From the time of the Celts, and possibly as far back as Ancient Egypt, greyhounds have hunted alongside us. Nowadays, while people mainly keep greyhounds as family pets (and they do make for great pets!), many of us still like to hunt with them.
However, not everyone agrees that coursing, whether with greyhounds or with other sighthounds, is fair. Naturally, the laws of the land will reflect that difference in opinion. Even in the United States, the laws on hunting coyotes with greyhounds (or other dogs) vary widely.
I won’t try to convince you either way. All I want to do in this article is to tell you what you need to know about hunting coyotes with greyhounds. That includes where it’s allowed and where it isn’t, why greyhounds are good at it and tips on how you can train a greyhound to hunt.
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Why are Greyhounds Good at Hunting Coyotes?
As the name implies, sighthounds hunt by sight, rather than by scent. Sighthounds are normally very fast, which allows them to outrun their prey. That’s one of the main differences between sighthounds and scent hounds: scent hounds track their prey and have great endurance, whereas sighthounds chase their prey and are much faster.
Greyhounds are built for running, with powerful, lanky legs, a deep chest and a slim body. As we all probably already know, cheetahs are the fastest land animals. However, greyhounds aren’t far behind, and what’s more, they can run for longer than cheetahs can. In other words, a cheetah will beat a greyhound in a 100 meter dash, but in a longer race, the greyhound will easily overtake the cheetah.
It should be no surprise then that greyhound racing exists and is a genuine sport, not unlike horse racing.
Aside from their physique, greyhounds make amazing companions, to hunters and non-hunters alike. Despite being very fast animals, greyhounds aren’t very energetic. After all, greyhounds aren’t endurance animals, but sprinters instead. Thus, a greyhound won’t be a handful for the owner, as it can live comfortably without a lot of daily exercise. Since we don’t all live where coyotes can be hunted year-round, that’s good news for you in the off-season.
Is Hunting Coyotes With Greyhounds Fair?
That’s up to every hunter to decide for themselves. After all, it isn’t only non-hunters who feel that hunting coyotes and other game with dogs is cruel.
At the end of the day, your opinion will probably vary widely based on where you live. Coyotes are a big problem in places like Utah, Arkansas and Oklahoma to name a few, where they always pose a threat to ranch livestock. In fact, even President Theodore Roosevelt used Greyhounds to hunt coyotes in Oklahoma City. Elsewhere, hunting coyotes is more of a pastime hobby and less of a necessity.
What The Law Has to Say
What the law has to say on hunting coyotes with greyhounds varies quite a lot from place to place. Even in the United States, it’s a world of difference the farther west or east you go.
In Arkansas, for example, hunters have been able to hunt with dogs since 1999. That year, a law that prohibited dogs from “running at large” was repealed. If you follow all of the other hunting laws in Arkansas, then you can hunt coyotes with greyhounds (or any other dogs of your choice). The only place and time you can’t use dogs is in deer zones, during deer season.
In Colorado, however, the law allows dogs only to pursue, bring to bay, retrieve, flush out or point, but not chase game down themselves. What’s more, hunting big game with dogs isn’t allowed, but hunting small game, waterfowl and furbearers is. Since Colorado law considers coyotes to be furbearers, that rule applies to coyotes as well.
A few states, such as Utah, even offer bounties for hunting coyotes, with or without dogs.
On the flip side, in Idaho, the law explicitly states you can’t hunt any kind of game with dogs, except for mountain lions and black bears.
Lastly, in California, it’s as confusing as it gets. For example, you can’t hunt with dogs when it’s archery season. Bears, bobcats, elk and other big game aren’t on the table either. Coyotes are non-game animals in California. However, you can hunt them, provided you follow a whole host of rules on the methods you use.
All that said, the best way to inform yourself on the laws where you live is to call your state’s fish and game department and ask. It’s what I recommend, since it’s the safest and most hassle-free route as well.
How Should I Train a Greyhound to Hunt?
As with any serious undertaking, the basics come first. A dog that isn’t obedient won’t make for a very good hunting partner. That’s why the first and most important step is to train your dog properly. Not only is this part crucial to your success out on the field, but it’s also important for your dog’s safety and well-being.
If you’ve never trained a dog before, it may be worth your time and money to take a course on how to properly train a dog or even to hire a professional. Remember, the bond between a dog and its owner is a very special one. It’s an even closer one, in my opinion, when your dog is also your hunting partner. You should train your dogs mainly through positive reinforcement and never through cruelty.
Hunting coyotes with greyhounds is often done with packs of them, but it can also be done with only one, depending on what you’re looking to use your greyhound for. By this point, you will have likely introduced your greyhound to the rest of the pack, if you have others. By socializing with them, your new greyhound will gradually learn how to behave right, since it’s a natural instinct of every dog to behave according to the pack.
If you know somebody, a friend of yours perhaps, with a few trained greyhounds, having yours socialize with them can be a good way of teaching it proper behavior on the field.
After you’ve laid the foundation by teaching your greyhound basic obedience, you want to expose him to the world as much as possible. I did that by taking my dog out on a fairly long leash. It’s important to let it see other animals, even ones it shouldn’t chase. I made it a habit to correct mine when he gave chase to porcupines, skunks and other critters.
This phase will probably take the longest, but for a greyhound to be a good hunting partner, it has to learn not to chase unless you command it to. And even then, it should only chase the animals you want it to. Greyhounds have a very high prey drive, so it’s quite an undertaking, but an absolutely essential part of the process.
Once you’re confident your greyhound will listen to you at all times, as well as only chase what you want it to, it’s time to teach it to chase coyotes. I started off by keeping mine on a leash, somewhere in sight of a coyote I was hunting. Of course, I kept him far enough away, so that I wouldn’t hurt his ears.
After I took the coyote down, I’d let my dog go and ask him to find the coyote. It’s important to praise your greyhound when it finds the coyote. That will tell your greyhound, subconsciously, that finding the coyote is its task.
Of course, since greyhounds don’t hunt through scent, the goal here isn’t for your greyhound to be able to track down wounded coyotes.
What you do from here depends mainly on whether your dog will hunt in a pack or just with you. Dogs tend to adapt quicker in packs. However, with enough time and patience, you can teach your greyhound how it needs to behave by yourself.
Greyhounds make wonderful companions, pets, as well as effective hunting partners. If you’re a hunter and you live somewhere where the laws of the land allow you to do so, hunting coyotes with a greyhound (or a pack of greyhounds!) is an amazing experience and one I recommend.