Lure coursing, the most popular event for the sighthound breeds, entails an open field competition. This competition attempts to create a simulation of a hare’s zigzag path to evade a pursuing hound. The hare’s path is generated by a continuous-loop line through a series of pulleys simulating a non-uniform set of turns. Instead of a live bunny, a set of white bags or plastic strips attached to the line attract the hound’s attention.
A typical lure course is between 600 and 1000 yards (548 to 914 meters) long. In Europe the course length can be over 1000 meters, and may incorporate some obstacles or jumps. The course must have a minimum number of turns in order to simulate prey (the jack-rabbit or hare) changing direction in a chase.
Competition is usually limited to dogs of purebred sighthound breeds and principally run in braces only of the same breed.
However, in February 2011 The American Kennel Club launched a new event – the Coursing Ability Test (CAT) which is open to all registered dogs at least 12 months of age. The purpose of this test is to provide all dogs and their owners an enjoyable, healthy activity in which they can participate.
The course shall be basically rectangular in shape with turns no more acute than 90 degrees. The total length of the course shall be no less than 600 yards and should be as close to 600 yards as is possible. The lure will consist of plastic strips. Depending of the size and type of dog, the dog will run either the full course or a 300 yard course.
Safety is of utmost importance. Many of the dogs running the Coursing Ability Test will not possess the agility of a sight hound and this must be a consideration in the design of a course.
For dogs shorter than 12 inches at the withers and / or brachycephalic (“flat-faced”) dogs the distance is 300 yards. A dog must complete this course in less than 1 ½ minutes. For all other dogs the distance is 600 yards and the dog must complete this course in less than 2 minutes. If there is a question which course a dog should run, the judge will decide.
The Coursing Ability Test is a non-competitive pass / fail event. Dogs run singularly. To pass dogs are required to complete their course with enthusiasm and without interruption within the maximum amount of time for the course length.
The AKC awards the following suffix titles:
CA – Coursing Ability: Three qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test from 2 different judges at 3 different tests. A dog must complete the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within a stated maximum amount of time.
CAA – Coursing Ability Advanced: Ten qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test.
CAX – Coursing Ability Excellent: Twenty five qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test.
CAX2 – Coursing Ability Excellent 2: Fifty qualifying scores in the Coursing Ability Test.
A higher numbered title will be awarded for every additional twenty five passes.
On Saturday, 26 February 2011 Janet Suber’s Spencer (Caduceus Spencer Batrille CD HT GN RAE3 OAP NJP CA) and Scout (Am. Grand Ch. Cardiridge Jean Louise Finch HT RN CA) became the first Cardigans to earn AKC’s new Coursing Ability (CA) title. And the next day Janet was told that Scout was also the first Grand Champion of all breeds to earn the title. Janet who lives in Chattanooga, TN, says that it was a great experience and that the sighthound people were super in helping out all of the newbies.
Mocking Bird Cardigans
Spencer and Scout (in front)
Veni Harlan, breeder of Borzois from Baton Rouge, LA, also has a Cardigan, AmCh. Cornerstone’s Mardi Gras, HT, CGC. Back in 2003 when lure coursing was for sighthounds only, Veni reported that when Mardi was about 5 months old, she brought her along with one of her Borzois to a practice and quickly realized that Mardi was keen on that lure. She wanted it every bit as much as those fanatical whippets. When finally, someone yelled, “let the corgi run!” she slipped her and off she went. The course was straight and about a block long and Mardi stayed right on the lure (shreaded plastic) all the way there and back while everyone clapped and cheered her to the finish. The “coursing cardi,” was so popular, she was asked to be the “official” course tester for the upcoming Louisiana KC Coursing Trial!
Mardi, the coursing cardi
Also in 2003, Sue Hallock reported that her 2½ year old Cardi Louie got the chance to try lure coursing and he LOVED it! What he lacked in speed he more than made up for in enthusiasm. Sue belongs to a medieval living history organization that occasionally does hound coursing. When she was at an event where they were doing it, Louie was frantic to get the lure so Sue decided to give it a try. The course was about the size of 1/3-1/2 a football field and had 3 turns. Afterwards his tongue was hanging out but he was completely focused on the lure and never lost interest or track of the lure at any point.
And Sue added: “Since herding behavior is a modification of a dog’s prey drive, I would think a strong herding instinct would go along with a great desire to chase fast moving things. I would think that most herding dogs would be pretty good coursers (although not matching the speed of the sight hounds). So don’t let those stubby legs fool you. Cardis are natural coursers!”
But Cardigans are not the only ones interested in coursing, there are also some very keen Pembrokes.
Kathleen Mallery from Parma, Idaho writes in February 2011:
“When the Idaho Lure Coursing Club was active, they always offered demo and full courses that we could all run. I ran the Pems every time it was available and found my dogs were quite talented.
I’ll never forget the year our dear Ribbon (Am/Can Ch. Castell Blue Ribbon Special PHC ran for the first time. The course then was just a straight line. Ribbon chased down the lure, shook it “to death” then brought it all the way back to me. People were in awe! At first, when she took off, they laughed because our command was “kill”! Ribbon had a game we played with her by that name so she related and took off like a flash! After that you could hear the “oh, Wow!’s in the audience.”
Castell Pembroke Corgis
Years later, when she was 12, Ribbon ran a full course and never stopped.
Ribbon on her 15th birthday
Peggy Newman from Salt Lake City, Utah used to take her homebred Pembroke bitch Solo (Taflar Scott’s Sweet Solo) to some practices with her whippet Gambler. As Solo did well there, Peggy took her to some trials put on by the club she was involved with and ran her after the trial. Solo would run about half the course, sometimes a little more than half (which is what is needed for the JC title.) A full course is 600-700 or so yards total.
Solo – Photo: Leaping Lizards Photography
Solo was the unofficial mascot for the Utah Sighthound Club for several years and had her own fan club. Soon exhibitors and judges would ask Peggy if she was going to run her corgi and so she did after the trial. The judges told Peggy that Solo was as “keen” on the lure as the sighthounds and had great “follow” and several would gladly have awarded her the legs needed for the JC (Junior Courser) title, but the AKC does not award it to any dogs but sighthounds. This was also before the Idaho club started to offer CAT (Coursing Ability Test) titles.
The only time Solo ever had trouble following the lure was when the grass was a foot over her head. And after that trial the grass was cut down as the basenjis had trouble too!
If you would like to test your dog, go to http://www.akc.org/events/performance/ and click on “Coursing Ability Tests” to find one near you.