Updated: May 1, 2019
A hi-octane sport for your speed king dogs focuses on safety…
AKC National Lure Coursing Championship (NOV 10th – 11th 2018) The Grand Oaks Resort
A year of races around the nation led to this meeting of the fastest sight-hounds in the country. As with our other visits to Grand Oaks Resort, the location was perfect, with large open and hilly expanses that provided a great view of the dogs as they chased the expertly controlled lure around the fields.
It is not “all about speed” The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a structured entry level through advanced range of trials to gauge the sight-hounds coursing instinct. With its origins in the ancient Coursing still very popular internationally. In those competitions, it is a live and terrified hare providing the fast and winding challenge for the pursuing dogs.
Most coursing (and variants) in the U.S.A. use a “Lure”. This is a single or multiple piece of cloth (Though plastic is used too) attached to a cable and pulley rig that the hounds pursue. This allows a far more stable and consistent course, and a safer sport for the dogs, and clearly the hares too. The trials are monitored by four official positions, including the “Lure Operator”, “Hunt Master”, and the “Judges”. Each has specific duties and any one can stop a race if they see any danger to the hounds appear. Safety of the competitors is the highest responsibility and emphasized by the AKC’s guidance.
This year’s National Lure Coursing Championship was hosted by the local Sunshine State Rhodesian Ridgeback Club at the Grand Oaks Resort. Possibly the busiest person at the event was Event Secretary, Eddie Kominek who had the responsibility of gathering, calculating and posting results of the races as they moved along at a good pace throughout the two days. As with any large event, the various officials and volunteers busily guided to teams and visitors, set up the many activities from a welcome party, raffles, auction and seminars. Fortunately for them, the Grand Oaks Resort has Golf Carts available as the Lure Coursing sport requires a very large area of open land.
Lure Coursing is the specialty of the Sight-hound and the National Championship brought out some real beauties. From Greyhounds, Whippets, Afghans and Salukis, to Rhodesian Ridgebacks and even more exotic Besenji and Pharaoh Hound. The sizes and colors and builds are all different as the owners and handlers, but their sheer love of this sport is as clear as their tail wagging.
Attention to Detail In addition to the local hosts, the American Kennel Club was officially represented by the AKC Contractor for Lure Coursing, Katie Kaltenborn
With the dogs running at full speed and making frequent turns, the risks of injury is clear.
Katie walked us through some of the many precautions the AKC has developed to avoid possible injuries including four officials that can stop the run at any time they see a risk appear.
The Lure Operator (as the title suggests) controls the speed and motion of the lure on its tracks around the field. The cables are snugly laid against the ground and pulleys mostly submerged. The course is consistently reviewed and inspected between each run to ensure there are no obstacles, potential snags or safety concerns.
The Hound Master controls the starting and finish line. As they coral the teams and both call the start and finish of each run (Lure coursing comes back to the start line for finish line). With the hounds wired and ready to go and the handlers only restraining them by hand, the Hound Master must be very alert at these moments to ensure things do not get out of control and the start and finish is consistent for all competitors.
The Judges. Overlooking the course on a raised platform stand the Trial Judges. As the final races include the variety of hound breeds from the eliminations, it is important to note that a greyhound may be fast, but a Pharaoh Hound may display better instinct in the “hunt”. Therefore, the points can tip the balance in favor of the slower hound, and at times some hounds lose track of the lure (Lose Sight), and there may be only one hound that continued the pursuit. In such a case, the others may return to the hunt and even finish faster, but the dog that never lost sight, may win.
The Big Picture
In addition to Katie, we were very fortunate that AVP of the AKC Performance Events, Doug Ljunren was on site and was kind enough to spend some time with me to discuss the overall performance dog goals of the AKC.
Today's American Kennel Club has evolved a very long way from our grandparents day and the persistent impression of snobby people in dinner dress parading show dogs is not today's AKC. Though those shows (Conformation Trials) are still a core contest, I have found that community to be great fun to travel with and is one of the most diverse and inclusive of any dog sport. However, the image of the parody film “Best in Show” is a thing of the past.
Though Performance Events in the AKC are not new, the general public remain mostly unaware of this large program that includes Lure Coursing, Herding Trials, Scent, Ground and Coon Dog events. The AKC continues to expand their tent and todays large shows (Often Called Clusters) are often multi-competition events that include anything from more traditional Agility Trials to Dock Diving and even Disc Dog competitions.
AKC TVIf you go to many dog shows and competitions, you are accustomed to seeing people with taking snap shots or video with phones or cameras, and there may even be freelance or press photographers, none of which are particularly unusual, but at a larger AKC show you may see the AKC TV crew.
The team can deploy multiple cameras, rigs, a fully remote broadcast center with on screen talent, and even drones as we saw at this event. As the Video Media source for the AKC, it strongly ties into the AKC Gazette and AKC Sports groups. There are few large sports broadcasts that can match their quality of post-production talent. The services and crew are both professional and experienced in covering our distinct community and we strongly recommend any show organizers put them on your to-do list of contacts when setting up your own events. The coverage they can provide is considerably better than your kids cellphone, even if it is an iPad.
Getting StartedAll Coursing is a great way to have fun with your own sight-hound, but also, what they were meant to do. If you have not seen your own Bad Azz Dog go after a target in a large expanse, you might be surprised what that couch potato can really do.
Another important note is for those of you worried about the AKC being exclusive to Purebred dogs with official papers. Over time this has evolved to and today's American Kennel Club offers different ways you and your pup may participate through the AKC Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL), AKC Partners Program (for Mixed Breeds), or recorded as a Foundation Stock Service breed (FSS). The AKC also provides a tiered series of trials for beginners to veterans and information is available on their website.
Whatever the activity, please be active with your dog. Whether it is in competitions, events or simply weekly visits to the park. An active dog home is a forever dog home and people who play with their dogs very rarely take them to a shelter unless there is a very serious reason.
Did we mention the location?The event and hosts were both fantastic and another example of why you should get active with your own Bad Azz Dog in the wide selection of happenings around Florida, the rewards cannot be understated for both you and your pup. Plus, you may get to visit locations like The Grand Oaks Resort.
With so many canine events outdoors or in rural locations and the expected “Porta-Potties”, The Grand Oaks was a surprise in many ways. The majority of activities center around Equestrian sports with a active calendar throughout the year, but a growing number of canine events are becoming part of their regular guests. The facility has both luxury suites through RV camping, and the property has stores, restaurants and further amenities expected at the most luxurious hotels.
The important part for our interests were the great number of potential options for an event. The open fields we groomed and the large facility for today’s agility was cool and quite massive for a covered building. There is even fishing… no kidding.
The Grand Oaks are very welcoming, and they are willing to work with those interested in hosting their event here. Clearly, know we are looking forward to returning.
Wrapping up the day The days of the AKC as an elitist organization and source of good-natured ribbing in the film “Best in Show” have been receding for many years now.
The kind welcome from so many competitors, both human and pup that we have met before was surprising in the number that we knew from other sports and activities around the state. Large events bring together a connected community from all walks of life and are incredible social experiences as well as exciting sports.
Lure Coursing is currently one of the top sports Bad Azz Dogz is researching for a future feature on Veterans with Disabilities and we look forward to further discussions with the truly good people of the AKC on this.
Check out your local club, and you may thank us for it.
Thanks to the Sunshine State Rhodesian Ridgeback Club, Denis Eberhard, Paula Alshouse and Juia Toole. Photographer Mark Baer is a fantastic freelance event photographer and was present for the entire event. To see his portfolio and pictures he has available for purchase please visit his website. https://markbaer.smugmug.com/
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American Kennel Club (AKC)
AKC Lure Coursing
https://www.facebook.com/AKCSports/ AKC Gazette
Sunshine State Rhodesian Ridgeback Club https://ssrrc.org/home
The Grand Oaks Resort
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