Statement from NPWS (Wed)

National Parks and Wildlife Service and Department of Agriculture to undertake four field studies on RHD2 virus and Irish hares.
2019/20 coursing licences to allow netting of hares outside areas with positive RHD2 tests
16 October 2019

The suspension of the annual license for the netting of hares for coursing is being lifted, allowing netting on a managed and restricted basis and only in areas unaffected by the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD2) virus. At the same time, it has been agreed that a number of field studies at some coursing clubs, which will involve veterinary and virology expertise and input, will be carried out to supplement existing knowledge of the prevalence and nature of RHD2.

This follows the conclusion of discussions between the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Irish Coursing Club on a roadmap to allow a managed resumption of netting for testing and coursing in areas unaffected by the RHD2 virus, charting a responsible way forward in terms of the management and understanding of this virus.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) are to undertake four field studies with the co-operation of Irish Coursing Club. These field tests will allow greater understanding of the effect of the RHD2 virus on the Irish wild hare population.

Restrictions are also being lifted on the issue of licences to the Irish Coursing Club for netting of hares, permitting netting outside of areas where wild hares and rabbits have tested positive for the virus.

In August, following the first detection of RHD2 in an Irish wild hare, the Minister suspended the 2019/20 licences for the netting of hares for coursing meetings which had issued earlier. Since then the NPWS and DAFM have continued to test wild rabbit and hare carcasses to establish levels of the virus in Ireland. Of the 10 hares tested for RHD2 in this period, three have tested positive. These positive results were in Dublin and Wexford.

Given both the levels of RHD2 virus confirmed in the wild hare population to date and to increase the understanding of the levels of RHD2, the NPWS and DAFM are to undertake four field studies with the co-operation of the Irish Coursing Club in a number of locations. Sample populations of up to 100 wild hares will be captured and kept in pre-approved locations. The NPWS and DAFM will test the hares for RHD2 and observe them.

In the context of the renewed licences for netting hares, capture will be prohibited in areas from a 25km radius of where either wild hares or wild rabbits have tested positive for RHD2. Positive tests for RHD2 in wild rabbits and hares have been returned in the following counties: Clare, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Leitrim, Meath, Wexford, and Wicklow. Similar restrictions will operate when new positive tests for RHD2 are returned. There will be an agreed regime of spot checks for RHD2 in those coursing clubs that are being licenced.

Hare Pic

Report from EGM & update

A General meeting of the Irish Coursing Club representatives was held on September 19, to update members on the recent detections of RHD2 in lagomorphs. A veterinary presentation was made dealing with the specifics of the virus and implications for the Irish hare. The Executive Committee outlined the most appropriate strategy in terms of protecting the Irish hare from this disease and will continue to work with government bodies, private veterinary practitioners and scientific researchers with that outcome at the centre of all our endeavours.

Please note we can now confirm that a meeting between the NPWS (Dept of Culture, Heritage & Gaeltacht), the Dept of Agriculture and the Irish Coursing Club will take place on Thursday October 3rd in relation to the recent detection of RHD2 in lagomorphs.  



NPWS Press Release Sept 13th

Irish Coursing Club licences ban extended as deadly Rabbit and Hare disease spreads.

Public asked to be alert and report sightings of suspected cases

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, has decided to maintain the suspension of the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season.

The netting and collecting of hares for coursing meetings poses a significant risk factor to the spreading of the Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD2).  However, the decision to continue the suspension of licences will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD2) was first reported in the wild in Ireland in early August. Since then, the disease has been recorded in six counties – Cork, Clare, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Wexford. The  Irish hare is native to Ireland and found nowhere else and should this disease prove as infectious and lethal here as it has done elsewhere in Europe, the impact on the hare could be catastrophic.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease presents absolutely no threat to human health and it is entirely safe to handle infected or recently dead rabbits or hares provided normal hygiene is followed.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is renewing its request to the public to report any suspected cases.

While most of the confirmed reports to date have been in rabbits, the disease has also been recorded in Irish hares.

The virus is extremely resistant, remaining viable for up to two months in the environment. It can be passed on by direct contact, but also in faeces and urine. Infected carcasses can harbour infective virus for several months post mortem. The virus can also be transported on soil, shoes and on clothing as well as by insects. It can be killed, however, using suitable disinfectants (e.g. Virkon).

Biosecurity measures have been put in place at NPWS and OPW sites where the disease has been confirmed and NPWS Conservation Rangers continue to monitor the situation nationally.

The public – particularly landowners, farmers, vets and the hare coursing community – is being asked to be on high alert and to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and hares as soon as possible to help efforts to monitor and control the disease.

This can be done by contacting the NPWS by Phone (1890 383 000) or Email (

Press and Information Office

Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
Tel: 087 6737338 / (01) 631 3807 / 3909/ 3803 (direct)
Twitter: @DeptAHG

Hare Photo

Notice to Members – Updated Sept 16th

A General Meeting of the Irish Coursing Club representatives will be held this Thursday, September 19th, in the Horse & Jockey Hotel, Thurles at 6pm to receive an update on the RHD2 virus and to discuss ongoing implications of the current suspension of the netting licence. Clubs are limited to a maximum of 3 members each (to facilitate representation from each club).

The  Executive Committee of the Irish Coursing Club has requested the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine , Mr Pat Deering, to co-ordinate a meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine (welfare) and the National Parks & Wildlife Service (conservation) under the auspices of the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht. The primary purpose of the meeting is to ensure the continued strong conservation status of the Irish hare against the backdrop of the recent detection of RHD2 in Lagomorphs. The ICC consider they are well placed to make a positive contribution in dealing with this issue given its club network with expert knowledge of the hare. The ICC wish to play a part in finding the best solution by engaging with the appropriate government bodies, researchers and veterinary advisors. The Irish hare continues to enjoy a favourable status and the ICC wishes to continue to do what it does best in terms of conservation.

D.J. Histon


Irish Coursing Club AGM deferred

The ICC wish to notify members that the AGM scheduled for Wednesday August 14 is deferred until further notice.

This is to allow time for an update on the recent announcement of an RHD2 confirmation in an Irish hare and the subsequent suspension of the netting licence by the Minister.

Thank you for your co-operation.

D.J. Histon.

NPWS Press Release August 9th

A disease fatal to rabbits and hares, but of no risk to humans, has been confirmed in the wild in Ireland for the first time. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is asking the public to report any suspected cases.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) was first reported in domestic (farmed) rabbits in China in 1984 killing millions of animals within one year of its discovery. By 1986 this viral disease had been found in continental Europe and has since spread globally leading to significant mortality in wild populations of rabbits.

In 2010, a new more virulent strain of this virus (RHD2) emerged in France. It causes death within a few days of infection with sick animals having swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Most distressingly, in the latter states close to death, animals exhibit unusual behavior emerging from cover into the open and convulsing or fitting before dying.

The disease was reported in Ireland from domestic rabbits in 2018, but has now been confirmed in the wild from a rabbit in Co. Wicklow and another in Co. Clare. Today, the virus has been confirmed from a hare in Co. Wexford. In all cases individual animals were tested at Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine Laboratories where RHD2 was subsequently confirmed. While all three locations continue to support apparently healthy wild populations, unlike the situation in the UK where mass mortalities have been reported, NPWS Conservation Rangers continue to monitor the situation.

The virus has been detected throughout Europe, in wild rabbits, hares and seemingly unrelated species including voles and shrews. The Irish hare is native to Ireland and found nowhere else and should this disease prove as infectious and lethal here as it has done elsewhere in Europe, the impact on the hare could be catastrophic.

Dr. Ferdia Marnell of the NPWS Scientific Unit outlined his concerns: “Rabbits are central to wild ecosystems, being the main food for many predators from stoats to eagles that in turn regulate other animal populations. A decline in our wild rabbits will have numerous knock-on consequences. Of further concern is the potential for the disease to spread through the Irish hare population.”

The disease is highly contagious and can be spread directly between animals and in the faeces and urine of infected animals, as well as by insects and on human clothing. In addition the incubation period may last several days and apparently uninfected animals may in fact be carriers. Under these circumstances the catching of hares in nets, their transportation in boxes and the collection and holding of hares in confined areas can all be considered to increase the risk of disease spread.

Accordingly the Department has decided to suspend the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season with immediate effect until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread and implications of the RHD2 virus emerges.

Dr. Marnell stressed “that the Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease presents absolutely no threat to human health and it is entirely safe to handle infected or recently dead rabbits or hares provided normal hygiene is followed”.

The public – particularly landowners, farmers, vets and the hare coursing community – is being asked to be on high alert and to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and hares as soon as possible to help efforts to monitor and control the disease. This can be done by contacting the NPWS by Email ( or Phone (1890 383 000).

Dr Neil Reid, a Conservation Biologist at Queen’s University Belfast, who is also tracking the disease across the island warns of the significant impact this could have on the wild ecosystem.  He said “I am asking people to be on high alert, to report any suspected sightings of diseased rabbits and, particularly hares, as soon as possible so we can monitor this rapidly developing situation as it unfolds. This is an example of how citizen science can really contribute to conservation biology.”

Press Release issued by the Department of Culture, Heritage & Gaeltacht on Friday 9th August 2019


Oireachtas Committee Meeting July 9th

Irish Coursing Club submission paper to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

On Tuesday July 9th the C.E.O. of the Irish Coursing Club, Mr DJ Histon, attended a session of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food & the Marine following an invitation from the Committee.

The following is the text of the Irish Coursing Club opening submission.

Attention of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine:

IRISH COURSING CLUB response to RTE Prime Time programme and steps required to restore confidence in the industry

  1. Introduction. At the outset, the ICC wish to state clearly that it does not condone any acts of greyhound cruelty as highlighted on the Prime Time Investigates programme. The images shown on the programme has jolted the industry and the participants in the industry want to see change to eradicate such actions in the future. While time could be spent analysing and explaining elements of the programme it is more important to focus on what needs to be done to ensure the continued viability of the industry with the greyhound as the primary focus.
  2. The ICC was established in 1916 (reconstituted under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958) and is responsible for the regulation of coursing in Ireland. It is the Keeper of the All Ireland Irish Greyhound Stud which was first published in 1923. It publishes the sole greyhound weekly paper under the “sporting press” title (renamed in 1952), it regulates greyhound racing in Northern Ireland (the Brandywell in Derry and Drumbo Park in Belfast). It operates one of four DAFM approved microchipping databases under the name of MicrodogID.
  3. Following a review of the programme, the following areas require change and enhancement to restore general public confidence and to maintain the confidence of greyhound people and stakeholders within the industry:

(i) The issue of traceability

(ii) The export of greyhounds to other jurisdictions with no welfare regulations

(iii)  Whiddy Island footage clarification

(iv) Prohibited substance testing in coursing

(v) Rehoming of greyhounds as they transition from performance to retirement


  1. Traceability

The introduction of a traceability system for the greyhound industry will ensure that real time accurate information will exist for all categories of greyhounds as they progress through their lifecycle. This will mean that at any one time, the industry will know the number of live registered pups, the number of live registered named greyhounds, the number of live greyhounds registered for track racing and coursing, the number sold in Ireland and to other jurisdictions, the number euthanised by a vet and the number rehomed through various rehoming bodies and number retained as pets. The system will also categorise the number of brood bitches by establishing a brood bitch register, which will require an inspection of the breeding facility prior to breeding. A person will have to register as an owner prior to registering a greyhound. The owner will be given a unique ID to link all greyhounds in his ownership and to track movement of his greyhounds during their life cycle.

4.1 A traceability system must be executed on an All-Ireland basis given that the majority of greyhounds move freely both in the North and the South, in terms of competition and breeding. It must also link in with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s system given the close relationship between both jurisdictions. This will ensure a single greyhound system with the co-operation of the GBGB. A review of traceability systems in the UK and greyhound racing states in Australia, such as Victoria and New South Wales is on-going currently. A meeting is scheduled with the GBGB this month and this topic will be on the agenda. This will ensure the model adopted in Ireland is effective and complete.

4.2 The establishment of an Anglo- Irish committee to keep matters of integrity and welfare under review

  1. Export of Greyhounds via the UK for forwarding to Other Countries with No Welfare Standards, Structured Around Strong Legislation

The export of greyhounds to countries with no welfare regulations is not illegal per se but we can work with the GBGB to assist them on implementing the GBGB policy on such exports which states, “Involvement in the export of greyhounds to jurisdictions where welfare standards cannot be verified is not acceptable and GBGB will employ the full powers available to it to prohibit individuals from deliberately undermining the good reputation of licenced greyhound racing in Great Britain”.

5.1 In order to monitor the movement of greyhounds to other jurisdictions, the following procedure to be agreed, as movements of greyhounds to other jurisdictions mainly flow through the UK in the first instance:

  • Seller must receive export permit and provide the necessary information on end destination and reason for export etc.
  • New owner must include owner code allotted by GBGB on transfer notification form.
  • ICC notify GBGB of movement to the UK registered owner.
  • GBGB to mirror ICC export system.
  • If greyhound is found to be located in another jurisdiction following arrival in UK, then the GBGB can sanction that individual.
  1. Whiddy Island Footage portrayed as illegal on Prime- Time programme.

By way of background, the ICC regulates coursing and clubs operate under the Open Seasons Order 2005 in terms of legitimacy to course at “regulated coursing matches”.

Clubs listed on the licence schedule are authorised to net and tag hares for the purposes of coursing, while the Open Seasons Order 2005 permits coursing in general during a defined period.

Coursing Clubs comprise the following membership/affiliation;

  1. Park Clubs (require netting and tagging licence)- all greyhounds muzzled.
  2. Open Coursing Clubs: Affiliated and are listed on the Licence Schedule- all greyhounds muzzled.
  3. Associate Open Coursing Clubs (are not listed on Licence scheduled) –all greyhounds muzzled.

The membership type distinction between Affiliated and Associative Affiliation is the latter does not attract voting rights at ICC Provincial AGMs or at the ICC National AGM. All clubs pay insurance premium and affiliation fee to ICC regardless of membership type.

6.1 Bantry Open Coursing Club (paid insurance and affiliation fee on October 9 2018 for last season) is one of 19 Associative Clubs and was established in 1950. The club has coursed on Whiddy Island since that time and they would offer that is why the Island has such a strong hare population unlike Bull Island which is often referred to as having no hares on the island anymore.

6.2 Associative Clubs typically course on Sundays (with landowner permission) and organise small events (mostly four dog events with the odd eight dog or so events) with token prize-money and trophy. Associative coursing is the foundation of coursing prior to evolving into what we have today in terms of Park Coursing.

6.3 The Associative clubs operate under the Open Seasons Order 2005, the same way as a pack of beagles or harriers or someone shooting the hare: they do not require a licence with the proviso they observe the period specified in the Order i.e. September 26 to February 28.

6.4. The ICC promote hare care and greyhound care as per Code of Practice (appendix 1).

6.5 Illegal hunting is where packs of un-muzzled dogs hunt with the express purpose of killing the hare. It is indiscriminate in nature and occurs on a 12 -month basis. This illegal activity is conducted without landowner permission, often involves intimidation and threats to landowners and often results in assaults. The ICC are working with the Gardaí, NPWS and the IFA on this issue.

  1. Prohibited Substance Testing in coursing 

The ICC adopted Rule 88 to deal specifically with prohibited drug breaches after reviewing all other racing jurisdictions. It extended it testing regime to include all provincial coursing meetings. Over the last three years 679 tests were taken, with 668 negative and 11 positives.

7.1 The purpose of testing and the associated penalties is to:

(i) protect the welfare of the greyhound

(ii) protect the integrity of coursing

(iii) maintain public confidence in coursing

(iv) maintain proper standards for all coursing participants

(v) to bring about a positive behavioural change

(vi) a sanction may be accompanied by an advisory notice to point out what changes in behaviour or attitude is required.

7.2 Adverse Analytical Finding: Once a positive test is notified to the ICC, the greyhound is suspended immediately until the conclusion of the hearing before the Independent Hearing Committee. The minimum mandatory fine range is €1000 to €3000 depending on the substance categorisation. The independent hearing committee has discretion to increase a fine by a further €7500 and fix the hearing costs against the transgressor. The minimum mandatory suspension range is three months to five months to be served during a coursing season. This can be extended to six months by the hearing committee. In the event of the fine remaining unpaid, then that person is placed on the forfeit list, whereby they cannot attend a coursing event or register or transfer a greyhound. A further amendment will be placed before the ICC AGM to debar a greyhound found in breach of Rule 88 from competing in any coursing classic event.

  1. Rehoming of greyhounds

The ICC currently provides administrative support to welfare bodies in terms of registration and microchipping services. It proposes to work with its membership and rehoming bodies to promote the homing of ex-coursing greyhounds. Owners currently adopt privately or through the IRGT and this can be expanded on further by working in tandem with the announced changes. The implementation of levies to be ring fenced in support of rehoming efforts and building on the existing structure is necessary to fund this strategy. Economies can be achieved by developing a central structure that can be leveraged appropriately.

8.1 The industry incorporates both track and coursing, therefore all greyhounds are equal in terms of industry responsibility and all opportunities should be open to either code by way of setting up a structure where the ICC contribute appropriately.

  1. Conclusion – A paradigm shift is taking place and it is important not to react but to act in a responsible way to ensure the changes implemented consolidate the industry on every level while keeping the greyhound to the fore. The industry relies on a significant voluntary effort across both codes, with each owner sharing the responsibility of caring for their greyhounds. It is the industry regulators function to be accountable for implementing and policing the rules, policies and procedures on behalf of all industry participants.

The ICC consider it critical that engagement with the IGB and the GBGB in promoting joined up thinking in a cohesive manner for the sustainability and betterment of the industry as a whole is appropriate.

Thank you for your time Chairman and fellow committee members.










Coursing Fixtures 2019/20

The provisional fixtures for the 2019/20 coursing season can now be viewed under Fixtures (drop-down menu under Coursing on top tool bar). Please note these dates must be ratified at the AGM of the Irish Coursing Club which takes place on Wednesday 14th August.

Crowd in Stand

Dates for 2020 National Meeting

The Executive Committee of the Irish Coursing Club have agreed that the dates for the 2020 National Meeting will be Friday 31st January, Saturday 1st February and Sunday 2nd February.


Irish Cup

Day 3 at Irish Cup

Let’s begin by congratulating the members of Co Limerick coursing club on another excellent meeting. They are a club just the same as all the clubs which run meetings week in week out but have the added responsibility of hosting the season finale, the Irish Cup. It is so important for our sport that we finish on a high and we certainly have done that last year and this. It is 20 years since the Irish Cup was last held at Clounanna and many have great memories of that special venue. However it is now part of coursing history and Limerick Racecourse is producing great champions and wonderful stories of its own.

History, Champions, Wonderful stories. We certainly got those in buckets today when we witnessed Watchman become only the fourth greyhound ever and the first in 43 years to win two Irish Cups. The son of Newinn Wonder – Bossa Nova Babe gave us six faultless performances over the three days and it would probably be fair to say this was even better than last year. He was faced with formidable opponents, plenty of work and the weight of history but took them all in his stride. What a golden 12 months it has been for Basil & Bernie Holian and trainer Kevin Barry with two Irish Cups and a Derby but the emotion around today’s success was very obvious and will live long in the memory of connections and indeed all present.

Where there is a King you will find a Queen and her name this weekend was Silent Wonder. A fantastic season which saw this daughter of Newinn Wonder – Silent Belle romp through All Age Bitch Stakes at Castleisland & Ballyduff and the Corn Na Feile All Age at Abbeyfeale concluded in the best way possible this afternoon with victory in the Patsy Byrne Select Bitch Stake. Like Watchman she was not spared when it came to turns and with her interrupted preparation since Abbeyfeale at the back of our minds we wondered how much could she take. But class will always win out and this Nolan family owned & Mossie O’Connor trained bitch, a litter sister to their 2018 Derby winner Silent Whisper, has it in spades.

The Irish Cup meeting has been very lucky for Sir Mark Prescott over the years and thanks to Post Graduate he has the Bill Chawke Irish Plate with him this evening on his flight back to Newmarket. The third season son of Adios Alonso – Intense Focus which Sir Mark owns with Shane O’Gorman had been in very good form recently and carried that through to Patrickswell this weekend. The winner is of course trained by Michael O’Donovan, Tipperary Town.

Grace Foley & her family from Tralee have had a hectic season with their greyhound Souldern Street, winning the 32 runner Cup at Ballyheigue and reaching Cup finals at Lixnaw and Templetuohy (withdrawn). However nothing will compare to the joy of winning the Woodlands House Hotel Irish Purse. Surprised by the pup Killucan Pocket in the Irish Cup on Friday, he never put a paw wrong thereafter and the John Moynihan trained son of Adios Alonso – Churchil Queen was a most worthy winner.

There were more celebrations for Tralee when the Co Kerry CC representative Mouse Is Magic was successful in the highly sought after Kyle Invitational Champion Working Members Stake. A son of Mafi Magic – Maggie Dan he only had two outings all season, Kilflynn and Co Kerry (Tralee) which would suggest he had a set back in between and Eugene & Eoghan Costello could have some great fun with him in All Age company next season.

Another one for the 2019/20 Fantasy Coursing list will be Man In Motion which was an impressive winner of the Earl Of Dunraven Kilgobbin Puppy Stake for Irish Cup winning connections. A litter brother to Derby winner Rumour Has It (Adios Alonso – Duchess) he had been beaten in Derby trial stake finals this season at Abbeyfeale and Tubbercurry and was a warm favourite for today’s event from the outset.

Congratulations to all of today’s winners. There were also some really strong performances over the three days from the pups so we have much to look forward to next September. However now is the time to celebrate all that was good about the 2018/19 season and thankfully there was plenty. It is in our nature to speak longingly of times past and great dogs of yore without realizing just how fortunate we are to be living through present times. I have no doubt that if past generations of coursing men & women could come back they would be very pleased with what they saw. Take a bow everyone.