C. A. Krowzack, DVM
Lure coursing is an athletic sport for all sight hounds, of which the Irish wolfhound is one. Sight hounds pursue their prey visually instead of by scent like beagles or bloodhounds. While many dogs will chase a lure, or “bunny” as it is often called, only sight hounds may compete for a title.
Lure coursing takes place outside in an open field, not on an oval track like greyhound racing. Three lures (bunnies) are attached to a cord and run through a set of pulleys. The lure may be plastic bags or strips of fur, but is never a live, real bunny. The cord runs through a machine with a battery powered motor, which is how the bunnies “run.” The course itself is a minimum of 500 yards and incorporates turns, reversals and straight runs. The idea is to simulate chasing a real bunny. The finish is adjacent to the start, so the dogs are returned to their owners at the end of the run.
Hounds are run by breed in groups of two or three. While being fast helps, speed is not the sole criterion used to determine the winner. The hounds are also judged on enthusiasm, endurance (some of the courses are 1200 yards), agility (how well they negotiate the turns) and follow (are they chasing the bunny closely or making up their own course plan?). A slower dog who follows well may outscore a faster dog who “cheats” the course. The lure operator can speed up or slow down the bunnies depending on the breed and the vagaries of the individual run.