The lurcher is the offspring of a sight hound mated with another breed, most commonly a pastoral breed or a terrier type of dog. While not a pure breed, it is generally a cross between a sighthound and a working dog breed. Collie crosses are popular, given the working instinct of a sheepdog when mated with a sighthound gives a dog of great intelligence plus speed—prerequisites for the hunter/poacher.
Many meanings of the word ‘lurcher’ have been suggested: from the Romani words lur meaning thief and “cur” meaning a mixed dog breed, or from Middle English, from lorchen, to lurk, perhaps from lurken. Indeed the archaic meaning of the word lurcher is a prowler, swindler, or petty thief. A lurcher is a mating between a working dog, usually a British herding breed, and a greyhound. The greyhound is usually the mother for 3 reasons:
Greyhounds make better mothers
The genes of the mother are more important than that of the father.
The larger female is less likely to have problems in birth if a smaller male mates with it.
Temperament is also variable, again dependent on parental influence. As could be expected, lurchers with dominant sighthound attributes have similar temperaments—often fairly lazy with a good eye—however, accordingly, others are influenced by their other, often more tractable, biddable, and slower parent. As with all dogs, temperament will be modified by socialising.
It is fabled that in the 14th, 15th and early 16th century the English and Scottish governments banned commoners from owning sight-hounds, such as Irish wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds, and greyhounds, though no documentation from the time can be found to verify this. It is thought that lurchers may have been bred to avoid legal complications during this time. Generally, the aim of the cross is to produce a sighthound with more intelligence, a canny animal suitable for poaching rabbits, hares, and game birds. Over time, poachers and hunters discovered breeding of certain breeds with sight-hounds produced a dog better suited to this purpose, given the lurcher’s combination of speed and intelligence.
Lurchers as pets
The modern lurcher is growing from its old image of disrepute to heights of popularity as an exceptional family dog, and many groups have been founded to rehome lurchers as family pets.
Lurchers have also proven to be very good at dog sports such as obedience and agility, where suitable breed combinations create increasingly popular lurchers that combine speed and willingness to please.
Recognition and registration
Because lurchers are not purebreds they are not recognized by any of the major kennel clubs.