The following is the text of an article on running sports in the US that Lynn wrote for the Deerhound Club (UK) newsletter.
While the hunting of antlered game with dogs is outlawed in the US*, we do have various ways of exploring how our modern hounds might be able to perform the tasks of their ancestors. In particular, six organizations in the US offer some form of performance competition (and titles) for sighthounds.
The oldest of these is ASFA, the American Sighthound Field Association. ASFA sponsors lure coursing trials. If you have never seen a lure coursing trial, imagine an 800-yard loop of string, stretched out across a large field, strung around strategically placed pulleys set into the ground. At one point on the string are attached three white plastic garbage bags. The whole thing is attached to an electric motor, so that the “bunny” can be made to dart across the field. Dogs of the same breed run in braces or trios, and are scored on speed, agility, endurance, enthusiasm and follow (that is, did they chase or hunt the lure, or did they just use it as a good excuse for a romp?).
In most of the US, the hunting of any mammal with dogs is outlawed. But there are states in the western US where it is legal to hunt jackrabbits (hares) with coursing hounds, and both NOFCA , the National Open Field Coursing Association, and NACA, the North American Coursing Association hold meets that are very similar to the live coursing that was done until recently in the UK.
In the last few years, three more organizations have begun to afford sighthounds opportunities to compete. One, the American Kennel Club (AKC), offers lure coursing trials that are, at least from the dog’s point of view, virtually identical to those of ASFA. The other two organizations, NOTRA (National Oval Track Racing Association) and LGRA (Large Gazehound Racing Association), offer pure speed competitions, such as have been held by Whippet clubs for many years. Except for the fact that the tracks are not permanent, and so the lure runs on the ground, NOTRA races are very much like professional Greyhound races, run on an oval track. LGRA, on the other hand, runs 200-yard straight-course races. In both organizations, a race meet consists of several programs (heats). After all the dogs have run one race, a new draw is made, with the fastest dogs in the previous race(s) being matched against one another in the next, while the slower dogs also compete against one another. The lure that is used in racing is more attractive to the dogs than the white plastic bags used in lure coursing. It consists of a (usually fake) fur foxtail equipped with a “squawker” which emits wounded-prey sounds as the lure bounces down the track.
With all this competition, there are a lot of titles to be won! Let me use one spectacular runner as an example: BII NFC DC Chartwell Silver Run Valevue SC SGRC ORC LCM6 VC, better known as Rory, bred and owned by Ellen Bonacarti and Norma Sellers. His first two titles, Best in International Invitational and National Field Champion, represent exceptional wins at national lure coursing competitions held by ASFA and the AKC, respectively. Rory is a Dual Champion, which means that he is both a (conformation) Champion and a Field Champion (lure coursing) with the AKC. He is a Senior Courser (also with the AKC), a relatively minor title that means he “plays well with others” (runs cleanly in competition), which is a step up from the really minor title of Junior Courser (JC), which just means that he will run alone. He is a Supreme Gazehound Racing Champion with LGRA (that is the second title, after plain old GRC), and an Oval Racing Champion with NOTRA (which also gives minor titles of Junior Oval Racer to dogs who complete four meets, and Senior Oval Racer to dogs who finish in the top half in each of six meets). One of the few titles that Rory lacks is that of Supreme Oval Racing Champion, but he still qualifies as Superdog in my eyes! The next title is pretty spectacular. Lure Courser of Merit is the top title given by ASFA. It is awarded to dogs who amass 300 points after completing their ASFA Field Championship (100 points). The dog who finishes first in a stake earns 4 points for each dog in competition, up to a maximum of 10 dogs (or 40 points); the dog who finishes second earns 3 points per dog, and so on. So earning 300 points is challenging but far from impossible. But Rory has done it six times! As for Rory’s last title, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Scottish Deerhound Club of America was happy to award Rory one of its first Versatility Certificates! Since Rory lives in New Jersey, he has never had the opportunity to compete for a NOFCA title.
I regret slighting a number of spectacular Deerhounds of the past, and encourage someone whose coursing experience pre-dates mine to put together an appropriate tribute. The top performance Deerhounds in 2001 were
ASFA: Lyonhil Lucina O’Putnam d’Lux FCh, bred by Linda Schade and owned by Mary Snow and Kay Brady (also 6th in LGRA)
AKC: tie: Gayleward’s Lindisfarne SC, bred by Gayle Bontecou and owned by Diane Murray and DC Kilbourne Zane SC FCh SGRC, bred by Mick and Glenis Peach and owned by Lynn Kiaer & Charles Edwards
LGRA: DC Kilbourne Zane SC FCh SGRC, bred by Mick and Glenis Peach and owned by Lynn Kiaer & Charles Edwards
NOFCA: DC Windshift Bracken, bred and owned by Sally Poole
* It is true that many southern states permit the use of dogs in hunting deer. However, the tradition in these states is of a good-sized scenthound (similar to a Foxhound) that runs in packs in heavily wooded areas, and holds the deer at bay but does not take the deer himself. It is the existence of these "deerhounds" that is the reason that the breed known worldwide simply as Deerhounds is designated the Scottish Deerhound in the United States. The SDCA's rescue group regularly is contacted by people who have a "deerhound" in their shelters, only to discover that the dog in question is a scenthound rather than a sighthound.