Coursing (from Latin cursus, currere, to run), the hunting of game by dogs solely by sight and not by scent. From time to time the sport has been pursued by various nations against various animals, but the recognised method has generally been the coursing of the hare by greyhounds. Such sport is of great antiquity, and is fully described by Arrian in his Cynegeticus about AD. 150, when the leading features appear to have been much the same as in the present day. Other Greek and Latin authors refer to the sport; but during the middle ages it was but little heard of. Apart from private coursing for the sake of filling the pot with game, public coursing has become an exhilarating sport. The private sportsman seldom possesses good strains of blood to breed his greyhounds from or has such opportunities of trying them as the public courser.
The first known set of rules in England for determining the merits of a course were drawn up by Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, in Queen Elizabeth's reign; but no open trials were heard of until half a century later, in the time of Charles I. The oldest regular coursing club of which any record exists is that of Swaffham, in Norfolk, which was founded by Lord Orford in 1766; and in 1780 the Ashdown Park (Berkshire) meeting was established. During the next seventy years many other large and influential societies sprang up throughout England and Scotland, the Altcar Club (on the Sefton estates, near Liverpool) being founded in 1825.
The season lasts about six months, beginning in the middle of September. It was not until 1858 that a coursing parliament, so to speak, was formed, and a universally accepted code of rules drawn up. In that year the National Coursing Club was founded. It is composed of representatives from all clubs in the United Kingdom of more than a year's standing, and possessing more than twenty-four members. Their rules govern meetings, and their committee adjudicate on matters of dispute.
A comparative trial of two dogs, and not the capture of the game pursued, is the great distinctive trait of modern coursing. A greyhound stud-book was started in 1882.
The breeding and training of a successful kennel is a precarious matter; and the most unaccountable ups and downs of fortune often occur in a courser's career. At a meeting an agreed-on even number of entries are made for each stake, and the ties drawn by lot. After the first round the winner of the first tie is opposed to the winner of the second, and so on until the last two dogs left in compete for victory; but the same owner's greyhounds are guarded as far as it is possible to do so. A staff of beaters drive the hares out of their coverts or other hiding places, whilst the slipper has the pair of dogs in hand, and slips them simultaneously by an arrangement of nooses, when they have both sighted a hare promising a good course. The judge accompanies on horseback, and the six points whereby he decides a course are (1) speed; (2) the go-by, or when a greyhound starts a clear length behind his opponent, passes him in the straight run, and gets a clear length in front; (3) the turn, where the hare turns at not less than a right angle; (4) the wrench, where the hare turns at less than a right angle; (5) the kill; (6) the trip, or unsuccessful effort to kill. He may return a no course as his verdict if the dogs have not been fairly tried together, or an undecided course if he considers their merits equal.
The open Waterloo meeting, held at Altcar every spring, the name being taken from its being originated by the proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel, Liverpool,is now the recognised fixture for the decision of the coursing championship, and the Waterloo Cup (1836) is the Blue Riband of the leash.
In the United States, several British colonies, and other countries, the name has been adopted, and Waterloo Coursing Cups are found there as in England. In America an American Coursing Board controls the sport, the chief meetings being in North and South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.
The chief works on coursing are: Arrian's Cynegeticus, translated by the Rev. W. Dansey (1831); T. Thacker, Courser's Companion and Breeders Guide (1835); Thackers Coursers Annual Remembrancer (1849-1851); D. P. Blame, Encyclopaedia of Rural Sports (3rd ed., 1870); and J. H. Walsh, The Greyhound (3rd ed., 1875). See also the Coursing Calendar (since 1857); Coursing and Falconry (Badminton Library, 1892); The Hare ( Fur and Feather series, 1896); and The Greyhound Stud Book (since 1882).
Being the entry for COURSING in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.
Editor's note : Coursing for live game is no longer legal within England and Wales as a result of ther Hunting Act 2004 which came into effect on the 18th February 2005; the last Waterloo Cup meeting being held at Altcar from the 14th to the 16th February 2005.