Lurchers: 40 Mph Couch Potato Dogs!
Long-Legged, Lovable Lurcher Dogs!
If you're wondering what Lurchers are, let me enlighten you! Lurchers are dogs . . . elegant, stylish, fast, beautiful, breathtaking dogs!
What Makes Lurchers Special?
Lurchers are affectionate, loving, have bags of character, make fabulous pets, and despite the fact they can run at over 40 mph, they don't require you to spend most of your life out of the house exercising them, as, aside from running, the other thing they love best in the world is sleeping!
The one downside of being a Lurcher owner is that Lurchers seem firmly convinced that sofas and all other types of comfy furniture were designed for THEM . . . not humans!
Lurchers are crossbreed sighthounds, so they come in all shapes, colours and sizes —from small smooth coated Whippet crosses to big hairy, rough-coated Deerhound crosses . . . they all have two things in common though: pointy noses and loooong legs!
My Three Lurchers
I own three Lurchers, a boy called Tigger and two girlies called Amber and Ebony. All of them were unwanted strays I re-homed from a rescue centre. To say I adore them is an understatement—"adopting" them (or was it the other way around??!) were the three wisest decisions I've ever made! Mere words cannot adequately convey how totally wonderful my dogs are. Whatever I do for them, they repay me a million times over and more, with love and affection.
Life with my Lurchers is full of fun, cuddles, waggy tails, licks and LOVE!
The Sad Truth About Lurchers
Unfortunately, though, there are sadly, many more "unwanted" Lurchers in dog pounds throughout the UK. Some of them are fortunate enough to be taken in and cared for by one of the handful of Lurcher Rescue organisations in the UK, run by kind, dedicated people who move heaven and earth to find unwanted Lurchers a good home (or as the soppy amongst us say, their "Forever Sofa"!) . . . but not all stray or unwanted Lurchers are so lucky and for far too many of these stunning, graceful, affectionate and delightful dogs, this means a death sentence.
I hope to give an insight into the wonderful world of Lurchers and hope to inspire fellow dog lovers to consider giving a home to a lovable, long-legged Lurcher! You'll find links to lots of Lurcher rescue organisations further down in this article.
The Definition of a Lurcher
A SIGHTHOUND crossed with a PASTORAL DOG or a TERRIER = a LURCHER
What Is a Lurcher?
A "Lurcher" is NOT a breed. All Lurchers are crossbreeds (mongrel dogs).
The term "Lurcher" is used to describe a dog that is a cross between a sighthound (a dog that hunts by speed and sight, instead of by scent and endurance) and either a pastoral dog (a dog bred to work livestock) or a terrier (a small hunting dog originally developed for driving game from burrows).
A SIGHTHOUND crossed with a PASTORAL DOG or a TERRIER = a LURCHER
- Sighthounds include: Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis, Sloughiis, Borzois, Deerhounds, Wolfhounds, Afghan Hounds, Italian Greyhounds, Spanish Greyhounds (Spanish Galgo)
- Pastoral dogs include: Border Collies, Bearded Collies, Rough Collies, German Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs
- Terriers include: Jack Russell Terriers, Bedlington Terriers, Bull Terriers, Wheaten Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Irish Terriers, Airedale Terriers
In some cases, there may be multiple crossing involved, so you can see therefore that Lurchers can come in all shapes, sizes and colours and can either be smooth or rough-coated!
There's a special name for a type of Lurcher that is a cross between two or more Sighthounds such as a Greyhound and a Borzoi—it's called a "Longdog"!
Characteristically, Lurchers have long legs, deep chests, long pointed noses and are very agile and fast.
Why Are They Called "Lurchers"?
What does the word "Lurcher" mean?
There are various theories about the origin and meaning of the word "Lurcher". The most common explanation is that the word "Lurcher" comes from the Romani (or Romany) word "lur", which means "thief".
Given that Lurchers derive from hunting dogs originally bred in the 17th century by gypsies and travellers throughout Great Britain and Ireland for poaching rabbits, hares and other small creatures, "thief" would have been a perfectly reasonable descriptive name for poachers dogs!
On the other hand, "Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary", by D.C. Blood, V.P. Studdert and C.C. Gay, Elsevier, has this entry on Lurchers (quote courtesy of TheFreeDictionary.com):
"A traditional dog of the Romany gypsies in the United Kingdom; not an officially recognized breed, but generally a smooth-haired dog of variable conformation. It resembles a cross between a Whippet and a Greyhound. The name comes from the habit of hanging around in the background, more as a camp follower than as a family pet."
"Lurcher" is a similar word to "lurker", so that explanation is feasible too.
Lurcher: The Poacher's Dog!
Traditional "Silent" Hunting Dogs
Lurchers are believed to have originated in the UK and Ireland in the 17th century. They were bred by Irish Romany Gypsies for use in hunting small game such as rabbits and hares.
According to Evesham Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue:
"The Lurcher is thought to have been developed at the time that only those of noble blood were permitted to own a Greyhound or any other sight-dogs such as the Saluki, Whippet, Borzoi, Afghan Hound, Irish Wolfhound, Deerhound etc. So these crosses were made to produce an efficient hunting companion for commoners and a popular poachers' dog."
"All along the moorland road a caravan there comes,
Where the piping curlew whistles and the jacksnipe drums;
And a long, lean dog,
At a sling jig-jog,
A poacher to his eyelids as are all the lurcher clan,
Follows silent as a shadow and as clever as a man..."— Extract from the poem "The New Anubis" by Patrick R. Chalmers from his book "A Peck O' Maut" (1915)
Lurchers in Sport and Hunting
Until the UK banned hunting with dogs, traditionally Lurchers were used for pest control (rabbits, hares, foxes etc) and for hunting rabbits and hares (hunting at night using a lurcher and a powerful lamp was known as lamping).
Lurchers were also used in the sport of hare coursing (banned in Great Britain with effect from February 2005 and disallowed in Northern Ireland since 2002.)
Do Lurchers Make Good Pets?
Are Lurchers suitable dogs to keep as pets?
Lurchers make wonderful family pets due to their gentle, loving natures, but would-be Lurcher owners need to be aware that not all of them are tolerant of cats and other small furry pets, or of animals you might encounter on walks such as rabbits, squirrels, deer etc!
If you are squeamish at the thought of a dog acting on instinct and chasing and killing a bunny rabbit, then please don't choose a Lurcher as a pet.
My Lovely Lurchers! Meet My Lurchers: Tigger, Amber and Ebony!Click thumbnail to view full-size
They Require an Aware Owner
Lurchers were "designed" (for want of a better word) to put food in the cooking pot and while it's quite possible to teach them that you would rather they didn't catch a rabbit for you, some Lurchers will act on their instincts and it's better that you are aware of this simple fact from the outset. My three Lurchers have never killed anything—but that's probably more because I am careful not to give them the opportunity rather than them overcoming their natural instinct.
Other than that, like any other dogs, Lurchers need exercise but they don't need anything above and beyond what is "normal" for most other dogs, so don't think you need to be out of the house several times a day for hours on end.
They Love to Run
Lurchers love to run, but bear in mind that you need to be sensible and responsible about where you allow your Lurcher to be offlead. Think of their safety and that of other people and animals who may be in the vicinity. A Lurcher at full pelt tends to tune out of most things other than the sheer joy of running and they can cover a lot of ground FAST. This means that they can be a LONG way away from you very quickly indeed.
They Do Well With Routine Grooming
Lurchers don't need anything more than routine grooming (obviously rough coated Lurchers need a bit more "maintenance" for their coats than smooth-coated ones). They shed hair of course, but nothing excessive. The one difference I've found between Lurchers and other dogs I've had, is that their nails seem to grow very long and they HATE having them clipped—but that may just be my three being awkward.
They Don't Require Heavy Feeding
Foodwise, they don't cost a fortune to feed and my three do pretty well on a dental chew for breakfast, a main meal in the afternoon and a couple of dog biscuits, rawhide chews or something similar such as a pigs ear or a bit of paddywhack during the day to help keep their teeth clean.
They Love Furniture
Lurchers are definitely not a good choice for those who dislike dogs on the furniture!
They Love Comfort
Lurchers LOVE comfort and a house filled with warm, snuggly sofas and armchairs and spacious beds covered in soft cuddly duvets and pillows is heaven on earth for a Lurcher.
They Love to Cuddle
Lurchers snuggle and cuddle and snooze as much as they can on the softest, snuggliest surface they can find . . . and they LOVE their humans.
Whatever my three dogs cost me in terms of money and time, they repay a million times over in love and devotion. They're just WONDERFUL . . . but there are some very important things you need to consider before deciding to get a Lurcher as a pet, and I've gone into some detail about these in the section below.
Lurcher Videos: "Raja the Lurcher"
This video sums up pretty much what Lurchers are all about :)
Things to Bear in Mind When Considering Getting a Lurcher as a Pet
Lurcher Personality Traits
As I write this on my laptop, two of my three Lurchers are curled up on the sofa next to me...the other one is snuggled up on the armchair...they look so sweet, cosy and downright adorable. I know it sounds soppy, but I love these dogs with all my heart.
They Are Sociable
At home, all three of my dogs are placid, adaptable, reasonably obedient (laughing out loud) and wonderful, affectionate companions. They are the waggiest, cuddliest, lickiest, most loving dogs I have ever had (and I've had dogs for most of my life). They are loved totally and completely and they love back unconditionally and wholeheartedly in return. Lurchers love to sleep—they love their comfort—and they don't pester incessantly for walks.
They Like to Stay Warm
If it's raining or cold, they literally rush outside to "do their business" and rush back in again as quickly as possible, heading for the nearest heater/snuggly sofa and more sleep.
Lurcher Videos: "Fern" the Snow Lurcher
Lovely video of a fabulous Lurcher having fun in the snow!
They Make Great Companions
They're not faddy eaters, they don't shed excessive hair and as all three of mine are smooth coated, they don't require much grooming beyond nail cutting and teeth cleaning . . . as far as pets go, lurchers are pretty much perfect. However, outside of the home, there can often be a very different side to lurchers.
They Are Hunters
Hunting is what they were bred to do and they do it instinctively. Make no mistake, the waggy, lovable, couch-potato is capable of transforming into a sleek, powerful, muscular, turbocharged KILLING MACHINE in the blink of an eye if so inclined and given the opportunity.
Any Lurcher is easily capable of catching and killing a smallish animal very easily indeed. Not all will, but you need to be aware of the fact that they can. They don't differentiate between wild animals or domesticated pets either—to a lurcher, there is absolutely no difference between your neighbours cat or a wild rabbit, squirrel or fox...if the fancy takes them and instinct takes over, they will run after it and kill it if they can.
They Can Get Along With Other Pets
Many Lurchers co-exist very happily indeed with their owner's other pets, but some can never overcome their natural instinct that small furry creatures are nothing more than prey. This is an INSTINCT, and if you are thinking about getting a Lurcher as a pet, you MUST consider this aspect.
Amber Demonstrates How to Roach
Lurcher + Sofa = Roaching!
"Roaching" is the term used to describe the tendency of a lurcher to lie on their back with their legs in the air when relaxing on a comfy sofa, bed etc!
Tips for Raising and Training a Lurcher
Prey Drive Is a Natural Instinct
The desire to hunt is not evil or bad, it's what ANY dog is capable of, Lurcher or non-lurcher. Dogs are animals, not toys. It's just that Lurchers have more inbred tendency to instinctively hunt than many other types of dog. Any dog will chase a cat, rabbit etc, but Lurchers are seriously FAST and are far more likely to catch what they chase and if they do, that's where human conditioning STOPS and animal instinct takes over.
Not Every Lurcher Will Hunt
Now, don't get me wrong, not every Lurcher will do this, but some of them do, as owners have found out to their horror (and grief). Even my own dogs, normally pretty responsive to commands, seem to become deaf in the excitement of being out and about and forget that I, the person who normally they shadow everywhere I go (or as many places as I'll let them!) even exists, much less listen to my attempts to recall them unless they feel like it.
How to Prevent This Behavior
Luckily, there is a solution, which is just as well as Lurchers are so perfect in just about every other way. It's a simple solution too . . . muzzle your Lurcher in public and never let them off lead to run anywhere that there might be other animals around. It sounds terribly drastic‚ but better safe than sorry.
Don't Get Complacent
Complacency and believing that "my dog will never do anything bad" could well lead to disaster . . . so PLEASE take this aspect of the "lurcher personality" into consideration if you are thinking about getting a Lurcher as a pet.
Do Your Research
If you're considering getting a Lurcher from a rescue centre or anywhere else, do lots of research to find out more about them. Internet forums are a great place to find people who know a great deal about Lurchers and have first-hand experience and there are links to several excellent forums further down this page.
Lurcher fans unite! Are you, have you been, or would you like to be a lurcher owner?
Have you ever owned a Lurcher?
Adopting a Lurcher
If you're considering getting a lurcher from a rescue centre or anywhere else, do lots of research to find out more about lurchers and what owning one will entail. Lurcher and sighthound internet forums are great places to find people who know a great deal about lurchers and have first hand experience.
Lurcher Communities and Forums
- Lurcher Link
People who love Lurchers and the Lurcher world and wish to make a difference to their fate
- The Hound Lounge
A friendly place for people to come and chill out and chat about their hounds and share stories and photos and videos of them enjoying life.
- Greyhound Gap
Greyhound Gap Online Forum! We are an independent organisation made up of National Volunteers all with various aspects of Sighthound Experience.
Lurcher Videos: The Story of a Rescue Lurcher "Benoffie Pie"
Lovely Lurcher Ben got the happy ending he deserved. Not all Lurchers are so lucky!
Smooth-Coated Lurchers or Rough-Coated, Hairy Lurchers? What Is Your Favourite?
Rough coat (hairy!) or smooth coat—which do you like best?
Organisations Helping Lurchers and Greyhounds in Need
Contact any of the organisations listed below for further details of Lurchers needing re-homing.
UK Lurcher Rescue Link List
- Lurcher Link
Lurcher Link is a voluntary organisation whose aim is to try to save Lurchers' lives by liaising between rescues, stray pounds and members of the public. Many Lurchers are destroyed each week because the stray pounds are full and their local rescues
- Greyhound Gap
Registered charity dedicated to Rescue Greyhounds and Lurchers, forum and information about rehoming sighthounds, merchandise and appeals.
- Evesham Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue
The Evesham Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue was set up in 1989 by Pip Singleton who started bringing Greyhounds and Lurchers into her home in an attempt to stop them being destroyed. The rescue grew and is now run by about 10 volunteers and has foster h
- Southern Lurcher Lifeline - Home
Southern Lurcher Rescue, a UK-based rescue that helps find a home for lurchers in need
- Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue in the UK, dedicated to helping to find good homes for abandoned, abuse
Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue helping to find good homes for abandoned, abused or neglected greyhounds and lurchers
- Greyhound Awareness League
Greyhound Awareness League - GAL welcomes you to the wonderful world of greyhounds and lurchers. Here you can learn more about these beautiful dogs, visit the homeless hounds, find a fun day out, become a GAL member, help us save more dogs and much m
- Give A Greyhound A Home - GAGAH - rescue greyhound scotland - rescue rehoming greyhounds lurchers si
Give A Greyhound A Home - GAGAH - rescue rehoming greyhounds,lurchers,sighthounds,greyhounds in Scotland
Questions & Answers
© 2008 LouiseKirkpatrick