Posts Tagged ‘Animal welfare’

The Missunderstood Quirks of the Lurcher

March 31, 2011

Black Magic

OK, well I didn’t quite keep my word on updating as much as possible, but that’s only because I’ve recently become to single father to Magic, my beautiful Lurcher pup.

I acquired Magic in the DSPCA where I’ve been volunteering since before Christmas. If I’m honest had you told me six months ago the dog I would adopt would be a Lurcher I’d have raised my eyebrow.

Santa’s Little Helper aside they aren’t exactly everyone’s pin up view of what a pet should be. While terriers have the cheeky chappy glint in their eye, and spaniels carry a noble sense of devotion, a greyhound cross…well, they can look a bit vacant.

Seen on race tracks all over the world where they are looked on as the poor mans racehorse, they are required to wear muzzles. This is down to an insurance clause and gives the hounds a false slur. Far from being snappy, Lurchers are the most devoted and gentle dogs you could possibly find.

60 km per hour couch potato

They are also wonderfully lazy. Known in doggy circles as the 60 km/hour couch potatoes, they are sprinters not marathon runners. Send Magic out to a field after a tennis ball and 20 minutes later she is curled up at your feet. Do the same thing with a Husky?? Well, lets just say Huskys are designed to run across tundra for hundreds of miles every day. It will take far longer than 20 minutes of fetch to tire one of them out, and if you don’t provide your pet with adequate physical and mental stimulation you can say goodbye to a tidy garden, or friendly neighbors.

So I want to call out to all potential dog owners, looking for the perfect pooch. Keep a Lurcher in mind. They are gentle, lazy, they don’t shed hair or carry any unfortunate doggy odors (beautiful as Labradors are, they smell like a sewer if not washed weekly). For reasons I can’t really mention on a public forum, Ireland is teeming with these unwanted dogs. Used for hare coursing and racing by certain cretins in society, they are usually abandoned if not up to scratch and it is up to the DSPCA and other shelters to pick up the pieces and find homes for them. This is challenging when we have families wanting designer dogs which cost hundreds-not to mention the hefty price tag pedigree dogs add up in veterinary costs. That is another bonus with Lurchers, they are free from the genetic c diseases that plague the players of Crufts.

So you see, these wonderfully misunderstood dogs are being put down every day in Ireland, overlooked for diseased aristocrats with yappy temperaments. If you are thinking of adopting, why not consider a lurcher. You won’t look Back.

If you are thinking of adopting a Lurcher, or any dog or cat check out


The Misunderstood Quirks Of The Hyena

January 27, 2010

I mentioned in my last post how unfairly treated Hyenas have been in human culture, and how they’ve been characterised into the clowns of the Africa plains. Lions are given this whole “King of the Jungle” baloney (they don’t even live in the jungle), Cheetahs are seen with an air of graceful compassion and respect while Leopards remain the ultimate feline ambusher. I’m not saying these animals don’t deserve their cherished status in the animal kingdom, but why is it that Hyenas are considered ugly, stupid and barbaric?

Let me shed a little light on these deftly intelligent and social mammals so that the image of the bumbling idiot from the Lion King will not be your only Hyena reference.

First I should be more specific and state that this piece is highlighting the Spotted Hyena, or Laughing Hyena, which is the most well known and biggest of the Hyena family (there is also the Brown Hyena, the Striped Hyena and the Aardwolf).


Brown Hyena

Found in the Savanna’s of Africa, they are a highly successful predator and scavenger that provide an essential role in the ecosystem. While other predators only consume the flesh of their prey, Hyenas are able to digest the entire animal, skin, bones and all. So they are kind of like the clean up guys of Africa…not leaving their leftovers just lying about the place…messing up the view.

And hear this, studies have shown that these little critters

Striped Hyena

Spotted Hyena

rival primates with their problem solving skills and general intelligence. Now I don’t exactly know what kind of problems these guys need to solve…but apparently they are pretty good at them, and once tamed can make excellent pets.

I reckon one of the reasons they get such a bad rap is that they sort of look like a dog…but one that’s been cross bred a bit too much and so the hind legs look to short for the front legs, and their heads look like the dogs in the Resident Evil films. Well Hyenas are not related to dogs at all, in fact they are closer to cats in evolutionary terms. One of my favourite books is “The Life Of Pi” by Yann Martel which tells the story of a boy who gets stranded on a boat with a Tiger, a Zebra, an Orangutan and a Hyena. The book is an empire of brilliant animal facts but amazingly it slips up numerous times with Hyena facts. First of all Martel refers to the Hyena more than once as a dog…which we now all know is incorrect. Another error he makes is that, he implies this male Hyena is more of a threat than if it were a female. Well actually Yann, female Hyenas are typically 12% larger and heavier than their male counterparts, and they tend to rule the roost with their large and social packs.

Other Hyena myths say that they only ever steal or scavenge their food…Not true. Hyenas are terrific hunters often bringing down medium sized prey like a Zebra or Wildebeast and sharing the kill with their pack. Yes they do steal and yes they do scavenge however it has been proven that lions steal from Hyenas just as much, if not more, than Hyenas steal from Lions.

Pay a little sympathy for Hyena mothers as well. So full of testosterone they are, that their female genitalia closely resembles a males. For a long time in fact, it was thought that Hyenas were hermaphrodites, not so…the female’s clitoris just looks like a penis. This can be somewhat of a problem when it comes to giving birth as Hyenas have the largest cubs relative to their mother’s weight in the animal kingdom. Combine this with an extremely narrow vagina…well you get the picture. So traumatic is birth that many result with the death of the mother and cubs. Once they are out there in the world however, they are extremely hardy fellows and impervious to many diseases.

So forget the cliché that Disney inflated on the world. These loyal and clever animals could run rings around Mufasa and Simba, their only crime lies in not being as pretty as their rivals and possessing a laugh that many people associate with human lunacy. We don’t have any Hyenas in Dublin Zoo, but if you do come across one sometime treat them with a little reverence. They deserve it.