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Borzoi running Fast CAT
C4 Pet Photography

There are few things more beautiful than watching a dog running in a full-out sprint without abandon. On September 16, 2022, dogs from across the United States journey to Kannapolis, North Carolina to compete in the 2022 Fastest Dogs USA. Bolting down the field with the fifth fastest time was Salt, the No. 1 ranking Borzoi in AKC Fast CAT. Handling Salt down the field was proud owner Kirbie Allen.

At just 14 years old, Allen was the only Junior Handler competing at competition. “It was an amazing experience and it almost felt like a dream,” she says. “I never thought we would get invited to something like that.” She says competing in the event was one of her proudest moments in dog sports to date.

“Everyone at the event was so friendly,” she says. “We made some new friends, got to see some old friends, and overall had a great experience!”

Racing Sighthounds

Fast CAT involves dogs running in a straight 100-yard dash after a lure, often referred to as “bunny,” which mimics a small fast-moving prey animal to tap into that prey drive. Coursing is now a way of life for Allen who began competing in the sport at 11 years old. Allen’s mom is a dog trainer and dog sports competitor, as well, which inspired Allen to get involved. For her ninth birthday, breeder Sandra Moore gave Allen her retired Borzoi named Bruce, kicking off her Fast CAT journey.

“He was my first Junior’s dog,” she says. “I went to my first Fast CAT event with him and my mom in April of 2019 and have been going to events ever since.”

Currently, Allen’s family has 13 dogs, including three Borzois—Salt, Lovey, and Manny—and a Whippet named Calypso.

Courtesy of Kirbie Allen

For The Love of Coursing

An avid trainer and competitor, Allen and her dogs participate in Coursing, Rally, Obedience, Conformation, and Scent Work. She’s also done some Barn Hunt, Dock Diving, and Human Remains Detection (HRD) training. Allen also wants to start Agility and Disc Dog in the future. Although Allen and her dogs are involved in a variety of sports, Coursing remains her favorite activity. “It’s a super fun sport to do and you make a lot of good friends,” she says.

Allen, Salt, and her other dogs compete in Lure Coursing, a sport specifically for Sighthounds, and Fast CAT, which is open to all dogs. “It’s definitely a lot of fun being a Junior Handler in coursing,” she says. “A lot of times at Lure Coursing, I’m the only Junior there, but at Fast CAT and CAT, I get to meet other Juniors which is also really fun.”

To keep Salt in peak coursing form and to prepare for big races like Fastest Dogs USA. Allen focuses on free running with the other Sighthounds on their farm and participates in AKC Fit Dog, Turkey Trots, and other virtual 5Ks for charities.

Allen enjoys all aspects of training, competing, and preparing for coursing competitions and loves getting to travel together with her dogs and showcase what Borzois were bred to do. In addition to training and handling her dogs, Allen also breeds, and her dogs Salt, Lovey, and Manny are from her first co-bred litter.

For Allen to compete at the highest levels of coursing with a dog she co-bred is extra special. The most important thing for her is the relationship she has with her dogs. “My dogs are first and foremost my companions,” she says. “Everything else is just icing on the cake.”

Borzoi running in Fastest Dogs USA
Susu Hauser

Off To The Races

Allen is often the only Junior Handler competing at coursing events, but she hopes to see more Juniors getting involved in Coursing and Fast CAT in the future. She recommends Juniours get involved by going to a local event and volunteering as an easy way to learn what goes into it and what’s required to participate.’ Attending an event is also the perfect opportunity to meet other people involved in the sport.

Homeschooled on her family’s farm, Allen’s interest stretch beyond dog spots, and she participates in CrossFit and chess. Allen credits the community around her including her parents, her Sighthound friends, the team at Time To Fly, a Coursing group she is a part of, and her homeschool friends as her biggest supporters for encouraging her passion for training and showing dogs.

Through dog sports, she’s learned important life lessons, specifically on how it takes hard work and perseverance to achieve success. In the future, she hopes to become an AKC judge and a forensic anthropologist.

Getting Started in AKC Juniors

Teens and children under 18 have the chance to learn about good sportsmanship, dogs, and dog shows, and develop their handling skills with the AKC Juniors Program.

Juniors are eligible to compete in Showmanship, Obedience, Agility, Rally, Tracking, Hunt Tests, Herding, Field Trials, Earthdog, Lure Coursing, Coursing Ability, and Coonhound Events. There is no minimum age requirement for sports other than Showmanship (where you must be nine).

If your child is interested in becoming a junior, they should first watch a show and sign up for a class. Juniors under 18 years old can sign up for a Junior Handler number here. This number will let them both take classes and compete.

Junior participation in AKC sports will be recognized through the AKC Junior Recognition Program and at the end of the year, AKC will award the Junior Versatility Awards and Scholarships. You can go to this link to learn more about the AKC Junior Recognition Program.