Coursing - The Hare

Coursing is one of the world's oldest field sports. Since the days of the Pharoahs "gazehounds", dogs which hunt exclusively by sight, have been tested in competition. Arrian, a Roman writing in AD 116, laid down:

"The true sportsman does not take out his dogs to destroy the hares, but for the sake of the course and the contest between the dogs and the hares, and is glad if the hare escapes." His words are just as relevant today.

All coursing under National Coursing Club Rules takes place in open country. The wild brown hares are at liberty on their own territory and the fields are not enclosed in any way which would prevent the hares escape. Beaters, in the same way as for game shooting, drive the hares' one by one on to the running ground.

Alternatively, as in rough shooting, the hares are put up by the company walking across the fields to be coursed over.
The hares are not released from boxes, nor are they caught up afterwards.
Game Conservancy research has shown that on estates where coursing takes place, hare numbers are increasing against the national trend. Habitat is carefully preserved, the farming regime is sympathetically modified, and there is no shooting of hares, the most significant factor in the encouragement of hare numbers.

Opponents of coursing admit that the sport ensures the preservation of the hare and that few are killed, but claim that the hares are terrified. Research carried out on behalf of the RSPCA by Dr Stoddart has shown that the flight of the hare is a natural, instinctive, and routine response to danger. Dr Stoddart concluded that the hare would have become extinct years ago if it was not capable of escape from pursuit. For the hare, it's all in a day's work.

Although by law there is no close season for hares, the National Coursing Club does not permit coursing between March 11th and September 14th inclusive so that they are undisturbed during the breeding season.

Country Sports and Country Life is indebted to Gary Hosker , a long time contributor to IHS&F for permission to use material and photographs from his web site :