Lurcher – Breed Guide (Personality, Health, Grooming etc.)

lurcher

A lurcher is not one particular breed of dog, but a mixed breed, where a sighthound is crossed with a herding dog or even a terrier. You might be wondering: so, what exactly is a lurcher dog, since the definition is so imprecise. This is because the crossbreed was historically bred for function and not for pedigree.

The main intention of creating the lurcher dog breed was to take the instincts of a sighthound and improve them by combining them with a more intelligent dog. The resulting animal would be able to chase bunnies, hares, deer, or game birds, and hunt them more efficiently.

The existence of lurchers can be traced back to the Romanichals and Mouchers in England, specifically in Norfolk. Hunting in this era was restricted to being a luxury for the aristocrats along with hunting dogs like greyhounds who were too expensive for the lower classes.

Lurchers were developed as an aid for poachers, to be a sighthound with a modicum of intelligence, who could help these poachers to score game for themselves and their families.

These dogs have a very interesting historical background. The most common breed combinations include greyhound and Collie mixes and Greyhound and terrier mixes.

Highlights about Lurchers:

  • The lurcher breed has a controversial background historically. Around the late 1300s in Great Britain, it was illegal for anyone from the lower classes to own a greyhound or even a mixed breed like a lurcher.
  • The name lurcher is a derivative from the Romany word lur which refers to a thief. The name ”lurcher’ is therefore for these dogs because they skulked around and aided poachers.
  • Short-haired lurchers were preferred by the Gypsy community. The preference against lurchers who are not descended from greyhounds was because other mixed breed lurchers lack the stamina and endurance that is typical of greyhounds.
  • These dogs were traditionally trained for a long period of time, unlike current practices. To get a dog fully trained, it could take up to 2 years of intensive training.
  • Modern-day lurchers are not bred for their hunting prowess, but rather to refine the breed’s other characteristics.
  • Lurchers grow to an average of 22-28 inches/55-71cm.
  • A full-grown lurcher weighs in the range of 60-70 lb/ 27-32 kg.
  • Since they are not pure breeds, they are not recognised by any major international kennel clubs.
  • They are very playful and affectionate dogs who are very attached to their owners.
  • Even lurchers who have been raised in an urban atmosphere will show strong hunting instincts because of their genetic predisposition towards it.
  • They are very active dogs and not suited for life in small apartments or houses. The lurcher temperament is derived completely from activity and physical exertion.
  • Lurchers can result from the combination of a Greyhound or whippet mix crossed with a multitude of other dogs such as Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, American pit bull terriers, German shepherds, Irish wolfhounds, Belgian malinois, saluki,or Scottish deerhounds.

Lurcher Size

lurcher running

Lurchers are very lean and compactly built dogs. They belong to the category of long dogs with elongated features and body shape.

Height: lurchers grow to an average adult height of 22-28 inches/ 55-71 cm. A certain amount of variation as possible depending upon the parents and the stock that the lurcher is descended from.

Weight: the mean weight for this dog breed is about 60- 70 pounds / 27- 33 kilograms. They are not prone to obesity.

Conformation: Because of the wide range of breeds that are lurcher can be bred from, the physical features of this breed can differ from each other. Typically, they are very athletically built dogs with long limbs and Iean muscled bodies. They have a characteristic deep chest and a long narrow head and muzzle, with triangular ears or even drop shaped ears in some cases.

Their eyes are widely spaced and usually wide lidded to make sure that their sight is not obstructed by their facial or skeletal features. Their paws are narrow with well-padded feet. Their tails are long, thin, and curved.

This is a breed built for speed and endurance, capable of chasing prey over long distances at very high speeds without tiring quickly. Their coats can come in a multitude of colours, ranging from light brown to dark brown, fawn, grey, brindled, blue grey, to black. There are usually white markings interspersed with their main coat color.

The length of the coat is also subject to variation depending upon the parents of the lurcher in question. Coats can vary from short to long, with hair texture ranging from silky to shaggy, woolly, and scruffy.

Lurcher Temperament and Personality

Lurcher crosses are incredibly intelligent and well-tempered dogs. They inherit the best of both parent breeds, with the mild manner of Sighthound breeds being typical for them. They are very affectionate and make excellent family dogs. They are also very easy to train, all the more so if they are trained early in life. 

Relationship with Owners: lurchers Bond very closely with their owners. They are not single owner dogs and therefore settle in quite well with larger families. Being very smart, they enjoy interactive games and activities that stimulate them intellectually as well. You can leave a lurcher happily playing with a puzzle ball or a similar toy and it will keep him engaged for hours on end.

This also means that they tend to think for themselves a little bit. So, the initial training period can sometimes take longer than with dogs like hounds who lend themselves to training sooner. lurchers need patient and repetitive training with plenty of positive reinforcement. However, once they have understood what’s required of them, they are very obedient dogs and remember their training very closely. 

Relationship with other pets: Lurchers do well with other dogs and thrive in open farmsteads, where they can take on chores like herding and guarding cattle or sheep. The ample space in which they can move around in larger households is also very dear to lurcher breeds. However, the hunting instinct is an extremely dominant part of their personality.

So, if they are exposed to other animals like rabbits or hamsters or even cats, it is very likely that they will hunt them.  This tendency can be trained out of them to a certain extent if they have been socialized with cats or rabbits from an early age.

But even then, they instinctively tend to want to hunt animals that are smaller than them and react inspire their training to sudden movements in their vicinity. This is a tendency that also makes them unparalleled ratters on farmsteads.

Relationship with Children: Lurchers are great with older children who are capable of giving them clear and concise commands. With small children, it’s not so advisable to leave them alone. They are not the most patient of dogs and if your child accidentally hurts the dog, they might be pushed to retaliate. On their own though, they are not aggressive dogs.

Lurcher Health

lurcher standing

Being a mixed breed keeps lurchers safe from a lot of commonly occurring health problems seen in pure breeds. However,

despite the genetic variability in the breed, there are certain health conditions that occur because of their parent breeds and pedigrees. These are amplified in lurchers who have been bred repeatedly for certain traits.

Health Issues

  • Bloat results because of a build-up of gas and liquid within the dog’s stomach. the deep chest typical to lurchers amplifies this condition. The gas and liquid build-up can cause compression effects on the other thoracic and abdominal organs and even on the dog’s circulatory system. There may even be intestinal twisting or blockage. Bloat in lurchers requires immediate veterinary attention and can otherwise be fatal.
  • Pad injuries result because of local trauma on the foot pads on the underside of their paws. Being so to speak designed for speed means that lurchers have very small to minimal pads of fat on the underside of their feet. This aids in their aerodynamics but predisposes them to injury. The result is that there may be rapid callus build-up and they tend to develop corns on their toes. These may require excision or bandaging to keep them soft.
  • Bone cancers like osteosarcoma as are typical to the lurcher breed. These are malignant and rapidly spreading aggressive cancers of bones.   Usually by the time of diagnosis, the Cancer has spread to a terminal stage, at which point surgery or chemotherapy is of very little use.

Lifespan: So how long do lurchers live? Depending upon the size of the dog, the lurcher lifespan can be an average of 13 to 15 years.  This can be shortened dramatically by the occurrence of health problems such as aggressive cancers.

Lurcher Care

Lurchers are dogs that do not need too much attention in upkeep. But for that they need a lot of exercise and plenty of playtime. Simply taking your dog for a walk will not suffice for this intelligent and talented pooch. 

They require games, obstacle courses, new areas to explore and to run through, etc. because they tend to get bored very quickly. They need to be exercised once or twice every day, with long walks and preferably play time in an open area. You will almost never find a lurcher who prefers staying at home to going out on a walk and on a new adventure.

This is why they are ideal for active families. They are descendants of working dogs and that level of exertion is hardwired into their genetic makeup.

Lurcher Grooming

lurcher in a field

Lurchers are relatively easy to maintain dogs when it comes to grooming. Having one greyhound or whippet parent put a significant dent in the lengths of their fur. As a result, being brushed once or at the maximum twice a week is more than enough for them, even the long haired lurchers.

They also don’t need regular trimmings for their toenails, because the amount that they run around causes a natural wearing down of the tips. However, dental hygiene is a catastrophe in this breed, and they are very predisposed to developing tooth rot and decay.

For this reason, daily brushing is recommended for lurchers.

Lurcher Feeding

Lurchers eat an average of 450 to 500g of food per day as fully grown adults. They do fine with dried dog food and kibble and appreciate being fed wet food or treats every now and then. The best way to maintain their appetite system is to make sure that they work out enough to be hungry at mealtimes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are lurchers good family pets?

Lurchers make excellent family pets and bond closely with their family members. They love to play with their owners and are very loving and affectionate.

Are lurchers aggressive?

Lurchers are not aggressive to strangers or quick to anger but are quick to hunt down animals in their immediate vicinity because of their hunting instincts.

Can a lurcher be left alone?

Lurchers cannot be left alone at home for long periods of time. They need to be around their family members or at least be in a yard or enclosure where they can run around.

What is the difference between a greyhound and a lurcher?

A greyhound is purebred dog, whereas a lurcher is a mixed breed with one parent dog being a sighthound, like a greyhound, whippet, or a saluki. The other parent breed can be one of a large variety of breeds, from german shepherds to terriers.

Do lurchers bark a lot?

Lurchers are not known to be loud dogs, and usually do not bark unless they are convinced of danger in the presence.

Can you let lurchers off the lead?

It’s advised not to let pet lurchers off the lead, unless it’s within a closed area that the dog can’t run out off. Otherwise, the chances that the dog instinctively takes off in pursuit of a perceived prey are very, very high.

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