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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links