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Lurcher on Mountain.jpg
Long Haired Lurcher
Origin Ireland and Great Britain
Breed status Not recognized as a standardized breed by any major kennel club.
Coat Any
Color Any
Litter size variable
Life span 12-15 years
Notes Lurchers may be registered with the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association (NALLA)[1]
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The lurcher is the offspring of a sighthound mated with another breed, most commonly a pastoral breed or a terrier type of dog. Historically a poacher's dog, lurchers in modern times used as pets, hunting dogs and in racing.


While not a pure breed, it is generally a cross between a sighthound and a working dog breed.[1] Collie crosses are popular, given the working instinct of a sheepdog when mated with a sighthound gives a dog of great intelligence plus speed—prerequisites for the hunter/poacher. In the US midwest, crosses with large scent hounds are fairly common.

The distinction between a greyhound and a lurcher was more legal than biological. Greyhounds were used to hunt legally by the upper class, while the illegal hunting of the lower orders was reflected in the dog's name: lurcher or "poacher's dog".[2]

Brian Plummer identifies the Norfolk Lurcher as the predecessor of the modern lurcher.[3]


Temperament is also variable, again dependent on parental influence. As could be expected, lurchers with dominant sighthound attributes have similar temperaments—often fairly lazy with a good eye—however, accordingly, others are influenced by their other, often more tractable, biddable, and slower parent. As with all dogs, temperament will be modified by socialising the puppy.


The word 'lurcher' is from Middle English, lurch, to remain in a place furtively.[4]

While it has been suggested the word 'lurcher' is from Romani word for thief, the word for thief in Romani is "Chor".[5] However, the archaic meaning of the word lurcher in English is a prowler, swindler, or petty thief.[4]


It is fabled that in the 14th, 15th and early 16th century the English and Scottish governments banned commoners from owning sight-hounds, such as Irish wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds, and greyhounds, though no documentation from the time can be found to verify this. It is thought that lurchers may have been bred to avoid legal complications during this time. Generally, the aim of the cross is to produce a sighthound with more intelligence, a canny animal suitable for poaching rabbits, hares, and game birds. Over time, poachers and hunters discovered breeding of certain breeds with sight-hounds produced a dog better suited to this purpose, given the lurcher's combination of speed and intelligence.

Modern roles[edit]

Lurchers as pets[edit]

The modern lurcher is growing from its old image of disrepute to heights of popularity as an exceptional family dog, and many groups have been founded to rehome lurchers as family pets.[6]


The lurcher has as many varied uses as types can be crossbred, but generally they are used as hunting dogs that can chase and kill their prey. Most lurchers today are used for general pest control, typically rabbits, hares, and foxes, although some of the larger types have been successfully used on bigger game like wild boar and deer. Lurchers can be used for hare coursing, although most hare coursing dogs are greyhounds. Sighthound heavy lurchers move most effectively over open ground, although different crosses suit different terrains, indeed many crosses are specifically engineered for the purpose of working cover. Some breeders kill or turn loose lurchers that are not successful hunters or have physical or behavioral problems.

Amateur sports[edit]

Sighthound heavy lurchers excel at sports such as lure coursing and dog racing which are very popular in areas with little available hunting, or for people who dislike hunting. In the US lurchers are eligible to compete in lure coursing events sanctioned by the National Lure Coursing Club.[7]

Lurchers have also proven to be very good at dog sports such as flyball, agility, disc dog, and dock diving where suitable breed combinations create increasingly popular lurchers that combine speed and willingness to please.

Recognition and registration[edit]

Because lurchers are not purebreds they are not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs although the acronym HJCK serves in some circles: Hunt Jump Catch Kill. However, the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association[8] was created in 2007 to serve as a registering body for lurchers and longdogs in the United States and Canada.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the Sir Walter Scott novel Ivanhoe, Cedric the Saxon's swineherd Gurth owns a (crippled) lurcher named Fangs for hunting deer.
  • In the Tim Willocks novel Doglands, the main character Furgal is a lurcher, the son of a greyhound and a mixed-breed.
  • The Des Dillon novel My Epileptic Lurcher is loosely based on the author's life and his lurcher Bailey, who suffers from epilepsy.
  • In Judith Krantz's novel Princess Daisy, the eponymous character owns a lurcher.
  • In the 2000 film Snatch, two lurchers are shown hare coursing.
  • The castle-dwelling Blythe sisters in Kate Morton's The Distant Hours own an aging lurcher named Bruno.
  • In Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra) Lurchers are mentioned in a tale near the ending of the first half of the book.
  • In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels, Holmes borrows a neighbor's half-spaniel half-lurcher named Toby for help in his investigations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blount, Deborah (February 2000). "The Lurcher Submission for the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales". The Association of Lurcher Clubs. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  2. ^ Russell, Edmund (2018). Greyhound Nation: a coevolutionary history of England, 1200–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-76209-0. pp. 89.
  3. ^ Plummer, Brian (1979). "The Complete Lurcher". The Boydell Press. ISBN 9780851151182. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Lurcher". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  5. ^ Lee, Ronald (2005). Learn Romani. University of Hertfordshire Press. p. 365. ISBN 978-1-902806-44-0. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  6. ^ Drakeford, J. (2003). The House Lurcher. Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press. ISBN 978-1-904057-34-5.
  7. ^ Lure Coursing Club
  8. ^ "Lure Coursing, Amateur Whippet & Sighthound Racing - NALLA Overview". Lure Coursing, Amateur Whippet & Sighthound Racing. Retrieved 2015-12-21.

External links[edit]