This was an article written for Agility Voice when I was competing my two Lurchers Marra and Tousie. Competitive agility in the UK is dominated by Border Collies with non Collie dogs often competing in their own classes called ABC (Anything But Collies) at midi or standard height. However, Lurchers can be very successful in their own right against Collies and this article was written to raise awareness of the breed and to encourage people to think about a rescue Lurcher. Elise Cartmell.
Well, if you are looking for an exciting ABC dog, which is fun to work, then a Lurcher most certainly fits that description. The Lurcher is not a recognised breed, but a purpose bred working dog and is always a sight hound cross. The Greyhound cross is the most popular but Whippet and Saluki crosses are common types too. The Deerhound is also used, but not as much as in the past, due to the increasing popularity for smaller, more flexible dogs, for rabbit hunting. There is a term ‘Longdog’ which is often, but not universally, applied to a hound crossed with another hound – so a Saluki first cross with a Greyhound would be a Longdog as would a Deerhound/Greyhound first cross. In practice, many Lurchers are bred to Lurchers so a mixture of the many generations is usual. However, Lurchers all generally have the hound conformation, in that they are slim built with longish legs with a good breadth of chest. They are all mostly incredible athletic, fast and agile.
A great thing about Lurchers is the variety of types – small (Midi size), medium and large (standard size) or just very large! They can be rough, broken or smooth coated. A Deerhound cross would be rough coated as would most Terrier crosses. So if you are looking for a Lurcher it’s good to have an idea of what type has what physical and temperament characteristics. If you want a quieter dog, then the Longdogs, i.e. a Whippet/Greyhound would be less lively than a Terrier/Whippet for example. You also need to bear in mind the characteristics of the parent dogs and usually the more valuable Lurchers are clearly from particular breeds, rather than out and out mixtures. Certainly, my Whippet crossed with everything dog Marra, is not a valuable commodity to anyone apart from me! It is generally the case that a working type dog is used for intelligence and working ability in the Lurcher with the hound providing the speed. Greyhound or Whippet crosses have great speed over short distances, whereas a Saluki cross is used to produce a Lurcher with more stamina. The most popular Terrier used is the Bedlington, with its curly coat, which produces an excellent smaller dog when combined with the Whippet. When looking for an actual working Lurcher the proportions of one breed to another is important and this is often stated in adverts for the dogs. If you are looking for an agility dog the chances are you will be opting for a hound crossed with a working dog or terrier and will probably avoid a Longdog especially the larger types. Or you could go for something completely different, like my other Lurcher Tousie, who is a Whippet/Poodle cross and that does seem to work very well in terms of intelligence, speed and general ability for agility.
Marra competing at a Pedigree Chum Final
Tousie at Rugby agility show
Lurchers in Agility
In agility the Lurcher is great fun to work. They are usually very keen and fast and just seem to have a great time out on the course. They are generally more relaxed about the ‘agility circuit’ and are often seen snoozing by the ringside only to explode when they are given the go ahead in the ring. Therefore, I find them a lot easier to be around than the more ‘hyped’ collie types. Another advantage is that they just do not seem to knock poles and can often jump from a complete standstill if required - which is quite frequently if I am handling the course. On the whole, I find Lurchers very biddable, and I do not find you need to go through some of the training ‘battle of wills’, which can be the case with other breeds. It is not all plain sailing of course, and certainly I think every Lurcher owner could do without those up contacts! I tend to brake slightly about 6 feet away from an up contact in a competition, which can result in my dogs breaking their stride sufficiently to manage the contact. I am sure others have different methods as well. Lurchers are also not workalcoholics and in agility, when training often requires repetition, the Lurcher handler is going to have to work harder to keep the dog motivated than most collie owners. This is seen most noticeable with the weaves in my case. Added problems are keeping your hunting machine focussed on agility in a training area in the middle of a rabbit zone and getting your sensitive Whippet cross over a course in the rain! And why the wind gets up Lurchers every so often, to start them off on mad circling antics round the ring, I do not think we will ever entirely know - but at least they are having a good time doing it. Do not get me wrong though, Lurchers do not spend all their time circling madly. They are actually very good competitive agility dogs and a number can be seen working in starters to seniors and beyond.
So hopefully I have managed to convince you that a Lurcher should be your next dog, but, where can you get hold of one? Unfortunately, a lot of Lurchers can be found in rescues for a variety of reasons. Lurchers are not always bred by people who are in circumstances to bring up pups and they are homed to people for whom they are unsuitable. Many young dogs come in from pet homes at around 1 year old for this reason – untrained and unsocialised. ‘Working’ homes, where owners want to work their dogs on rabbits for example, are often out working themselves, and dogs are left in kennels causing disruption with other dogs or neighbours. Working homes have strict requirements from a working dog and a puppy may get injured or just not live up to expectations. For example, he may not be interested in the work or have a ‘hard’ mouth resulting in the catch being damaged. Lurcher pups are seldom, if ever, taken back by the breeder for rehoming and so end up in rescues. However, once in rescues they do tend to languish there for long periods. People generally do not know about these types of dogs and their wonderful natures and adaptability to different circumstances. People looking for a dog or puppy would tend to have a pedigree type like a Labrador in mind instead. However, this attitude is changing and Greyhounds and Lurchers are becoming sought after as pets and to do things with like agility. My own dogs came from St Hubert’s Hound Sanctuary when Marra was 2 years old and Tousie 8 months and agility training was a vital part in helping me build up their confidence and develop a rapport with them. Indeed, Lurchers are after all, the best dogs on every count, and once you have owned a hound type you will never rush to own another breed again.
Charlie, another rescue Lurcher, jumping out and about in the country.
Article prepared by Claire and Elise Cartmell