Lure-bite: Deerhounds & lure coursing

is a new book (May 2004) in Dutch, on aspects of the history of hunting with hounds.

The core text is the first Dutch presentation of the Cynegeticus, written in the 2nd century by Flavius Arrianus. This famous hunting treatise is set in a historical and contemporary context with the aid of authentic reprints, translations and illustrations. It will be of interest and value to scholars of the classics, history and language, as well as to veterinarians, hunters, and of course to all dog owners – particularly those with sighthounds.

Arrianus, de lange jacht en lure coursing consists of five chapters.
The first: Jacht en Jachthonden by Richard Hawkins, is a brief introduction to the “hunting dog” in the prehistoric context and that of the Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. As a foreword to Arrian’s treatise on hunting, it is a concise perspective of historic and modern knowledge of the domestication and early use of the dog in general.

3rd Century North African coursing mosaic. Photo Herman & Linda Seinhorst

The second chapter: De Cynegeticus van Arrianus by Dr An Jansen, is the first translation into Dutch of the celebrated treatise from the original Greek. The existence of this work [traditionally known as Arrian On Coursing] has justifiably fascinated canine enthusiasts for centuries, particularly in the English-speaking world, as well as connoisseurs of the Classics everywhere. Arrian’s Cynegeticus, in this fine, academic yet candid presentation by An Jansen, illuminates the significant role of the domestic dog in human affairs. It is the earliest European document that portrays the universal human-animal relationship in such intimate and affectionate terms. Its elegant and sober text is held to be the best guide and description of coursing (Dansey 1831), an opinion which is re-affirmed by its most recent publication in English (Phillips & Willcock 1999).

The third chapter: Een geschiedenis van coursing by Richard Hawkins, is a historic view of hunting with dogs in Europe from Arrian’s time until the 20th century. Particular attention has been paid to the development of coursing – de lange jacht – in contrast with scent-hunting, by the integral use of little known historic texts (Turbervile 1611, Richardson 1896). The specific contribution to European hunting and coursing tradition from the Lowlands is emphasised (Merula 1605, van Heenvliet 1630, Gratama 1905). The mechanisms behind the very early origin of the competitive sport of coursing in England , and the much later prohibition of coursing in the Netherlands are explained. The prohibition of 1924 was directly responsible for the eventual demise of the only Dutch sighthound breed, the Frisian Greyhound*, by the time of WW II.

14th Century European family of hunting hounds. Coated medieval sighthound/deerhound upper left, followed by large scent-hounds. Two alaunts left foreground, two greyhounds, boarhound/mastiff, crouching: basset & vautre/lurcher. Livre de Chasse , Phébus. Bibliothèque Nationale de France

The fourth chapter: De lange jacht is a reprint by permission of Waidman (Gerrit Bakker) former editor of De Nederlandse Jager, of a major article from the same journal of December 1980. This contribution characterises through eyewitness accounts the varied and colourful aspects of coursing in Friesland , the North of Holland, including a charming and instructive account of a coursing meet on the very last day of coursing in the Netherlands .

The final chapter: Lurecoursing by Richard Hawkins, describes the development and substance, the art and science, of the sport of lure coursing, which is the modern artificial pursuit with sighthounds. Due to the ever increasing prohibition of live coursing in the developed world, lure coursing is fast becoming popular in Europe and elsewhere.

Contemporary lurcher closing on the lure. Photo André Capitein

The notable absence of a Dutch translation of Arrian’s Cynegeticus, a treatise which has considerable significance for modern readership, has been rectified by this book. Despite the fact that the accepted standard text collation of this work in its original Ancient Greek was prepared by a Dutch scholar of the classics (Roos 1928), the only versions available to the public have been difficult to obtain, and appear in other languages such as English or French (Dansey 1831; Boulenger et Plattard 1912; Hull 1964). This Cynegeticus, next to its precursor and model written by Xenophon, has become an essential instrument in understanding the development of hunting in Europe . It introduces for the first time the original European sighthound, the Celtic vertragus*.

There are close parallels between Arrian’s Cynegeticus and the historic coursing texts of the Lowlands (Merula, and van Heenvliet, this work) as well as the modern Dutch experience (Waidman this work) and the British experience (Twiti, Turbervile, Markham & Richardson, this work) which emphasise the extraordinary continuity of human activity, culture and sport. It is the story of the emotional hunt, between then and now, from Roman times through medieval Europe and England, to early 20 th century Holland.
The ownership of the numerous types or breeds of hunting dogs that appear in this book has not diminished since the demise of aristocratic hunting rights in Europe , or even since the prohibition of coursing in Holland in 1924. On the contrary, that ownership has increased as has the popularity of the sport of lure coursing, not only in Holland and Belgium, but across Europe and the Western world. This is reflected in the increasing body of literature on aspects of coursing (Beaman 1994, Copold 1977 & 1996, Salmon 1977 & 1999, and Przezdziecki 1984 & 2001 including an English translation).

This book discusses the identity of the authentic sighthound, its original work and function, the physiology which contributes to that, and the evaluation of that work. In particular the distinction between sighthound and scent-hound most famously characterised by Arrian himself: ‘sighthounds being hunting dogs that can catch and kill hares thanks to their typical conformation; scent-hounds only being able to catch and kill hares despite their typical conformation’. This book’s readership will be found in general among all dog lovers, those interested in the classics, history, human-animal relationships, veterinary science, hunting, and in particular among sighthound owners, amateur dog-racing and lure coursing enthusiasts.

All illustrations used in the book are in black & white.The historical illustrations are not widely known. Few if any of them have been seen by the public at large in Holland , Belgium or elsewhere. They represent a valuable view, particularly with reference to the Cynegeticus and to the Dutch content, on early dogs, sighthounds and coursing. They are complimented by quality action photography of modern hounds by Huub Hierck and others.
Considerable cost and effort have been made to accurately research the history, literature and science which accompany this work in order to make the current text with its extensive bibliography a tool for both academic as well as general use, particularly for the sport enthusiast.

* For illustrations of the vertragus and the Frisian Greyhound, please see the text page “Arrianus Nederlands” on this website.

Key words – canine domestication, hunting, coursing; history of hunting with dogs, scent-hounds, sighthounds; Arrian; European live coursing and lure coursing, the Lowlands, Frisian greyhound. NB Dutch Language.

ISBN 90-5166-970-4
352 pages, €29.50
Uitgeverij Eburon bv
Postbus 2867
2601 CW Delft
tel.: 015-2131484 / fax: 015-2146888 /