What is a Lurcher
Choosing which kind of Lurcher you might want isn’t that easy and that’s because there are so many different types to choose from. Being a crossbreed, Lurchers actually come in a multitude of shapes and sizes depending on the genetic mix but at its bottom line, a Lurcher is a Sighthound (Greyhound, Whippet, Deerhound) crossed with ” something else”. There can be some snobbery regarding the term “Lurcher” and you will hear names like Whipperjacks, Wherriers, Coney Dogs and of course Long Dogs. But for the sake of sanity we are treating them all as Lurchers.
As the name suggests, Sighthounds hunt exclusively by sight and are sleeker and faster than the traditional scent hounds giving the Lurcher its athletic, graceful profile. However the Lurcher has been bred over generations to have additional skills at its disposal and has been crossed with scent hounds of all shapes and sizes to give it a “nose”. In addition, obvious crosses with traditional herding dogs like the Collie have resulted in much more trainable dogs. In effect just about every dog has found itself in a Lurcher at some point but traditionally they fall in three distinct groups.
The first group is a Sighthound crossed with another Sighthound and a common cross is a Deerhound crossed with a Greyhound. These make a lovely looking large dog usually with a rough coat in varying shades of grey and often with white flashes on the chest and paws. Traditionally these Sighthound crosses were known as Long Dogs but today they are grouped together into the Lurcher family; and a big family it is! Other common Long Dog crosses are the Wolfhound Lurcher, the Saluki Lurcher and the Whippet Lurcher along with the obvious Greyhound Lurcher. However there are also lots are rarer sight hound crosses out there like the Borzoi, the Afghan and the Spanish Galgo and from Africa the Azawkh and Sloughi. As a type it’s generally accepted that these Long Dogs aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer and training a Long Dog in even the basic commands can be quite difficult though they more than make up for this with their lovely mild mannered temperament and endearing disposition. There is however one exception in the “Brains Trust” of Long Dogs and that is the Whippet Lurcher. For some reason these little fellows are remarkably intelligent are very easy to train. They get on with everyone, they like children and make superb house pets.
“Sighthound x Terrier Lurcher”
All Lurchers were bred as working dogs to put food on the table and depending on the quarry and the local terrain, breeders would cross a Sighthound with a terrier to produce a smaller hunting dog with plenty of spirit and a lot more brains than a traditional Long Dog. Traditional favourites are the Bedlington Lurcher and the Staffordshire Lurcher though by the very nature of the breed lots of different terriers have found themselves in a Lurcher at some time!
The Bedlington Lurcher is invariably a small Lurcher as it is usually crossed with a Whippet and the Beddy/Whippet has a real following partly because they really have that archetypal scruffy mongrel look that is so appealing. Having a lot of terrier means that they a need a slightly firmer hand and can be a bit aggressive if not socialised but the Lurcher genes mean that they they are happy to sleep most of the day as long as they get a chance to let off some steam on a good walk or out in the open. They have a big following, are is easy to keep, easy to feed and have an extremely friendly temperament. They are even trainable, although like all Lurchers don’t expect too much!
The other popular cross is a Sighthound with a Staffordshire and sizes vary depending on if crossed with a whippet or a larger Greyhound or Deerhound. Staffie Lurchers can be big strong dogs and while the Staffie has a history as an aggressive fighting dog this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily nasty but they can be a problem if not socialised and trained very firmly as puppies. There is a real problem in that to some people Bull Lurchers are seen as a hard man’s dog, aggressive and capable of bringing down game as large as deer. The RSPCA in 2013 reported on numerous cases of badger, fox and deer cruelty using Bull Lurchers. As always it’s not the dog that is the problem but the owner.
“Sighthound x Collie Lurcher”
Over the years breeders discovered that by adding genes from the various herding dogs you could produce a Lurcher that was great at taking small game but with the huge advantage that you could train it to bring it back to you. As a result in today’s Lurcher population, Collie genes are second only to Greyhound genes. Herding dogs generally have intelligence and a good temperament and the most popular crosses are with the Border Collie, the Bearded Collie and the German Shepherd.
It’s obvious why the border collie is the first choice as it possesses all the attributes which are lacking in the pure sight hounds. Traditionally because of their superb stamina and speed, the Greyhound and its variants were used as the Hunting dogs of the wealthy landowners and it was forbidden for the poor commoners to own such dogs. So the ingenious local lad would get his collie or other mutt “serviced” by the lords Greyhound and the resulting offspring had two great advantages. Firstly you could pretend it wasn’t a Greyhound and secondly the introduction of a few “brains ” really helped to get a dog that was not just fast enough to catch small game but bright enough to be trained to bring it back (greyhounds are notoriously stupid)
Years of selective breeding have produced a wealth of different Lurcher crosses from small Whippet/Terrier crosses, to big shaggy Deerhound crosses and while they might look quite different they all share the Lurcher’s special qualities and temperament