One of the first things you’ll notice when you look for the Lurcher on the AKC website is that he’s not on it. Upon further investigation, you would learn that the Lurcher isn’t a pure breed but one of the original crossbreds created to fill a niche. Lurchers aren’t a breed cross but a type of cross, a blend of sighthound and working dog.
Lurchers come in several sizes, but one basic shape. Defined by their ability to give chase, Lurchers are generally slender, bony dogs with deep chests and long legs. They have a long and storied history in their native England. Because so many crosses can create the Lurcher, no breed registry has tried to assimilate them. Some may suggest this is best to retain the working qualities of the breed.
The history of the Lurcher is the story of the underdog, of making do, of not being content to be told what one cannot do. A millennium ago, the English peasantry decided they had the right to own a dog capable of running down game to feed their families, even if it meant punishment. The modern Lurcher’s popularity has surged as the “designer dog” idea has become popular. Lurchers appeal to the notion that one size doesn’t fit all. There’s a Lurcher in every size for every game.
The Lurcher’s history reflects the commoner’s refusal to be denied his place at the table. King Canute, ruler of England during the pre-Norman invasion period from 1016-1035, outlawed commonfolk from owning greyhounds. Only the aristocracy was allowed to own a Greyhound. If an official discovered a commoner hunting their dog within the forest, they’d be charged a fine and their dog confiscated. Dogs living within ten miles of the forest were subject to having their tendons cut so they couldn’t outrun the king’s Greyhounds. This law remained on the books for nearly four hundred years.
Not to be denied the chance to hunt, peasants managed to secretly breed the lord of the land’s Greyhounds to their working farm dogs. The progeny’s scruffy exterior hid the resulting mix’s royal lineage. The working dog’s biddability added to the speed, hunting prowess, and peaceful nature of the sighthound, creating a top-notch hunting companion. The hunt wasn’t for sport so much as to provide food for his human family, and although this style of hunting has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 2005, Lurchers stem from these working lines today.
In the United States, breeders cross Whippets and Border Collies to create a lightning-fast, highly biddable dog that excels at Flyball, a sport where teams of dogs run through a course, release a tennis ball, and run it back to their handler. Some parts of the country call the mix of Greyhound, Labrador Retriever, Coonhound, or Pointer an American Lurcher. These dogs hunt jackrabbits, foxes, or raccoons or race through courses created both over land and through the water. In other parts of the country, unscrupulous breeders mix Greyhounds with heavier breeds to run down and kill coyotes, so you’ll want to avoid dogs from breeders who raise them as coyote killers.
If you’re in the market for a Lurcher, you may hear stories about them killing cats. Tragedies like this can happen, but you can mitigate the risk. If you buy a pup, you’ll need to carefully socialize him to live peacefully alongside your cat. If you adopt an adult, check to see if he’s cat friendly or not.
As with any dog with such a high prey drive, how he reacts to his cat as opposed to a strange cat when he’s on a walk may be quite different. Be sure to keep your Lurcher securely on a leash and martingale collar or harness when you’re on a walk. It’s bad enough to chase your dog across the countryside because he’s off after a rabbit, but it is significantly worse to have your dog kill someone’s pet because his instinct is to hunt.
Because Lurchers are blended dogs, they take different characteristics from each side of the mix. His energy level, intelligence, and willingness to please depend on the non-sighthound parent breed. The sighthound side, mainly when Greyhound is in the blend, likes to stretch his legs for an explosive sprint but then cuddle up on the couch. Although he needs space to run, the Lurcher wants his relaxation time. Gentle and loving with family, Lurchers move from field to family seamlessly.
Size And Appearance
Because the Lurcher is a sighthound crossed on another working breed, the size of the particular pup will depend on the parent breeds (and the parents may also be crosses). Lurchers generally are medium to large, light-bodied dogs. In general, Lurchers are deep-chested, leggy dogs regardless of the cross.
Sighthounds vary significantly in size, and the Whippet is the lower end of the scale used in the Lurcher cross. Whippets top out around twenty-two inches at the shoulder. Irish Wolfhounds are also sighthounds, and males are at minimum thirty-two inches tall. Considering that the herding, sporting, or terrier side can also vary considerably, Lurchers can stand between twenty and nearly thirty inches tall.
Coat And Colors
Lurchers’ coats and colors aren’t predictable because so many crosses are possible. Breeds like the Greyhound and Whippet are super smooth short-haired breeds, while Salukis and Afghans have abundant coats. On the other side of the blend, Border Collies have silky coats, and Terriers may be rough-coated. Depending on what coat type and shedding level suits your lifestyle, there’s a Lurcher for you.
Colors range across the board, but the parent breeds will determine the color of the pups. Because Lurchers can result from a purebred to purebred cross or Lurcher to Lurcher crosses, coat colors may not breed true. Many Lurchers are grizzled, black, tan, or black and tan.
Exercise And Living Conditions
Although Lurchers can produce bursts of blistering speed, they only need moderate exercise. They love a walk, but you’ll need to leash them securely. Lurchers don’t always come when called, and if your Lurcher bolts after prey, he can cover a lot of ground very quickly and could be injured or worse. A thirty-minute walk twice daily is adequate, and Lurchers typically don’t overeat. You’ll need to give your canine sprinter some room to run at will and play in a safely fenced area from time to time.
Lurchers like being house dogs. They are friendly and love to cuddle, although the sire and dam mix determines his energy level. When you furnish your home with supplies for your Lurcher, purchase a crate that allows him to stretch his long legs. Using the standard sizing based on weight won’t ensure you have a large enough crate for him. Verify the dimensions to ensure he has adequate space to stand or lie down.
If your Lurcher is part Border Collie, you’ll have an easier time training him than if he’s part Terrier. Generally, sighthounds are agreeable to working with their handlers, although they may decline. The most difficult command to teach them to obey reliably is recall. They won’t listen to you calling them back if they give chase. Instinct trumps training when they run.
Lurchers benefit from obedience training, and socialization with small pets helps them interact reliably with other furry family members. Speak gently to your Lurcher and train with positive reinforcement. They’ve inherited sighthound sensitivity, so handle them quietly.
Lurchers are typically healthy dogs, but they do fall prey to some of the same health issues that befall sighthounds. While not a health problem, peculiarities to Greyhound red blood cell count and general blood composition may also appear in your Lurcher’s blood. Be sure to communicate to your veterinarian what you know about your Lurcher’s lineage so they can correctly interpret what they see if they run bloodwork.
Because their prey drive is so strong, Lurchers risk injury from collisions with sticks or other sharp or protruding obstacles. If you allow your dog a run off the leash, be sure it is in an area safe from debris on which he may injure himself. Please don’t allow him to run free near moving vehicles as the risk is too great that he may be hit.
Feeding only a single meal per day increases the risk of gastric torsion, also known as bloat. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that can occur in any breed and is most often seen in deep-chested dogs. Exercising immediately after eating a large meal or drinking lots of water is a predisposing factor. Splitting his ration into two or more daily feedings may mitigate the risk. Feeding a calcium-rich kibble with protein sources such as meat/lamb meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meal, or bone meal topping the list of ingredients may help him avoid this potentially fatal condition.
Depending on his parent’s cross, a Lurcher can suffer from the hip and elbow dysplasia found in many large breeds. Feeding a large breed puppy formula that does not encourage rapid growth is advisable to help avoid this condition. Because they are large dogs that descend from other breeds predisposed to joint dysplasia, any potential parent should have an Orthopedic Foundation for Animals(OFA) or PennHIP Evaluation.
Growing pups eat more than mature dogs. Follow the feeding chart on the food bag, but choose puppy food for large breeds. These formulas help mitigate the risk of musculoskeletal problems related to rapid growth like joint dysplasia.
Depending on his activity level, your dog may eat between two and four cups of dry dog food per day as an adult. A kibble for large breed dogs would be a good choice at the puppy and adult stages. See your veterinarian if your dog is not maintaining body weight or you suspect he may have food allergies. Lurchers tend not to be gluttons, so you may be able to feed free choice. Be sure to monitor his daily intake and body condition.
The most common allergens in commercial dog food are wheat, gluten, eggs, soy, beef, chicken, and lamb. Food allergies in dogs can cause both digestive upset and itchy skin. Your vet may recommend a diet free from the most common allergens as your pup’s skin heals. Ask your vet what brands and formulas they recommend. You should be able to find a blend that keeps your buddy healthy and happy at a price point you can live with.
Feeding the best quality nutrition that you can afford may be more cost-effective in the long run than skimping with a bargain brand kibble. To keep this big guy healthy and reduce risks associated with his size and body type, look specifically for a large breed formula that matches his age. A high-quality kibble including meat protein, fiber, healthy carbs, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals will meet his nutritional needs. You’ll be less likely to have to add costly supplements.
When seasons change, your Lurcher will shed more than usual and benefit from increased brushing. He could go days between brushings for the rest of the year but give him a once-over daily during spring and fall with the right brush for his coat type to minimize shed hairs. He’ll feel like you’re just petting him, but you’ll improve the health of his skin by stimulating the production of natural oils and distributing them through his haircoat.
Choose your grooming tools with care. If you have a smooth-coated Lurcher, his short, slick hair grooms much like horsehair. A rubber curry, hound mitt, or grooming glove stimulates the production of oils in his skin. After the initial curry loosens hairs and distributes the oils through his coat, brush him with a soft bristle brush in short, quick strokes in the direction of the hair’s growth, and he’ll gleam with health. If you have a rough or broken coated Lurcher, an undercoat rake serves double duty to keep mats at bay and remove any undercoat during seasonal shedding.
Breeders And Puppy Costs
If you know what type of Lurcher you want to add to your family, check with rescues first. If you’d like a more traditional British mix of Greyhound and terrier or herding dog, ask about Longdogs or just Greyhound crosses in general. In the United States, most Lurchers will be crosses mixed for racing or Flyball. Some unscrupulous breeders mix Greyhounds with heavier breeds to run down and kill coyotes, so you’ll want to avoid dogs from breeders who’ve encouraged them to fight.
Flyball, a sport where teams of dogs run through a course, release a tennis ball, and run it back to their handle, employs smaller Lurchers. Whippets and Border Collies are crossed to create a lightning-fast, highly biddable dog. Unfortunately, breeders bestow several names upon this mix, so you may see them advertised as Border Whippets, Whollies, or Whippet Collies. Searching for flyball sport mixes also yields results.
Because Lurchers come in so many mixes with different purposes, setting a price depends mainly on the market. As specific sports rise in popularity, Lurchers may command as much as their purebred parents. Expect rescues to cost up to $300.
Rescues And Shelters
Because Lurchers are sometimes used for illegal hunting or racing, older Lurchers may find themselves abandoned. Several organizations are set up in the United Kingdom to place these special dogs. Some United Kingdom rescue organizations include Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue and Evesham Greyhound Rescue.
You might not find Lurchers at many shelters in the United States that are being called Lurchers, but you might come across sighthound crosses. American Lurchers are used for amateur racing or water racing. In water racing, a scent trail leads the dogs through a course that includes water and ends at the designated tree. Coonhounds and Coonhound Sighthound crosses compete in these races. When their racing days are done, they may end up abandoned, too. United States rescues include American Lurcher Project, A Place for Us Greyhounds, and Minnesota Greyhound Rescue.
As Family Pets
In general, Lurchers are:
- Medium to large dogs of slender build.
- Explosively fast and agile.
- Biddable and intelligent.
- A high prey drive breed.
- Content in the home.
- Friendly and get along well with gentle children and other dogs when well socialized.
- Difficult to stop if they give chase.
- Need a fenced area to run in occasionally.
- Interested in and accepting of strangers.
If you have room in your yard and space on your couch, you can have a little bit of history beside you in the lean form of a Lurcher. Tall or small, this fascinating mix steals your heart as he steals your spot on the sofa. If you’re interested in a sporting partner for Flyball or other pursuits, or you want to adopt an abandoned Lurcher to give a loving canine a soft spot to land, you can’t go wrong with this versatile and diverse blend.
May 7, 2023 at 6:03 pm
Great article on lurchers. However for the Novice owner l think more could be made of their need for formal training. Most of the Lurchers l have owned or trained have troubled recalls. This is more specific to Lurchers than any other breed l have helped to train over many years