Hare coursing

Hare coursing

Hare coursing is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds and other sighthounds, which chase the hare by sight and not by scent. It is a competitive sport in which dogs are tested on their ability to turn a hare, although it has a number of variations in its rules around the world. Informal coursing is often conducted to kill, either for betting or for food.

Coursing is a long established and common hunting technique, practiced historically with greyhounds or with lurchers, crosses of sighthounds and working breeds. The sport grew in popularity during the 19th century, but has since experienced a decline due in part to the introduction of greyhound racing.

In recent decades, controversy has developed around hare coursing, with some viewing it as a cruel bloodsport and others seeing it as a traditional activity, one that assists in the conservation of hares and tests the ability of a greyhound. Since 2002, hare coursing has been banned in Great Britain but continues elsewhere in the world as a regulated and judged, competitive sport, especially in the Republic of Ireland and Spain, as well as in Russia and the Western United States.


Formal coursing

. Arrian felt compelled to describe the sight hunt and sighthounds because the Ancient Greeks only knew the scent hunt. It is from Arrian that the most famous quote on the sporting fairness of coursing originates "... true huntsmen do not take out their hounds to catch the creature, but for a trial of speed and a race, and they are satisfied if the hare manages to find something that will rescue her". [cite book|last=Arrian|first=William Dansey|year=1831|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&id=2icOAAAAQAAJ&dq=arrian+%22on+coursing%22+&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=oQC1_mXRlE&sig=l2GypNC-Tlfj1qoLQiBJclnRo6M&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA108,M1http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&id=2icOAAAAQAAJ&dq=arrian+%22on+coursing%22+&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=oQC1_mXRlE&sig=l2GypNC-Tlfj1qoLQiBJclnRo6M&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA108,M1|title=On coursing|page=108|translator=Dansey, William |publisher=J. Bohn] cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/deerhounds2.htm|title=Deerhounds Coursing Club, Evidence to Burns Inquiry, Annex 1|accessdate=2008-04-10|year=2000|publisher=Defra] The competitive version of hare coursing was given definitive form when the first complete set of English rules was drawn up in the reign of Elizabeth I by Thomas Duke of Norfolk,cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=NWu6sLJn7-kC|title=Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports|author=Martin, J.|year=2005|publisher=Routledge|page=78–79|isbn=041535224X] providing for a headstart to be given to the hare and for the manner of awarding of points to judge the winning dog. [cite web|url=http://www3.sympatico.ca/afghaned/origcrse.html|title=Original British Coursing Rules|author=Duke of Norfolk|publisher=Nachtmusik Afghans|accessdate=2008-02-11] The first modern coursing club was established at Swaffham in 1776, and the National Coursing Club was founded to regulate the sport in 1858.cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=vtChCoG6veMC|title=Sport and the British: A Modern History|author=Holt, R.|year=1989|publisher=Oxford University Press|page=60|isbn=0192852299] During the 1800s, coursing crossed the class divide, [cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=D_eBJgwhNL8C|title=Leisure and Recreation in a Victorian Mining Community: The Social Economy|last=Metcalfe, |first=Alan|publisher=Routledge|year=2005|accessdate=2008-08-06|page=69|isbn=0415356970] and reached its peak of popularity, with more than 150 coursing clubs in Britain, some attracting up to 80,000 people. By the late 19th century, hare coursing had become a predominantly working class sport. [Cite journal|journal=Rural History|publisher=Cambridge University Press|year=2006|volume=17|issue=2|title=Putting Animals into Politics: The Labour Party and Hunting in the First Half of the Twentieth Century|author=Tichelar, M.|pages=213–234|doi=10.1017/S0956793306001889]

Coursing declined during the 20th century, notably due to the development of urban greyhound racing in the 1920s, [cite book|title=Gambling and Problem Gambling in Britain|accessdate=2008-06-21|page=4|author=Orford, J.; Sproston, K.; Erens, B.; White, C.; Mitchell, L.|publisher=Psychology Press|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=A0WOh5Ep4pwC|year=2003|isbn=1583919236] and there were less than 30 coursing clubs in the UK by 2000.

Informal coursing

The oldest form of hare coursing simply involved two dogs chasing a hare, the winner being the dog that caught the hare; this could be for pest control, for food or for sport. In order to indulge in the practice, various cross breeds (under the generic term lurchers) were developed and, still today, such animals may be specifically bred for coursing. [cite web|url= http://www.dogshome.org/rehome/choosing_a_pet/which_breed/lurcher.html|publisher=Battersea Dogs and Cats Home|title=Guide to lurchers|accessdate=2008-02-17] Informal coursing has long been closely associated with poaching, [cite journal|journal=Rural History|volume=17|issue=2|publisher=Cambridge University Press|year=2006|title=Rural and Urban Poaching in Victorian England|author=Osborne, H.; Winstanley, M.|pages=187–212|doi=10.1017/S0956793306001877] lacking the landowner's permission, and is often seen as a major problem by landowners and by the police. [cite news|url=http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=156130&command=displayContent&sourceNode=242285&home=yes&more_nodeId1=156139&contentPK=19710027|work=Lincolnshire Echo|title=Crackdown on hare coursing gangs|date=2008-01-30|accessdate=2008-01-11] Clubs affiliated to the Association of Lurcher Clubs organised informal coursing with the landowner's permission, sometimes using a single lurcher rather than a pair to chase a hare.

Description of formal coursing

Modern hare coursing is practiced using a number of sighthounds: mainly Greyhounds but also Borzois,cite web|url=http://www.borzoiclubofamerica.org/openfield.htm|publisher=Borzoi Club of America|title=Open Field Coursing with Borzoi|year=1998|accessdate=2008-02-11] Salukis, [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/sorghoundcoursing.htm|author=Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club Coursing Section|title=Evidence to Burns Inquiry: An introductory guide to saluki coursing|year=2000|accessdate=2008-06-22|publisher=Defra] Whippets, [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/natwhippetcoursing.htm|author=National Whippet Coursing Club|title=Evidence to Burns Inquiry|year=2000|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=Defra] and Deerhounds [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/deerhounds1.htm|author=Deerhound Coursing Club|title=Evidence to Burns Inquiry|year=2000|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=Defra] that are registered with a governing body such as the National Coursing Club or Kennel Club in Great Britain, the Irish Coursing Club or the National Open Field Coursing Association (NOFCA) in the US. Events are conducted through local coursing clubs which are regulated by their governing body. The objective of coursing is to test and judge the athletic ability of the dogs rather than to kill the hare.

Such hare coursing has a number of variations in how it is undertaken. Open coursing takes place in the open, and closed (or park or Irish style) coursing takes place in an enclosure with an escape route. Open coursing is either run as "walked-up" coursing, where a line of people walk through the countryside to flush out a hare, or as "driven coursing" (such as the Waterloo Cup), where hares are driven by beaters towards the coursing field. In each case, when a suitable hare appears, a person known as a "slipper" uses a "slip" with two collars to release two dogs at the same time, in pursuit of the hare which is given a head start (known as "fair law"), usually between nowrap|80–100 yards (nowrap|70–90 metres).cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/coursingclub1.htm|author=Blanning, C.|title=National Coursing Club Evidence to Burns Inquiry, part one|year=2000|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=Defra]

The chased hare will then run at 40–45 km/h (24–26 mph)cite journal|author=Reid, N.; McDonald, R.A.; Montgomery, W. I.|year=2007|title=Factors associated with hare mortality during coursing|journal=Animal Welfare|volume=16|issue=4|pages=427–434] and the course will last around 35–40 seconds over a third of a mile (0.5 km). The greyhounds which pursue the hare will, being faster, start to catch up with it. Since the greyhounds are much bigger than the hare, and much less agile, they find it hard to follow the hare's sharp turns, which it makes as the greyhounds threaten to reach it. This agility gives the hare an important and often crucial advantage as it seeks, usually successfully, to escape. Under National Coursing Club rules, the dogs are awarded points on how many times they can turn the hare, and how closely they follow the hare's course. The contest between the greyhounds is judged from horseback and the winning greyhound will proceed to the next round of a knock-out tournament. The 2003 UK coursing season ran from 1 October to 28 February. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldhansrd/vo031028/text/31028-23.htm#31028-23_spnew1|title=Official Report, Lords|date=2003-10-28|accessdate=2008-02-27|publisher=House of Lords]

Variations in Irish coursing

Hare coursing is popular in the Republic of Ireland, with the national meeting in Clonmel, County Tipperary, being the most important event in the coursing calendar, attracting 10,000 spectators,cite news|author=O‘Reilly, M|publisher=BBC|title=Countryfile|date=2008-02-10] and claimed by its organisers to be worth up to €16 million for the local economy. [cite news|url=http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0203/breaking10.htm|title=Thousands to attend coursing event|date=2008-02-03|work=The Irish Times|accessdate=2008-02-15] There are around 70 formal coursing clubs in the Republic and two in Northern Ireland, together holding 80–85 meetings per year.cite web|url=http://www.irishcoursingclub.ie/fixtures.html|publisher=Irish Coursing Club|title=Fixture list 2007/08|accessdate=2008-02-11]

There are several differences between the rules of coursing in Great Britain (where it is regulated by the National Coursing Club) and Irish coursing which has been organised by Irish Coursing Club since 1916. [cite web|url=http://www.irishcoursingclub.ie/|publisher=Irish Coursing Club|accessdate=2008-02-16|title=The sport of coursing] Because hares are not plentiful in all parts of the island of Ireland, mainly due to modern agricultural practices, [cite|author=Reid, N.; Dingerkus, K.; Montgomery, W. I.; Marnell, F.; Jeffrey, R.; Lynn, D.; Kingston, N.; McDonald, R. A.|date=2007|title=Status of hares in Ireland|work=Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 30|publisher=National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government|ref=Reid-status] coursing clubs are licensed by the Irish Government to net 70–75 hares for their events. The hares are then transported in boxes to the coursing venue where they are kept for up to eight weeks and trained to be coursed.

Instead of being coursed on open land, the Irish form is run in a secure enclosure over a set distance. Since 1993, Irish Coursing Club rules have made it compulsory for the greyhounds to be muzzled while they chase the hare. After the coursing event, the hares are transported back to where they were netted and re-released into the wild. Reports by Government wardens, published under freedom of information legislation, state that hares have sometimes been coursed more than once at the same event.

Whereas the British form of coursing is run with dogs winning points for their running and turning of the hare, the Irish form is run on the basis that the first dog to turn the hare wins. This is denoted by either a red flag or a white flag, indicating the colours of the respective dogs' collars.

Variations in the United States

Greyhounds were introduced to America to help farmers control jackrabbits and organised coursing meets were taking place in the United States in the 19th century,cite web|url=http://www.gra-america.org/the_sport/history.html|title=The Most Exciting Dogs in the World|publisher=Greyhound Racing Association of America|accessdate=2008-06-14] by 1886 according to Gulf Coast Greyhounds. [cite web|url=http://www.gulfcoastgreyhounds.org/hist-18-19-cent.html|accessdate=2008-04-04|title=Greyhound History in the 18th and 19th Centuries|publisher=Gulf Coast Greyhounds|year=2006] "Open field coursing" of jackrabbits, which are members of the hare family, [cite web|url=http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lepus_californicus.html|title=Lepus californicus|accessdate=2008-04-10|publisher=University of Michigan|year=2008] now takes place in a number of states in Western America, including California, Montana and Wyoming,cite web|url=http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm47/4763/4763-02.htm|author=Burns, T.; Edwards, V.; Marsh, J.; Soulsby, E. J. L.; Winter, M.|title=Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales, paragraph 2.58|publisher=HMSO|date=2000-06-09|accessdate=2008-02-11] and is said by the North American Coursing Association to take place also in Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. [cite web|url=http://www.heliosgreyhounds.com/coursing.html|author=Bartel, S.; Mott, E.; Mott, C.; Johnston, S|publisher=Helios Greyhounds|title=Greyhound Coursing and Lure Coursing|accessdate=2008-02-11] It takes place with up to four dogs chasing the hare.cite web|url=http://www.nofca.org/rules/2005rules.pdf|format=PDF| publisher=National Open Field Coursing Association|title=American Coursing rules, 2005|accessdate=2008-02-21]

The legality of coursing across the United States is unclear. Animal Place, a California-based animal rights group which opposes coursing, claims that the activity is legal in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming but illegal in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.cite web|url=http://www.animalplace.org/blood.html|publisher=Animal Place|title=Key Talking Points|year=2006|accessdate=2008-02-11] The pro-coursing campaign, Stop2110 says that open field coursing is legal in all US states with a huntable population of jackrabbits.cite web|url=http://www.stop2110.org/faq.php#q14|publisher=Stop2110 pro coursing campaign|title=FAQ on coursing|accessdate=2008-02-01] Washington state lists jackrabbits as a protected species, due to an unusually low population for a western state, and bans all forms of hunting them. [cite web|url=http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/seasons.htm|publisher=Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife|title=Hunting Season dates, 2007-08|accessdate=2008-02-11]

During the 2006–07 coursing season, the leading United States coursing body, the National Open Field Coursing Association, registered 480 dogs of various breeds, [cite web|url=http://www.nofca.org/lookup/hounds.pdf|format=PDF| publisher=National Open Field Coursing Association|title=NOFCA Hound List|month=December | year=2005|accessdate=2008-02-21] and oversaw 83 coursing events. [cite web|url=http://www.nofca.org/results/stakelist.php?season=2006&Submit=Show+Stakes|publisher=National Open Field Coursing Association|title=NOFCA coursing events, 2006-07|accessdate=2007-02-25] Its quarry is the Black-tailed Jackrabbit. Coursing of White-tailed Jackrabbits is organised by a smaller body, the North American Coursing Association.

Other countries

According to the UK Government review, the Burns Inquiry, hare coursing also takes place in Pakistan, Portugal and Spain. Pakistan has officially prohibited the use of dogs or hawks for coursing unless a special license is issued for carrying out such activity [Cite web|url=http://www.sindhwildlife.com.pk/aboutus/ordinance.htm|publisher=Sindh Wildlife Department|title=Sind Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972|accessdate=2008-03-28] [cite web|url=http://punjablaws.gov.pk/laws/290.html|accessdate=2008-03-27|title=The Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act 1974|publisher=Provincial Assembly of the Punjab] although, according to some reports, hare coursing is still practiced and popular. Hare coursing in Portugal is run in both forms: open ("Prova de Galgos a Campo"), and closed (park) coursing where it is known as "lebre a corricão". [cite news|publisher=Correiomanha News|author=Simões, S|title=Taxas - Licenças para armas mais caras com nova Lei|date=2006-09-18|language=Portuguese] Hare coursing in Portugal may only be legally undertaken with two dogs [cite web|url=http://www.pgdlisboa.pt/pgdl/leis/lei_mostra_articulado.php?nid=97&artigo_id=&tabela=leis&ficha=81&pagina=5&nversao=|publisher=Procuradoria-Geral Distrital de Lisboa|language= Portuguese|title=Regulamento Lei de Bases Gerais Da Caça, article 84 Portuguese|accessdate=2008-06-15|year=2005] and operates under the same ethos as coursing in Britain and the United States. [cite web|url=http://margon.blogs.sapo.pt/1196.html|author=Gonçalves, M|publisher=Gonçalves, M|title=The Nobreza Hunting em Samora Correia In Samora Correia|language=Portuguese|accessdate=2008-02-11] In Spain, the hare coursing is "open coursing", and the areas where the activity takes place includes the Medinrua area. [cite news|url=http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/19778/newsDate/11-Feb-2003/story.htm|title=Spanish racers hang greyhounds at season's end|author=Ross-Thomas, E|publisher=Reuters|year=2003|accessdate=2008-02-13] Coursing has long been undertaken in Spain, where Spanish galgos rather than greyhounds are used. [cite web|url=http://www.fci.be/uploaded_files/285A2002_en.doc|accessdate=2008-06-14|title=FCI-Standard N° 285/24.05.2002/GB Spanish Greyhound|year=2002|publisher=Fédération Cynologique Internationale|format=DOC] These dogs have a precarious life after their coursing careers, with the World Society for the Protection of Animals suggesting that many tens of thousands die cruelly each year. [cite news|url=http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2002_April_29/ai_85178227|publisher=Business Wire|accessdate=2008-06-14|title=WSPA Reveals Hanging Horror of Spain's Hunting Dogs] Hare coursing also takes place in Russia [citation|title=The Russian Hunt|journal=Performance Sighthound Journal|page=44-51|date=October-December 2005|author=Clark, Sir R.] [citation|title=Russian Hunt Trip|journal=Performance Sighthound Journal|page=58-61|date=January-March 2006|author=McGehee, Y.] but is illegal in most European countries [cite web|url=http://www.coursing.nl/alg_info.htm|title=Coursing Info|publisher=Windhondenvereniging Coursing Nienoord Leek|year=2008|language=Dutch|accessdate=2008-02-21] and in Australia, where it had a long history from 1867 until it was banned in 1985 following a long decline in popularity. [cite web|url=http://www.history.sa.gov.au/chu/programs/history_conference/History%20Conf%2007/Coursing%20South%20Australia%20-%20Peter%20Donovan.pdf|format=PDF| title=Gone to the Dogs: coursing in South Australia|author=Donovan, P.|year=2007|accessdate=2008-03-24|publisher=History Trust of South Australia]

Lure coursing

Lure coursing is a sport for dogs based on hare coursing, [cite web|url=http://www.asfa.org/coursing.htm|title=The Sport of Lure Coursing|publisher=American Sighthound Field Association|accessdate=2008-06-14] but involving dogs chasing a mechanically operated lure. Some critics of hare coursing suggest that coursers could test their dogs through lure coursing. [cite web|url=http://www.banbloodsports.com/ln-0104b.htm|publisher=Irish Council Against Bloodsports|title=Renewed Call for Humane Alternative to Hare Coursing|date=2004-02-04|accessdate=2008-02-18] However, coursers believe that, while lure coursing is good athletic exercise for their dogs, [cite web|url=http://www.lurecoursing.org.uk/lurecoursing/index.html|title=Lure Coursing Explained|publisher=British Sighthound Field Association|year=2008|accessdate=2008-04-12] it does not approximate the testing vigour and sport of live coursing. [cite web|url=http://www.fernhill.com/lurebite.htm|title=Lure Coursing|author=Heidenreich, B.; Hawkins, R.|publisher=ASFA Field Advisory News|year=1999|accessdate=2008-02-11]


As long ago as 1516, Thomas More wrote in "Utopia" that, :"Thou shouldst rather be moved with pity to see a silly innocent hare murdered of a dog, the weak of the stronger, the fearful of the fierce, the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful. Therefore, all this exercise of hunting is a thing unworthy to be used of free men." [cite book|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=LOAUm_lzB5gC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=%22silly+innocent+hare+murdered+%22&source=web&ots=PTzlOOUAef&sig=nS908PUjo2qpV8GDElG2L_xYrmU|title=Shakespeare Problem Restated|author=Greenwood, G.|publisher=Kessinger Publishing|year=2003|accessdate=2008-02-20|page=137] Coursing has long sparked opposition from activists concerned about animal welfare. In 1892, Lady Florence Dixie criticised hare coursing as an "aggravated form of torture" [cite book|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QlUW4BQk2wcC&pg=PA121&lpg=PA121&dq=%22aggravated+form+of+torture%22+coursing&source=web&ots=RlyZ7x2OUC&sig=DVx3dnTNCjb1YgjLZci-YJtm1Ys&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA119,M1|year=2002|title=In Nature's Name: An Anthology of Women's Writing and Illustration, 1780-1930 |author=Gates, B. T.|accessdate=2008-06-14|publisher=University of Chicago Press|page=121] and the League Against Cruel Sports was established in 1924 to campaign against rabbit coursing on Morden Common [cite web|url=http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search2?coll_id=7242&inst_id=73|publisher=Archives in London and the M25 area|title=League Against Cruel Sports|accessdate=2008-02-17|month=September | year=2003] and continues to believe that it is wrong to expose animals to the risk of injury or death for human entertainment. [cite web|url=http://www.league.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=1716|publisher=League Against Cruel Sports|title=Hare coursing|year=2006|accessdate=2008-02-11] The Waterloo Cup became a centrepiece of the campaign against coursing in the UK. [cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/east/series7/hare_coursing.shtml|publisher=BBC|title=End of the road for hare coursing|date=2005-01-24|accessdate=2008-02-17] [cite web|url=http://www.banbloodsports.com/coursing.htm|title=Ban hare coursing|publisher=Irish Council Against Bloodsports|accessdate=2008-02-18|year=2003] In opposition, coursing has long enjoyed the fame of being known as "the noblest of field sports" precisely because the death of the hare is not the aim of the sport. Under most regulated forms of coursing only two hounds pursue the hare, the hounds competing against each other for a short time, and allowing the hare a significant chance of escape - this in contrast to sustained and methodical scent hunting, where superior pack endurance will often wear out and claim the prey.

Welfare arguments

Until the 1970s, there was a dearth of scientific evidence on the welfare impact of coursing. The first thorough study was carried out in 1977–79 by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), albeit that it said that it was "not easy to draw conclusions from these reports". [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/ufaw.htm|year=2000|title=Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Submission to the Burns Inquiry|author=Kirkwood, J.|accessdate=2008-04-10|publisher=Defra] According to a review of this study conducted for the Burns Inquiry, "Of the 53 hares killed, 43 had neck injuries, 18 of which were inflicted by the handler (as evidenced from a clean break and no teeth marks). No clean breaks were believed to have been caused by dogs (where tooth marks were evident). The UFAW team’s assessment was that all chest injuries would have been quickly fatal (in six cases these included a punctured heart); 10 animals without neck injuries had chest injuries. Abdominal injuries included six punctured livers, but generally involved a ruptured gut. In the UFAW team’s opinion, hindleg and back injuries could have been extremely painful until chest or neck injuries were inflicted". [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/mainsections/research/macdonald/macdonaldfinal.htm|author=MacDonald et al.|title=Management and Control of Populations of Foxes, Deer, Hares, and Mink in England and Wales, and the Impact of Hunting with Dogs, Section 6.2.3.b.ii.|year=2000|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=Defra]

The Burns Inquiry, set up by the UK Government to examine hunting with dogs in England and Wales, [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/mainsections/committeedetails/aboutus.htm|title=background to the inquiry|author=Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs|year=1999|accessdate=2008-02-12|publisher=Defra] concluded that "We are ... satisfied that being pursued, caught and killed by dogs during coursing seriously compromises the welfare of the hare. It is clear, moreover, that, if the dog or dogs catch the hare, they do not always kill it quickly. There can also sometimes be a significant delay, in "driven" coursing, before the "picker-up" reaches the hare and dispatches it (if it is not already dead). In the case of "walked-up" coursing, the delay is likely to be even longer". [cite web|author=Burns, T.; Edwards, V.; Marsh, J.; Soulsby, E. J. L.; Winter, M.|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/mainsections/report.pdf|format=PDF| title=Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales, paragraph 6.68|date=2000-06-09|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=HMSO]

Welfare arguments in Irish-style coursing

Since the introduction of muzzling for greyhounds in 1993, deaths to hares are less common, falling from an average of 16% to about 4% of hares coursed (reducing to around 150–200 hares per year). Muzzled dogs are more likely to buffet a hare than to bite it, a factor that may still affect the hare's subsequent survival. Hares can either die due to injuries sustained by contact with the much larger dogs or due to capture myopathy. [cite web|url=http://www.mikerendle.co.uk/irishhare/Stress%20and%20Capture%20Myopathy%20in%20hares%202006.pdf|format=PDF| author=Rendle, M.|year=2006|title=Stress and Capture Myopathy in Hares|publisher=Irish Hare Initiative|accessdate=2008-02-21] The report from the official Countryside ranger at the Wexford Coursing Club meeting in December 2003 confirms that, exceptionally, 40 hares died at the event and the report of the veterinary surgeon who examined the hares blames the "significant stress" of being "corralled and coursed".cite web|url=http://www.league.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_318.pdf|format=PDF| publisher=Duchas|title=Report on Wexford Coursing event, December 2003|accessdate=2008-02-21] Coursing supporters deny that hare coursing is cruel and say that hares that are injured, pregnant or ill are not allowed to run. Hares are reported to be examined by a vet before and after racing.

In the context of open (not park) coursing, the (British) National Coursing Club evidence to the Burns Inquiry said that muzzled coursing can cause more suffering than unmuzzled if the coursing officials are not able to reach injured hares quickly.cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/coursingclub2.htm|author=National Coursing Club|title=Evidence to Burns Inquiry, part two|year=2000|publisher=Defra|accessdate=2008-02-17] The Irish Council Against Bloodsports, an organisation that campaigns against hare coursing has video evidence that shows this happening, even in enclosed coursing. [cite web|url=http://www.banbloodsports.com/v-coursing.htm|publisher=Irish Council Against Bloodsports|title=Video presentations - hare coursing|accessdate=2008-02-11]

The kill

In 2000, the rules of the National Coursing Club awarded a point to a greyhound that killed a hare "through superior dash and speed". but this rule had been deleted by early 2003 in order to remove the appearance of the kill incentive. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmstand/f/st030114/pm/30114s08.htm|title=Hansard, Standing Committee F column 200|date=2003-01-14|accessdate=2008-02-17|publisher=HMSO] In the United States, points are still awarded for a "touch ... where the quarry is captured or killed". The number of hares killed in coursing is unclear. The UK Government's Burns Inquiry said that about 250 hares were killed each year in formal coursing.cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/mainsections/huntingreport.htm|title=Report of the committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales para 2.53|author=Burns, T.; Edwards, V.; Marsh, J.; Soulsby, E. J. L.; Winter, M.|publisher=HMSO|date=2000-06-09|accessdate=2008-02-17] although much larger numbers of kills are believed to take place in informal coursing.

The National Coursing Club and the organisers of the Waterloo Cup – the most important event in the UK coursing calendar – each said that, on average, one in seven or eight hares coursed were killed. RSPCA inspectors who attended the event estimated that a greater number, one in five hares coursed were killed. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2798493.stm|author=Bocquet, K|title=Waterloo Cup: The final stand?|publisher=BBC|year=2003|accessdate=2008-02-11] Observers of hare coursing at the Waterloo Cup regularly reported a minority of people in the crowd cheering when hares were killed. [cite web|url=http://www.nwlacs.co.uk/archive/waterloo_cup_2005.htm|publisher=North West League Against Cruel Sports|title=Report on 2005 Waterloo Cup|year=2005|accessdate=2008-02-11]

Conservation or pest control

In different parts of the world two contrasting arguments are made in favour of hare coursing. In some places, the high densities of hare leads to the animals being considered as agricultural pests – a view taken, for example, by the California Department of Agriculture.cite web|url=http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7447.html|author=Salmon, T. P. et al.|publisher=California Department of Agriculture|title=How to manage pests - rabbits|year=2002|accessdate=2008-02-11] Coursing is sometimes defended on this basis, even though the U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife has said that coursing does not "reduce the population enough to alleviate damage". [cite web|url=http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1020&context=vpcfour|author=Evans, J.; Hegdal, P.; Griffith, R.|year=1970|title=Methods of Controlling Jackrabbits|publisher=Proceedings of the 4th Vertebrate Pest Control Conference, University of Nebraska, Lincoln|accessdate=2008-02-21]

Elsewhere, such as in the UK, hares are not always seen as pests, and there are "species action plans" aiming to significantly increase their numbers.cite web|url=http://www.ukbap.org.uk/UKPlans.aspx?ID=410|title=UK Biodiversity Action Plan - brown hare|publisher=Joint Nature Conservation Committee|year=1995|accessdate=2008-02-11] Some coursers say that coursing assists conservation because it leads to sporting landowners creating a habitat suitable for hares. Opponents of coursing say that the converse is true, namely that coursing takes place where hares live rather than hares living where coursing takes place. [cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/pdfs/hunting/1_session_b.pdf|format=PDF| publisher=Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs|title=Hunting Hearings, minutes of session 1B|year=2002|accessdate=2008-02-21] It is also the case that coursing kills slower hares, and it is said by some coursers that this leaves faster hares to breed and multiply.cite web|url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/hunting/inquiry/evidence/lurcherclubs1.htm#p7|author=Tyler, A.|title=Single handed coursing, submission from the Association of Lurcher Clubs to the Burns Inquiry|year=2000|accessdate=2008-02-18|publisher=Defra]

Debate and legislation


The practice of hare coursing has only recently, in historical terms, been debated in Parliament, although Parliament created an exemption in 1921 from the cruelty legislation, the Protection of Animals Act 1911, for animals released for coursing.cite web|url=http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm47/4763/4763-app8.htm|author=Report of Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales|title=Final report, appendix 8|year=2000|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=HMSO] Eric Heffer, MP for Liverpool Walton, was a major opponent of coursing in the late 1960s, and Prime Minister Harold Wilson joined in the criticism.cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/dec/29/uk.past2|author=Bowcott, O|title=Wilson tried to save pint and curry favour|year=2005|work = The Guardian|accessdate=2008-04-13] Under his premiership, the House of Commons voted for Government Bills to ban hare coursing in 1969 and 1975, but neither passed the House of Lords to become law. In 2002, the Scottish Parliament passed the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, which banned hare coursing in Scotland. In 2004 the British Parliament passed the Hunting Act, which banned hare coursing as well as other forms of hunting with hounds with effect from 18 February 2005. [cite web|url=http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/ukpga_20040037_en_1.htm|title=Hunting Act 2004|publisher=HMSO|accessdate=2008-02-12] Prosecution are pending against individuals for allegedly attending hare coursing events in Yorkshire in March 2007 [cite news|url=http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/Celebrity-chef-faces-court-fight.3463926.jp|title=Celebrity chef faces court fight in 'hare hunt' row|date=2007-11-10|author=Branagan, M|work=Yorkshire Post|accessdate=2008-02-11] and in Norfolk in November 2007 and January 2008. [cite news|url=http://www.lynnnews.co.uk/news/Hare-coursing.4370479.jp|title=Hare coursing|date=2008-08-08|work=Lynn News|accessdate=2008-08-08]

No formal coursing has taken place in Northern Ireland since 2002, as Ministers have refused the coursing clubs permission to net hares for coursing and have protected them from being coursed or hunted under the Game Preservation (Northern Ireland) Act. [cite web|url=http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2006/20060114.htm|publisher=HMSO|title=Game Preservation (Special Protection for Irish Hares) Order (Northern Ireland) 2006|accessdate=2008-02-11] [cite web|url=http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news/news-doe/news-de-051007-protection-for-irish.htm|title=Protection for Irish hare|publisher=Department of Environment, Northern Ireland|date=2007-10-05|accessdate=2008-02-11] The two Northern Ireland coursing clubs therefore travel to the Republic to hold meetings jointly with coursing clubs there. Opinion polls commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports as part of its campaigning have shown very strong public opposition to hare coursing from both urban and rural residents of Northern Ireland [cite web|url=http://www.league.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_394.doc|author=Brown, Millward |title=Hare Coursing Survey|year=2006|publisher=League Against Cruel Sports|accessdate=2008-02-11|format=DOC] and the Republic. [cite web|url=http://www.league.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_436.pdf|format=PDF| title=Coursing poll in Republic of Ireland|publisher=League Against Cruel Sports|accessdate=2008-02-21]


In early 2006, the TV channel ABC 7 showed a film of coursing with sets of three greyhounds competing in the chase of a number of hares.cite news|url=http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/iteam&id=3874872|author=Noyes, D|title=I-Team Uncovers Blood Sport In Bay Area|publisher=ABC7|year=2006|accessdate=2008-02-11] Coursing was banned in the County concerned, [cite web|url=http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/iteam&id=4116201|publisher=ABC7 News|title=Coursing Banned In Solano County|year=2006|author=Noyes, D.|accessdate=2008-02-11] and California Assemblywoman Loni Hancock promoted a bill, AB2110, to make it a crime for any person in California to engage in open field coursing – defined as a "competition in which dogs are, by the use of rabbits, hares, or foxes, assessed as to skill in hunting live rabbits, hares, or foxes". A pro-coursing campaign was also established. The Bill was passed by the Public Safety Committee [cite web|url=http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/05-06/bill/asm/ab_2101-2150/ab_2110_cfa_20060509_162901_asm_comm.html|title=Bill Analysis, AB 2110|author=Long, G.|publisher=Assembly Committee on Appropriations|accessdate=2008-06-14|year=2006] but did not become law.

ee also

*Countryside Alliance


External links

* [http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/iteam&id=3874872 ABC7 coverage of open field coursing in California]
* [http://www.asfa.org/index.htm American Sighthound Field Association – engages in lure coursing]
* [http://www.countryside-alliance.org. Countryside Alliance (UK and Ireland)]
* [http://www.banbloodsports.com/ Irish Council Against Bloodsports]
* [http://www.irishcoursingclub.ie/ Irish Coursing Club]
* [http://www.league.org.uk/ League Against Cruel Sports (UK)]
* [http://www.nationalcoursingclub.org/ National Coursing Club (Great Britain)]
* [http://www.nofca.org/ National Open Field Coursing Association (US)]
* [http://www.sportingpress.ie. "Sporting Press" – Ireland's Leading Greyhound/Coursing Newspaper]

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