COURSING. From the earliest period the greyhound seems to have been an object of attention and interest, and coursing a popular amusement with princes, and peers, and knights, and gentlemen. Mr. Pennant, in his British Zoology, quotes an old Welsh proverb, (" Wrth ei walch, eifarche,a'ijilgi, yr adwaenir bonheddig,") which intimates that a gentleman may be known by his hawk, his horse, and his greyhound, and a more recent author has observed, " by a law of Canute, a greyhound was not to be kept by any person inferior to a gentleman;" a decree considerably set at nought at the present day.
In those times, when " chivalry was nourished," there were three sorts of courses with greyhounds, that of the deer, the fox, and the hare.
The first " Laws of the Leash" were established by the Duke of Norfolk, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and were subscribed unto by the chief gentry, and thence held authentic.
1. That he that is chosen Fewterrer, or that lets loose the greyhounds, shall receive the greyhounds matched to run together into his leash as soon as he comes into the field, and follow next to the hare finder, or to him who is to start the hare, until he come unto the form, and no horseman or footman is to go before, or on any side, but directly behind, for the space of about forty yards.
2. You ought not to course a hare with more than a brace of greyhounds.
3. The hare-finder ought to give the hare three sohoes before he puts her from her form or seat, to the end the dogs may gaze about and attend her starting.
4. They ought to have twelve score yards law before the dogs are loosed, unless there be danger of losing her.
5. That dog that gives the first turn, if after that there be neither cote, slip, or wrench, he wins the wager.
6. If one dog gives the first turn and the other bears the hare, he that bears the hare shall win the wager.
7. A go-by, or bearing the hare, is accounted equivalent to two turns.
8. If neither dog turns the hare, he that leads last to the covert wins.
9. If one dog turns the hare, serves himself, and turns her again, it is as much as a cote, and a cote is esteemed two turns.
10. If all the course be equal, he that bears the hare shall win; and if he be not borne, the course should be adjudged dead.
11. If a dog takes fall in a course, and yet perform his part, he may challenge the advantage of a turn more than he gave.
12. If a dog turn the hare, serve himself, and give divers cotes, and yet in the end stand still in the field, the other dog, if he turns home to the covert, although he gives no turn, shall be adjudged to win the wager.
13. If by misfortune, a dog be rid over in his course, the course is void ; and to say the truth, he that did the mischief ought to make reparation for the damage.
14. If a dog gives the first and last turn, and there be no other advantage betwixt them, he that gives the odd turn shall win.
15. A cote is when the greyhound goeth endways by his fellow, and gives the hare a turn.
16. A cote serves for two turns, and two trippings or jerkins for a cote : and if she turneth not quite about, she only wrencheth.
17. If there be no cotes between a brace of greyhounds, but that one of them serves the other as turning; then he that gives the most wins the wager: aud if one gives as many turns as the other, then he that beareth the hare wins the wager.
18. "Sometimes the hare doth not turn, but wrench; for she is not properly said to turn, except she turns as it were round, and two wrenches stand for a turn."
19. He that comes in first to the death of the hare, takes her up, and saves her from breaking, cherisheth the dogs. and cleanseth their mouths from the wool, is adjudged to have the hare for his pains.
20. " Those which are judges of the leash, must give their judgment presently before they depart out of the field."
These rules, though established by a duke, aud regulated by a queen, rendered the coursing of that period but of a very sterile description. Pointers were used for the purpose of finding the game, and when any of these made a point, the greyhounds were uncoupled as a necessary prelude to the sport which was to ensue. The greyhound then employed was probably larger than even the warren mongrel, resembling more the shaggy wolf-dog of former times than any sporting dog of the present day. To found the era of improved coursing, and for introducing greyhounds of superior form, and higher blood, was reserved for the late princely owner of Houghton.
It is the distinguishing trait of genius to be enthusiastically bold, and daringly courageous. Nothing in art or science, nothing in mental, or even in manual labour, was ever achieved of superior excellence.with out that ardent zeal, that impetuous sense of eager avidity, winch to the cold, inanimate, unimpassioned, bears the appearance, and sometimes the unqualified accusation of insanity. Lord Orford had absolutely a phrenetic furor of this kind, in any thing he found himself disposed to undertake ; it was a predominant trait in his character never to do any thing by halves, and coursing was his most prevalent passion beyond every other pleasurable consideration.
There were times when he was known to have fifty brace of greyhouuds ; and, as it was a fixed rule never to part from a single whelp, till he had a fair aud substantial trial of his speed, he had evident chances of having, amongst so great a number, a collection of very superior dogs : but, so intent was he upon this peculiar object of attainment, that he went still farther in every possible direction to obtain perfection, and introduced every experimental cross from the English lurcher to the Italian greyhound. He had strongly indulged an idea of a successful cross with the bulldog, which he could never be divested of, and after having persevered (in opposition to every opinion ) most patiently for seven removes, he found himself in possession of the best greyhounds ever yet known ; giving the small ear, the rat-tail, and the skin almost without hair, together with that innate courage which the high bred greyhound should possess.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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