coursing. Therefore, because the two are so similar, this report will not discuss double - handed coursing further. Should any further information be required, please contact the Association Of Lurcher Clubs. For details refer to Appendix VII.

3.28 Single - Handed Coursing (by Alan Tyer, Chairman, A.L.C.)

The purpose of single-handed hare coursing is to produce a Lurcher that is capable of coursing and catching a Hare on the Hare’s own ground by using its speed, stamina, turning ability and without the help of a second dog. Under the new rules of the National Coursing Club, two Greyhounds are slipped on a Hare after insuring that the Hare has "fair Law" , a good head start as specified in the rules, and they are judged on turning ability, speed etc., and the capture of the Hare is irrelevant. In single-handed coursing, the long dog is used as the Hunter and the point is to catch the Hare. The use of a single dog is considered a more sporting exercise which insures that the strongest Hares escape and lest fit are culled. This method insures that natures own laws are observed and the fit survive to breed a stronger animal.

In the fifty clubs affiliated to the Association of Lurcher Clubs at the present time, a great many members are involved in "single-handed Hare coursing". Each weekend sees these sportsmen travel many miles to take part in coursing events, either alone or with a group of like minded friends. Unlike coursing under National Coursing Club rules, these events are not competitions but hunting exercise and the fitter and more experienced the dogs, the more successful the day. As in any Field sport or for that matter any field of endeavor, Lurcher owners are always trying to improve their dogs, both in terms of breeding and ability. The search for the ultimate single-handed Lurcher is part and parcel of the sport.

6.28 (a) A typical days Lurcher Coursing.

A days coursing starts with a phone call to the Landowner, to who will have given permission prior to that day, inform him that a certain number of people will be coursing on his land on a certain day and to ensure that the Lurcher coursing will not clash with another field sport event at the same venue.

Many Lurcher coursers will travel many hundreds of miles for a days coursing. Only certain types of land are suitable for coursing, it must be flat and if possible free from hedges, wire and stones. The Fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire are ideal. Usually, the number of coursers is small, two or three, although some large events with greater numbers of Lurcher owners take place. The coursers will line up alongside a lane or edge of a field and will walk across the field, side by side about thirty yards apart. Each courser will have one or two Lurchers on what are known as "slip leads". Slip leads are quick release leads that enable the courser to release a dog immediately a Hare is viewed. When a Hare is sighted one dog only is released, this dog will then do its utmost to catch the Hare. Should a second hare be disturbed in the field during this time, no other dog will be released. At no time whatsoever is another dog released until the first dog returns to its handler, either with or without the Hare. After a course the line moves on until another Hare is viewed and a second dog is released. The morning progresses until either the dogs need rest or time is called for lunch. After lunch the afternoon carries on in much the same way, with maybe, a change of dogs. At the end of the day the catch is counted and reported to the Landowner. The Landowner may or may not keep the Hares to give to local people, if not they are taken home and the best are eaten, any old or Hares are fed to the dogs, none are wasted.

In many cases the courser pays for the right to course on the farm, either in cash or by taking a gift to the Landowner, also in many cases a donation to charity is made, thus helping the local community.

Coursing with Lurchers is, and always has been, part of country life, it takes nothing away from the community but controls the indigenous Hare population and insures that as a species the Hare gets stronger and improves. The money spent in the community by Lurcher owners helps many local tradesmen survive. It brings many people that live in towns into the country and helps promote a better relationship between people from different walks of life.

6.28 (b) The Social Aspect

The social aspect of Lurcher coursing is of vital importance. The many Lurcher clubs are also social clubs and do much work for charity (last season, the Association of Lurcher Clubs alone, gave over three thousand pounds to charity). For many Lurcher owners, their dogs are their only interest in life and every available moment is spent on taking care of them. Magazines that cater for working Lurcher owners have a high circulation, an example being Countryman’s Weekly, and offer advice and items of interest, such as advice on diet, training and breeding, etc. A great amount of money is spent on these dogs, money that keeps many small business’s alive, vets, animal feed stores, saddlers and even health food stores all benefit from the Lurcher owner. In many farming districts, the control of hares is of vital importance and if this was not done by the many Lurcher owners the Hares would have to be shot, this would mean that instead of the natural selection of coursing, the cull would be indiscriminate and the strong would be killed along with the weak, thus instead of improving the gene pool it would be weakened.

3.29 From the Outside

To those not directly involved in lurcher coursing, the activity is sometimes a rather contentious issue. It is emphasized, however, that in terms of animal welfare, there is little or no difference between lurcher and greyhound coursing. It is a natural activity, for both animals - the dog is a natural and instinctive hunter, and the Lords Select Committee (1976), found that the ‘flight of the chased hare is a natural, instinctive, routine response’.

3.30 However, coursing hares with lurchers, especially in respect of running a single dog, is sometimes viewed with unease, especially by those involved in Greyhound coursing. Yet there is no difference in animal welfare terms, all dogs do run with the intention of catching the hare, even though a very high percentage escape. (N.C.C. rules do offer little reward should this occur.)

3.31 It seems to be the ‘rules’ which cause the disagreement, not the act of dogs chasing a hare. Greyhound coursing is, undeniably the oldest field sport. However dogs were chasing hares long before civilization invented ‘sporting’ rules and codes of conduct. And other dogs have continued to do the same, in the same instinctive way, outside these respected codes of conduct. Single - handed lurcher coursing also has rules, the hare is still given a head start (law), because although lurchers are worked with the aim of pest control, hares are still not as numerous as we would like, and lurcher coursing aims to cull only the least healthy or fit hares. So what is the cause of the ‘unease’ ?

3.32 It is probably historical in origin. The oldest field sport evolved at a time when only the landed nobility were allowed access to game. Those outside this group, still wanted, or needed, meat to feed their families, and so the lurcher and it’s owner achieved notoriety for poaching. However, times have changed, the centuries have moved on, and thankfully, the social structure of Britain will never revert back to the Dark Ages. Yet many involved in greyhound coursing - the most ‘noble’ pursuit - still cling to this snobbery. Which, incidentally is one of the greatest causes of dislike, stated by those who oppose hunting with dogs. For some of these, it may be demonstrated that social prejudice (a hatred of the ‘elite’ upper class), is a prime motivational factor for their views (Appendix VIII). For others who oppose the activity, it may be demonstrated (Appendix VIII), that the word 'sport'’ provokes outrage. This is because it is viewed as killing animals simply for entertainment. Rather than the activity of conducting a necessary act of vermin control. That lurchers are also primarily worked by everyday people, and often for the additional purpose of ‘potfilling’, is another reason why the word ‘lurcher’ rarely occurs in anti hunting tirades in local papers. When it does, inaccuracies are stated and lurcher enthusiasts are often tarred with the same ‘sporting’ brush as greyhound coursing (Appendix VIII).

3.33 In terms of animal welfare, the coursing of hares with any type of running dog, greyhound or lurcher, is, a vital method of wildlife management. It is conducted in a way, and for reasons which, benefit the hare population. For example; greyhound coursing usually takes place on game estates or other land which is carefully, and sympathetically managed to encourage a numerous hare population. Coursing with lurchers is generally conducted with the aim of pest control, it is most often carried out in areas where the hare is an agricultural pest. To all of those involved, each considers it their ‘sport’, and each holds their dogs, and the hunting skills displayed by them, in the highest regard.

Back to top

3.34 The Poaching Problem

The problem of a percentage of lurcher owners poaching hares in gangs has been widely publicized. This report will discuss several aspects in respect of this issue, and will offer possible recommendations which may improve the situation. But first, it must be observed, that in terms of potential problems of implementing any proposed ban on hunting with dogs, that the case of ‘illegal coursing’ is one of particular interest.

3.35 That the poaching of hares by groups or gangs, commonly termed ’illegal coursing’, is a problem is an undisputed fact, even if only by those who suffer their coursing permission being poached. It is a problem which is considerably more common in particular areas, notably the Boston area of Lincolnshire. It is also a problem which has proved to be almost impossible to police.

3.36 Poaching may often be due to the difficulty in obtaining coursing permission, causing those who want to pursue this interest, to do it in the only way that is available to them People feel very strongly about the right to work their dogs.

3.37 The effects of the problem are that police resources, in under funded rural areas, are stretched to breaking point . In terms of the difficulties of implementing a ban, it is considered vital to note that these difficulties have occurred with the assistance of the landowners in trying to prevent poaching. Should a ban be the result of proposed legislation, many farmers, who now enjoy a choice in method of vermin control, may not be as co-operative. This is probable because, the vermin will still need to be controlled, and if it can be done in a way which places no financial pressure on the landowner, it would not be the first time that a British citizen has turned a ‘blind eye’.

3.38 That said, the activities of these gangs is unacceptable to all. It is a problem which is not just causing trouble for the police and landowners. They are also causing many problems to those involved in hare coursing. Coursing estates are often targeted by poachers, because there are known hare populations in these areas. In respect of this, it is very interesting that the survey results (Appendix IV), showed that 18% of lurcher people also provide a ‘poacher patrol’ service to landowners. This is considered to have potential to be an active part of a solution.

3.39 The formation and activities of the A.L.C. is also considered to have eased the poaching problem. There are, among the membership, some reformed poachers. A primary role of the A.L.C. has been to educate and promote the ‘right way’ to work lurchers. The fact that some previous poachers have had no convictions since the formation of the A.L.C., is evidence of the success of this organization. As is the fact that it’s number of member clubs has increased each year. This also demonstrates that lurcher coursing is a growth area.

3.40 The problems caused by poaching gangs does not end there. The publicity given to the poaching has created yet another problem for coursing enthusiasts. That of media interpretation. The term ‘illegal coursing’ is a relatively new term. Strictly speaking, coursing is a legitimate activity, therefore, to place the word ‘illegal’ as a prefix, provides a clear opening for misinterpretation and leads to misunderstanding, Appendix IX contains some letters of complaint, written to the respective authorities regarding incidents where the media have blatantly reported investigations into the ‘illegal sport of hare coursing’. As the reports have often been national, it is no surprise that many members of the general public think that coursing has already been banned.

3.41 It is possible that the (relatively) low incidence of poaching gangs has been given considerable ‘spin’, especially if those formulating the reports oppose hunting with dogs. The letters pertaining to the initiative by the Boston police are of interest. Appendix IX. Particular attention should be given to the comment ‘the problem of hare coursing’. As with the media reports, the police letter provides evidence that those involved in any kind of coursing are being unfairly and unjustly treated in the way that coursing is both publicized and dealt with at official levels. Why, for example was the ITC complaint not upheld ? it was not even answered as it should have been. The letters demonstrate that the programme intended to portray "the illegal sport of hare coursing".

3.42 However, coursing does remain a legal activity, when conducted on land to which permission has been granted. This report has discussed the difficulties of policing the poaching problem, and a serious consideration for debate regarding any legislative change, must be to encourage law keeping, and discourage law breaking.

3.43 In respect of possible solutions to the poaching problem, the A.L.C has demonstrated that education and assistance to pursue the interest in the proper way, has been successful. As the A.L.C is a fledgling organization (founded in 1995), which receives little funding and is run by an ‘honourary’ committee, it is considered that with encouragement its success will continue to increase significantly over the next few years, and by doing so will reduce the problems caused by tiny percentage of lurcher coursing enthusiasts.

3.44 But what of those who do not opt for education and reform ? In respect of animal welfare, one of the greatest problems caused by poaching gangs is that of out of season coursing. The hare does not have a closed season in law, it benefits from only a few months protection forbidding the sale of its carcass. The voluntary A.L.C. regulations, Appendix VII, and the N.C.C. regulations provide a closed season which is respected by all of those who course ‘the right way’. However, it is considered that a lawful closed season, with appropriate penalties, would do much to benefit the conservation of the hare. A MAFF Order would be the simplest way of introducing this, with licencing conditions for closed season control in area’s suffering serious agricultural damage. It is recommended that the closed season would operate within all days outside of the current coursing season.

3.45 The law would also benefit from being reviewed in respect of the penalties imposed on all of those who are apprehended whilst in a gang, in pursuit of hares, without appropriate permission. It is interesting to note that often, those currently apprehended are simply cautioned and released. This anomaly may often be the result of those involved being ‘travellers’, who are difficult to prosecute due to problems locating them when the case finally reaches court.

3.46 In respect of investigating this problem further, it may be helpful for the committee to request records from Lincolnshire police. Such records would reveal a realistic estimate of the number of lurcher owners involved in this problem. They would also reveal repeat offenders and so on. The records should be considered in respect of the number of individuals involved, not the number of reported incidents. This is because legitimate coursing events may often be reported by passing motorists as poaching gangs. In respect of the numbers involved, the Lurcher Survey results (Appendix IV) provided information from which a substantiated estimate of over 100,000 lurcher owners. It is probable that police information will demonstrate that less than 1% of these are currently involved in poaching in gangs.

3.47 Finally, of the type of offenders involved in coursing. Some of those who oppose the activity have contrived to use publicity relating to poaching gangs to their advantage. A particular opportunist organisation who instigated this, is Wildlife Network. An interesting critque of their work, by Pete Garner, which pays particular evaluation in respect of lurchers, is contained in Appendix X. Earlier published work by the group commented that "many illegal coursers - and especially those who operate in betting gangs - are criminals. Many of the 70,000 lurchers used to chase hares are in their posession", (Pye-Smith). This quote was published in 1998, by 1999 the spin had escalated to "the modern poacher is armed, mobile, and contemptuous of the law. Sometimes he belongs to a military style mafia controlled by a hierarchy of thugs who are known to intimidate, organise burgularies and robberies and deal in drugs,"(Barker). An earlier statement in the same article remarked that "these people are very often involved in hare coursing as well". It is probable that analysis of the above records will provide evidence to demontrate the following: That these remarks are totally unsubstantiated in terms of the total or partial lurcher owning population .

3.48 It is interesting to note that the above quote from Pye-Smith was taken from a booklet published by Wildlife Network, the organization headed by James Barrington, former storm trouper of the League Against Cruel Sports. Of the humane control of foxes, the League published the following; "If fast running dogs such as lurchers or greyhounds were used to hunt foxes, the whole thing would be over in seconds..." A further quotation relevant to the humaneness of lurchers was published in Big Issue in the North, during the months when Michael Foster achieved infamy for his failed Private Member’s Bill which aimed to ban hunting with dogs. Foster was quoted in a feature the magazine, commenting that lurchers were the most humane way of controlling rabbits.....Where is the logic ?

Back to top

4.0 Lurcher Organisations

4.1 The nature of working partnership between Lurcher and man has determined that the lurcher and its owner has a tendancy toward solitude. In light of this, it is considered no surprise that the organisations which promote, protect and regulate lurcher work, are relative new comers. Especially if one considers the history and pedigree of well established groups such as the Countryside Alliance and the M.F.H.A.

4.2 As recently as five years ago, the only umberalla lurcher organisation was formed, called the Association of Lurcher Clubs, (A.L.C.) The remit was to bring together the many widespread lurcher clubs, with the aim of meeting the edicational, political and regulatory needs of lurchers and their owners. The Association of Lurcher Clubs is a unifying organisation, its success may be considered apparent by the fact that the 10 clubs which were members at its inagural meeting, have increased yearly. The year 2000 now a total membership of 48 member clubs. Listed in Appendix III.

4.3 The A.L.C. actively promotes a code of conduct for lurcher work, which includes rulesand it has a constitution (Appendix III), which all members agree to abide by. It is also a condition of A.L.C membership that members must be a paid up member of the Countryside Alliance if they want to take part in A.L.C coursing competitions, for the purpose of the Public Liability insurance provided by this membership.

4.4 However, the A.L.C was not the first national group to work towards these aims. The National Lurcher & Racing Club was formed in 1980. It is the largest, (1500 members), and the only national lurcher club. Details about the NL & RC are contained in Appendix I. In 1999, the N.L.&R.C. added to the Association of Lurcher Club’s success by joining them. The respective role of these lurcher organisations differs greatly. The N.L.& R.C. is the only national lurcher club,with a membership in excess of 1000 individual lurcher owners, it also has overseas enthusiasts within its membership. It aims to represent the individual lurcher enthusiast. The A.L.C. is the recognised reprentative national body for lurcher clubs. An organisational structure for each group is also contained in their respective Appendices.

4.5 The activities of the two groups contrasts widely. As stated, the role of the A.L.C. is to educate and regulate, and to unify the lurcher club movement, to represent clubs on a national basis. The future of the A.L.C. is discussed in an article by it’s Chairman, Alan Tyer, Appendix XI. In addition to those ends, the A.L.C. also holds two separate hare coursing championships (meet cards are also detailed in Appendix VII), one is the National ‘double -handed lurcher coursing championship, the other is the national ‘single-handed’ championship. To enter a competitor in either of these events, lurcher owners must be members of the A.L.C. Membership of the A.L.C. is only £3.00 per annum, and club chairmen do recieve newsletters.

4.6 The role of the N.L.&R. C. is alse to promote and educate, they were the first lurcher organisation to publish a code of conduct for lurcher owners, and the first to produce a professional leaflet on lurchers (Appendix I). The Committee and individual members of the N.L.&R.C. have also worked hard for twenty years to build up a very busy show agenda. The N.L.&R.C. include many different activities in their show shedules. In addition to a lurcher show, which is increasingly popular and is as important to many of the entrants as any Cruftes qualifier, many ‘fun’ events are also included. These events include long jump and hurdle racing for lurchers, simulated coursing, and for the more serious, there are the obedience trials. The six finalists from the annuals obedience championship, will then go on to compete in a field trial event. N.L.&R.C. shows are very focused on the family, and shedules always include classes for the ‘juniors’. Lurchers are clearly very adaptable and versatile dogs.

4.7 The N.L.&R.C. also has a demonstration team, who are extremly popular at game fairs and agricultural shows. The aims of the team are to educate the public about lurchers and their work, but they are also experts at keeping the surrounding crowds well entertained. N.L.&R.C. members also benefit from newsletter and an annual magazine. There is also a junior membership, who recieve addtional membership benefits including their own newsletter.

Back to top

4.8 Other Lurcher Shows

Not all lurcher shows are organised by the two organisations previously mentioned. There are many local, independant lurcher clubs, and occasionally individuals may also organise lurcher shows. An idea of the nation popularity of these shows can be achieved from a quik glance at the show diary, published every week in the Countryman’s Weekly, (Appendix XII).

4.9 The survey results returned a statistic that only 25% of lurcher owners actually show their dogs, despite the popularity if lurcher shows. The show diary provides evidence of the national enthusiasm and support for these events, and attendance figure at game fairs, such as Chatworth, perhaps demonstrates that it is probable that the estimate of 100,000 lurcher owners is a conservative one.

4.10 In comparison to Chatsworth, many other lurcher shows are smaller affairs, and many are lurcher and terrier shows which are organised as an annual event by the local hunt. A separate study, Appendix XIV, provided evidence that 40% of lurcher enthusiats also follow mounted and/or foot hound packs, so thse shows are also an opportunity for the hunts to show additional interest in their followeres. It is also an observation that the popularity of organising hunt lurcher and terrier shows, perhaps demonstrates the success of hunts in never missing a fundraising opportunity. The way that hunts, terriers and lurcher people share these social activities, provides evidence of the shared support by those involved in different methods of hunting with dogs.

Back to top

4.11 Independant Lurcher Clubs

The investigations on which this report is based faced some difficulty in verifying the total number of lurcher clubs which exist in Britain. The 48 member clubs of the A.L.C. were readily listed, a certain number of other clubs, 12, are well established and well known, and were easily identifiable as clubs affiliated to the Countryside Alliance. These included Anglia Lurcher Owners Club, Surrey Working Lurcher Club, and the Doncaster and District Lurcher Club. Other clubs are group members of the Alliance, many of these are also members of the A.L.C. A list of the 48 member clubs of the ALC and details of all other clubs identified, are contained in Appendix XIII. The total no of clubs identified is 87. The addresses of these Clubs must be treated in the strictest confidence, they are given only to provide evidence for the Inquiry. Anecdotal evidence shows that there appear to be two reasons for founding or joining a lurcher club. The first is if the lurcher owner has a particular interest in showing his dogs, and seeks to develop this interest into organising shows, the second is if the lurcher owner is a hare coursing enthusiast, and seeks to develop this interest by becoming involved in lurcher club coursing meets.

Back to top

5.0 Animal Welfare

5.1 Introduction

To avoid repetition, it is recommended that the Committee refer to the Submission entitled ‘Can’t See the Wood for the Trees ? The Animal Welfare Perspective’, by Deborah Blount, which discusses most aspects relating to animal welfare and hunting with dogs. However, this section will include a brief discussion, in respect of animal welfare, regarding the activity of hunting with lurchers compared to hunting with hounds and greyhounds. It will also discuss, in animal welfare terms, the alternative methods of controlling or managing the quarry species.

5.2 Hunting With Dogs.

To the casual observer, and to those who oppose the activity, it may often appear that there is little or no difference to the different kinds of hunting with dogs. Yet in respect of the complicities of countryside management, the different roles played by each are crucial. For example the conservation benefits which are contributed to the land, by the hound sports, cannot be met by the lurcher community. This is largely due to financial constraints of a largely working class lurcher (Appendix IV) community. But it is also due to the fact that the working lurcher plays a totally different role. This is essentially that of pest control. The comparison, in animal welfare terms, with the lurcher compared to other methods of pest control will be discussed in a later section.

5.3 To fully understand the need for different kinds of hunting dogs, it must first be stated that the type of dog or hound used is dependent on three factors, the type of terrain, the population density of the quarry species, and the preference of a particular method of control by an individual farmer.

5.4 When considering terrain, the size, type, agility and robustness of the breed of dog used for hunting, is dictated by the type of land being hunted. However, the wide variety of lurcher ‘types’, results in the ability of the lurcher to hunt most quarry over most different terrains. So why isn’t all hunting done with lurcher ?

5.5 In terms of pest control lurchers are popular as the most effective, fast, humane, natural, and controllable of predators. This is because lurchers aim to catch the available quarry in the shortest possible time and distance. This is demonstrated by the video; Lurcher Mania (Appendix V). This results in lurcher comparing well, in animal welfare terms, with hounds, who trail their quarry by scent over a longer distance and time. The lurcher is then encouraged to retrieve his catch alive and often unharmed, this ability is demonstrated by the video; Lurcher Mania (Appendix V). The lurcher owner will then humanely dispatch the animal, almost always by swiftly breaking its neck. It is critical to note that this evidence dispels the myth that all dogs ‘tear animals to pieces’. A lurcher which retrieves the catch alive and unharmed is the ideal lurcher, for the simple reason that the catch is an important food source to the owner, who may either eat or market, the clean complete carcase. This results in the conclusion that the lurcher compares very well, in animal welfare terms relating to the length of chase and the humaneness of the kill, with other types of hunting dog or hound.

5.6 That the speed and efficiency of the lurcher result in it being a good way of controlling or culling rabbits, hares and foxes, etc is clear, the drawback is that the lurcher’s efficiency lowers the ratio of ‘survival of the fittest’. The quarry of the lurcher has to be extremely healthy and fit to escape pursuit. In terms of pest control, the lurcher is the ideal hunting dog to use in over populated area’s, where the hare is clearly an agricultural pest, as it is the most efficient dog for culling large numbers.

5.7 But the services of the lurcher are rarely required in area’s where the population density of the quarry species is low. This is particularly true in respect of hares, but is also a consideration for the management of the fox population. For example, where the hare is relatively scarce, with lurchers, a low population would reduce beyond that which is desirable. In these area’s, it is most common to see the existence of packs of hare hounds. The hares and the farmers benefit greatly from the conservation benefits provided by the hunts. And, although these hunts do cull some hares, it tends to be only the very weakest animals. This leaves a maximum of a healthy breeding nucleus, as hare hounds result in a higher ratio of ‘survival of the fittest’. The need for different breeds of hunting dogs is explained.

5.8 The Lurcher as a Method of Pest Control.

The need for specific species to be controlled is clearly defined by MAFF in respect of rabbits and foxes as these are clearly defined in law as agricultural vermin. The hare has a slightly different status, as it has two definitions, both the status of a game animal, and the status of an agricultural pest. The laws relating to the quarry species currently ensure that the respective species will be controlled. The only relevant discussion is if hunting with dogs is an appropriate and humane method.

5.9 That the dog is a natural and selective method of control has already been discussed. Lurchers are also fast. Most catches are concluded after a run which has lasted seconds rather than minutes, and they retrieve their catch alive, or, particularly in the case of inedible quarry, they immediately kill the animal, either with a swift, crushing bite (rats), or by shaking (foxes), which dislocates vertebrae and breaks the animals spine. So in terms of animal welfare how does this method of killing compare with other methods ?

5.10 Mechanical Methods

That a benefit of rifle shooting can result in the swiftest death, when the rifle is in the hands of a highly skilled marksman, is beyond question. As a selective method, it may be argued that the person may ‘select’ an individual animal for culling, as in the case of deer stalking. But as a selective method which results in, the Natural process of ‘survival of the fittest’, to leave a healthy breeding nucleus, it does not equate well, in animal welfare terms with Hunting with Dogs. Wild mammals suffer from many internal ailments which are not discernable to the human eye, and shooting has no chase to test the animals fitness. The trigger is often pulled at the first glimpse of an animal, which means that the only time for assessment of the animals health is when it is dead.

5.11 It must also be stated that dogs, unlike guns, never leave an animal injured, to suffer protracted discomfort or pain. Dogs always either kill instantaneously, or the dog owner intervenes with the kill and dispatches the animal as swiftly and humanely as possible. In respect of shooting, the role of the dog is still essential in order to locate wounded animals. This is overwhelmingly evident in the case of ‘runners’(injured birds), with pheasant shooting, and in the case of staghounds commonly being called out to locate deer which are suffering from wounds caused by shotguns or rifles. Sadly, injured foxes are rarely located by anyone, this is most likely due to the carcass being inedible and therefore of little interest. The submission by British Wildlife Management (Marriage), is recommended reading for an accurate discussion of the frequency and length of suffering of animals which are shot compared to animals which are hunted with dogs.

5.12 In order to avoid repetition, other mechanical methods, such as the use of traps and snares, will not be discussed in this report. It is considered that other interested parties will have covered these.

5.13 Chemical Control.

The use of poisons is, most appropriately , severely restricted as a method of pest control. However, they are still commonly used to control moles (strychnine) and rats (warfarin, etc.). In terms of animal welfare and the discussion of what is ‘humane’, it must be clearly emphasized that protection from inhumane methods should not be restricted to specific species such as deer, hares, mink and foxes. If it is not humane to kill a fox with poison, then it cannot be humane, in terms of animal welfare, to kill any other mammal with the same toxic substance. This is a perplexing anomaly in that Animal rights/Animal welfare should not be species specific. Yet those who oppose hunting with dogs have clearly demonstrated, that for the majority this is the case. Were it not, each piece of previous, failed legislative attempts to prohibit hunting with dogs, would have heard the corridors of the Commons echoing with cries of ‘what about rats, squirrels and rabbits too....’

5.14 Toxic substances, either in liquid, solid or gaseous form are not selective methods of control. Nor is the nice thought of the animal drifting pleasantly off to sleep, a demonstratable reality. The dangers to other mammalian species from the use of poison has been proven by their use being strictly prohibited. The dangers of the use of gas to kill other mammals, is demonstrated by MAFF studies which resulted in it no longer being used as a method to cull badgers under licence. Although it is still commonly used for other species, especially in respect of large rabbit populations. Yet the risk of suffering, in animal welfare terms, is no less for rabbits than it was for badgers. Rabbits burrow in the same permeable soil types as badgers, and this reduces the effectiveness of the gas. This results in the consideration the gas may fail to kill, and seriously ill, but alive rabbits may be entombed in the burrows. The entrances have been blocked to contain the gas, by the ‘pest controller’.

5.15 A further welfare consideration with the use of gas and chemical substances, is that they are used with the aim of killing the total local population. Where the health of a complete ecosystem should be of paramount importance, this can clearly lead to starvation problems for mammals further up the food chain, whose food source often disappears totally. This factor never occurs in hunting with dogs as a method of control, they are never so effective as to detrimentally impact on a total population. The fact that none of the species hunted appear on the rare and protected list, is testament to this.

Back to top

6.0

The Lurcher Survey

6.1 Introduction

This section of the report will provide a statement of the current investigation into the social and economic contribution of lurcher owners and their related activities.

6.2 The empirical findings discussed in this section of the report are derived from the results of a survey (contained in Appendix IV), which was conducted during 1999, by Deborah Blount in association with the Countryside Alliance Campaign Group. The survey was completed voluntarily by respondents. The questionnaire was structured to provide statistical evidence relating to the following area’s:

- To provide a quantitative estimate of the number of lurcher owners, and of the number of lurchers owned by each.

- To ascertain the range of lurcher activities, and the number of participants involved in each.

- To investigate the popularity of lurcher clubs.

- To provide evidence of the value of the lurcher as a method of pest control.

- To provide evidence for analysis regarding the value of services provided by lurcher owners to the farming community.

- To provide quantitative evidence of the economic contribution relating to lurcher activities.

Please note that percentage figures quoted in the report may not add up to 100. This is due to multiple responses and abstensions.

6.3 The questionnaire was distributed as widely as possible. The following methods were used selected:

- To individuals via lurcher clubs and organizations.

- To readers of sporting interest magazines, ie: Countryman’s Weekly.

- To individuals attending lurcher shows and game fairs.

6.4 The number of respondents who are members of lurcher clubs at 40% is considered to be unrepresentative of the lurcher population as a whole. There are two reasons for this, the first was the excellent response to the survey from all clubs polled, but from three in particular; The N.L.&R.C. at 150 respondents, the Northumberland & Durham Working Lurcher Club at 40, and the Anglia Lurcher Owners Club at 17. The second reason is that the response to a later question (Q.7) showed that in total the respondents ‘personally’ know on average a further 7.7 lurcher owners who are not members of any clubs or other country sports organizations.

6.5 Clubs vary widely in size, the N.L.&.R.C. as the largest lurcher club in Britain, has 1500 members, the Countryside Alliance group and affiliated club statistics (for April 19999), provide evidence of lurcher club membership ranging from 180 (Sussex Longdog Association), to an average membership of 8 - 12 in respect of local lurcher / lurcher coursing clubs. In view of these variances an ‘average’ lurcher club head count has not been estimated. A total of 87 lurcher clubs were identified, Appendix XIII.

Back to top

6.6 The Number of Lurcher Owners

In preparing the total estimated number of lurcher owners, the only figures used were as follows:

Countryside Alliance individual totals for pest control and coursing , (February 200) 11,155.

Countryside Alliance club and Affiliated group members for lurcher clubs only, (April 1999), which provided a total head count of 1,767, for 34 lurcher clubs.

Total Countryside Alliance lurcher membership 12,922.

6.7 This multiplied by the 7.7 independent lurcher owning individuals, identified by the survey respondents, provides a figure of 99,400 lurcher owners (at present) who are not member of lurcher clubs or representative organizations. Clearly, if the 40% of club respondents had provided a figure representative of the lurcher population as a whole, membership of groups and organizations would have totaled in excess of 40,000.

6.8 However, it is still considered that the substantiated estimate given , may be a conservative one. It was noted during analysis of the results, that the responses to question 7 (‘How many lurcher owners do you personally know who are not members of any lurcher clubs or field sports organization ?’),yielded responses ranging from

1 - 30, with 20% or one in five , stating that they were unacquainted with any lurcher owners in this category. This is considered to be particularly significant. It would appear that there is a distinct group of one in five lurcher owners who do not fraternize with other lurcher enthusiasts. This may substantiate the observation that lurcher owners have a tenancy toward solitude. In terms of estimating the total lurcher population, this reflects in the possible existence of a further 20,000 lurcher owners which the research and analysis has largely failed to identify.

6.9 However, the two known, reliable statistics provide the following total:

Countryside Alliance lurcher membership total: 12,922
Independent individual lurcher owners: 99,500
Total lurcher owners: 112,422

N.B. These figure do not reflect the number of lurchers which are kept as pets by the general public. The survey was not targeted at this group.

The estimate was also over symplified by excluding all clubs who were not Countryside Alliance members This was because number of individuals involved in independent lurcher lurcher clubs, was impossible to accurately ascertain. This is partly due to the difficulty in assessing a reasonable figure for ‘average’ club membership (section 6.5), and partly due to the difficulty involved in identifying the many small, local lurcher clubs. The 87 clubs which were identifed are listed in Appendix XIII. All Names and addresses contained in this document must be treated in the strictest confidence, they are supplied for the purposes of the Inquiry only.

6.10 The Number of Lurchers

The survey also provided evidence that lurcher owners keep an average of 2.2 lurchers per owner. This provides a total estimate of the number of working (hunting) lurchers kept in Britain to be: 247,382.

6.11 There are two explanations for the number of lurchers owned being approximately two dogs. Both relate to the evidence that 93.5 % of lurcher owners actually work (hunt) their dogs. Section 2.4 discussed the difference between the different lurcher types and provided the view that some lurchers are specialist hunters, ie; that there are ‘rabbiting ‘ lurchers and that there are ‘coursing’ lurchers. As lurcher coursing is a growth area of interest, demonstrated by the annual increase in the number of lurcher coursing clubs (A.L.C. membership figures, 1998 - 2000, Appendix VII), it is probable that many lurcher owners keep one dog for rabbiting and pest control work, and keep a second dog for hare coursing. A second probability is that the need to have a lurcher able, and sufficiently experienced to work, may result in many lurcher enthusiasts bringing on a younger dog to replace an older dog who is nearing retirement. Anecdotal evidence supports both as real life case scenarios.

Back to top

6.12 Lurcher Owning

Lurcher people keep an average of 2.2 dogs each. The most popular hunting activities are lamping, 78 % of respondents, ferreting - 63 %, and coursing52 % of respondents. The results also revealed a wide range of other, mosly sporting / pest control activities, which are detailed in Appendix IV, Question 2.

6.13 The interest in the wide variety of lurcher activities, described earlier in Section 2, coupled with only limited interest in showing (25%), Racing (13%), and obedience 11.5%), perhaps offers some explanation as to why lurcher owners rarely organise themselves into groups or clubs, The tendency toward solitude, in repect of this, was also demonstrated by the Countryside Alliance club membership totaling only 1,767 people compared with 11,155 individual members. Section 1 discussed the wide variety of lurcher types, and it would appear that their owners are of the same ilk.

6.14 The results of an earlier, separate study (Appendix XIV), support this view and provide some additional, relevant information about lurcher owners. In respect of the only two similar questions in both studies, each supports the other in the following; There was some correlation in the number of lurcher respondents who were not members of clubs and/ fieldsports organisations, at 53.3 %, (which was shown to be unrepresentative in Section 6.7), and the earlier study showed that 50 % of lurcher owners are involved in hare coursing.

6.15 The results this study provided evidence of the other countrysports interests of lurcher owners, these are reproduced as follows:

15% Clay pigeon shooting

37.5% Hunting - Foot 2.5% Stalking - hill
50% Coursing 12.5% Hunting - Mounted 40% Terrier work
10% Falconry 100% Lurchers 7.5% Wildfowling
77.5% Ferreting 27.5% Shooting - game 7.5% Other....vermin control
22.5% Fishing - coarse / sea 42.5% Shooting - rough  
17.5% Game fishing 2.5% Stalking - woodland  

Table 1

5% Unwaged

25% £10,000 - £15,000 17.5% £20,000 - £35,000
15% Up to £10,000 25% £15,000 - £20,000 5% £35,000 +

Table 2

It is evident that lurcher owners actively support every other country sport. Although it could be concluded, for example; that 17.5% of game fishermen also keep a lurcher, but it is considered far more likely that the above results in fact show that lurcher owning is a prioriy for this goup, and amongst their number, are many individuals who take a keen interest in the cornucipia of countrysports.

6.16 Many different hypothesies could be rationalized from the above statistics. However, two in particular have supporting evidence, discussed previous sections. The first being the close relationship between lurcher and terrier owner, and the show diary (Appendix XII), which demonstrated the common occurance of lurcher and terrier shows as combined events. The second being the active support for hunting with hounds, especially on foot, demontrated by a total of 50 % of lurcher owners. This was again supported by the show diary providing evidence of the lurcher and terrier shows which are organised by hunts. The fact that the lurcher owners identified, are not ‘traditional’ hunting folk, is evident by only two % of this number subscribing to Horse and Hound, (Appendix IV).

6.17 The study also provided statisticts relating to annual income. The lurcher owner is commonly portrayed as a ‘na’er do well’, ie; Claude Greengrass in ITV’s Heartbeat, and Zak Dingle in Emmerdale. However the evidence provided in the above table, in fact provided evidence that there are lurcher owners in every income category. The majority falling within the average working wage. Although , it is further considered that the results reflect that it would not be an assumption to say that lurcher owners do come from all walks of life.

Back to top

6.18 Economic Contribution

The Lurcher Survey was the first study on lurchers to include deatiled questions relating to expenditure, No economic statistics prior to this study could be traced. The data provided by the study relate only to the amount spent by lurcher owners on; dog food; veterinary expenses; sporting equipment and sundries; and fuel. The revenue calculated relates only to the amount spent by lurcher owners.

The value of the services to the farming industry, of sporting rights fees, and of the revenue generated by the sale of game has not yet been calculated.

 

6.19 With regard to the economic contribution, the results show that it costs an average of £4.99 per week to feed one lurcher. As an average of 2.2 dogs are kept per owner, the average lurcher owner therefore spends almost £12 per week on the cost of feeding their lurchers.

Other expenses involved in keeping, and working lurchers, are as follows:

Veterinary Expenses - Average of £125.60 per annum.

Sporting Equipment and Sundries - Average of £168.18 per annum.

Fuel Costs - Average of £313.50 per annum.

TABLE 3

REVENUE GENERATED

Per Annum -
Per EACH 1000 lurcher owners
Dog food
£570856.00
Veterinary
£125600.00
Sporting Equipment & Sundries
£168180.00
Fuel
£313500.00
TOTAL
£1,178,136.00

 

6.19 The lurcher contribution to the farming community is also proved to be significant.

Although a small number of respondents own their own land, a majority, 82.3 %, obtain their permission free in exchange for vermin control. Only 5.7 % charge the landowner / farmer for this service.

8.5 % of respondents pay ‘sporting rights’ fees, but a total of 52.5 % of respondents further assist the landowner / farmer with the following:

no. of respondents

18 % - Conservation

16.5 % - Beating for the shoot

18 % - Poacher patrol

A wide range of other services performed by lurcher owners for landowners / farmers, was also identified. These are detailed in full in Appendix I, question 8.

6.20 The final question related to distribution of game caught by lurcher owners. The vast majority, 63.5 %, use the game for their own consumption or distribute it to family and friends, 18.5 %. 40 % respondents use the carcasses for dog and ferret food. While only 27.5 % of respondents sell to game dealers and to butchers.

6.21 A ‘typical’ lurcher owner, briefly describes himself, and explains why working lurchers are so important to his life in Appendix XV. The Inquiry would have received many, many thousands more letters from lurcher owners, had the need to write been better publicized to Lurcher owners. The only notification to many was a last minute plea which appeared in Countryman’s Weekly on the Friday before the deadline for Inquiry Submissions.

Back to top

7.0 A Ban ?

7.1 In respect of the effects of a ban, section 6.19 described and substantiated the range of services provided to the farming community by the lurcher owner. The most significant service being that of the control of agricultural pests. It is considered that a discussion of Rabbit control is relevant to the Inquiry because more rabbits are hunted with dogs than any other quarry species. One of the current alternatives to natural methods of rabbit control is the use of Cymag gas. It is commonly used by Railtrack contractors , for the purposes of totally eradicating rabbit populations which often thrive alongside railway lines. The location, in this specific circumstance, dictates that Cymag is one of the most convenient methods of carrying out the control. It is suggested that the cost in both pounds and man hours, could be obtained from Railtrack, in relation to their expenditure on pest control. The information could then be multiplied to estimate a national figure for the possible cost to the farming industry of switching to Cymag as a alternative form of pest control.

7.2 In respect of shooting being the preferred alternative, in resect of all quarry species, the sporting interests of lurcher owners, section 6.15, show that many lurcher owners are already involved in shooting. This suggests that where shooting is the most appropriate method of control, that it is already the current method being used. Certain locations and terrains are often far more suitable to one type of control as opposed to another. The most appropriate method may change again dependant upon the time of year and/or the method of agriculture being employed.

The choice of method of control must remain with the farmer. It is always better to rely on practical judgement and proven common sense, than it is to consider legislative proposals which are sheer nonsense to those directly involved.

7.3 The extent to which any detrimental effect of a ban being offset by other measures has been discussed in the preceding paragraphs. But a final consideration would be if the activities of working lurchers could be directed toward any other outlet. The activity of simulated coursing could be considered. The survey results showed that 13 % of lurcher owners currently enjoy such activities. However, the survey also provided evidence that 93.5 % of lurcher owners work their lurchers. Anecdotal evidence supports the view that simulated events are viewed as a ‘bit of fun’, and only then during the summer months when the lurcher would otherwise remain largely inactive. This is supported by a lack of shows and simulated events during the winter ‘working’ season.

It is therefore considered that the detrimental effects of a potential ban would have a devastating effect on lurcher owners as there is no practical or popular alternative. The most serious consideration for debate regarding any legislative change, must be to encourage law keeping, and discourage law breaking.

Lurcher people feel very strongly indeed about the right to work their dogs.

7.4 After discussing the implications relating to legislative proposals, this report would like to state that it considers that the findings of the Inquiry should be used to direct the vote of M.P.’s during the reading of the proposed Bill. It is considered that should Hunting With Dogs be vindicated, that the activity should afterwards be removed from the political agenda. The reason for this is that those involved in Hunting With Dogs, have spent the latter part of the 20th Century fearing and fighting for the right to retain ‘freedom of choice’. They have repeatedly vindicated themselves, but the personal stress caused by the fear of losing their ‘way of life’ has unjustly continued with repeated legislative attempts. This should not be allowed to continue. The many thousands of supporters involved must be allowed to live in peace without political threat or fear. Hunting With Dogs must be removed from the political agenda.

References

1974. Harmar, Hilary. Dogs and How to Breed Them. John Gifford Ltd., London

1999. Sheardown, Frank. The Working Longdog. Swan Hill Press. 1998. Pye-Smith, Charles. Hare Hunting, the forgotten fieldsport. Wildlife Network.

1999. Barker, John. The face of modern poaching. Country Sports (magazine).

1996. Foxes and Foxhunting. League Against Cruel Sports Leaflet


 

Back to top

RESULTS

CONFIDENTIAL SURVEY - THE LURCHER CONTRIBUTION

Please note that percentage figures may not add up to 100 due to multiple responses and abstensions. The results detailed below are based on the first 328 questionnaires completed and returned

1, How many lurchers do you currently own ? (Please state number)

Average 2.2 per owner Total 725 per 328 owners

2, About your lurchers - do you mostly......

Work 93.5% Race 13% Obedience 11.5% Show 25% Other 19%

Other activities included: Shooting, beating, longnetting, bushing, ratting, agility, fly ball, display work, etc.

3, If you work your lurchers do you go...

lamping 78% ferreting 63% coursing 52%

4. How many shows / game fairs do you attend each year?

Approx. No. attended none 9% 1-5 40% 6-10 27% 10+ 14%

5. Do you regularly buy field sports magazines?

Regularly 85% Sometimes 12% None 3%

Please refer to page 4 for list of magazines and percentage of readers.

6, Are you a member of any lurcher or coursing clubs and / or other organisations?

Yes 40% No 60%

40% respondents are members of 35 clubs

Please refer to the page 3 for list of Clubs and other organisations

7, How many lurcher owners do you personally know who are NOT members of any lurcher clubs or field sports organisations ? Please state number :

Average of 7.7 (please note that 20% of respondents stated 0)

8, Please state, ON AVERAGE, how much you spend on feeding ONE lurcher per week ( please include the cost of supplements, etc.)

Average of £4.99 per dog per week range of £1 to £15 per dog

9, Please state, ON AVERAGE, how much you spend on veterinary fees per year
( please include the cost of innoculations, worming etc.)

Average of £125.60 per year range of £30 to £500 per year

10, Please state, ON AVERAGE, how much you spend on sporting equipment and sundries per year (including magazines, books, etc.)

Average of £168.18 per year range of £10 to £1000

and now state approxiamate cost of fuel used (ie: petrol / diesel)

Average of £313.50 per year range of 0 to £3000

11, About your permission, do you;

6.4% Own land  
82.3% Accept it free of charge in exchange for vermin control  
5.7% Charge the landowner / farmer for vermin control  
8.5% Pay a ‘sporting rights’ fee, please indicate cost per year £120 - £3000 per year
    £10 per day

Assist the landowner / farmer with any of the following:

18% Conservation

16.5% Beating for the shoot 18% Poacher patrol

Other ...fewer than 5% each of these also assist with:

Keepers / help keepers / game management
General farm help
Odd jobs
Fencing
Tree coppicing
Building
Welding & repairs
Other pest control

Neighbourhood watch

Assisted with Bristol University wild life population Survey

12, What do you do woth the game you catch?

63.5% Eat

27.5% Sell
18.5% Give away 40% Pet food

REVENUE GENERATED

Per Annum - Per 1000 lurcher owners

Dog food £570856.00
Veterinary £125600.00

Sporting Equipment & Sundries

£168180.00
Fuel £313500.00
TOTAL £1,178,136.00

The revenue calculated relates only to the amount spent by lurcher owners.

The value of the services to the farming industry, of sporting rights fees, and of the revenue generated by the sale of game has not yet beeen calculated.

 

LURCHER CLUBS

No. of respondents

6 East of England Lurcher Club
150 National Lurcher and Racing Club 3 Doncaster & District Lurcher Club
3 Derbyshire Lurcher Club 1 Norfolk Lurcher Society
3 Derbyshire Lurchers and Longdogs 5 Norfolk Lurcher Club
1 John Jones Coursing Club 3 Lincolnshire Lurcher Club
4 Penistone and District Lurcher Club 17 Anglia Lurcher Owners Club
1 S.L.A. 2 Exmoor Ferret and Lurcher Club
1 South Kent Lurchers 40 Northumberland & Durham LurcherClub
2 Shropshire Lurcher Club 6 Uplands Lurchers & Longdogs
2 Shropshire Lurcher Society 1 ManorLurcherClub
2 Kelvin Valley 1 East Midlands Coursing Club
6 Thames - side Racing Club 1 Brosley Lurcher Club
1 D.W.L.R.C. 1 North East Lurcher Club
1 Hode View Rabbiting Club 1 Three Feathers Coursing Club
1 South West Lurcher And Terrier Club 1 Downlands Coursing Club
2 Surrey Working Lurcher Club 1 Southern Coursing Club
6 Sussex Longdogs 1 Tweed Valley Coursing Club

 

It should be noted that the number of respondents does not neccessarily relate to the respective size of club membership, but it is considered more likey to relate directly to the club chair or secretay encouraging members to take part in the survey. As in many cases only the Chairman or secretary replied.

Membership of other Organisations

16% Countryside Alliance

4% British Association for Shooting and Conservation

3% Fell & Moorland Working Terrier Club

1% National Working Terrier Federation

1% Coursing Supporters Club

0.5% each Game Conservancy, Deehound Club, Union of Country Sports Workers, Greyhound Coursing Clubs, other terrier clubs, etc.

Magazines

76% Countrymans Weekly

18% Earth Dog - Running Dog

6% Shooting Times

3% The Field

2% Horse & Hound

2% Sporting Gun

1% Hounds

1% Airgun World

1% Airgunner

1% Trout & Salmon

1% Sporting Gazette


Back to top

Multiple and partial responses mean that percentage figures may not add up to 100

RESULTS - LURCHER OWNERS

From: Deborah Blount. 1997. Strategies to encourage membership of the British Fieldsports Society. University of Derby

 

13. Are you a member of any other field sports related organisation or club ?

53.3% No
32% BFSS members
20% Lapsed BFSS members
24% members of other clubs / organisations

14. Please indicate your main sporting interests;

  15%

Clay pigeon shooting 37.5% Hunting - Foot 2.5% Stalking - hill

50%

Coursing 12.5% Hunting - Mounted 40% Terrier work
10% Falconry 100% Lurchers 7.5% Wildfowling
77.5% Ferreting 27.5% Shooting - game 7.5% Other....vermin control
22.5% Fishing - coarse / sea 42.5% Shooting - rough    
17.5% Game fishing 2.5% Stalking - woodland    

 

15. Is your age;

0% Under 18

35% 26 -35 15% 51 -70
15% 18 - 25 35% 36 -50 0% Over 70

 

16. Is your individual / household income ?

5% Unwaged

25% £10,000 - £15,000 17.5% £20,000 - £35,000
15% Up to £10,000 25% £15,000 - £20,000 5% £35,0

 

Back to top


Date uploaded to site 23 March 2000