1902 Encyclopedia > Coursing


COURSING may be defined as the hunting of game by dogs solely by means of the organs of sight. From time to tima ihe sport has been pursued by various nations against various animals, but the recognized method has generally been the coursing of the hare by greyhounds. Such sport is of great antiquity, and is fully described by Arrian in his Gynegelicus about 150 A.D., when the leading features appear to have been much the same as in the present day,, Other Greek and Latin authors refer to the sport ; but during the Middle Ages it was but little heard of. It may be divided into private and public coursing. The former is more pursued for the sake of filling the pot with game than with the view of affording the exhilarat-ing sport furnished by the latter. The private sportsman seldom possesses good strains of blood to breed his grey-hounds from, or has such opportunities of trying them as the public courser. The first known set of rules in England for determining the merits of a course were drawn up by Thomas, duke of Norfolk, in Queen Elizabeth's reign; but no open trials were heard of until half a century later, in the time of Charles I The oldest regular coursing club whereof any record exists is that of Swaffham, in Norfolk, which was founded by Lord Orford in 1776. During the next seventy years many other large and influential societies sprang up throughout England and Scotland, but the first open champion meeting was held at Glasgow in 1835, and since then they have spread rapidly throughout the country. The chief followers of the sport are to be found amongst the yeoman and middle classes, who prefer coursing to horse-racing on account of its being more economical and devoid of the chicanery connected with the latter. Several noblemen, however, keep large kennels of greyhounds, are enthusiastic patrons of coursing, and further the sport by preserving hares and providing coursing grounds. The season lasts about six months, commencing at the end of September. During 1875-76 the value of the stakes and other prizes coursed for in the United Kingdom was upwards of £40,000. It was not until 1858 that a coursing parliament, so to speak, was formed, and a universally accepted code of rules drawn up. In that year the National Coursing Club was founded. It is composed of representatives from all clubs in the United Kingdom of more than a year's standing, and possessing more than twenty-four members. Their rules govern meetings, and their committee adjudicate on matters of dispute. It must be borne in mind that a comparative trial of two dogs, and not the capture of the game pursued, is the great distinctive trait of modem coursing. Clubs either rent grounds to course over or are allowed the use of land by large proprietors who are supporters of the sport; but in either case a good stock of strong hares must be maintained by preserving or otherwise. The chief breeds of coursing greyhounds now in vogue are the Newmarket, the Lanca-shire, and the Scotch. The breeding and training of a successful kennel is a precarious matter; and the most unaccountable ups and downs of fortune often occur in a courser's career. A club meeting is managed by the society's own members, and an open or champion one by whoever may be appointed secretary, assisted in both cases by a committee. An agreed on even number of entries are made for each stake, and the ties drawn by lot. After the first round the winner of the first tie is opposed to the winner of the second, and so on until the last two dogs left in compete for victory. A staff of beaters drive the hares out of their coverts or other hiding-places, whilst the slipper has the pair of dogs in hand, and slips them simul-taneously by an arrangement of nooses, when they have both sighted a hare promising a good course. The judge accompanies on horseback, and the six points whereby he decides a course are—(1) speed; (2) the go-bye, or when a greyhound starts a clear length behind his opponent, passes him in the straight run, and gets a clear length in front; (3) the turn, where the hare turns at not less than a right angle; (4) the wrench, where the hare turns at less than a right angle ; (5) the kill; (6) the trip, or unsuccessful effort to kill. He may return a " no course," as his verdict, if the dogs have not been fairly tried together, or an "un-decided course " if he considers their merits equal. The open Waterloo meeting, held at Altcar near Liverpool, every spring, is now the recognized fixture for the decision of the coursing championship, and the Waterloo cup is the " Blue Riband " of the leash.

Rabbit coursing is much pursued in the suburbs of Lancashire manufacturing towns. It is conducted more artificially than hare coursing, the rabbit being dropt by hand some twenty yards in front of the dogs, and the victor being the first that catches and holds the game.

The chief works on coursing are—Arrian's Cynegeticus, trans- lated by the Rev. W. Dansey, 1831 ; T. Thacker, Courser's Com- panion and Breeders Guide, 1835 ; Thacker's Courser's Annual Remembrancer, 1849-1851 ; D. P. Blaine, Encyclopaedia of Mural Sports, third edition, 1870 ; J. H. Walsh, The Greyhound, third edition, 1S75, and British Rural Sports, twelfth edition, 1875 ; and the Coursing Calendar, edited by J. H. Walsh. (H. F. W.)

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