What is a Lurcher dog? Find out here!
The Lurcher dog breed is actually a cross-breed (or hybrid breed), not a pure-bred line with specific characteristics. Most experts describe the Lurcher dog as being a cross between a sighthound breed and a non-sighthound breed.
Most Lurcher dogs have the Greyhound as the sighthound parent. The non-sighthound parent can be almost any other breed. The appearance of the Lurcher will depend (of course) on the parent dog breeds.
Lurcher Dog Breed
What’s so special about the Lurcher? Why would anyone cross (for example) a Greyhound with another breed? The answer lies with the physical abilities of the Lurcher, and also with the temperament. They are typically very fast hunting and racing dogs, and tend to be laid-back and relaxed around the house.
The Lurcher was first recorded in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the middle ages. At that time, only the aristocracy could own pure-bred dogs, and they were used for hunting on the lands and estates. It was a crime for the general population to hunt and kill game on lands owned by the nobility, and the punishments if caught were severe.
To get around these restrictions, Roma people, travelers and peasants used cross-bred dogs developed and trained for hunting. They would typically go after rabbits and hares, usually at night. This was, of course, still poaching, but the dogs were so fast and athletic that they were very hard for gamekeepers to detect, let alone catch.
This type of hunting has persisted into modern times, and is called “lamping”. It involves walking slowly through the hunting area, typically woodland or open fields, with the dog at the hunter’s side. The hunter will stop to illuminate the surroundings, looking for the reflection of a rabbit or hare’s eyes. If he sees one, he will release the dog towards the animal, and the chase is on.
If the hunter does not see anything, he will put his lamp out, and walk quietly on for another hundred yards or so, then stop and try his lamp again.
This hunting background led to the “sport” of hare coursing, which has been banned in the U.K., and has been replaced by lure coursing. In both, the dog is essentially chasing a fast-moving object.
The name Lurcher comes from the Sanskrit-derived word “lur” for plunderer in some Romany dialects, and the related verb “lurel” which means to rob or plunder. The Roma people first came from India, and not Egypt – the origin of the negative term “gypsy”.
All Lurchers have a strong hunting instinct to chase anything that moves. This comes from the sight hound parent, typically a Greyhound. They love to run, and enjoy being outdoors with plenty of room to move.
But when it comes to being at home, another side to their character becomes evident – they like to be with their family, and make excellent family pets and companions. After playing with the kids, they will curl up into a ball and snooze the afternoon away. It’s surprising how much they can reduce their size! They are not aggressive, but may be rather aloof with strangers.
The physical characteristics of the Lurcher can vary quite widely, depending on the parent breed dogs. However, the following figures are realistic;
Height; Fromm 22 inches to 28 inches
Weight; From 45lbs to 60lbs
Lifespan; Around 12 to 14 years.
Color; Wide variation, depending on the parents. Many Lurchers are fawn or brindle, with a slightly shaggy coat.
Ease of Training
While Greyhounds are notoriously difficult to train, a Lurcher is usually more obedient. It’s important to socialize a Lurcher puppy when young, to get them used to new sights, sounds and smells, and especially new people. We recommend taking your Lurcher to obedience training classes, as a well-trained dog is less frustrating for the owner, and results in a happier dog as they know what is expected of them.
This early socialization should also include becoming familiar with small dogs and other small animals. This should reduce the risk of your Lurcher mistaking small animals and dogs for a Hare or Rabbit, and attacking them.
The Lurcher dog breed does not make for a good watch dog nor a guard dog. They were not bred to guard – unlike livestock guardian dog breeds – and so do not have the instinct to protect.
If you want a dog to act as a watch dog, or for protection, I suggest you look at a different breed.
Lurchers do not require a lot of grooming care. They have a coat that is short/shaggy, and a thorough brushing with a stiff brush once a week is usually enough to keep them looking good.
They should only be bathed infrequently, if they become very muddy or smelly. Usually mud can be left to dry and then brushed out.
As with all dogs, the ears should be checked every week for any signs of infection such as redness, swelling or a bad smell, and also for foreign objects such as grass or twigs. Teeth should be brushed every day with a soft, small toothbrush and a dog-specific toothpaste, not a human toothpaste.
Lurcher Dog Breed – Health Considerations
Lurchers are generally healthy, and can live up to 15 years old. However there is a lot of variation between individual dogs, depending on the breeds of the parents. If you are buying a puppy, you should see the parent dogs and establish their breed.
A reputable breeder will have his parent dogs checked for common problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and eye / heart conditions.
Famous Lurcher Dogs
Actor Bill Maynard’s character Claude Greengrass in the U.K. television Series Heartbeat owned a Lurcher called Alfred.
Lurcher Owner Interview
A Lurcher owner interview with Lurcher owner Jonathan Ross, in New Zealand
Can you tell me a little about your Lurcher?
I was interested in your web site and its page on the Lurcher breed of dog. I have one of these, called Wanda. My son breeds hunting dogs, and Wanda is one of the bitches from his last litter. The father is an Airedale Whippet / Greyhound Beardy cross. The mother is a Boxer / Bull Terrier / Bull Mastiff cross.
I live on the West coast of the South Island of New Zealand, and live on my own with Wanda, my cat Muzza and 9 sheep.
How easy was she to train?
Wanda is 20 months old, and she is a natural hunter of both big game and small, and has been hunting since she was 7 months old. She didn’t need much training. She is incredibly intelligent, loyal and obedient.
She is a good guard dog and protects my family, myself and property fiercely.
What is she like with children?
Wanda is great with children, I have 6 children myself, and 2 grandchildren. She loves playing with them, although we keep an eye on her when the smallest kids are around, as she can be a bit too playful, like any young dog.
What is she like round other dogs?
She gets on with other dogs that don’t threaten her or us, she can be a little jealous especially with the cat or her siblings that show us a little much attention. Wanda is not aggressive unless on the hunt and is a natural finder bailer stalker, she has put up many pigs goats and deer,
I work away from home a lot and travel long distances daily, Wanda is my travel companion . Wanda is with me 24/7 eats and sleeps with me, and enjoys life to the fullest.
Have there been any health issues?
She has had no health issues to date.
I don’t fully trust Wanda with the sheep, especially the lambs as they like to run, and anything that runs is fair game to a dog with Wanda’s breeding. But I use her with the sheep, to teach her that they are not fair game.
That’s my Lurcher story.
Thank you to Jonathan for sharing this story of his Lurcher Wanda, in our Lurcher Owner Interview!