Hare & hound races were some of the most popular off-road races back in the good ol’ days of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. They were also some of the most competitive, as it wasn’t uncommon for more than 500 riders to be competing in the same race at the same time.
For a hare & hound race, all the competitors would line up along the starting line, and would all start together when the flag dropped. The race: two courses, each 40 miles of natural, rugged terrain, broken by a pit-stop in between. The objective: be the first rider to get to the smoke bomb, a smoking stack of burning tires in the barely-visible distance.
The race is called hare & hound because riders were not allowed to pre-run the race, leaving whomever was in the lead to blaze the trail, and all others in chase. Like hounds pursuing a hare. Hare & hound races were often run in deserts, and due to the extremely high number of riders competing at the same time, dust was a major issue and many riders would get lost or stop competing when visibility dropped to zero.
A hare scramble is very similar to a hare & hound race, but has some key differences. In a hare scramble, riders do multiple laps on the same loop, where in a hare & hound, it’s a start-to-finish across two separate loops.
The kind of bikes used for these races were known as scramblers and desert sleds. They were both street bikes stripped down to only what you needed to conquer the desert with some nice upright bars, a slammer seat, and big ol’ knobbly tires. The only difference was that scramblers were usually made from smaller cc bikes, and desert sleds were made from bigger cc bikes.
Numerous legends of motorcycling were avid hare & hound and hare scramble racers. Eddie Mulder, Steve McQueen, and Bud Ekins were among some of the more famous regulars at hare & hound and hare scrambles, and all had their favorite Triumph scramblers and desert sleds. Eddie Mulder got his racing career started when he beat Bud Ekins at the Mohave Hare Scramble in 1959, at the age of 16.
Hare & hound races and hare scrambles are still popular races today, and there are various organizations that host and administer them around the world. They are divided by engine size and skill level, making them accessible and enjoyable for riders of all bikes and skill levels.