Hare coursing is a bloodsport where dogs are used to chase, turn, and catch and kill hares and large amounts of money are gambled on the results. It is illegal in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (but note that it is still legal in Ireland).
Hare coursers are violent criminals and give no consideration to landowners’ property and crops. They often have a sophisticated information network and they invariably know about vulnerable properties in the area, short cuts, and escape routes.
Hare coursing activity rises in late summer once fields have been harvested (ie when hare numbers are still high and the dogs have wide, unobstructed areas to run across).
Hare coursers have admitted that they trap and move hares to other parts of the country for coursing. Hare hunting and coursing continue despite the fact that the Brown Hare is on the list of vulnerable and declining species for which a UK Biodiversity Action Plan has been written.
On a separate note, while there is currently no closed season for Brown Hares in England (in Scotland the closed season is from 1st February to 30th September) the use of self-locking snares, crossbows, explosives, bows or live decoys to take or kill them is also illegal.
Photo copyright League Against Cruel Sports
Let’s help tackle hare coursing
- Using a dog to chase a hare was made illegal in Scotland in 2002 by the passing of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, and was made illegal in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004. In 2011 it was banned in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland). Hare coursing is still legal in Ireland.
- Coursing is more likely to take place at dawn or dusk but it can take place in broad daylight.
- Hare coursers often travel in convoy with transit vans at the front and rear (containing minders) and the cars in between containing the employers.
- The first sign of coursing is often a group of vehicles parked in a rural area – perhaps by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridle path. There will usually be estate cars, four wheel drives or vans. They may contain evidence of dogs inside – such as muddy paw prints and dog hair.
- Participants do not have permission to be on the land and have no respect for niceties such as closing gates, keeping to paths, or staying out of growing crops.
- Participants will often be spread in a line across a field and looking to flush a hare. When a hare runs they will then release their dogs to give chase.
- Once killed, the hare’s body is discarded. Participants often carry on until all the hares in a field have been killed and then move on to the next field.
- We all want to help stop hare coursing but please note that many of the gangs involved in coursing have links to other forms of crime and illegal dog breeding. They can be violent and there have been many reports of violent confrontations and damage to cameras/cars etc.
Never attempt to tackle hare coursers yourself.
- If it is safe to do so note any relevant car registration plates.
- If it is safe to do so – and only from a safe distance – take photographs and video of the coursers as evidence.
- All information you can provide can be useful including what clothes the participants are wearing and the number, breed and colours of the dogs being used.
- If you see an event taking place do NOT approach the participants!
If a crime is in progress call 999.
If the event is finished but you would like to pass on details or you have information about hare coursing that may be useful to the police please call 101 and ask to speak to a wildlife crime officer.
Remember to ask for a crime reference number as well.
- If you prefer to give information anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111
Remember all information is potentially important. Your information could match earlier information given by someone else, which may help build up a better picture of the people involved.
Page updated Dec 2015.
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