Friday, July 19, 2013

An alluring sport, of course!

I really do hate to bore my readers with drivel like history, but Mom said if I want to blog about my favorite new sport, that I couldn't just show pictures. I had to research and write a little about the history of lure coursing. So here we go.

What is lure coursing? 

A sport that causes otherwise rational dogs to chase a plastic baggie running at full speed around a course for anywhere from 45 seconds to 3 minutes. Lure coursing is based on the ancient sport of live game coursing, or the pursuit of game by dogs that hunt by sight rather than scent. Coursing is one of the oldest of the hunting dog sports. In the Middle Ages, coursing was a sport reserved for royalty; for some time in England, commoners could not own a Greyhound.

Lure Coursing in America

In the United States, the spread of farming to the great grasslands of the West was accompanied by the coursing of jack rabbits and coyotes. Some of the earliest AKC-registered Borzoi were located in Kansas. In the late 1800s, coursing changed from hunting events to competitive coursing events using live game where sighthounds were chased live game in an enclosed area called "closed park coursing." It is no longer practiced in the United States by any organized sports groups.

In the 1920s, a mechanical system that ran along a racetrack rail replaced most live-game track coursing in the U.S., Great Britain and Europe. While that system provides a great test of speed, the tracks eliminate the spectacular turns executed by a hound in pursuit of live game.

Photos by CWP Photography from my first lure coursing to break up the history lesson:

As you will note in the photos, I am wearing both my collar and a harness. Not a wise decision because either of them could have easily gotten caught in the line that the lure "runs" on. I learned that very helpful bit of information during the Dog Scout Lecture "Lure Coursing 101: Orientation and Safety" taught by none other that the Founder of DSA, Lonnie Olson. We were very fortunate to have Lonnie the Lure Meister travel all the way from St. Helen, Michigan to Swanton, Maryland to participate in Troop 161's Second Annual Blue Ridge Mini Camp.

Back to the history lesson on lure coursing in America

In the early 1970s, Lyle Gillette, a California breeder of Borzoi and Salukis, envisioned a coursing system that would be portable, could be set up in a five- to seven-acre open area and was not dependent on the availability of live prey. After much trial and error, he designed and perfected the mechanical lure, where the "prey" is a plastic bag or piece of artificial fur. Run by a lure operator, the mechanical lure consists of a string run through a set of pullies planted in a field to form a course of 600 to 1,000 yards. The arrangement of the pullies allows the path of the plastic lure to simulate the running and turning actions of live prey.

Hounds are brought by their owners to the starting line wearing coursing blankets (bright pink, yellow or blue) and slip leads (quick-release collars). The lure is started and, at the huntmaster's cry of "Tally-Ho!," the hounds are released and the chase begins. By 1973, Gillette and other California sighthound enthusiasts had organized lure coursing under the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), but he hoped the AKC would eventually recognize this testing method and institute coursing events, complete with AKC certificates and titles. In July 1991, his vision became a reality when the AKC Board of Directors voted to approve lure coursing regulations and sanction the sport. Note: Much of my research material came from the American Kennel Club's website.

Photos of Roger's Run compliments of Chris Pinney

And finally. Photos of the a natural born killer in action. Roger was absolutely obsessed about catching that plastic bag. He couldn't understand how a plastic bag without legs could outrun him. He threw an absolute first class temper tantrum when Mom dragged him off the course so that the other kids could play. I must admit that watching him "scream" and flail his little legs was a bit embarrassing. Also note that Roger ran the much safer way -- in the buff!

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