Whippet Coursing: The Ultimate Guide

In this post, we’re going to go through everything you need to know about whippet coursing, a sport that has been around for centuries and one that the whippet has dominated.

Whippet coursing is a whippet-specific sport, but because whippets are a sighthound breed it is generally accepted that whippets can participate in other racing sports too.

These include lure coursing, open field coursing, and free running. Whippet owners should consult their whippet club, veterinarian, and whippet literature before attempting to run whippets in any kind of race or related activity.

The Whippets History & Instincts

Whippets have been used for centuries to hunt rabbits and rodents, but now whippets are widely recognised as being coursing dogs.

Whippet racing began in England in the early 19th century, when whippets were raced against hares. By 1860 whippet racing was extremely popular throughout Europe and Britain, where the whippet instituted what is now known as “coursing.”

By 1900, whippet coursing had spread across North America, where it became a huge sport that everyone loved.

The whippet was bred to hunt, with strong instincts and prey drive, whippets thrive on the chase and have a never-ending desire to run.

Whippet coursing is whippets at their best, so it’s no surprise why whippets and are so passionate about chasing prey!

The Sport of Coursing: What is “Coursing”?

What is involved? There are two types of canine racing: track races and coursing (also called “coursing on the grounds” or just plain coursing).

Track racing is very specialised, interesting to some whippet owners but not whippets in general. Coursing, however, is a whippet-specific sport that has become popular worldwide.

Coursing can take place either “on the grounds” or “in the field”. On the grounds, coursing occurs on a designated enclosed course laid out with whippet-sized fences that simulate fences found on open fields where hare coursing takes place (see below for more info).

In the field, coursing occurs anywhere there are enough rabbits or hares for whippets to work as they would in an actual hunt situation – this usually means at least two to three whippets and several rabbits/hares.

Contrary to popular belief, coursing is not actually designed to catch a hare. It’s designed to score one dog against another with regards to speed, agility, and the ability to turn the hare from its chosen path to gain points.

This sport is based on a point-by-point basis, meaning at the end of the course, the whippet with the most points takes the win.

When Did Whippet Coursing First Start?

The Whippet Coursing Club was formed in 1962 to give whippets a way to use their natural coursing skills.

Many whippet owners who did not have enough land for whippets to run were frustrated by the fact that whippets would get into trouble with other dogs when they went off-leash.

Whippet coursing was one of the best ways for whippets to get exercise and keep their instincts sharp, so it’s no wonder whippet coursing quickly became popular among whippet breeders and owners.

Are Whippets Good Coursing Dogs?

Whippets are the best in the game, they are amazing coursing dogs. They are capable of running at breathtaking speeds of up to 35mph which makes them able to catch the hare or lure.

If the whippet is in peak physical shape, it will run for at least 45 minutes, as whippets are built to run long distances.

Whippets have a surprising level of endurance and the determination to catch their prey. They won’t stop at anything which can be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, it can make them excellent hunting dogs, but it can also get them into trouble and could potentially cause injury as they will run through nettles, brambles, and even fences.

Whippet coursing is a bonding experience between whippets and humans even if the whippets don’t catch anything! It’s an exhilarating sport that whippet owners everywhere enjoy.

Where Are Whippets Used For Coursing?

Whippets are used in whippet coursing all over the world, especially in whippet coursing clubs located in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and America.

There are whippet coursing venues all over the United States of America that will allow whippets to run against greyhounds or other breeds of whippets.

The Two Types Of Coursing

There are two main types of whippet coursing that you should be aware of. One is hare coursing, and the other is lure coursing.

Hare Coursing

In hare coursing, whippets are tested against a live hare as opposed to a lure. Whippet coursers regard hare coursing as being more realistic and correct since whippets were bred to catch hares, not lures.

Hare whippet coursers believe that whippets should be judged on their ability with a real chase instead of how accurately they follow a fake lure.

Hare coursing is now illegal in Scotland, Wales, and England, and became illegal in Northern Ireland in 2011.

However, it remains legal as a regulated sport in Western America, and the Republic of Ireland, and some other countries.

Coursing with a live hare is seen to be cruel since whippets will often injure the hare. The whippet racing community is strongly against hare coursing, because of how it might damage their name and image.

The whippet will receive points for any hare that it gets close enough to and makes it turn. On whippet racing courses whippets can receive points for how well they chase a fake whippet lure, however, these whippets are not judged on their ability to catch the lure.

A whippet cannot be allowed to injure a hare or kill it. If a whippet does kill a hare then the owner of the whippet has committed a crime that could result in a fine from an animal welfare society or from government officials depending on which country you live in.

Injuries may occur but are rare since whippets only run at high speeds for short distances during coursing events.

Injuries can occur when two dogs collide with each other while competing, this can cause disaster and really cause harm to dogs as they run at incredible speeds.

Lure Coursing

Lure coursing whippets is an event where whippets compete against each other by chasing the artificial lure in the arena.

This type of whippet coursing has been made popular by American whippet racing clubs, but it’s still regarded as a sport that does not imitate whippet coursing.

Lure whippet racing clubs make whippets run in circles until they can keep up with the lure and then stop when they catch it, which is not how whippets behave on the hunt.

Hare whippet coursers do not judge whippets on their ability to stay with an artificial lure because whippets were originally meant to catch live hares.

Whippets For Coursing

Coursing whippets are judged by how well they perform during a real chase, so whippet breeders focus on producing dogs that are fast enough to catch hares but also have excellent hunting instincts.

A courser’s build should be athletic enough for endurance while still having the prey drive needed to outwit a hare on the run.

Whippet owners themselves are not allowed to judge whippets in whippet coursing events, but whippet clubs often coach their members before the event.

Some whippet owners also take it upon themselves to educate would-be whippet judges about whippets’ hunting style and how they should be built for racing.

When whippets race, they must have an even stride so that one leg is not longer than the other which makes them an easily spooked animal or hinders agility.

Coursing Whippet Training

When it comes to training a coursing whippet, they need to be well tuned into the whippet handler’s commands.

You need to practice not only your whippet coursing skills but also whippet obedience techniques. When whippets are chasing off after hares, they run at an incredible speed and don’t respond very well to whistle commands.

This means that they will need to be trained to a very high standard to compete in coursing.

Much like whippet racing whippets, they need to be trained in coursing skills, but the main difference between racing whippets and coursing whippets is that coursing is done off-leash.

This means that they will need to be very obedient, especially when off the leash to ensure they listen to commands.

Coursing Whippet Diet

As coursing whippets are running at high speeds and at peak physical performance, they need to be fed a high-energy and high-protein diet.

They will need a lot of protein and fats to give them energy and fuel to chase the lure or hare, and they will also need supplements to keep their bones healthy and strong.

If you want your whippet to stand a chance in the coursing arena, they will need a very healthy diet and lots of exercise to ensure they are big and strong.

The training and diet regime will be a lot different from a regular whippet that is kept as a pet, it’s essentially like training an athlete for the Olympics.

Will My Whippet Be A Good Coursing Dog?

Whippets that are bred to be coursing whippets (bred specifically for whippet coursing competitions) will be able to run faster and further than whippets who have been bred for racing.

However, while whippet coursing dogs need intensive training, whippet racers can be trained in a matter of weeks.

If you’ve got a pup that is showing signs of being incredibly physically fit with a strong prey drive, then you might just have a great coursing dog on your hands.

One way I recommend testing your dog is to make (or buy) a lure machine.

This is essentially a motorised machine that you attach a lure to and allow your whippet to chase, it’s perfect for training your whippet to hunt rabbits and get them into being working dogs.

This should give you a better indication as to whether your dog is going to be a good coursing dog or if it will need some further development.

More On Whippet Coursing

Some whippets are bred specifically for the purpose of being whippet coursing dogs.

Coursing whippet owners are seen by their supporters as true artists – they have almost perfect mastery over the whippet’s built-in ability to run fast and change direction on a dime.

The goal of whippet coursing is for whippets to chase down small game, such as rabbits or hares.

Whippets typically bring their quarry to the ground with the help of human handlers who have been trained to handle them.

Although many whippets will instinctively grab their prey by the throat after chasing it down and running under it, whippets can also be trained to kill their prey by grabbing its neck between their teeth.

Whippet coursing is a traditional sport that has been around for thousands of years. However, whippet racing is becoming more popular as time goes on as it is less gruesome and more family orientated.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, whippet coursing is a traditional sport that whippet owners engage in for leisure.

Over the years, it’s fizzled out here in the UK but is very much still active in coursing clubs with a lure instead of a live hare.

Hopefully, this post has given you a better insight into whippet coursing, and you now know more about this sport than you did before.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and feel free to stick around to learn more about this magnificent breed.

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