Virtually all pet parents will witness their dog pursue prey, either a live animal or a toy, at some point during their time together. While most pet parents are shocked when the dogs they normally see lounging around the house display such prowess when pursuing their prey, none are as astonished as the parents of the highly athletic group of dogs called sight hounds.
Sight hounds earned their name by their ability to pursue prey by sight instead of smell, which is how most dogs pursue prey. Coursing is a sport based upon their sight abilities. This article will tell you what you need to know to get started in Coursing.
What Is Coursing?
Coursing was created to allow the sight hound group of dog breeds to use their unique natural instincts and athletic abilities to follow their prey by sight in a strategically prepared environment to support their safety. Dogs participate in coursing tests or trials by pursuing a plastic bag lure that is pulled around a coursing track for them to chase it on.
Coursing has been around for thousands of years with records dating to at least ancient Greece. In more recent times, organizations use these for not only sporting competitions but also means by which they help regulate local populations of various animals.
For instance, the Irish Coursing Club organizes coursing events for Irish Hares, a protected rabbit species in Ireland. The goal is a conservation one, with regular events used to control the population of this animal so that local farmers and hunters don’t take matters into their own hands if the numbers of hares get out of control.
Why Participate In Coursing?
Participating in Coursing is beneficial for both dogs and their owners:
- Training your dog for Coursing creates a bonding opportunity for you to grow closer to your dog.
- Sight hounds are very athletic dogs. Coursing helps provide the exercise they need to be satisfied.
- Training, testing and competing for Coursing with other dogs and owners can create for friendships with other dogs and owners.
- The exercise Coursing provides helps keep dogs in good physical condition and supports a healthy weight.
- According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), most sight hounds do not require complicated training to participate in Coursing since this sport is based upon instinct, making it an easy sport for most of them to get started in.
- If you prefer to participate for fun rather than competition, you can participate in a Coursing test with your dog to avoid the stress and pressure associated with competing.
What Dogs Are Eligible To Participate In Coursing?
To participate in an official American Kennel Club (AKC) Coursing event, dogs must meet the following requirements:
- They must be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), which includes Purebred Alternative Listing Program (PAL), Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP), conditional registration or limited registration.
- They must be at least 1 year old.
- They must be neutered or spayed.
- They may not be monorchid or cryptorchid.
- Females must not be in heat or in season.
- Dogs must be in good physical condition to run the course; inspection committees examine every participating pup for lameness.
- They must be an eligible breed from the below list.
Only the following breeds are eligible to participate in coursing:
- Afghan Hound
- Cirneco dell’Etna
- Ibizan Hound
- Irish Wolfhound
- Italian Greyhound
- Peruvian Inca Orchid
- Pharaoh Hound
- Portuguese Podengo
- Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Scottish Deerhound
- Thai Ridgeback
How Can I Get My Dog Started In Coursing?
If you are interested in Coursing with your dog, here is how you would get started:
- If your dog is not obedience trained, begin with perfecting obedience training.
- Read the Regulations for Lure Coursing Tests and Trials to understand how Coursing works. This will help you decide if this is something you and your dog should pursue.
- Search for a Coursing event near you to observe using the American Kennel Club (AKC) events calendar. By observing a Coursing event, you can determine if it is something that your dog would enjoy.
- Search for a Coursing club near you using the American Kennel Club (AKC) club directory to find training resources, such as a lure course and a trainer, that you need to get started.
Why Do Dogs Wear Muzzle During Coursing?
Some competitions require that all dogs involved wear a cage-style muzzle (open to allow the dog to breathe easier). Typically muzzles are used so that fights don’t break out between dogs involved in the coursing.
When pursuing prey, the fighting/hunting instincts are at a high level and can easily be turned on a fellow competitor. Muzzles help keep the dogs safe.
Coursing Ability Test (CAT)
The American Kennel Club (AKC)’s Coursing Ability Test (CAT) offers dog and handler teams a low pressure, non-competitive way to get started with Coursing.
In a CAT, dogs run on either a 300 or 600 yard course, which must be completed in 1.5 or 2 minutes. Dogs either pass or fail this test, making it a fun activity to do with your dog.
The purpose of the AKC’s CAT is to test a dog’s instincts. A passing CAT indicates a dog may enjoy the activity and has the necessary instincts to compete should they choose to.
Fast Coursing Ability Test (Fast CAT)
The American Kennel Club (AKC)’s Fast Coursing Ability Test (Fast CAT) is a speedy twist on their Coursing Ability Test (CAT).
To participate in Fast CAT, dogs chase a lure down a 100 yard course. Their run is timed, and their times are ranked.
What is unique about the Fast CAT is that all breeds may participate; all they need is a prey drive to pursue the lure and to be in good physical condition. The American Kennel Club (AKC) maintains a list of the top 20 fastest dogs by breed from Fast CAT competitions, giving dogs and their owners their 15 minutes of fame for their accomplishments.
When a dog performs well in an official American Kennel Club (AKC) Coursing competition, they earn titles. These titles are attached to their show names. Eligible Coursing dogs may receive the following titles:
- Junior Courser (JC) is earned when a dog completes a lure coursing test twice alone, displaying enthusiasm, and without any interruptions, evaluated by 2 individual AKC judges.
- Qualified Courser (QC) is earned when a dog demonstrates that he or she is able to run a course with another hound of the same breed, or comparable running style, and finishes the course without interference from the other hound, and displays enthusiasm while running.
- Senior Courser (SC) is earned when a dog receives qualifying scores in competition at 4 AKC Coursing trials when evaluated by 3 individual judges.
- Master Courser (MC) is earned when a dog receives the SC title, then earns 25 other qualifying scores in competitions. Eligible competitions are “Open, Veteran or Specials stakes”.
- Field Champion (FC) is earned when a dog receives 15 championship points, which must include 2 majors under 2 individual judges. 1 point must be received in competition against the same hound breed as the competing dog.
- Dual Champion (DC) is earned when a dog receives the FC title in Lure Coursing and receives the CH title from competing in a conformation event.
Sight hounds love participating in coursing because it allows them to use their natural instincts and it gives them a chance to bond with their owners. To get started in coursing, locate a Coursing club near you utilizing the American Kennel Club (AKC) club directory.