Tally-Ho! Lure Coursing, Fast CAT, and CATs

I've been asked by several different people now about how to get into Lure Coursing. And while this blog post will largely address the sighthound sport specifically called Lure Coursing, I will also talk about the all breed sports of Fast Coursing Ability Tests (FCAT) and Coursing Ability Tests (CAT).

I also want to clarify first thing that I love that people are getting out and doing coursing ability tests with their dogs but watching sighthounds lure course is nothing short of breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

AKC relatively recently added Coursing Ability Tests (CATs) and Fast Coursing Ability Tests (Fast CAT/FCATs) to their list of all breed performance sports.

Photo by Corey Polis

Coursing Ability Tests the course set up is 600 yards with no turns more acute than 90 degrees. The dog should chase a plastic bag pulled through a system of pulleys continuously and if they do, they pass. A number of passing scores earns you titles (CA, CAA, CAX).

Photo by Laurie Gregory

Fast CATs are similar but more simplistic. They are a straight 100 yard course. Again, if the dog

classes the bag from start to finish, they get a pass and their score (MPH for dogs over 18", 1.5xMPH for dogs 12-18", 2xMPH for dogs under 12"). That score accumulates to earn titles (BCAT, DCAT, FCAT)

But what I really want to talk about is Lure Coursing. This is a sport specifically designed for sighthounds. I feel AKC did sighthound people a bit of a disservice in naming their coursing ability test. CATs and Fast CATs often get referred to colloquially as "lure coursing", but the sports truly are an order of magnitude different from Lure Coursing.

Three salukis get ready to run in the Open stake.  Photo by Lisa Stine.

In AKC Lure Coursing sighthounds run against competition, though there are also junior solo stakes for green dogs as well as Singles stakes for those that some run well with competition. At the beginning of the day dogs are drawn together. They are divided initially by breed with up to three dogs in each heat, and run in three classes Open, Specials, Veterans (dogs under 7 and without a field championship, field champions, and dogs 7 and over). The dogs are blanketed yellow, pink, or blue so that the two judges can tell the sighthounds apart. The dogs run a course 6000-1000 yards in length. The judges grade them on overall ability, follow, speed, agility, and endurance for ten points each, fifty points total per judge. The judges' scores are then combined for a score out of 100 total. They then run this course a second time after resting. The American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), which significantly out dates AKC Lure Coursing, is another governing body that sanctions their own lure coursing events. Scoring is similar with slight differences.

Anubi and Amidi competing at breed level after being tied.  Photo by Lisa Stine.

After that there are breed run offs. If there is a tie within a class, the dogs run the course again. The winners of each class then run off between each other. All of this determines points towards the dogs' field championship. Once all breeds have determined a Best of Breed, those dogs are eligible to run Best in Field. The people who elect to do so are drawn into courses of two dogs minimum and three dogs max. They then run the course (reversed in direction) a final time. The dog that scores the highest takes BIF for that day. If there's a tie, the tied dogs would run the course again.

Anubi, Indy the whippet, and Ruthie the Afghan in a Best in Field run.  Photo by Laurie Gregory.

There is the possibility for dogs to run a minimum 600 yard course six times in one day. Most owners would pull their dogs before allowing them to run that many times, but this is one of the reasons Lure Coursing is considered much more challenging than CATs

Watching a BIF run is honestly often the highlights of my month. Watching my friend's Borzoi course with a Basenji and Italian Greyhound and having the Iggy take BIF is incredible.

Anubi and Theo the Borzoi running for Best in Field. Photo by Laurie Gregory.

Seeing the different coursing styles is thrilling. If you ever get a chance to watch sighthounds Lure Course, take it, because honestly there's nothing like it. Getting started in Lure Coursing is pretty straightforward. I absolutely encourage anyone who is interested in the sport to attend a coursing trial and see what they're all about. Everyone I've ever met has been incredibly welcoming and happy to explain the sport to new comers.

Once you've seen a trial, everything will click into place. But a typical day runs something like this:

  • Enter as a pre-entry by mailing or emailing your entry to the Field Trial Secretary. If you are planning on certifying your dog