Posts Tagged ‘Lurcher’

Bred to be coyote hounds!


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These Jack Russells are very typical of the kind that English ratters have always used, and lurchers and retriever crosses can rat, too.

Highly bred and trained retrievers aren’t used to rat, though they certainly can do it.

The reason is that it teaches the dog to do a killing bite, also known as “hardmouth.”

However, there are retrievers that can adjust what kind of bite they use and can be used to retrieve live birds and to kill rats and other things.

One of the reasons why the curly-coated retriever got such a bad reputation for hardmouth is because they were owned by keepers as their personal dogs, which they used in ratting forays like this one.

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Greyhound/Pembroke corgi:

Photo courtesy of Nara U.

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“Black merle” lurcher

From Merle The Start of the Dynasty by David Brian Plummer.

This looks to be very similar to a harlequin Great Dane.

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Plummer suggested adding more greyhound to the golden retriever/greyhound lurcher to make it fast enough for hares.

The following text come from Rogues and Running Dogs (1997):

This is a very different account than Plummer’s denunciation of the golden retriever as the “sycophant” of dogs in his Merle: The Start of a Dynasty (2000).

As I noted in my post on the golden lurcher, I felt that it would have been a very good dog to have.

Some greyhounds have actual retrieving instinct, and if one of these greyhounds happened to be used in the cross, these would be good “allaround [sic] dogs.”

I don’t know why he went so far out of his way to attack golden retriever lurchers in Merle, but he seems very appreciative of them here.

But as I have noticed, the more one writes, the more one tends to experience that most human of characteristics– contradiction.

Still, I wish he had used better terms for the friendly and biddable nature of the golden retriever.

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This text comes from Plummer’s Practical Lurcher Breeding:

So he essentially says that one can easily procure an exotic sight hound from someone who got it as a fashion accessory.

At one time, Afghan hounds were all the rage in the UK. I don’t know why.

But I remember reading of how popular these dogs were in the early to mid 1970’s.

Those were sort of the zenith of the long-haired hippie-type fashion, so I guess the dogs would have fit the motif.

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Jess sent me this photo of a lurcher with obvious Afghan hound ancestry. According to her rescuers, she weighs only about 11 kg (24ish pounds.) Because of her size, I think it’s an Afghan/Bedlington terrier cross lurcher:

Full body shot:

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A golden retriever-derived lurcher. It looks like a sturdy, wavy-coated gold greyhound.

A few week ago, Jess at DesertWindHounds asked me why there were no golden retriever lurchers. Seeing as Miley is a golden that wishes she had been born a saluki, I thought that this was an interesting question. Jess seemed to think that it was strange that this type of lurcher seems absent from the lurcher population. After all, I have written about pure goldens catching rabbits and bringing them to me as presents– both dead and alive, so why couldn’t you cross these dogs with greyhounds and make a good retrieving lurcher?

Well, David Brian Plummer, the famous British dog man, answered this question in his book Merle: The Start of Dynasty, which is about the founding of his own strain of lurchers. He didn’t like the friendly temperament that a golden retriever would create when mixed with the equally friendly nature of a greyhound:

I wouldn’t have use the word “sycophant” to describe a golden retriever. I would have used the word “sagacious.”

And the reason why we would have used different words is because of our own anthropomorphism.

“Loyalty” is not a word I use do to describe dog behavior. Most “loyal” dogs I’ve known have been those that are really more reactive to strangers than to people with whom they live. I don’t think it has anything to do with our anthropomorphic concepts of “loyalty.” I could just as easily turn “loyalty” into “xenophobia.”  But I don’t think many owners of “loyal” dogs would appreciate that.

But as for this type of lurcher, I like the looks of it. And from the description of the dog, I think I’d like a golden lurcher’s temperament, too.

It would be a very good dog for just about everything.

And from the photo of the dog above, it’s a pretty dog, too.

Who cares if it’s a friendly dog?

That’s not a vice!

I suppose I prefer a friendlier dog, for I am very reserved and somewhat grouchy person by nature. Having a friendly dog is a good juxtaposition.

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(Source for image)

Last week, I wrote about the story of Smoaker, the retrieving “deer greyhound” that belonged to Grantley Berkeley. Smoaker became famous for coursing deer on his own, and for being of great use on the shooting line, fetching shot pheasants and other small game as well as an retriever.

On the occasion of Smoaker’s death, The New Sporting Magazine carried an article and several letters extolling the virtues of this remarkable dog. The article points out that Smoaker’s son is similarly gifted as a deer courser and as a retriever.

However, not much is said about Shark in the piece.

So I had to hunt around to find out more about him.  The Berkeley provides the following account in Edward Jesse’s Anecdotes of Dogs (1858):

His son Shark was also a beautiful dog. He was by Smoaker out of a common greyhound bitch, called Vagrant, who had won a cup at Swaffham. Shark was not so powerful as Smoaker; but he was, nevertheless, a large-sized dog, and was a first-rate deer greyhound and retriever. He took his father’s place on the rug, and was inseparable from me. He was educated and entered at deer under Smoaker. When Shark was first admitted to the house, it chanced that one day he and Smoaker were left alone in a room with a table on which luncheon was laid. Smoaker might have been left for hours with meat on the table, and he would have died rather than have touched it; but at that time Shark was not proof against temptation. I left the room to hand some lady to her carriage, and as I returned by the window, I looked in. Shark was on his legs, smelling curiously round the table; whilst Smoaker had risen to a sitting posture, his ears pricked, his brow frowning, and his eyes intently fixed on his son’s actions. After tasting several viands, Shark’s long nose came in contact with about half a cold tongue; the morsel was too tempting to be withstood. For all the look of curious anger with which his father was intently watching, the son stole the tongue and conveyed it to the floor. No sooner had he done so, than the offended sire rushed upon him, rolled him over, beat him, and took away the tongue. Instead, though, of replacing it on the table,the father contented himself with the punishment he had administered, and retired with great gravity to the fire.

I was once waiting hy moonlight for wild ducks on the Ouze in Bedfordshire, and I killed a couple on the water at a shot. The current was strong; but Shark, having fetched one of the birds, was well aware there was another. Instead, therefore, of returning by water to look for the second, he ran along the banks, as if aware that the strong stream would have carried the bird further down; looking in the water till he saw it, at least a hundred yards from the spot where he had left it in bringing the first; when he also brought that to me. Nothing could induce either of these dogs to fetch a glove or a stick: I have often seen game fall close to me, and they would not attempt to touch it. It seemed as if they simply desired to be of service when service was to be done; and that when there were no obstacles to be conquered, they had no wish to interfere (pg. 33-34).

So Shark was a bank runner, and Berkeley apparently lived at the time when bank running was not seen as an undesirable behavior in retrievers. Of course, one can see in that account that a bank runner could be a useful dog. Shark did not waste time charging back into the river to hunt for his bird. Instead, he efficiently ran down the river bank to see where the current had carried the duck. That’s something we don’t want our retrievers doing, but in the real world, it has a definite utility.

Shark, like his father, was unlike normal retrievers in that he didn’t carry around objects that had nothing to do with hunting. This may be the result of them both being greyhounds, and greyhounds are beasts of prey. They actually kill the prey they are sent after. These two dogs were adept at killing red deer, and retrieving shot birds and other small game was just a step below coursing.

Now, Shark would be bred to “Newfoundland” bitch, which, in the 1830’s and 1840’s, would have been among the first choices for a retriever. This breeding produced what would have what we would today call a lurcher– in this case, a retrieving lurcher. The story of the retrieving greyhound family continues through a dog from this breeding named Wolfe:

Wolfe’s mother was a Newfoundland bitch. He was also a large and powerful dog, but of course not so speedy as his ancestors. While residing at my country house, being my constant companion, Wolfe accompanied me two or three times a-day in the breeding season to feed the young pheasants and partridges reared under hens. On going near the coops, I put down my gun, made Wolfe a sign to sit down by it, and fed the birds, with some caution, that they might not be in any way scared. I mention this, because I am sure that dogs learn more from the manner and method of those they love, than they do from direct teaching. In front of the windows on the lawn there was a large bed of shrubs and flowers, into which the rabbits used to cross, and where I had often sent Wolfe in to drive them for me to shoot. One afternoon, thinking that there might be a rabbit, I made Wolfe the usual sign to go and drive the shrubs, which he obeyed; but ere he had gone some yards beneath the bushes, I heard him make a peculiar noise with his jaws, which he always made when he saw anything he did not like, and he came softly back to me with a sheepish look. I repeated the sign, and encouraged him to go; but he never got beyond the spot he had been to in the first instance, and invariably returned to me with a very odd expression of countenance. Curiosity tempted me to creep into the bushes to discover the cause of the dog’s unwonted behaviour; when there, I found, congregated under one of the shrubs, eight or nine of my young pheasants, who had for the first time roosted at a distance from their coop. Wolfe had seen and known the young pheasants, and would not scare them.

Wolfe was the cause of my detecting and discharging one of my gamekeepers. I had forbidden my rabbits to be killed until my return; and the keeper was ordered simply to walk Wolfe to exercise on the farm. There was a large stone quarry in the vicinity, where there were a good many rabbits, some parts of which were so steep, that though you might look over the cliff, and shoot a rabbit below, neither man nor dog could pick him up without going a considerable way round. On approaching the edge of the quarry to look over for a rabbit, I was surprised at missing Wolfe, who invariably stole off in another direction, but always the same way. At last, on shooting a rabbit, I discovered that he invariably went to the only spot by which he could descend to pick up whatever fell to the gun; and by this I found that somebody had shot rabbits in his presence at times when I was from home.

Wolfe accompanied me to my residence in Hampshire, and there I naturalised, in a wild state, some white rabbits. For the first year the white ones were never permitted to be killed, and Wolfe saw that such was the case. One summer’s afternoon I shot a white rabbit for the first time, and Wolfe jumped the garden fence to pick the rabbit up; but his astonishment and odd sheepish look, when he found it was a white one, were curious in the extreme. He dropped his stern, made his usual snap with his jaws, and came back looking up in my face, as much as to say, ‘You’ve made a mistake, and shot a white rabbit, but I’ve not picked him up.’ I was obliged to assure him that I intended to shoot it, and to encourage him before he would return and bring the rabbit to me (pg. 34-36).

The “Newfoundland” mother that Wolfe had could have easily been a St. John’s water dog or an early wavy-coated retriever. Berkeley does not say anything about Wolfe’s progeny and concludes his story about his greyhounds with a description of his current greyhound bitch, Brenda, who has also learned how to retrieve to the gun. It is possible that Wolfe could have contributed some to other retrievers, but I cannot find any accounts that clearly state this. It would make sense that such an intelligent dog would have been a great asset to anyone’s retriever breeding program.

Berkeley’s account of Wolfe shows something that science has recently just found out about dogs:  They have a sense of rules. Wolfe knew that he wasn’t supposed to bother white rabbits or young pheasants. He learned these rules simply by spending time with his master. Dogs can learn a lot just from being with us, and considering his Newfoundland/retriever heritage, one would expect him to have  very strong sense of wanting to please his humans. When he was sent to shrubs, he knew that he would bother the young pheasants– a violation of the rules. He also was deeply vexed when he was sent to retrieve the shot white rabbit, which he had learned he was supposed to leave alone. In both cases, he had to disobey rules, and he just didn’t feel comfortable doing so.

The story of this family of unorthodox retrieving sighthounds is truly a fascinating chapter in the history of retrievers. Perhaps Wolfe’s descendants live on in modern flat-coated and golden retrievers, or maybe he was bred back into greyhounds and a little “Newfoundland” courses through the veins of some racing and coursing dogs.

Whatever the case, Wolfe, Shark, and Smoaker were truly remarkable dogs. They defy the conventions of the modern dog culture, which worships the notion of the specialist dog. Greyhounds are to race or course. Retrievers are to retrieve. And that’s the way it is supposed to be.

Ah. But it wasn’t always that way.

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