Waterloo sunset for hare coursing - a pursuit that may have run its course

It has been the highlight of hare coursing since 1836, so there were strong passions and protests when 10,000 people turned out to mark the end of the Waterloo Cup in Britain

If the bookmakers are right, Equal Status, a greyhound belonging to the celebrated racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott, will become the last champion at the Waterloo Cup.

The controversial event, the Blue Riband of the hare coursing calendar, which once attracted crowds of 75,000 to Great Altcar in Lancashire, will pass into history. Barring a successful last-minute High Court challenge, coursing and the Cup will go the same way as fox hunting when the ban on hunting with dogs comes into force this week.

Passions between protesters and supporters of the sport, which has been held in Great Altcar since 1836, boiled over yesterday. Three people were arrested when hundreds of spectators from the 10,000-strong crowd jeered and waved foxtails at their opponents - 200 animal rights campaigners. As protesters chanted "losers", two fireworks and a dismembered hare were hurled, while bottles, cans, stones and clumps of earth rained down. Mounted police intervened when 20 supporters attempted a charge.

"We are the only blood sport where the idea is not to kill the quarry," said Len Elman, the Cup organiser. The coursing fraternity has joined forces with the Countryside Alliance to oppose the ban and supporters are being urged to attend the final legal fox hunts on Saturday in solidarity.

Simon Hart, the Countryside Alliance's chief executive, said: "I am absolutely, 100 per cent certain that the Waterloo Cup will take place in some form in 2006. It may not be here, it may not even be in this country, and it may be in a different form, but the Waterloo Cup will live on. We will return."

Hare coursing supporters believe the sport has inherited a tradition of agility and speed dating back to the pharaohs. As more than 50 courses were completed yesterday, supporters say only a handful of hares were killed. The knockout competition, upon which the Wimbledon tennis tournament is said to be modelled, pits two dogs against each other as they chase a specially bred hare. The hare is delivered into their path by beaters and is given a 100-yard head start, known as "the law", and the first animal to reach it forcing it to turn, picks up three points. Each consecutive turn earns the dog another point. There are no points for a kill. The winner's purse is £6,000.

According to Mr Elman: "The hare knows when the dog is approaching and can turn on a sixpence. The greyhound turns more like the Queen Mary."

When the ban becomes law, he said, the 2,000 specialist dog owners in Britain will face three choices: they can take their animals to Ireland, where coursing is a popular and lucrative pastime; keep their animals as pets; or have them put down. He said thousands of hares would now also face being shot to save them from poachers.

The League Against Cruel Sports believes there is no justification for hare coursing. The hare population has fallen by 80 per cent in the past 100 years.Tony Peters of Greyhound Action, also believes that thousands of lurchers and greyhounds that take part are killed each year. "There are a lot of injuries ... When they can't run they are simply got rid of," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor