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Hare Coursing

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 12 May 2013 | comments*Discuss

Hare coursing is a rural sport that was made illegal after the Hunting Bill came into effect in February 2005. Despite the ban, it is still conducted, even though it is now against the law. Here is the lowdown on hare coursing.

What is Hare Coursing?

Unlike in some rural sports, the aim of hare coursing is not necessarily to kill the hares. For poachers, this is the basic idea, but for coursers, the idea is to chase the hares for sport, using hounds (who would compete in packs of two). The dogs would be pitted against each other to determine the winner in terms of speed, agility and dogged determination. They do this to score points and ultimately, money. The hare coursing season began on September 15th and lasted until March 10th.

There were three basic types of hare coursing: static coursing, 'rough / walked up' coursing and 'park / enclosed' coursing.

  • Static coursing involved the hares being driven onto fields by beaters
  • Rough coursing involved the hares being flushed out and coursed as they emerged from their 'forms'
  • Park coursing involved hares being caught and taken prisoner so that they could be used for hare coursing at a later date. They would then be taken from their holding pen and released into an enclosed area with small escape routes (which led into a different but still secure area). This form of hare coursing was popular in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but rarely happened in England, Scotland or Wales.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), hare coursing causes unnecessary pain and suffering to the hares. Despite the intention not to kill the hares, plenty were killed and seriously injured during the hare coursing competitions. Their campaign to make hare coursing illegal eventually came to fruition in February 2005 after years of hard work.

Hare Coursing Before the Hunting Bill

Before hare coursing was made illegal in 2005, it was possible to conduct it legally. The National Hare Coursing Club held legal hare coursing events throughout the country. These involved the hares being encouraged to move into open fields, where they could be chased by hounds after they had been given an eighty yard head start. The hounds were specially trained to not kill the hares, so in this sense, it could be seen as one of the only rural sports that did not involve killing.

Hare Coursing After the Hunting Bill

Once the Hunting Bill came into force, hare coursing become illegal (as did fox hunting and deer hunting). Taking part in hare coursing can now result in arrest and a £200 fine, but this does not stop hare coursers from carrying on illegally in a bid to continue the traditions of the sport, despite the change in the law. This applies to both poachers and coursers. Poachers were particularly vocal about the Hunting Bill, as they see killing for food as more natural and inevitable than killing for sport. In other words, they see it as a traditional way of life in rural areas, and feel that the law has failed to take this into account when imposing the ban on hare coursing.

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