SIGHTHOUNDS AND LURE COURSING!!!

Many newcomers to the world of Basenjis ask, "What is Lure Coursing and is it something my Basenji and I might enjoy?" Back in the 60's and early 70's a group of sighthound owners decided to come up with a way of testing their different breeds' abilities in the field. They formed ASFA, (The american Sighthound Field Association) and developed the system that's now in place. ASFA is the most active in lure coursing field trials, but the AKC using, for the most part, the system developed by ASFA, began sanctioning its own lure coursing field trials in 1992. Sighthounds, as the name implies, are dogs in the hound group that hunt their prey by sight as opposed to scent hounds which hunt by smell. The Greyhound and whippet are the purest, probably, of sighthounds while the Bloodhound is probably the purest example of the scent hound. Currently, 11 breeds are recognized by ASFA and the AKC as eligible to compete in sighthound lure coursing trials: Afghan Hounds, Basenjis, Borzoi, Greyhounds, Ibizan Hounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Pharaoh Hounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Salukis, Scottish Deerhounds and Whippets. All of these breeds, to varing extent, also hunt by smell but it's felt that their primary hunting abilities are based on sight; spotting their prey and chasing it down. Lure coursing, basically, uses an artificial lure to simulate the movement of a fast moving rabbit as it zig-zags around a large field trying to escape the predator that's trying to catch and kill it. A large field because the minimum lure course length is 500 yards and most courses are closer to half a mile! I'll describe a Basenji course, but it applies to the other ten breeds as well. Three Basenjis, each wearing a racing blanket, (one yellow, one pink, one blue) line up at the start with their handlers. A slip lead is used to hold each Basenji. There's huntmaster who gives the handlers instructions telling them to release their Basenjis when they hear the T of his Tallyho and that they can be assessed a penalty if they pre-slip their Basenjis. There are generally two judges (preferred) though at times one judge is acceptable if two aren't available. Judges have to train and qualify for each breed they judge, just like the show ring because the running style and speed of each breed can vary widely. A lure operator controls the speed of the lure, as it zig-zags around the field through a series of small pulleys, keeping it far enough ahead of the Basenjis to prevent them from (hopefully) catching it while keeping it close enough to them to keep them active in the chase. The huntmaster verifies that the judges are ready, that the lure operator is ready and that the handlers are ready. Giving a hand signal to the lure operator to start the lure the huntmaster yells "Tallyho" and the handlers release the Basenjis. From that point on it's pure instinct on the part of the Basenjis; they see something moving that fast through a field and they want to catch and kill it. They're usually allowed to tear into the lure at the finish as their reward for a successful course. The judges, going by blanket color alone, give points to each of the three Basenjis for speed, agility, endurance, enthusiasm and follow. The next group of three Basenjis is then run until all Basenjis entered have had their go at "Chasing The Bunny!" Open Basenjis, those that haven't yet earned their Field Champion title, are run together, then the Field Champions are run together. This same procedure is followed for each of the breeds until all have had one turn at "The Bunny". The course is then reversed and each breed has a second run. The open stake winner (Highest combined scores of the two runs) then runs off for Best of breed against the Field Champion stake winner. Each Best of Breed winner is then eligible to run for Best In Field which, once again, is three at a time, but this time it's three different breeds. The mix of breeds is determined by random draw as is the running of the dogs within their own breed. My Bo won Best In Field in 1994 at an AKC trial running with a Whippet and a Pharaoh Hound! Obviously, Bo's not as fast as a whippet but in Best In Field the judges are to judge based upon how well each breed runs compared to the standard for that breed. Winners get the same type ribbons and rosettes that you see in the show ring and are working toward the title of Field Champion. In the case of ASFA, the title "Lure Courser of Merit" can also be earned. To earn an LCM, a hound has to be a Field Champion, and then earn the equivalent of three more Field Championships! Hounds can then go on and earn LCM II, III, IV, etc. titles. Most coursing clubs hold practices after their trials and welcome newcomers who would like to see how their hounds might do. Anybody interested in giving lure coursing a try and needing to know what clubs course in their area can e-mail me or write by snail mail. There are many clubs throughout the U.S. and probably one near you! Give it a try! John A. Richardson Copyright 1994

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