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Hare coursing

RCAT officer on patrol

What is Hare Coursing?

Hare coursing is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds and other sighthounds, which chase the hare by sight and not by scent. It is a competitive sport, in which dogs are tested on their ability to run, overtake and turn a hare, rather than a form of hunting aiming at the capture of game. It has a number of variations in its rules around the world. Informal coursing can be a true form of hunting. It is often conducted to kill game or vermin, mainly for food, and occasionally as a form of gambling.

Coursing is a long established hunting technique, practiced historically with greyhounds, other sighthound breeds, or with lurchers which are crossbred sighthounds, and working breeds. The sport grew in popularity in Europe during the 19th century, but has since experienced a decline due in part to the introduction of greyhound racing and betting.

In recent decades some controversy has developed around hare coursing, with some viewing it as a cruel bloodsport and others seeing it as a traditional activity that assists in the conservation of hare populations and tests the ability of sighthounds. Since 2005, hare coursing has been banned in the UK but continues elsewhere in the world as a regulated and judged, competitive sport, especially in Ireland and Spain, as well as in Russia and the Western United States. Elsewhere, in Eurasia for example, coursing continues as a classic form of hunting.

Ely Cathedral

Many events are held without the permission of the landowner and it is not uncommon for intimidation and threats of violence to be used when offenders are disturbed. For this reason the police would always advise landowners to call 999 and observe from a safe distance rather than engaging directly with suspected coursers.

Hare coursing has in the past been statistically linked with farm equipment theft, burglaries and other forms of criminal activity. It is also a form of anti-social behaviour in its own right and as such Cambridgeshire Police are committed to tackling it whenever and wherever it occurs.

What have we done about Hare Coursing? – updated October 2010

Cambridgeshire Police have now been tackling hare coursing consistently for over five years and while reports in the last two years have begun to increase, there are still far fewer incidents per year than there used to be and the increase is believed to be attributed to higher awareness by members of the public and willingness to call the Police. Offenders are dealt with robustly and effectively, with the seizure and subsequent destruction of vehicles used to commit offences being commonplace. Already this year (since August) there have been over 40 people dealt with for harecoursing, most of whom are now awaiting impending court appearances. Last season saw a number of successful prosecutions and fines have been imposed by the courts running into several thousand pounds. We have also seen numerous disqualification orders made against defendants’ driving licences and vehicles crushed. There has been a great deal of positive press coverage for our activities and our high performance has been recognised in several letters of appreciation. We have for several years maintained a reputation for effective disruption of this persistent criminal problem, and have no intention of stopping any time soon.

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