Having Fun

ill titleCourse/Coursing:

The Beginnings of the Canadian Sighthound Field Association:


by Heather Loube (CANFAN Annual 1983)

Linda Kemp has asked for an early history of the Canadian Sighthound Field Association so that folk will know how, when, why and where it all began. For the past several months I have made many attempts to relate such a history which have either sounded like the dustiest of history texts or an open personal diary. The problem has been in recounting a history from the third person point of view when, in fact, the history has been very much, for me, a personal recollection.

Our interest in running hounds stemmed from the background of our Afghan Hounds — the Dutch kennel, van de Oranje Manege, well known for its success on the track and in the European show rings. Having heard that the European track lures were powered by bicycle and having read a bit about lure coursing, we set up a primitive machine and course with "broomstick" pulleys, in our half—acre backyard in Victoria. We soon gave it up as the line kept slipping off the bicycle wheel and getting tangled, not to mention decapitating the '» broomsticks.

In September, 1975 the three of us, together with Jan Priddy, made the 1500 mile trek to Denver for the first Grand National. Our novice entrant, Oranje Jenever, was an instant success winning her stake and tying for second place overall. Jan took movies which were later to prove invaluable.

In February, 1976 we made two journeys to course in the San Francisco area and were, by then, hopelessly hooked. We learned a great deal in those trips but it did seem a long way to go for the fun. Our enthusiasm for the sport didn't seem to generate much interest from our show—ring friends for the same reasons you've all heard and maybe given yourself.

Accordingly, we decided to place an ad in the Victoria newspaper to call a meeting, show the film Jan had taken and see if we could get something going. We just couldn't afford to go trekking off to California every time we got the coursing urge. The first response was from Helena James (Ringdove Whippets) who had just arrived from England. At the first meeting we were fortunate to find a high school shop teacher willing to undertake the construction of a machine as a class project. Our first practice was a disaster! A Ringdove Whippet was severely bitten by a startled Afghan whose "territory" was invaded. Our field was not securely fenced and resulted in a few heart-stopping chases down the busy highway. We persevered, however, every Sunday morning from spring through summer. One Sunday, the frantic James' Whippets ate their way out of a wooden crate to get their turn sooner. We made every imaginable mistake but it still didn't seem to dampen the enthusiasm. Inevitably, competition sprang up. Doggie drag races became the Sunday past-time. Someone, I can't remember who, suggested we have a trial to end up the summer season.

Some fast decisions had to be made. What rules should we use? We approached ASFA which said we could hold a pointed trial if an ASFA club sponsored us. Since the closest one, at that time, was over nine hundred miles away in the Bay area, that idea was discarded. We decided to hold the trial on Thanksgiving weekend, under ASFA rules, but to arbitrarily call ourselves the Canadian Sighthound Field Association.

At this point, the question of the CKC was raised. All sorts of dire imaginings were expressed -- we could be disbarred, never again to enter shows or register dogs. We consulted the B.C. Director for the CKC who advised us to proceed with our plans, taking care not to conflict with other CKC activities. We also asked the Manager for Shows and Trials at the CKC for advice. Norman Brown, now retired, chuckled "Where have you been all these years?" He had been instrumental in drawing up the CKC constitution _ which included provision for coursing! In the Thirties, "coursing" meant what we now call open field coursing. However, he advised that we continue to operate and, once we felt that we have something viable on a national basis, we should again ask for direction. (Note: In fact, it happened that the CKC jumped the gun and voted to incorporate lure coursing under CSFA, rules in 1982. It came as a total surprise to the CSFA, which did not feel quite ready.)

What about judges? On our California trips, Ken and Vanelle Reynolds had told us they'd be glad to help things out in Canada and to whistle when we were ready. Fred Schmeitow, from San Jose, who owned the top Afghan of the day, volunteered his services. They all drove up in a rented motor home with a stop to pick up John Shook, then ASFA Recording Secretary, who flew into Seattle from Denver.

A few weeks before the trial we were once again in Denver for the second Grand National and arrived home to find we'd lost the site for the first CSFA trial! Fortunately we found a perfect replacement on the country estate of the Woodward family who entertained their Thanksgiving guests with tours of the coursing field in the rain.

The entry fees for the first CSFA trial, hosted by the Vancouver Island Sighthound Association (VISA) were $3.00 for the first hound and $2.00 subsequent entries from the same owner! Each participant received a copy of the results, which was the birth of CANFAN.

The trial was a success. My memories are of thick fog, wall to wall bodies on the floor at the Loube "hotel", an excellent potluck supper for all and the kindling of a flame.

A few weeks later, at the invitation of Linda Buchholz and Ann Webster (enthusiasts of Whippet racing and open field coursing) we splattered our way through the first fun run in Vancouver. Dogs with webbed feet did well that day! George Bell was one of the judges and it wasn't really surprising that he remained unenthusiastic about lure coursing, standing in the pouring rain instead of tromping the arid fields of Merced.

Then, I often feel we made a big mistake. Jeff took an ASFA rule book and revised it for Canadian use, together with a few ideas about which he felt strongly -— the elimination of the Field Champion stake in particular. We had it printed at our expense. The problem was that, by then, the ASFA rules were outdated and we have always been at least a year "behind". I wonder what it would have been like had we adopted the English coursing rules. The dogs are run in braces and scored by one judge who merely holds up the flag of the blanket colour of the winner of the course. The competition is set up basically as a double elimination tournament. No scores to add; all dogs get at least two runs; only one judge to judge; no field clerks. It seems ideal although I am sure it is not without its problems.

In 1977, the Canadian coursing scene expanded rapidly. Not only did VISA hold two sets of trials, but the new Lower Mainland Sighthound Association matched them. Jan Priddy designed and donated the CSFA logo, Bonnie Goebel volunteered to do the records as well as naming CANFAN, with Linda Buchholz and I as editors. And that summer, the Loubes left the West Coast.

I think if it hadn't been for Ann Webster, who was visiting in the Ottawa I area that summer, coursing may have had a different story in the East. However, Ann insisted we go with her to meet a breeder of Afghans and Greyhounds and before we knew it, out came "that" film again and the Capital Area Sighthound Association was formed. Montreal Whippet fancier, Everett Dansereau attended the initial meeting and soon persuaded us to go to Montreal with the film and help him get things going in Quebec.

What a volatile and exciting year 1978 was! The Lower Mainland Sighthound Association failed to complete one of its Spring trials. The end result was the formation of another club, the Fraser Valley Sighthounders and, I suspect, a lot of lessons learned. The Ontario Lure Coursing Association held its first and only trial, remembered for fisticuffs between a judge and lure operator. Another club formed on Vancouver Island in 1977, the Cowichan Valley Lure Coursing Association, held its first trials. There were two trial weekends in Ottawa and the Quebec Lure Coursing Association proved that you can course when it's snowing! That was the year we moved to the farm and were able to host the very successful International Harvest Run. Jan Priddy took CANFAN under her talented wing and gave it its present format.

In those early years we relied very heavily on American expertise, especially for judging. Without the help and enthusiasm of such folk as the Reynolds, the Hayes, the Bells, the Forresters, and Dean Wright we surely would have foundered. They didn't just come to judge either. They helped with equipment, they huntmastered and field clerked, ran their dogs and provided endless hours of post-trial advice and entertainment. CSFA has come a long way but we couldn't have done it without our many American friends. And we will continue to look south for guidance for the years to come.

And that, mes amis, is the story of how lure coursing came to be in Canada. There are many more chapters to be told in the Canadian coursing history book but I will leave them to other folk to tell. It would be interesting to have a history of each club printed in CANFAN. I know there are dozens of hilarious tales out there. Let's hear the story of YOUR club.

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