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
Rule:
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.
Interpretation:
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
Rule:
That not above one brace of Greyhounds do course a hare at one instant.
Interpretation:
A maximum of two greyhounds may course in a race.


3. Stirring up the Hare
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
That the Fewterer shall give the hare twelve score Law, ere he loose the Greyhounds, except it be in danger of losing sight.


Interpretation:
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
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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 First Turn
Rule:
If one dog give the first turn and the other bear the hare, then he which bore the hare shall win.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
If one dog give both the first turn and last turn, and no other advantage between them, that odd turn shall win the wager.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
That a coat shall be more then two turns, and a go-by, or the bearing of the hare equal with two turns.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
If neither dog turn the hare, then he which leadeth last, at the covert, shall be held to win the wager.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
If one dog turn the hare, serve himself, and turn her again, those two turns shall be as much as a coat.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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 or forced.


14. Finishing the Course
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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 the course.


15. Riding Over a Dog
Rule:
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 course.

Interpretation:
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
Rule:
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.

Interpretation:
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.

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