Two hundred and twenty sighthounds faced off earlier this month in the Finger Lakes region near Romulus, N.Y., to determine which one was the best American Kennel Club lure-coursing dog in the United States in 2012. Among those running were 35 lure-coursing champions, 10 conformation champions, 28 dual champions and nine grand champions.

After two days of coursing – in which three dogs at a time chase a lure to earn scores based on speed and agility – a New York dog, Pharaoh Hound NLCC Ch. Farao Snubis Ikaros, ‘Kai,’ owned by Dominic Carota and Stephen Sipperly, was named Best in Field at the 2012 AKC National Lure Coursing Championship.

This was the third year that Carota and Sipperly have entered Pharoah Hounds in the NLCC. Each time one of their dogs has won, according to AKC field representative Bob Mason. “All their dogs are dual champions. They have a very good breeding program. They’re all-around good dogs,” he says.

Pharoah Hound NLCC Ch. Farao Snubis Ikaro is the AKC national lure-coursing champion for 2012. Judges for the two-day event were Dawn Farris, Tom Cigolle, Jocelyne Gagne and Carmen Day, back row left to right. Kai is owned by Dominic Carota, kneeling at left, and Stephen Sipperly, kneeling at right. Photo courtesy of American Kennel Club.

Sampson State Park, where the two-day event took place, is “one of the most beautiful places you would ever want to see,” Mason says. It’s on the edge of Lake Seneca, and “the scenery around there, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” he says.

With two adjoining fields, divided only by a barrier fence, friends and supporters of the sighthounds and their owners can see every run leading up to the championship. For the early runs, courses were a bit over 800 yards each, extended to about 1,200 yards for the championship.

Handlers release their dogs to chase the lure at the 2012 American Kennel Club National Lure Coursing Championship. Photo by Hunter’s Run Action Photography.

Qualifying events for each of the sighthound breeds were held on Saturday and Sunday. Dogs had to run in both qualifiers to be eligible to run for the NLCC title. The Best of Breed winner from the first and second days’ trials, as well the Hound of that breed that did not win BOB, but had the highest points from both days’ trials, then run for NLCC Best of Breed. The finals are run by each dog singly, rather than in threes, and their points compared to determine the champion.

The 2012 Best of Breed winners included:

  • Afghan Hound FC Karat SC, owned by E. Toattey, L. Martin, S. Shelton and V. Fargre Stroetz;
  • Basenji GCh. DC N’Focus Santa Baaby MC GRC, owned by K. Sanders;
  • Borzoi FC Silkenswift Shimmer in the Night SC, owned by F. Erdman and W. Erdman;
  • Greyhound FC Bunny, owned by D. Simpson;
  • Ibizan Hound DC Davinci’s White Witch at Heron and Hood SC, owned by M. Pierotti-Tietje, A. Tietje and J. Morris;
  • Italian Greyhound FC Elmars Bayou Fast Doberman LCX SC, owned by E. and K. McNamee;
  • Pharaoh Hound Ch. Farao Snubis Ikaros;
  • Scottish Deerhound DC Cu Liath Rhoinnach, owned by L. Kiaer and C. Edwards;
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback Mwenje’s Hit The Ground Running, owned by E. Strachle and J. Strachle; and
  • Whippet FC Belaya Le Corsaire SC, owned by C. Chittum.

Speed and agility are key to success in lure coursing. This year’s NLCC was held in New York; 2013`s event is likely to be in the Northwest. Photo by Hunter’s Run Action Photography.

Since February 2011, non-sighthounds have also been given the opportunity to participate in lure-coursing trials thanks to the AKC Coursing Ability Test. All breeds and All-American dogs are welcome to participate in these trials where Coursing Ability titles are awarded.

For those new to lure-coursing titles, the FC prefix stands for “field champion”; the DC prefix for “dual champion,” referring to conformation and lure coursing; suffix LCX, lure courser excellent; MC, master courser; SC, senior courser; and GRC, lure-coursing grand champion.

Mason reports that an “extraordinary” Basenji took third place overall. “There were some really spectacular runs that the dogs just did excellent. Every once in a while, you find a dog that has exceptional speed and exceptional agility, so it’s able to turn really quickly. They stay right on the lure, and they just outclass the other dogs that are on the course,” he says.

Neck-and-neck coursing isn’t unusual for sighthounds that are driven by instinct to chase prey, in this case a plastic lure. Photo by Hunter’s Run Action Photography.

Because the owners at the NLCC are “very experienced, they realize when they see a very good run like that.” Whatever they’re doing, they stop to watch and applaud the dog, he says.

“Most of the people really appreciate a good running dog. Even on a spectacular turn, they recognize that this is an exceptional turn. Most dogs will take a step or two then turn. Other dogs will turn at the same instant as the lure. That’s their reaction time, and it also shows how well they’re watching the lure.”

This year, one Whippet was upside down sliding backward with the lure in its mouth, Mason says. “You see things like this once in a while. They’re just out there having fun.”

Vests allow judges to easily distinguish one dog from another during coursing. Photo by Hunter’s Run Action Photography.

In addition to a beautiful setting and highly capable sighthounds, participants experienced a new lure-coursing machine. Doug McGowan, a devotee also from upstate New York, “saw a need and this is like his second prototype,” Mason explains, adding that the machines had “absolutely no problems.”

A properly functioning machine is key, especially at the championship level. If a machine jams or stalls, the whole momentum of the run is lost. Mason was so impressed that he ordered one for himself. “And I’m not even allowed to run any dogs,” he says.

About 300 owners, supporters and spectators stayed on the grounds at Sampson State Park in campers and motor homes, in Ithaca, N.Y., or in Geneva, where Mason stayed. People who were at the park for other activities stopped by to watch the coursing, Mason says. “There was really a lot of traffic there.”

Even when rain drenched the site on Saturday, “we just kept running,” he says. “When they [the dogs] get out there, the wet weather doesn’t bother them at all. They just really, really love this sport.” A pavilion in the park was the site of a dinner that evening, hosted by the Lake Country Lure Coursers.

Sunday dawned beautifully and offered a rain-free day for the championship. The awards ceremony took place in a tent on Sunday evening with each winner receiving a trophy, ribbon, lead and collar.

“It was a beautiful day,” Mason says. “A good time was had by all.”

The NLCC moves around the country each year. In 2011, it was in Texas. Next year, it will likely be in the Northwest, Mason says.

For more information about AKC lure coursing, click here.