LURCHERS AS PETS – Part 1 What is your Lurcher made of?
A series of Lurcher articles that build into a “short beginners guide to Lurchers”
A Mischievous Breed
As I sit here looking at Johnson I can’t help but wonder what exactly he is.
I know he’s a Lurcher, but what is a lurcher and what is he made of.
So starting at the very beginning. If you have, or are about to get, a lurcher exactly what is it that you are letting yourself in for.
Whatever type of lurcher you have I can virtually promise you a lot of fun, affection and mischief.
Mischief being the middle name of most of this type of “ long dog”.
Looking back into the story of how they come to exist and how they still survive, even though they are not a recognised bread of dog, can give us a good insight into the origins of their nature.
By the way if you don’t yet have your lurcher and you’re hoping for one that doesn’t come with the mischief fitted as standard, then, I have some bad news for you.
A Very Brief History of Lurchers
A lurcher is a cross between a long dog usually a Greyhound, Saluki, Afghan, Wolfhound etc and a smaller dog such as a collie or terrier.
Looking back a bit. Up until the Norman Conquest most land could be used by any member of the population and the natural wild animals were the property of all.
Rabbits, squirrels, deer and other small mammals were hunted by poor common people as a source of food. But the conquest put pay to that.
Land and the natural resources on it was owned by the lord of the manor and commoners were not allowed to hunt. What has this to do with lurchers?
Well as hunting was not allowed the owning of hunting dogs was also forbidden. They were viewed as hunting weapons and were largely greyhounds.
These can be seen in old paintings as objects of great pride in the household of the landed gentry.
Put the poor managed to get round by crossing a greyhound with a much smaller working dog. The resulting animal had to look as little like a greyhound as possible if it was not to be taken off them.
However, it had to be a crafty and deadly hunting machine. I know it’s not something that owners may wish to dwell on but their beautiful, soft affectionate pet is also a hunting and killing machine.
The need to have a dog that looked as little like it’s dad as possible meant that a lot of long wire-haired crosses were produced in an attempt fool landowners or their game-keepers.
There are no records of how they got the male greyhound to mate with their working dogs but I’m sure you can think of a few tricks that may have been pulled.
It is easy to see why the lurcher is not a fully recognised breed.
For a start there are so many different looking ones.
Starting with the greyhound, different colours and patterns abound, then, added to this you get the permutations of breading with a wide variety of working dogs and end up with a lot of differing sizes, colours, markings, temperament etc.
This is not including the non-greyhound varieties now quite common such as borzoi, saluki etc.
So it really wouldn’t be possible to classify your lurcher as one of a specific definable breed.
He or she is simply a lurcher.
Whats in yours?
I bet that like me you sometimes sit and wonder exactly what your lurcher is composed of, breed wise that is. You may know already, especially if you bought it as a pup form a breeder but for many of us who have “rescued” their dog all it says on the documents is Lurcher.
If you stare, for long enough, at your canine buddy you will probably convince yourself that she contains all sorts of combinations of dogs.
If you want to know then you can find out.
Modern science has the answer.
For around £ 60.00 you can get a do it yourself DNA test kit.
Wisdom Panel 2.0 Dog DNA test is one of the most popular kits and provides reliable and entertaining results.
Its dead simple to use you just get swabs from your pets mouth, put them in the container provided, post them off to the lab and wait.
In due course you will get a report back telling you what your precious pal is composed of. Usually it will go back the grandparents so you may have a greyhound crossed with a border collie so there are no grand parent breeds as both parents are recognised breeds.
However you could have a Greyhound/collie dad and a staffie mum which would give you three breeds.
The permutations are almost endless but you should get a much clearer idea than by just guessing.
Personally I have never had it done. I’ve spent to many amusing and often long conversations with passing dog lovers who wanted to play the “what is it crossed with game”.
Is your Dog a Lurcher
This may sound like a daft question but it’s one that I have heard many times and read in forums and chat rooms repeatedly.
Even if the rescue centre that your dog came from described her as a lurcher, have they got it right.
Well, there’s an old saying “ if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.
So if your pet has an outline resembling a greyhound and it can outrun most dogs that it meets plus it has a mischievous twinkle in it’s eye, then, it’s safe to call it a lurcher.
One word of caution, if your boy or girl looks very much like a greyhound and precious little else – check their ears. Greyhounds have their ears tattooed at birth one ear for an English hound and both ears for an Irish one.
If that’s still not good enough for you, then it’s time to order the DNA kit.
There is a high level of satisfaction with this product so I feel confident to recommend it.
I prefer to keep my dogs exact parentage a mystery and I encourage other dog owners that I meet to join in guessing. It’s a sure fire icebreaker when you meet dog owners that you don’t already know.
Behaviour and Temperament Characteristics
As we already mentioned lurchers have always been bred for hunting although, if yours is a rescue dog it may well have been disowned or abandoned because it lacked the killer instinct or hunting skills.
This fact does not make long dogs in any way dangerous to people. They are the softest and most affectionate of dogs and pose no problem unless you are small fury and have a tail.
Lurchers should be kept well away for other peoples pets such as rabbits and cats as they will most likely see them as fair game.
In the past any lurcher that was not crafty would end up being killed by a land owner or one of his employees and so it should be no surprise that your pet is highly intelligent and dedicated to getting what he wants.
Having said this careful training will produce a well behaved dog of the highest intelligence.
My parting comment on the lurchers character is that this dog is sensitive and should be disciplined firmly but with care. Never smack a lurcher.
Your boy or girl is a very loving and caring animal and bad treatment, such as smacking, would simply break their heart so please be kind.
In part two I will look at the common characteristics of lurchers and how you can train them to overcome undesirable traits.
One word of warning lurchers are clever when it comes to doing what they want, however training them can sometimes be like herding cats.
But more of that later.