The Waterloo Cup

Ten Years On

 

The Waterloo Cup, the most prestigious event in the hare coursing calendar was last held just over ten years ago. It was first held in 1836 at Great Altcar, West Lancashire England, which continued to be the venue until 2005.

 

The last three-day event was held from Monday February 14 to Wednesday February 16,2005. Normally run in late February, but because of the UK Hunting Act of 2004 coming into effect on Friday February 18, 2005 the dates had to be changed to comply with the law.

 

Founded by William Lynn, Liverpool entrepreneur and hotelier, owner of the Waterloo Hotel in Ranelagh Street, Liverpool. He was also the creator of the world famous Grand National held at Aintree, Liverpool.

 

On Friday February 18, 2005, hare coursing, along with fox-hunting became illegal in the UK. At its’ most popular, towards the end of the 1800’s The Waterloo Cup attracted more spectators than some top football matches today. Crowds of more than 80,000 were common place.

 

greyhound 2

 

For any of you not familiar with hare coursing it was an event where a hare was released into a field and two dogs released to give chase. The aim of the sport was not to kill the hare but to test the skill of the dogs, but obviously, some hares were killed during the event. The Countryside Alliance was not convinced that the 2005 event would be the end of an era.

 

When the last event was held around 200 demonstrators turned up complete with air horns and drums. At least three of them were arrested on the day as they threw abuse and rocks at spectators. Mounted police had to be called in as things escalated when even dismembered hares and bottles were being thrown by the protesters.

 

On average one hare died every five races, and it would take more than 30 seconds for the hare to be killed.” It was condemned by the RSPCA as cruel, vile and barbaric. 64 coursing greyhounds from the UK and Ireland took part in the final Waterloo Cup and it was still a huge attraction until its’ demise.

 

grehound racing

 

Sir Paul McCartney said in 2003 and I quote:- “If this barbaric practice were carried out on domesticated animals, the people involved would probably be sent to prison and banned from keeping animals for life. And that’s as it should be. Many of us have been praying that hare-coursing wouldn’t survive into the 21st Century.”

 

Coursing remained legal in Ireland and having been banned in the UK under the Hunting Act a 32 dog event was arranged in Ireland. A contest for 32 dogs, 16 English and 16 Irish was the idea of Pat Loughlin, secretary of the Irish Sevenhouses Club.The event was run at Sevenhouses, between Waterford and Kilkenny. It was named the Seamus Hughes Memorial Cup, after Pat Loughlin’s cousin, licensed coursing judge and chef d’equipe to the Irish junior show jumping teams.

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A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HARE COURSING

 

I am not about to debate the rights or wrongs of hare coursing, or its’ eventual end, but for those of you unfamiliar with hare coursing I give a brief description. As a competition the object of the course was not to kill the hare, but test the skill of the dogs involved in turning the hare, the death of the hare, if it happened, was considered a poor result.

 

The course was held in a field usually  run uphill. In the field would be the “Shy,” a canvass hide where the “Slipper,” the person holding the two leashed competing dogs would be hidden from view.

 

On releasing a hare into the field the “Beaters” would shoo it along so that it had to pass the hide. The “Slipper” had to restrain the hare until it had a regulation eighty yard start on the dogs before he was allowed to release them.

 

coursing

 

It was also his responsibility in a split second as the hare passed to judge the hare fit enough or not to be chased. He had to judge at a glance if the hare was too old, fat or injured, deformed or just generally unwell. If any of these then the dogs would not be released.

 

Although as I mentioned the object of the course was to turn, not kill the hare, hares were killed. Not as many as you might think, as there was always a way of escape from the field for them. The turning of the hare being the object of the competition is the reason the judge was mounted on a horse, so that there was a clear unobstructed view as it was the judges decision who one.

 

A final bit of factual information. On average the records show that generally one in nine of the hares coursed were recorded killed during the competitions. Once the Hunting Act became law some 8,000 conserved hares on ten grounds were shot three months later.

 

 

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