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OriginGreat Britain and Ireland
Coat Any
Colour Any
Litter size variable
Dog (domestic dog)
engraving of a rough-haired dog of sighthound type
Lurcher, illustration from The Sportsman's Cabinet by William Taplin, 1803; engraved from a painting by Philip Reinagle

The lurcher is a British type of cross-bred dog, the result of mating a sighthound with a dog of some other type, commonly a herding dog or a terrier. The lurcher was for hundreds of years strongly associated with poaching; in modern times it may be kept as a companion dog.


The lurcher is a cross-bred dog, normally the result of mating a sighthound with a dog of another type, most commonly a herding dog or a terrier. 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]

From 1389, the right to keep dogs of any kind used in hunting – specifically, coney-dogs, greyhounds, lurchers and setting dogs – was limited by law to the 'qualified', which meant royalty and nobility, the gentry and the wealthy.[1]: 29  This law, though repeatedly modified, remained in force until 1831.[1]: 29  The word 'lurcher' did not describe a physical form or type, but a function – a poacher's dog.[1]: 90  In the nineteenth century, the word was used to describe some rough-haired greyhounds, to mark their perceived inferiority to the smooth-haired ones that had become fashionable.[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.[citation needed]


Lurchers were traditionally bred to assist poachers in hunting rabbits and hares. They may be kept as family pets,[5] or to compete in sports such as lure coursing and dog racing.[citation needed] In the USA they may compete in lure coursing events of the National Lure Coursing Club.[6]

As cross-breeds, they are not recognised by any major kennel club. In Canada and the United States they can be registered with the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ Drakeford, J. (2003). The House Lurcher. Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press. ISBN 978-1-904057-34-5.
  6. ^ Lure Coursing Club
  7. ^ "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