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Lurcher on Mountain.jpg
OriginGreat Britain and Ireland
Coat Any
Colour Any
Litter size variable
Dog (domestic dog)
Lurcher, illustration from The Sportsman's Cabinet by William Taplin, 1803; engraved from a painting by Philip Reinagle
Lurcher, illustration from The Sportsman's Cabinet by William Taplin, 1803; engraved from a painting by Philip Reinagle

A lurcher is a cross-bred dog resulting from mating a Greyhound or other sighthound with a dog of another type, commonly a herding dog or a terrier. The lurcher was for hundreds of years strongly associated with poaching; in modern times it is kept as a hunting dog or companion dog.


Lurcher is an old English term for a cross-bred dog, specifically the result of mating a sighthound with a dog of another type, mostly a working breed. The word 'lurcher' was first used with this meaning in 1668; it derives from the verb 'lurch', apparently a variant form of 'lurk', and meaning 'lurk' or 'steal'.[1]: 29 [2][3]

In England from 1389, the right to keep a dog of any kind used in hunting – specifically stated in the Act of Parliament in Anglo-Norman and English of the time null leverer, ne lerce, nautre chien pur chacer or any Greyhound, Hound nor other Dog to hunt; – was limited by law to those qualified, which meant anyone who had lands or holdings or income worth more than 10 pounds per annum; in other words: royalty, nobility, the gentry and the wealthy.[1] [2][1]: 29  This law, though repeatedly modified, remained in force until 1831.[1]: 29  In the nineteenth century, the word was used to describe some rough-haired regional Greyhounds, which were banned from competition by Coursing Clubs such as Swaffham and Newmarket, due to the perception that they cut "turns" to kill instead of working the hare to gain points.[1]: 88 


A lurcher is a cross, generally between a sighthound and a working dog breed.[4] 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 that the crossing of certain breeds with sighthounds produced a dog better suited to this purpose, given the lurcher's combination of speed and intelligence.[5]


Lurchers were traditionally bred in England to assist poachers in hunting rabbits and hares. Around the world they are kept as sporting dogs and family pets,[6] or to compete in sports such as lure coursing and dog racing. In the USA they may compete in lure coursing events of the National Lure Coursing Club.[7]

As cross-breeds, they are not recognised by any major kennel club. In Canada (where the Canadian Kennel Club prohibits crossbreeding) and the United States they can be registered with the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Edmund Russell (2018). Greyhound Nation: A Coevolutionary History of England, 1200–1900 (Studies in Environment and History). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/9781139049269. (subscription required).
  2. ^ lurcher, n.4. Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required).
  3. ^ lurch, v.1. Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required).
  4. ^ Deborah Blount (February 2000). The Lurcher Submission for the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales. The Association of Lurcher Clubs. Archived 23 January 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  5. ^ Plummer B.,D. (1985) Practical Lurcher Breeding p15. Huddlesford Publications, 1985. Coch-y-Bonddu Books, 2005 ISBN 978-1-904784-06-7 ISBN 1-904784-06-2
  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 21 December 2015.

Further reading

  • Arthur W. Coaten (1909). British Hunting: A Complete History of the National Sport of Great Britain and Ireland from Earliest Records. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co
  • E. P. Thompson (1975). Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act London: Allen Lane
  • P. B. Munsche (1981). Gentlemen and Poachers: The English Game Laws, 1671–1831. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Harriet Ritvo (1987).The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
  • David Cannadine (1990). The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy New Haven: Yale University Press
  • Roger B. Manning (1993). Hunters and Poachers: A Social and Cultural History of Unlawful Hunting in England, 1485–1640. Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.
  • Emma Griffin (2007). Blood Sport: Hunting in Britain since 1066. New Haven; London: Yale University Press
  • Barry Lewis (2009). Hunting in Britain: From the Ice Age to the Present. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press