Last issue, we discussed the basics of hound coursing in relation to period. Now, lets take a look at the types of breeds that are considered not only members of the sighthound family, and, therefore able to course, but also quite period as well.
First and foremost, ANY dog in general can be taught to course. This is the main reason why there is a Canine College in AEthelmearc; to allow all breeds to participate in coursing and agility. Not all dogs can course together, however, (this may be unfair to the slower dogs, or can cause confusion or even injury) and so separation into like breeds when coursing is a must.
Generally, hounds can course in sets of 2 or 3 (called a brace) and if there is only one of a particular breed, than that hound will course alone. This is by no means a punishment, rather, it allows each breed at a particular event a fair chance to course.
So, lets start with the basics. All this talk of sighthounds...but what the heck is a sighthound? Well, a sighthound is exactly as itsí name suggests: a hound which hunts mainly by sight. Now, this by no means indicates that the sighthound has no sense of smell, on the contrary, most sighthounds know exactly when dinner is ready! It does mean however that the sighthound has excellent vision, with some breeds close to 270 degrees of peripheral vision, and lock into their target with their eyes, rather than their nose. It is also a neat party trick when you are being stared down by a Greyhound and he isnít even looking at you!
Now that we know what a sighthound is, lets take a look at the different breeds that can course in our Kingdom as part of the Hound Coursing Guild. For our purposes here, I have split the grouping into 4 like sections: The Greyhound Body type, The Prick Eared, The Fuzzy Hound Group, and The ďSometimes YĒ Group. Some of the hounds in each group belong to more than one, but more on that later. For this issue, we will concentrate on the Greyhound type, and in the January issue, we will finish off the Sighthound breeds with the other 3 groupings. Letís begin!
The first and most obvious member of the greyhound type is the greyhound. This regal hound, long legged, deep chested and heavily muscled, is among the fastest in the world. For this reason, they are usually bred for the racetrack, where they often meet short running careers, (1-2 years if they are fast) and often, once their usefulness on the track has been spent, they are destroyed. Luckily, adoption groups have sprung up across the US, and many families today enjoy the love of this gentle and affectionate hound.
In period, (and before!) this hound was utilized to hunt mainly hare, but also larger animals, such as deer. The greyhoundís ancestors traveled widely through history, first in the form of cave drawings in Turkey, in roughly the year 6000 BC. Continuing on, the Greyhound finds itself depicted in Egyptian art, and some believe that the greyhound, Pharaoh hound, and Basenji, all sighthounds, were the influence for the God Anubis, rather than the Jackal. The greyhound is also found in Ancient Greece, Rome, England, (where the breed was almost wiped out by famine and plague,) and finally to America, in the 1700ís.
Throughout itsí history, the greyhound is one of the few sighthounds to remain as close to itsí ancient self as possible.
The Afghan Hound:
The next member of the greyhound body type group is the Afghan hound. Built very much like the greyhound, the afghan is a regal, deep chested well muscled animal. Unlike the greyhound, however, the afghan of today is bedecked (after about 2-3 years of age) with a beautiful, long coat, and, while the greyhound can manage sprints of up to 1,000 yards at 40-45 miles per hour, the afghan is designed to double suspension gallop at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, turn on a dime, and jump 7 feet up from a standing position. This makes hunting its main prey, the Leopard, (as well as any animal that will give it chase,) very easy.
Unfortunately, the majestic afghan hounds antiquity has been lost with the sands of time. We do know however that there is no question that this breed is a few thousand years old, and the afghans we are blessed with today are a combination of two former types of afghans: the heavily coated close coupled mountain hound, and the lean and elegant desert type, carrying less coat.
The afghan hound first saw the western world in the 19th century, when British soldiers brought the first hound to England. Originally, the modern afghan was bred in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India, and was owned by Royalty and villagers alike. The main terrain for the Afghan hound is rocky, and mountainous.
Very Similar to the Afghan hound, and therefore, for our purposes, next in line, is the graceful Saluki, sometimes also called the Persian Greyhound, or Gazellehound. In terms of which came first, the afghan or the saluki, it is really a chicken and egg situation. They are both very close in ďageĒ if you will. The Saluki is again, of the greyhound body type, and yet, unlike the afghan, does not have a long coat. Instead, it has lovely ďfeather likeĒ fur on itsí ears, tail, and back of the thighs, making it very pretty to look at. In general, as a breed, they are an affectionate lot, and often great with children.
Originating in Persia, (what is now Iran) the saluki were originally bred to sight, course, and capture hare, fox and gazelle on desert terrain. They were often used alongside hawks in the hunt, and, because of their ability to run long distances (up to 5 miles) at top speed (35 miles per hour) they are the marathon runners of the sighthound world. Finally, it should be known that not *all* salukis will course. It is not that these fine hounds donít have any hunting instinct, in fact, some of the best open field coursers wonít lure course. It is not completely known why. Some breeders however, think that the very intelligent saluki figures out the game before it has begun, and therefore, become bored. Do not let this discourage you though, not all salukis are disinterested, and there are many fine qualities to this ancient sighthound.
Next in the greyhound type is a fun, lithe dog called the whippet. The modern whippet was created by working class people of Northern England by crossing a greyhound, with several other breeds including the Italian greyhound ( or miniature greyhound) and the now extinct, long-legged terrier. These smaller hounds were cheaper to feed and house than greyhounds, yet were still adept at providing rabbits for the pot.
On non working days, these people, often miners, would race the whippets against each other, placing bets on who was to win. Eventually, in the 1920ís and 1930ís this became a national sport, but lost popularity in the 1940ís . Greyhounds took over on the racetrack, and since, have never left. Given proper care and nutrition the hearty whippet can live for up to 12-15 years, and are a joy to watch course.
The Chart Polski:
Finally, last in the greyhound body type, we find the rare chart polski, or Polish sighthound. This sweet looking hound is descended from the Asiatic greyhound and first appeared in writing in the 1600ís. Unfortunately, most chart polski were lost in Polandís turbulent past, including World War II. There remained only a few in Poland when itsí revival began in 1974, and finally, the first US litter was born in 1991. To this writersí knowledge, only 7 exist in the United States today.
In general, the chart polski is again, built much like a greyhound. Physically the only distinction is a feathery tail. He is a good tempered dog, very loyal, and normally reserved. Confident in the hunt and chase, the chart polski is as swift as its greyhound-type ancestors, and very affectionate.
That about summarizes the Greyhound body type coursing hounds. Next Issue, we will continue on with the next grouping, what I call the Prick Eared Hounds. I do hope you will join me! And, as always, if you have any questions about Hound Coursing in AEthelmearc, or about sighthound/greyhound rescue and adoption, please do not hesitate to email me at AEcoursing@ yahoo.com.
And with that, TALLY HO!