Hello, I’m a lurcher!
For an Italian, the word ‘lurcher’ is a strange thing, as there’s no exact translation for it in our language. You could use the word crossbreed, but it would be completely inadequate. The precise origin of the name remains a mystery, but it is definitely linked to the hunting abilities of these dogs.
Technically speaking, a lurcher is a crossbreed which has at least one sighthound in its bloodline. Its history is ancient, even though many of the stories are uncertain. The earliest reliable data can be traced back to the 11th century, when lurchers were used by nobles for coursing. Coursing still exists (in Ireland) as a ‘sport’ in which two dogs chase a hare.
From the 18th century onwards lurchers became increasingly popular, particularly the greyound/collie crosses. They were swift and agile animals, particularly used for poaching.
In the 19th and 20th centuries they became even more popular, but not only as hunting dogs: during WW1 they were successfully used as messenger dogs at the front.
After the end of the Great War lurchers became increasingly popular among gypsies and travellers, who still use them in a major way in Ireland, as well as elsewhere.
In the early 1970s the first lurcher dog shows and agility shows started to be held by lurcher enthusiasts in England. However, their life is often anything but happy, as anyone visiting a rescue in Ireland or the UK can verify. These are splendid animals, uniting the qualities of the greyhound with those of the other breeds they are crossed with, but they also share with their greyhound cousins the sad fate of animals who are exploited and mistreated by man.
Those visiting Ireland meet many lurchers who appear to be greyhounds in every respect, but are called ‘lurchers’ because the Irish Greyhound Board, i.e. the racing industry, has decided that all un-tattooed greyhounds should be classified as ‘lurchers’. But dogs are only tattooed when they begin racing; before that anything can happen, including that a greyhound may become a lurcher so as to disappear from official records and become a traveller’s dog used on unofficial race tracks, for coursing or hunting. Or worse.
But lurchers are wonderful friends to those who choose to adopt them: sociable, friendly, polite and easygoing, despite their sad past.
To adopt a lurcher is an act of love that will repay you with years of devotion, gratitude and gentleness that will transform your life.