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
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
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