Rules of Renaissance Coursing
The following rules are
transcribed from Country Contentment's, published in 1638 by
Gervase Markham. Subheads have been added to each rule for easier
reference and have modernized and standardized the spelling of
words. Otherwise, the text under "rule" is verbatim
from the eighth edition of Markham's book. The "interpretation"
is a translation of what the rule means.
The Laws of the Leash or coursing, as they were commanded,
allowed, and subscribed by Thomas late Duke of Norfolk, in the
reign of Queen Elizabeth.
- 1. The Fewterer
- First therefore it was ordered, that he
which was chosen Fewterer, or letter-loose of the
Greyhounds, should receive the Greyhounds match to run
together into his Leash, as soon as he came into the
field, and to follow next to the Hare-finder till he came
unto the former and no horsemen nor Footman, on pain of
disgrace, to go before them, or on either side, but
directly behind, the space of forty yards or thereabouts.
- The Fewterer is given a pair of greyhounds
to take by the leash and follows at a distance the person
who finds and roots out the hare. Anyone on horseback or
foot who doesn't stay about 40 yards behind the dogs will
be publicly disgraced.
- 2. Number of Greyhounds
- That not above one brace of Greyhounds do
course a hare at one instant.
- A maximum of two greyhounds may course in
- 3. Stirring up the Hare
- That the hare-finder should give the hare
three so-how's before he put her from her Leat, to make
the Greyhounds gaze and attend her rising.
- The hare-finder must yell "SO-HOW"
three times to alert the hounds and Fewterer that a hare
is about to be driven from its Leat (the nest or form it
made under a bush or in thick grass).
- 4. Distance Between Hare and Greyhounds
- That the Fewterer shall give the hare
twelve score Law, ere he loose the Greyhounds, except it
be in danger of losing sight.
- The Fewterer must let the hare run a
distance of 240 Law (possibly 240 feet or 80 yards)
before slipping or letting loose the greyhounds, unless
the terrain is such that the hounds would lose sight of
the hare at that distance.
- 5. Winning on the First Turn
- That dog which giveth the first turn, if
after the turn be given, there be neither coat, slip, nor
wrench extraordinary, then he which gave the first turn
shall be held to win the wager.
- The dog that first forces the hare to turn
(meaning that it's close enough to the hare to force it
to change direction) will win the course and the wager
that was laid down on the course provided that: the other
dog does not score a "coat," the slip did not
give one dog an unfair advantage, and the other dog does
not force a wrench turn (a very sharp turn) at a later
point (a wrench turn was scored higher than a normal turn,
even a normal first turn).
- 6. Catching the Hare vs. Giving the
- If one dog give the first turn and the
other bear the hare, then he which bore the hare shall
- This is another exception to the rule that
the greyhound which gives the first turn wins. If a hound
catches the hare and bears it off, it wins the match even
if the other hound gave the first turn.
- 7. Winning on First and Last Turns
- If one dog give both the first turn and
last turn, and no other advantage between them, that odd
turn shall win the wager.
- If the dogs force an equal number of turns
on the hare, and gain no advantage in any other way (such
as catching the hare), then the dog which forces the
first and last turns is the winner.
- 8. Scoring Terms
- That a coat shall be more then two turns,
and a go-by, or the bearing of the hare equal with two
- A "coat" is awarded for forcing
a series of three or more turns. A "go- by," in
which one dog passes the other on a straight run and thus
showed more speed, is equal in scoring to two turns.
Catching the hare also equals two turns in score.
- 9. Winning Without a Turn
- If neither dog turn the hare, then he
which leadeth last, at the covert, shall be held to win
- If neither dog forces a turn of the hare (and
neither catches it), the dog in the lead at the end of
the course, when the hare reaches the covert, wins the
match and the wager. The covert was thick underbrush or
woodland at the end of the course into which the hare
could disappear and thus escape the greyhounds.
- 10. Scoring a Coat
- If one dog turn the hare, serve himself,
and turn her again, those two turns shall be as much as a
- A "coat," which normally means
three or more turns, can be scored with only two turns if
the hound forces a turn, then continues on without help
from the other dog and forces a second turn. When a dog
forced a turn it normally lost ground on the hare and the
other dog, if close enough, could take advantage of this
and gain on the hare, perhaps forcing a turn itself or
setting up the first dog to make another turn and thus
"serving" it. A dog which was able to gain the
ground lost on one turn to also force the next turn,
without help from the other dog, had done something
impressive enough to earn a coat score.
- 11. Bearing the Hare
- If all the course be equal, there be only
which bears the hare shall win; and if she be not borne,
then the course must be adjudged dead.
- If the scoring between the two dogs is
even, the dog which catches the hare wins. If the score
is even and neither catch the hare, the match is a draw.
- 12. Finding the Dead Hare
- If he which comes first into the death of
the hare, takes her up and saves her from breaking,
cherisheth the dogs, and cleanseth their mouths from the
wool, or other filth of the hare, for such courtesy done,
he shall in courtesy challenge the hare, but not doing it
he shall have no right, privilege or title therein.
- The first person who comes upon the dead
hare and the dogs, if he keeps the hare from being torn
to shreds by the dogs, and cleans the dogs up, will be
able to keep the hare as a reward. But he can't keep it
if he doesn't do these things.
- 13. Recovering from a Fall
- If any dog shall take a fall in the course,
and yet perform his part, he shall challenge advantage of
a turn more then he giveth.
- If a dog takes a tumble during the course
but gets up and holds his own against the other dog,
doesn't quit or limp off, his perseverance gains him the
scoring equivalent of one turn more than he actually gave
- 14. Finishing the Course
- If one dog turn the hare, serve himself,
and give divers coats, yet in the end stand still in the
field, the other dog without turn-giving, running home to
the covert, that dog which stood still in the field shall
be then adjudged to lose the wager.
- If a dog scores very well, but doesn't
finish the course (stopping before the covert is reached),
he still loses to the lower-scoring dog which finishes
- 15. Riding Over a Dog
- If any man shall ride over a dog and
overthrow him in his course (though the dog were the
worse dog in opinion) yet the party for the offence shall
either receive the disgrace of the field, or pay the
wager; for between the parties, it shall be adjudged no
- The person who rides over a dog with his
horse, even if the dog probably was going to lose the
match, must pay the wager on behalf of the dog's owner or
face public disgrace (probably both in practice). The
match is nullified.
- 16. Determining the Winner
- Those which are chosen Judges of the Leash,
shall give their judgments presently before they depart
from the field, or else he, in whose default it lieth,
shall pay the Wager by a general voice and sentence.
- If the match has formal judges, they must
announce the winner before leaving the coursing field. If
no judges are present, the winner will be decided by
voice vote of those present.