You might have stumbled on the term lurcher being used to depict a certain type of dog, but what kind of dogs are lurchers?
Oxford dictionary tells us that the term lurcher derives from the Middle English word lorchen, which means "to lurk."
This seems to suggests that lurchers must have been dogs used to engage in some sort of obscure activity, such as remaining hidden so to then ambush for someone or something.
Today, we'll therefore discover more about lurchers, what lurcher dogs look like and general lurcher dog information, but first of all, can you guess the answer to our trivia question of the day?
What Kind of Dog is a Lurcher?
A lurcher is a sighthound mated with another non-sighthound breed. A lurcher is not a pure-bred dog, but rather is a cross between different dog breeds.
A Mixed Bag of Genes
What does a lurcher dog look like? Lurchers are not a particular breed of dog, which is why you don't find them typically depicted in books featuring different dog breeds or in dog breed directories.
Lurchers are basically the offspring of a sighthound that was mated with some other type of dog, usually some type of sheepdog or herding dog breed, and sometimes terriers.
Because of this genetic variability, depending on what dogs their parents were, lurchers are a mixed bag of genes and can therefore come in a variety of different shapes, colors and sizes.
For instance, they may be as small as a whippet or as tall as a Scottish deerhound! Generally though, common physical traits found in lurchers are long legs and narrow heads, which remind of the greyhound.
The Silent Hunter
The mating between a sighthound and a herding dog is to obtain a dog that is intelligent, tenacious and fast.
Imagine the brain of a collie with the speed of a greyhound, that's a good way to describe a lurcher. One of the biggest perks of a lurcher is this dog's ability to hunt in silence, without giving voice.
Once known as poacher's dogs, lurchers have been around for centuries and were prized for their superior hunting skills.
These mixed breed dogs are mostly popular in Great Britain, where centuries ago they may have developed as a result of accidental breeding, as it happened often in the Middle Ages.
A Look Back
While an accidental breeding here and there could have happened, there are chances that lurchers were sometimes purposely bred to evade trouble.
A theory has it that, back in the 14th, 15th and early 16th century, ordinary people were prohibited from owning sighthounds like the Irish wolfhound, Scottish deerhound and the greyhound.
It is possible therefore that, to avoid problems with the government, people astutely thought to breed sighthounds with other breeds so they could keep hunting, but this time though they stumbled on a dog that was particularly suitable for poaching rabbits, hares, and game birds courtesy of the lurcher's winning combination of speed and intelligence! A win-win!
The Lurcher Today
Nowadays, modern lurchers are mostly used as pets, but many people find them also useful for pest control, keeping rabbits, hares and foxes away from properties.
Lurchers are also enrolled in some fun doggy sports such as lure coursing or racing and even agility.
Because lurchers are a type of dog rather than a specific breed, there may be great variability between one specimen and another. However, generally lurchers are likely to be more energetic than the couch-potato greyhounds.
People owning lurchers often describe them as having a special zest for life and loving being around "their people." According to the American Lurcher Project, lurchers are affectionate dogs who make exceptional family dogs.
Because of their instinct to chase, they need to be kept in a fenced in yard and must be always leashed on walks. Caution should be used when introduced to small, furry animals due to these dogs' strong predatory instincts.
Did you know? Lurchers were often used to catch rabbits when they were driven out from their burrows but then in the early 1950s a virus decimated the rabbit population, however, hares were not affected.
At this point, special dogs were needed to run down hares. The longdog, a crossbreed between two sighthounds was therefore created.
Long Haired Lurcher, Sykes108, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Lurcher, illustration from The Sportsman's Cabinet by William Taplin, 1803