Monday, March 16, 2015

The Lurcher - Another Point of View

Gracie Jones
Dr. Barkman's favorite Lurcher
The Lurcher is a hybrid that has two purebred parents of different breeds (like a Labradoodle).
A handsome Lurcher indeed.

What's the history behind the mysterious Lurcher? 

Up to no good?
The most commonly told story is that the Lurcher was a poacher's dog, favored by Roma people.  The name is a combination of the ancient Romany word  "lur" which means thief and "cur" which means a mixed breed dog. Over the centuries it became one word - Lurcher.  I guess it would translate to thieving mutt. But this old tale has a lot more to do with discrimination against Roma gypsies than it does with dog breed history.  
A den of thieves?
Another commonly told tale is this one: In the 14th through 16th centuries, English and Scottish governments banned the lower class (mostly Irish) from owning sighthounds lest they be tempted to steal game animals from the King's private preserve.   So they created a clever mongrel using a sighthound as one of the parents. The Lurcher was bred to poach the King's rabbits and birds. My guess is this fable has to do with discrimination too, but against the Irish.

Denigrating the Irish (Punch Magazine)
What else would you expect of an Irish dog?
If you look at the etymology of the word Lurcher, it could be interpreted to mean thieving dog.  But the middle English meaning of the word is also "to lie hidden, lie in ambush." This makes more sense to me.  Hunting dogs were originally used to net game. The dog would freeze or set the animal to allow the hunter to throw the net over it. 

This is how Giles Jacobs used the word Lurcher in his 1718 treatise on hunting dogs (The compleat sportsman.  London:  Eliz. Nutt and R. Colling)  "Your setting dog, you may chose [sic] either a land spaniel, water spaniel or mongrel of them both, the Lurcher. (p. 6)
Just a good ol' huntin' dog?

From what Jacobs said, the Lurcher was any combination of two hunting dogs.  By crossing them, you could create a dog that was a little less hyper than either high-strung parent. It could be a a hybrid of a sighthound, herding dog, setter or spaniel.

Greyhound x Collie mix = Lurcher
Today the traditional Lurcher is mostly represented by Greyhound hybrids. Ruth Horter's The Lurcher is a good contemporary history with lots of pictures of Lurcher combos. (Dr. Barkman would like one of each please.) This is a good website too - Celtic Lurchers

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of the Lurcher!! An interesting post! I imagine some of the mixes would make for very handsome dogs!!