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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin