Open Field Coursing with Borzoi
[ Prepared and Distributed As
A Public Service by The Borzoi Club of America, Inc. May 1998 ]
This pamphlet is intended to provide answers to some of the questions
you may have about open field coursing with your Borzoi, and provide an
overview of the sport.
WHAT IS OPEN FIELD COURSING?
Open field coursing in the United States is the formal, organized, coursing
of live game. The game consists of wild jackrabbits native to the areas
being hunted. This is the only form of organized live coursing available
to the American Borzoi owner. Open field coursing is held only in the
Western states where live game coursing with dogs is legal.
WHEN DID OPEN FIELD COURSING START?
In the early part of the twentieth century ranchers in the western plains
found coursing necessary to keep the number of predators, i.e. coyotes
and wolves under control. Rabbits were also hunted as the large numbers
were destroying crops. The first organized open field coursing in the
United States was in California in 1959. This was the Pacheco Hunt and
was sponsored by the Borzoi Club of California.
WHO SPONSORS HUNTS?
There are two groups that sponsor the coursing meets with local and/or
breed clubs that operate under their auspices. The National Open Field
Coursing Association (NOFCA) was formed in 1973 and has governed events
ever since. These hunts are held mainly in alfalfa fields near Merced,
California. Native to this area is the black-tailed jackrabbit. In 1987
the North America Coursing Association (NACA) was established. These hunts
are centered around Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where the white-tailed jackrabbit
is the quarry. Hunting here is done on cattle range.
WHAT ARE TITLE REQURIEMENTS?
The two associations are similar in their title requirements. There are
two titles that may be won. The first is the CC, or Coursing Champion.
To earn this title the dog must score 100 points in competition. Of these
points, ten must be scored in breed competition. The dog must also attain
either one first placement or two second placements. In open field coursing
it is necessary that a minimum of five dogs be entered. Perhaps the most
difficult part in obtaining the CC for a Borzoi is the kill requirement.
The dog must score either two Assisted Kills (AK) or one Unassisted Kill
(UK). A jackrabbit, either variety, is an extremely difficult quarry for
The second title that an open field dog may win is the Courser of Merit
(CM). Along with the other requirements the dog must score 100 points
in breed competition.
At the hunts the scoring is done by a single judge who assesses the dogs'
abilities in much the same way as in lure coursing. Speed, agility, and
endurance are the primary attributes that are sought. The main difference
in scoring points between lure coursing and open field coursing is that
the lure course is a passive course. The course is pre-set and nothing
the dog does can change the course. The reverse is true in the open field.
By their persistence and speed, the dogs directly control what the rabbit
does. So in awarding points in the field a judge will give points to a
dog that causes a rabbit to turn, or goes for a take (kill), or near take.
In the open field a general rule is that the winning dog is the one that
did the most work on the rabbit. All hounds are evaluated under the following
maximum scale of points:
Speed - 25 points
Agility - 25 points
Endurance - 25 points
Take - 10 points
Desire - 15 points
Touch - 5 points
A pre-slip or release before the "tally-ho" can bring up to a 10 point
WHAT WOULD I NEED IN ORDER TO GO TO A HUNT?
First, you will probably want a small backpack. You will need water for
your dog and a container from which your dog can drink. You will want
some tidbits or energy boosters to give to your dog. Bring water and a
snack for yourself. You will need pink, yellow and blue coursing blankets
that fit your dog. You will want a good slip lead. If your dog is a real
eager beaver on lead, you might want a choke collar for when you are not
on the line. Six or seven hours of hanging onto a Borzoi that is pulling
you over badger holes and sagebrush can give you a very sore arm.
SAFETY AND CONDITIONING
A first class emergency kit is a must, since hunts can range for miles
and accidents are likely to occur a great distance from help. Be prepared
for broken bones with splints, gauze, vet wrap and wound cleaning solution. Also
have on hand tweezers, hemostats, sterile sutures, needle, needle holder,
scissors, cotton, cotton swabs, antibiotic cream, styptic powder,
surgical adhesive Nexaband tissue glue and eye wash.
Set up a good conditioning program. This should be extensive since the
dogs need to be prepared for ultimate physical stress. The types of programs
for conditioning are as varied as the people who are coursing their hounds.
Diet should consist of a good quality kibble. Several months before coursing
season, add extra quality protein and vitamin supplements.
Exercise for stress and stamina should also be started a good two months
prior to the start of coursing. You and your dog will benefit by starting
slow and working up. Walk for a couple miles three or four times a week
for the first week. Gradually add road working at a slow trot for two
miles the same three or four times a week. Gradually increase your speed
and distance so you cover five to ten miles each time. Some people recommend
speed spurts of 15 miles per hour. As with human exercise, you should
warm up your dog the first mile and cool down the last mile. If you have
access to open land a couple free runs a month in addition is a plus.
Check your dogs pads frequently.
Safety is an ongoing process. The importance of safely negotiating barbed
wire is of utmost importance. One way is to set up a three-strand barbed
wire fence section. You will need an assistant to release your dog, once
you have safely crossed the fence section. Position yourself as close
as possible to the bottom of the fence and call your dog. The assistant
releases the dog. Do not let the dog cross between strands. Lift the lower
strand and coax him under. Repeat procedure until the dog only slightly
breaks his stride as he passes beneath the wire. Dogs may still get injured
so be prepared. Most hunts are held on non-fenced fields but don't take
a chance. Some people only course in fields they have personally checked
to be fence free. Most of the time Borzoi will return at the end of the
hunt. Of course, there is that exception. Before setting off on that first
hunt, teaching your dog a recall (come when called) is important. Some
people recommend using a whistle or game caller such as a crow call or
predator call. Again, practice at home with treats for reward. If all
this fails, try to think as your dog might think as your walk, call and
Open field coursing is not for everyone. While precautions are taken,
injuries still occur. The risks are real. The coursing of live game is
a blood sport and if you are someone who is indisposed towards this, you
will not like this form of coursing. For those who are not sure, most
kills are performed quite a distance away. Borzoi, as a rule, kill swiftly.
You may never witness a kill, as only about one rabbit in ten is ever
caught. For open field enthusiasts, there is probably not a more stirring
sight than a Borzoi in full chase, in the open field, with coat flying,
doing what the breed was bred to do.
MOVEMENT - The manner in which the pursuing hound propels himself throughout
the duration of the course. This is to include, but not limited to, the
double suspension gallop, carriage, stride and agility in turns and terrain
other than flat level ground.
SPEED - The rate at which the hound is capable of pursuing the quarry,
in relation to the terrain on which the course is being run and the types
and numbers of obstacles encountered during the chase. Speed is also to
include the dog's acceleration capability. (Acceleration is defined as
the hound's ability to regain his maximum speed once it is reduced due
to a turn or an encounter with an obstacle.)
TECHNIQUES - The differences between strategies and methods utilized by
different breeds and by different hounds of the same breed. This area
also will include the degrees of intelligence and cunning displayed by
various members of the different breeds while engaged in a chase.
QUARRY - The game being pursued by the hounds. All references to game
shall be intended to indicate the jackrabbit.
ENDURANCE - Endurance shall be discussed in terms of limits as related
to hounds in top physical condition, i.e., experienced and proven open
field hunters. To utilize an inexperienced or poorly conditioned dog as
an example would do a grave injustice to that particular breed.
ENTHUSIASM - The eagerness and determination a hound displays while in
pursuit. This is not to be confused with endurance as that is purely physical.
Enthusiasm is entirely mental.
DROPPING - The act of the hound attempting to catch the quarry. A successful
drop results in a kill or take; an unsuccessful drop is called a trip.
FOLLOW - The hound's ability to stay with the quarry. This is not merely
speed and agility, but also includes visual contact while negotiating
turns, obstacles, and difficult terrain. Another aspect of follow is the
hound's persistence in attempting to re-sight after the quarry has broken
THE GALLERY - The spectators and competitors are usually requested to
form a long line and stay abreast while walking through the fields in
order to help raise the game.
THE GO-BY - While a hound starts at least a full length behind another
hound but still is able to pass and move ahead of the other hound.
HEDGING - The act of a hound paralleling the chase by some 5 - 20 yards
in an effort to make a take during an impending turn. Despite the appearance
of a 50-50 chance that the quarry will turn to his side, many hounds who
are skilled at hedging have an uncanny ability to guess correctly and
often do so at the rate of eight or nine times out of ten.
HUNTMASTER - The official in the hunt who sounds the release and is in
charge of all hounds and their handlers.
INTERFERENCE - The intentional disruption or impeding of a hound in the
course by another hound. Bumping to get at the quarry is not interference.
NO COURSE - A course that terminates prior to certain prescribed time
limits; this may vary from one organization to another, usually 25 seconds.
This ruling also includes any situation in which the judges deem that
a hound, due to interference, did not receive the opportunity for a fair
PRESLIP - A hound being released or breaking away from his handler prior
to the huntmaster sounding the release call, "Tally-ho."
RECALL - The hound's willingness, or lack of it to return to his handler's
side after the course is completed. Many judges will penalize a hound
if its recall is so poor as to delay the next course.
RUNNING CUTE - This term is not be to be confused with hedging, which
shows teamwork and considerable effort. Running cute is, to put it bluntly,
sandbagging or laying back and letting the other hounds do most of the
work. Although hounds that are prone to run cute often show great cleverness,
their efforts are usually rewarded with a poor score.
THE RUNUP - The sprint from the slips to the quarry.
THE TURN - The quarry is forced to deviate from its original line of travel
at an angle which must exceed 90 degrees.
THE WRENCH - The quarry leaves its original line of travel by an angle
of less than 90 degrees. This move may be a forced wrench in which case
points would be awarded, or if the game turns at its own discretion and
not as a result of pressure from the hounds, then no points would be awarded.
APPROACH - The angles and lines of attack assumed by the hounds which
converging on the quarry. The approach is very flexible in some breeds
while other are extremely rigid in their style.
BENCHED - The temporary or permanent retirement from fieldwork of a hound
that is either physically disabled or physically inept.
HOUNDS, HARES and OTHER CREATURES, The Complete Book of Coursing,
by Steve Copold, published by Don Hoflin, 4401 Zephyr St, Wheatridge CO
THE COMPLETE BORZOI, Lorraine Groshans, 1981, published by Howell
Book House Inc.
Pamphlet Committee, Kathleen Kapaun, Chairman. Our sincere thank you to
the following contributors to this pamphlet: Gene Hill, Roger (David)
Skeldon, Karen Ackerman, Lynn Green, Lita Bond.