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a short-coated brindle lurcher
Country of origin Ireland
Coat Any
Color Any
Litter size variable
Life span 12-15 years
Lurchers may be registered with the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association (NALLA)

The lurcher is a type of dog. Not a pure breed, it is a hardy, crossbred sighthound, generally a cross between a sighthound and any other breed, usually a pastoral dog or terrier. Collie crosses have always been very popular given the working instinct of the sheepdog when mated with a sighthound gives a dog of great intelligence plus speed - prerequisites in this type of canine.



This lurcher is a mix of Greyhound, Deerhound, and Collie.
This lurcher is a cross between a Greyhound and a type of terrier.

Because lurchers are a crossbreed there is no set type, so they can be as small as a whippet or as large as a deerhound; but most are chosen for a size similar to that of a greyhound, and a distinct sighthound form is preferred.

The coat type and upkeep requirements will vary depending on the type of cross. Coat types range from short and smooth like that of a greyhound, to slightly longer and thicker like that of a collie, to rough and broken like that of a terrier.


Temperament will also vary somewhat depending on the type of cross. Many lurchers have temperaments that are very similar to purebred sighthounds like the greyhound, but some have temperaments that are influenced by other breeds like herding breeds and terrier breeds.


The lurcher was bred in Ireland and Great Britain by the Irish Gypsies and travellers in the 17th century. They were used for poaching rabbits, hares and other small creatures. The name lurcher is derived from the Romani language word lur, which means thief. The travellers considered the short-haired lurcher the most prized. The lurcher is rarely seen outside of Ireland or Great Britain, but is still common in its native lands. The collie crosses were often not large enough to do the work the lurcher was intended for.

Irish Gypsies were instrumental in developing the breed, and traditionally sneered at any lurcher that was not predominantly genetically greyhound, since these "lesser" lurchers were not as good at hunting and could not stand a full day's work of the hunt. The stringent training methods of the Gypsies are looked down upon in some lurcher circles, since the pups began working at six months old. Only the top-producing pups were kept; the rest were sold at traditional bargain rates. Today some breeding is carried out in a more systematic manner, with lurchers bred to lurchers to perpetuate the "breed's" prowess at rabbit and hare coursing - an unlikely ideal and therefore pointless exercise given that the lurcher does not breed true.

Generally, the aim of the cross is to produce a sighthound with more intelligence, a canny animal suitable for the original purpose of the lurcher, poaching. Developed in the Middle Ages, the lurcher was created because only nobility were allowed to have purebred sighthounds like Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, and greyhounds, whereas crosses, or curs, had no such perceived value. Similarly, nobility owned most land and commoners were not allowed to hunt game on crown land or other noble estates.

It was important that the lurcher did not resemble too closely a sighthound, as the penalties for owning a sighthound were high, particularly given that if you owned one then by default you were considered a poacher. The original lurchers therefore were generally heavier-coated dogs who could herd sheep as well as bring home a rabbit or hare for the pot.

Modern Roles

Lurchers as Pets

The modern lurcher is growing from its old image of disrepute to heights of popularity as an exceptional family dog, and many groups have been founded to rehome lurchers as family pets [1].


The lurcher has as many varied uses as types can be crossbred, but generally they are used as hunting dogs that can chase and kill their prey. Most lurchers today are used for general pest control, typically rabbits, hares, and foxes, although some of the larger types have been successfully used on bigger game like wild boar and deer. Lurchers can be used for hare coursing, although most hare coursing dogs are greyhounds. Lurchers move most effectively over open ground, although different crosses suit different terrains.

Amateur Sports

Lurchers excel at sports like lure coursing and dog racing which are very popular in areas with little available hunting, or for people who dislike hunting. Lurchers are eligible to compete in lure coursing events sanctioned by the National Lure Coursing Club.

Lurchers have also proven to be very good at dog sports such as obedience and agility, where they are becoming increasingly popular due to their speed and willingness to please.

In addition, lurchers are appearing in Alaska.Sled-dog breeders are breeding sighthounds with their sled dogs to produce a faster dog. Often in the first generation, pups that do not have the coat or temperament to create a good sled dog candidate are adopted out to new non-mushing homes.

Recognition and Registration

Because lurchers are not purebreds they are not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs. However, the North American Lurcher and Longdog Association was recently created to serve as a registering body for lurchers and longdogs in the United States and Canada.


  1. ^ Drakeford, J., The House Lurcher Swan Hill Press, Shrewsbury, ISBN 9781904057345

See also

External links

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