brown hare

Phone messages incriminate Scottish hare coursers

Two men have been convicted of hare coursing in Forfar Sheriff Court, Scotland, after incriminating evidence was found on seized phones.

Alexander Stewart, 35, and Jackie Stewart, 42, were arrested after a farmer recognised their vehicle in the area, and called police to the scene. When they arrived, the police saw Jackie, accompanied by a boy and a lurcher, running back to their vehicle, which contained Alexander and two other boys.  The police searched the car and seized a pair of binoculars, along with a phone. The group were taken to the police station, where the police found another phone, belonging to Jackie, on one of the boys. The men pleaded guilty, and were sentenced on 24 November.

Phone messages

Scotland’s Daily Record reported that Alexander Stewart had left voice notes on his phone. These messages are likely to have forced him to plead guilty. Some of the voice notes reveal him admitting that he had bought his dog to kill hares, and that he had bought his Subaru vehicle to poach animals. The newspaper said:

“A chilling photo of a young boy holding a dead hare beside a lurcher was also found on the device.”

It continued:

“Jackie Stewart’s mobile phone revealed a text message, reading: ‘A first chase killed it over down a road’. It also held a video of him with Alexander Stewart and the boys during the same period. The footage is blacked out as the phone is put into a pocket, but the sound keeps running. Alexander and Jackie Stewart can be heard discussing the decline of hares in the area due to the population dying out from them being killed.”

Hare coursing

The Stewarts are correct: populations of brown hares are dying out. There are now fewer than 800,000 brown hares in Britain, whereas in the early nineteenth century there were 4 million. The brown hare is known for her agility, and is Britain’s fastest land mammal, reaching speeds of up to 70kph. This is a big reason why coursers take great delight in setting their dogs on her. During coursing, people typically use two sight hounds, such as greyhounds or lurchers, to chase the hare through farmland or fields until she is too exhausted to run any more. Protect the Wild explains:

“A literal tug of war between the two dogs over the hare sometimes results, unsurprisingly causing immense trauma, pain and suffering to the hare – which is sometimes ripped to pieces.”

As the dogs tear her to shreds, the humans delight in her torture.

Previous conviction

Alexander Stewart had previously been convicted of hare coursing, and this is why he was recognised by a farmer in the area, who alerted the police on this occasion. But his previous conviction didn’t put an end to his bloodlust.

In August 2022, the government increased the potential punishment for hare coursing. As Protect The Wild previously reported, the new laws:

  • Increased the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game under the Game Acts (the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828) to an unlimited fine, and introduced the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.
  • Added two new criminal offences in the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022: Trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare. Both are punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.


This time, Alexander Stewart was given 100 hours of unpaid work as a punishment, while Jackie Stewart was fined £1,000. Both are banned from keeping dogs for a pitiful six months. So, with such little consequences, it is no wonder that Alexander Stewart repeatedly murders hares.


Learn more about Britain’s brown hares and how they are persecuted here.

Read the informative Hare coursing and hare hunting – is there police bias? article here.


Featured image via Pixabay