Greyhound Racing: From Antiquity to the Modern Era

The Greyhound stands as a remarkable breed in canine history, amassing a rich tapestry of lore and traditional reverence across various cultures. As a prominent symbol in different historical contexts, it is a breed unparalleled in its allure and intrigue.

The Greyhound in Religious Texts

Solomon, from the Old Testament, praised the greyhound in his adage of ‘four things which are comely in going’. This venerable observance hints at the breed’s illustrious past, an esteemed status that reverberates through various ages and societies.

The Prominence of Greyhounds in Sporting Culture

Reputed as one of the most distinguished sporting dogs, the Greyhound has a spectacular impact in the realm of sports, chiefly in dog racing, across different eras. Some notables about the Greyhound in sports include:

Athletic prowess: Celebrated for its speed and agility, this breed has established a stalwart integration in canine competitions and hunting endeavors.

Adaptability: The Greyhound’s slender physique and its aerodynamic build enhance its capability in various outdoor sporting exploits.

Etymology of the Greyhound Name and its Speculations

Despite the high-profile historical presence of the Greyhound, the origins of their breed name remain up for speculation. Prominent interpretations come from two historical figures: Dr. Caius and Minstures.

Dr. Caius interpretation: A co-founder of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he proposed that the name originated from the term ‘gre’ or ‘gradus,’ suggesting the Greyhounds noble status or first in rank among dog breeds.

Minsture’s interpretation: Contrarily, Minstures believed the name to have been derived from ‘Greek-hound’. This hypothesis was based on his assumption that Greeks were the first to use this breed for dog coursing.

It is important to note that, during the time of Christ, the famous Latin poet Ovid referred to this breed as the Gallic dog. Meanwhile, Arthur Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis renders the name ‘grewnde’.

A Table Summarizing the Theories Regarding the Origin of the Greyhound’s Name

Theorist Proposed Origin Explanation
Dr. Caius ‘Gre’ or ‘gradus’ Suggests that greyhounds rank first among all dog breeds.
Minstures ‘Greek-hound’ Believes that the Greeks were the first to use the breed for coursing.
Ovid ‘Gallic Dog’ Greek term referring to the breed during the time of Christ.
Golding ‘Grewnde’ Term used in a literary context from the translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis.


Greyhounds in Literature and Elizabethan Era

The prominence of Greyhounds as both sporting and companion animals has found mention in various works of literature through the centuries – from medieval poetry to Elizabethan plays – showcasing the breed’s enduring appeal.

Chaucer and His Rendering of ‘Greihounde’

Esteemed poet Geoffrey Chaucer provided an early reference to the Greyhound in his writings, using the term ‘greihounde’, a name manifestly similar to the modern identification we use today.

Reference in Shakespearean Works

The Greyhound, by the time of William Shakespeare, had cemented its relevance in both the literal and metaphorical sense. Key mentions of the breed in his plays include:

The Merry Wives of Windsor: The breed receives mention in the dialogue exchange between Master Slender and Page, emphasizing the competitive nature of Greyhound races.

Henry V: Shakespeare employs a vivid simile likening the anticipation of soldiers in battle to Greyhounds ready to race.

Greyhounds and the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I

Historical records suggest that Greyhounds also played a crucial role during the Elizabethan period. Some of the highlights include:

Recorded observations: In 1591 at Cowdray Park, Sussex, Queen Elizabeth I reportedly watched as “sixteen bucks, all having fair play, pulled down after dinner, by Greyhounds”.

Development of a Coursing Code: In order to regulate the sport of hare coursing, Queen Elizabeth I proposed the development of a standard set of rules. This responsibility was undertaken by Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk.

Period Mention Context
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Works ‘Greihounde’ Early reference of the breed in literature, showcasing the breed’s historical familiarity.
Shakespearean Works Greyhounds Allusions in dialogues and metaphorical representations in plays like ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ and ‘Henry V’.
Elizabethan Era Use by Queen Elizabeth I The breed’s involvement in hunting and the elaborate development of a set of courting rules, signifying the breed’s importance in sporting culture.


Varieties of Greyhounds in Elizabethan Era

During the Elizabethan era, Greyhounds, as recounted by various sources, seemingly existed in two distinct forms. These classifications were primarily based on traits such as fur texture, size, and the specific sporting events they were bred for.

Descriptions from Courser’s Manual and Markham

Courser’s Manual: This historical document provides the earliest suggestion of there being two different varieties of Greyhound. However, it further leans towards the depiction of a Greyhound with characteristics resembling that of a ‘Highland Greyhound’, as per portrayals by painter Edwin Landseer.

Gervase Markham: An author and horse breeder from this period, Markham distinguishes between these Greyhounds based on their physical characteristics and purpose for breeding. He describes one type as long-haired and better suited for hunting ‘vermin or wild beasts’, whereas a smoother and more delicately proportioned variant was more befitting as ‘beasts of pleasure’. Regardless of physical differences, Markham extolled the breed’s ‘noble, strong, nimble, swift, and valiant’ nature.

Literary Recognitions of Greyhound Varieties

Various literary works also acknowlegde the presence of different Greyhound types, associating each with distinct prey and hunting styles.

Tickell’s Miscellanies: The poet Thomas Tickell’s work references to the two types of Greyhounds, distinguishing their hunting prowess – one for deer stalking, the other for hare coursing.

Sir Walter Scott: The esteemed Scottish author and poet, Sir Walter Scott, also alludes to the dual representations of Greyhounds as the ‘gazehound grim’ and the ‘gallant greyhound’ in his works, suggesting continued use for sporting purposes in the early 19th century.

Source Greyhound Variations Description
The Courser’s Manual Highland Greyhound Resembled the depiction of Landseer’s Greyhounds, likely characterized by longer hair.
Markham’s Observations Long-haired Greyhound, Smooth Greyhound Differentiates between rough-coated hunting dogs versus smooth-coated ‘beasts of pleasure’.
Tickell’s Miscellanies Stalking Greyhound, Coursing Greyhound Designates each type to a specific hunt – the former to deer and the latter to hare.
Sir Walter Scott’s Works Gazehound, Gallant Greyhound Affirms the continued presence of both variants for sport into the 19th century.


Origin and Evolution of the Greyhound

The origin of Greyhounds traces back to ancient civilizations, with notable evidences suggesting ties to Greece, where the smooth, sleek-haired type of this breed is believed to have originated. The breed’s evolution is documented in different historical sources; attributing its transformation in terms of physical attributes, naming conventions, and its societal value.

The Greyhound and Arrian’s Cynegeticus

The Cynegeticus of Arrian: Arrian was an Athenian who lived during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, known for his significant contributions to coursing literature. His manuscript “Cynegeticus” provides some intriguing assertions related to the Greyhound’s origins and characteristics. Arrian frequently mentioned the smooth, sleek-haired Greyhound in his work, bringing attention to the distinctive grey color of the hound’s eyes.

Greyhound Naming Conventions: The terms ‘gren’, ‘Grai’, and ‘gray’, all linking back to Greece or Greek, were used in Arrian’s writings. This not only indicates the Greek origin of the breed but might also hint at the origin of the name ‘Greyhound’. Two theories have been postulated: one reflects the Greyhound’s aging process, in which its coat turns grey. Alternatively, the term could be related to the consistent mention of the ‘grey color’ of the hound’s eyes in Arrian’s work.

Variations in Greyhound Coats

During Arrian’s time, both rough and smooth-coated Greyhounds were known, with Arrian himself noting the desirable trait of fine, soft, and close hair in both types. Eventually, the names ‘gazehound’ and ‘greyhound’ came into being to identify the rough-haired and smooth-coated hounds respectively.

Gazehound Origin: The name might have been derived from the hunting style of the long-haired breed, which relied more on sight than scent. Alternatively, it could originate from the Saxon word ‘guz’, meaning grey or badger, as these dogs were often used in badger hunts in earlier times.

The Greyhound’s Historical Significance

Throughout history, Greyhounds have been highly esteemed. From early sightings in Anglo-Saxon kennels during King Elric of Mercia’s reign to being kept by Scoto-Celts 300 years before Christ’s birth, the Greyhound’s presence has been significant. A notable mention is in the Laws of King Canute, which stipulated that only a ‘gentleman’ could own a Greyhound, marking the breed as the most esteemed among all dogs.

Period Greyhound Attribute or Significance Details
Reign of Emperor Hadrian Manuscript by Arrian Provides insights into the Greyhound’s characteristics and potential Greek origin.
Arrian’s Era Rough and Smooth-coated Greyhounds Both varieties were known and documented, eventually leading to separate nomenclature.
King Elric of Mercia’s Reign Presence in Anglo-Saxon Kennels Indicates the breed’s prominence in early England.
Era of King Canute Status Symbol The law limited ownership of Greyhounds to ‘gentlemen’, highlighting the breed’s esteemed position.

The Evolution of the Smooth-Coated Greyhound

The historical trajectory of the smooth-coated Greyhound variety illuminates how canine breeding practices, led by notable figures like Lord Orford, aimed to maximise desirable traits in this breed throughout the centuries. This evolution journey incorporates the infusion of the English bulldog breed, leading to distinct changes in Greyhound characteristics.

Lord Orford’s Contribution

Lord Orford’s Cross-breeding Initiative: Lord Orford, an 18th-century noble, substantially contributed to enhancing the smooth, silky coat of Greyhounds. He pursued this by crossing a smooth-haired Greyhound with an English Bulldog, continuing this practice for seven generations. His efforts ultimately led to a breed with a small ear, a silky coat, and commendable courage.

Notable Details from Lord Orford’s Cross-breeding:

  • Introduction of the Brindled Coat: The Greyhound, for the first time, appeared in a brindled coat due to Lord Orford’s efforts. While the brindled coat was initially unpopular, it is highly sought after today.
  • Rise of Dominant Coursing Stock: The cross-bred line produced exceptional coursing dogs. Czarina, a bitch from Orford’s line, birthed a series of successful coursers, including Claret and Snowball. These dogs bred further successful dogs in coursing, solidifying Orford’s legacy.

Legacy of Cross-breeding: Success in Coursing

The effectiveness of cross-breeding involving a Bulldog was visible in the dogs’ performance in coursing.

Major Success Stories:

  • Snowball, owned by Major Topham of the Malton Coursing Club in Yorkshire, won four cups and more than thirty courses before being retired to stud.
  • King Cob, the first dog available for public stud service, became a notable part of Greyhound genetics. King Cob’s bloodline includes Master McGrath, a successful courser who won the Waterloo Cup three times in 1868, 1869, and 1871.

Royal Recognition for Master McGrath: The triumph of Master McGrath in the Waterloo Cup earned him a royal audience. Following his victories, Queen Victoria commanded him to appear at Windsor Castle, signaling his elevated status and bearing testimony to the success of cross-breeding practices.

Breed Modifications Key Figure Notable Offspring Achievements
Crossbreeding Bulldog and Greyhound Lord Orford Czarina, Claret, Snowball Facilitated the emergence of a brindle-coated Greyhound with a silky coat and improved coursing abilities
Bulldog ‘blood’ in Greyhound genetic line N/A Master McGrath Won the Waterloo Cup thrice

The Emergence of Organized Coursing for Greyhounds

The formal establishment of coursing as a sport for Greyhounds can be traced back to the mid-to-late 18th century. Several notable names contributed to the formation of these clubs, each of which played a critical role in shaping the sport and bolstering the popularity of Greyhounds.

The Formation of Early Coursing Clubs

Initiation by Lord Orford: Lord Orford, notable for contributing to the breed’s evolution, founded the first coursing club in Swaffham, Norfolk, in 1776. The Swaffham Club had a unique membership scheme where the numbers were limited to twenty-six, each connected with the alphabet’s letters used to name their dogs.

Subsequent Club Formations:

  • The Ashdown Park Club: Established in 1780, paving the path for more coursing club formations.
  • The Malton Club: Formed a year after the Ashdown Park Club, included some of England’s most renowned names amongst its twenty members.
  • The Altcar Club: Founded by Viscount Molyneux and the Earl of Sefton in 1825. This club is notable for holding the first meeting at the Waterloo Hotel, Liverpool.

Inception of the Waterloo Cup

Introduction of the Waterloo Cup: The proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel, William Lynn, launched an eight-dog stake known as the Waterloo Cup in 1836. This rapidly flourished into the most prestigious coursing event worldwide, undertaken on Lord Sefton’s Altcar estate. The competition accepts entries from all parts of Britain and Eire, featuring sixty-four dogs, staged towards the end of February each year, with March 10th being the coursing season’s last day.

Post-race Event: They introduced the Waterloo Purse as a subsidiary event for the thirty-two dogs defeated in the first round of the Waterloo Cup. This event is steeped in tradition, with entry limited to holders of nominations, and every participant must be registered with the National Coursing Club (NCC).

Establishment of the National Coursing Club (NCC)

The escalating popularity of Greyhound coursing after the introduction of the Waterloo Cup led to the necessity of a national controlling organization. Consequently, the National Coursing Club (NCC) was established in 1858 following Altcar’s first sixty-four-dog stake.

Major Decisions by the NCC:

  • Registration Mandate: In 1881, the NCC determined that every Greyhound participating at meetings across the British Isles must be registered with the Club post-July 15th, 1883. Consequently, around a thousand entries were made that day.
Year Club Founder(s) Highlights
1776 The Swaffham Club Lord Orford First coursing club; unique membership scheme
1780 The Ashdown Park Club N/A Noted as the second significant coursing club
1781 The Malton Club N/A Boasted some of England’s top names
1825 The Altcar Club Viscount Molyneux and the Earl of Sefton Notable for its first meeting at the Waterloo Hotel
1858 National Coursing Club N/A Controlling body for all Greyhound coursing events

The Genesis of the Greyhound Stud Book

The inception of the Greyhound Stud Book in 1882 marked a significant milestone in the breed’s history, logging entries, demarcating color ratios, and marking beginnings of a robust registration system steered by the National Coursing Club (NCC). These institutionalized measures aided in maintaining a comprehensive record of the greyhound lineage.

Color Frequencies in the Initial Stud Book

Initial Entries: The first Greyhound Stud Book consisted of documented entries received at that time.

Color Distribution: An interesting observation from this early record is the coloration of the dogs. Of all recorded dogs, 351 were black or black and white, with only sixty-eight brindles. Contrarily, today’s scenario flips this proportion, with brindles being the most common color among greyhounds.

Registration System and Fees Imposed by the NCC

Registration Fee: The National Coursing Club (NCC) charges a nominal fee of 5s for both naming a Greyhound and entering it into the Stud Book.

Issuance of Certificate: The NCC provides a certificate upon proper registration. This document needs to be signed by the dog’s breeder, who should have previously registered the litter at a similar charge.

Detailed Documentation Required: The registration process requires meticulous records, including minutia like the color of each toenail and the eyes.

Registration for Irish Greyhounds: Greyhounds bred in Ireland need to be registered with the Irish Coursing Club based in Clonmel.

The 1894 Rule on Litter Registration

Litter Registration Rule: In 1894, the NCC made it mandatory for all litters to be registered within two months of the whelping date.

Record Maintenance: This rule ensured a comprehensive record of every pedigree greyhound, accessible to officials and all who breed and race Greyhounds under the NCC’s rules, promoting transparency and accurate lineage tracking.

Event Year Details
First Greyhound Stud Book Published 1882 Recorded entries of the period; Black and black & white dogs were common, with few brindles
Registration Fee & Process Established N/A Naming greyhound and entering it into the Stud Book costs 5s each; breeder’s signature required
Rule on Litter Registration 1894 All litters to be registered within two months of whelping


The Evolution of Coursing in Ireland

The development of coursing in Ireland runs parallel to the formation of the National Coursing Club (NCC) in England. Key milestones in the history of Irish coursing include the establishment of the Brownlow Cup, the foundation of the Irish Coursing Club, and the inauguration of the Irish Cup.

Lord Lurgan and the Inception of the Brownlow Cup

Lord Lurgan’s Role: In the same year when the National Coursing Club was formed (1858), Lord Lurgan took charge of organizing the sport in Ireland. The following year, the Brownlow Cup was introduced as a premier coursing event.

First Brownlow Cup Winner: The inaugural Brownlow Cup was won by Blue Hat after defeating Dervock in an exhilarating final. Dervock later gained even more fame by siring Lord Lurgan’s renowned greyhound, Master McGrath.

End of the Lurgan Meeting: The Lurgan Meeting ceased after 1887, and it wasn’t until 1906 that a comparable event was revived—the Irish Cup.

The Establishment of the Irish Cup

Year of Inauguration: In 1906, the Irish Cup was introduced as a prominent coursing event in Ireland.

Location: Since its inception, the Irish Cup has been held annually at Clounanna in Co. Limerick.

The Formation of the Irish Coursing Club (ICC)

Founding of the ICC: In 1916, the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) emerged as a result of a proposed separation from the NCC, which had hitherto been overseeing coursing interests in Ireland.

Foundation Meeting: The ICC officially came into existence on September 13th, 1915, with its inaugural meeting at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin.

Secretary Election: Tom Morris was elected as ICC secretary during the initial meeting, a position he retained for a significant period.

Year Event Details
1858 Lord Lurgan takes over Irish Coursing management Coincides with the NCC formation in England
1859 Inauguration of the Brownlow Cup First Cup won by Blue Hat
1906 Inception of the Irish Cup Held annually at Clounanna in Co. Limerick
1916 Formation of the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) Founded in response to a proposal for separating from the NCC


Historic Greyhound Coursing Events in Great Britain and Eire

Historically, coursing events were held during the autumn and winter months throughout Great Britain and Eire. These competitions opened their doors to club members whose dogs were registered with either the National Coursing Club (NCC) or the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), offering participants the opportunity to engage in healthy sports competition.

Participation and Preparations

Participants: In the past, participants either trained their dogs independently or entrusted them to seasoned trainers, who could handle multiple greyhounds for several patrons.

Arrival at the Event: Participants were advised to ensure they arrived at the meeting well in advance. This allowed their dog ample time to recover from the journey prior to participating in the event.

Precautions: For dogs predisposed to travel sickness, a tablet was provided to ward off the condition. Dogs were transported in their coats, which were replaced immediately after the race. During severe weather, an additional small rug was carried for extra protection.

Pre-race Measure: Upon arrival, participants had to ascertain when their dog was due to be ‘slipped’, or released alongside its competitor after the hare. This ensured that the dog promptly met its race schedule.

Race Administration: The secretary was the first point of contact upon arrival at the coursing ground, tasked with meeting and fulfilling the requirements of the participants.

Judging Criteria in History

Coursing events in those times were judged based on six different skill sets:

  1. Speed: Depending on the notable degree of superiority shown, one to three points were awarded.
  2. Go-bye: When a dog started the course a full length behind its opponent, overtook him, and gained a length in front, two points were awarded. An additional point was awarded if the dog passed on the outer side.
  3. The Turn: When the hare was redirected at an angle not less than 90 degrees from its previous line, one point was given.
  4. The Wrench: If the hare had been forced off its line at an angle less than 90 degrees, half a point was awarded.
  5. The Kill: Depending on the skill displayed during the kill, two points or fewer were given.
  6. The Trip: When the hare was tripped off its legs but still managed to get away, one point was earned.

The greyhound collecting the maximum points was named the winner.

Event Categories: Typically, events hosted eight-dog and sixteen-dog stakes for smaller one-day gatherings. Larger gatherings that spanned over two or three days featured thirty-two-dog and sixty-four-dog stakes.

Skill Possible Points Criteria
Speed 1-3 Awarded based on the notable degree of superiority demonstrated
Go-bye 2-3 Given when a dog overtook another, with an additional point if it passed on the outer side
The Turn 1 Given when the hare was turned at a right angle not less than its previous line
The Wrench 0.5 Given when the hare deviated less than a right angle from its line
The Kill Up to 2 Determined by the skill demonstrated during the kill
The Trip 1 Given when the hare was tripped off its legs but managed to get away


History of The Waterloo Cup

The Waterloo Cup was a premier event in the realm of greyhound coursing that invited international attention and fascination. Volumes of chronicles could be composed about this historical event, recounting tales of intrigue, strategy, fortune, and inevitable drama linked with the competition.

Epoch of Inception

Milanie, a red bitch, was the first victor of the Waterloo Cup. She was owned by Viscount Molyneux, Lord Sefton’s eldest son. Interestingly, Lord Sefton himself did not participate in the tournament for twenty-two years following this inaugural event. Eventually, when Lord Sefton did compete, it was with a dog he himself had bred, named Senate, victorious in its claim over the coveted Waterloo Cup.

Emergence of Champion Bitches

The era of the 1850s bore witness to the incredible prowess of the bitch Cerito, possessing a weight of a mere 50 lbs – considerably lighter than her competitors. Cerito’s agility and finesse earned her the Waterloo Cup not once, but thrice.

In the following decades, notable victories went to even smaller bitches. In 1867, the winner was the 44-lbs Lobelia. Ten years later, Coomassie, also weighting a mere 44 lbs, clinched the Cup two years consecutively.

The Reign of Master McGrath and Fullerton

The remarkable performances of Master McGrath have been well-documented in the history of the Waterloo Cup. Adding to the legacy of exceptional performances, Fullerton, a brindled dog owned by Colonel North, achieved an astonishing four consecutive victories starting from 1889. For Fullerton, Colonel North had paid 850 guineas, an astronomical sum for that time, although history would vindicate this as money astutely invested.

Notable Winners and Underdogs

The winner of the Cup in 1896, Fabulous Fortune, remarkably had been noticed lounging in front of a public house’s fireplace in Brampton, and was purchased for a few shillings.

In 1904, Hampray, purchased by Mr. Herbert for five guineas, took home the Cup and in his words, was entered into the competition, ‘only for a lark!’ Such captivating narratives added immensely to the allure and romance of greyhound racing.

Women Participation and Ownership

Mrs. Whitburn – the first woman to own and nominate a Waterloo Cup winner, reflected the gradual evolution of female participation and ownership in the hitherto male-dominated sport. Her dog, White Collar emerged triumphant in 1928.

Invitational Participation Practices

Participants who held a nomination in the Cup didn’t always breed their own competing dogs. In cases where owners felt their dogs were not capable of doing justice to the competition, a dog owned by another person was often invited to represent them in the race.

Famed Champions and Progenitors

During the 1930’s, the Cup was won by a succession of notable dogs. However, one of the most famous was one who didn’t actually win the Cup – a dog named Jamie. This canine competitor was destined to become the father of Mutton Cutlet, from whose offspring track racing in the United Kingdom came to be founded.

Year Winner Name Type Weight (lbs) Owner Name
Inception Milanie Bitch Lord Sefton’s son
1850 Cerito Bitch 50
1867 Lobelia Bitch 44
Coomassie Bitch 44
1889 Fullerton Dog Colonel North
1896 Fabulous Fortune Bitch
1904 Hampray Dog Mr. Herbert
1928 White Collar Dog Mrs. Whitburn


Advent of Track Racing

The sport of greyhound racing embarked on a new course in the history of its development when Mr. C. A. Munn pioneered the concept of track racing with a dummy hare in England. This innovative idea, which had gained remarkable popularity in America, was poised to revolutionize greyhound racing in the United Kingdom.

The Genesis of the Greyhound Racing Association

In collaboration with Major Lyne-Dixon and Brigadier-General Critchley, Mr. C. A. Munn established the Greyhound Racing Association. They set up their headquarters in Manchester, where the country’s first greyhound racing track was inaugurated on July 24th, 1926, at Belle Vue.

Note: This momentous occasion was celebrated with a maiden track race won by Mistley, a unique and undoubtedly indomitable dog with half a tail. This marked the inception of a burgeoning new industry in greyhound track racing.

Expansion to London

The subsequent year (1927), the Greyhound Racing Association extended its reach to London, opening another race track at Shepherd’s Bush in the White City area.

Audience Statistics and Trends

Participation and intrigue in greyhound racing soared rapidly. Yet, in the initial year, the sport was limited to the summer months only. Despite this restriction, the total attendance at various tracks managed to exceed five million.

Growth in attendance:

  • The attendance figures escalated to more than twenty million within a span of five years since the sport’s inception.
  • In later years, the attendance stabilized at an impressive annual figure of over fifteen million.

Moreover, the financial investment in the sport was significantly high. Annually, around sixty million pounds were vested in the Tote – a system of betting on races where the winner or winners divide the total bet, less management fees, in proportion to their stakes.

Year Event Location Notable occurrence
1926 Inception of first track Belle Vue, Manchester Mistley, a dog with half a tail, wins the first race
1927 Inauguration of second track Shepherd’s Bush, London
1927-1932 Rise in audience participation Across tracks Attendance figures rose from five million to twenty million
Later years Stabilizing of attendance figures Across tracks Attendance stabilized at over fifteen million annually


Evolution and Formalization of Track Racing

Track racing in England soared to remarkable popularity, owing to the locals’ penchant for chase-based sports. This upsurge could also be credited to the more intimate nature of the sport, compared to hunting and horse racing.

The Intricacies of Track Racing

The dogs pursued an electric hare around an oval circuit, much to the delight of the spectating crowd. Notably, at no point during the race did the dogs exit the spectators’ sight. The sport’s followers could intimately understand and appreciate the performance of individual dogs, almost akin to the knowledge a die-hard football fan might have of their home team players.

The Sport’s Accessibility: Track racing could also be deemed as a sport for the masses, given the minimal cost of indulgence. A few shillings sufficed to enjoy the spectacle the dogs provided. Further allure was added by the potential of investing a small sum on each event (as little as 2s.), with the evening’s entertainment usually consisting of eight races in total.

Establishment of the National Greyhound Racing Club

With the rapid advancement of track racing, it was clear that a governing body was needed to oversee the sport. The National Greyhound Racing Club (N.G.R.C.) was established on January 1st, 1928, fulfilling this need.

N.G.R.C.’s Mandate: Member tracks were to adhere to the club’s regulations, including employing only officially sanctioned individuals and enabling only registered dogs to participate on their racetracks. The N.G.R.C. regulated these tracks, confirming their licenses and overseeing their operation from April 28th, 1928.

Throughout their stewardship, the N.G.R.C. maintained high standards in the sport, rarely facing incidents of dog doping or unfair declarations of race winners.

Technological Advancements in Track Racing

Technological aids significantly improved the judgement and operation of track races.

Photographic Assistance: The adoption of photo-finish cameras lent greater accuracy and confirmation to the judge’s decisions. These cameras, however, were not there to replace the judge. The winner of the race was determined solely by the first dog’s nose to cross the finish line, with the dog’s feet not considered.

Timing Infrastructures: The introduction of an invisible electric time-ray simplified the duties of the official time-keeper. The recorded times allowed the racing manager to better organize handicap events. In these calculations, a difference of .06 seconds represented a yard.

Staffing at Racing Tracks

Each track retained several essential personnel, including a veterinary surgeon, a paddock steward, and a starter.

Duties included:

  • The veterinary surgeon conducted inspections of participating dogs before and after each race.
  • The paddock steward ensured proper kennelling of the dogs.
  • The starter was responsible for positioning the dogs in their correct traps and initiating the release of the electric hare, marking the race’s commencement.
Year Event Notable occurrence
1928 Establishment of National Greyhound Racing Club Implementation of standardized rules and regulations for track racing
Post-1928 Introduction of Technology Photo-finish cameras for decision accuracy and invisible electric time-rays for precise timing

The Role of Trainers and Traditions in Track Racing

Trainers occupied a critical role in the organization of track racing, often being veterans who had been part of the industry from its inception, possessing an exceptional understanding of greyhound handling.

Trainers and the Licensing Process

Greyhound training was limited to those who held a license, and any dog set to participate in a licensed track race was required to be under the care of such a professional throughout its racing career.

Training Costs: If the dog met the necessary standards, it was, in most cases, admitted for training, which typically cost about 30/- per week. The dogs normally paid their own keep by winning prizes, and the potential for further earnings was significant for those who distinguished themselves from the rest.

Major Track Racing Events

Track racing boasted numerous popular events, with the most renowned being the annual Greyhound Derby held at the White City track. The Derby, contested over 525 yards, offered as much as £2,000 in prize money and the potential for significant earnings from stud fees, particularly if the winning greyhound happened to be a male.

There were eight such ‘classic’ races, including the Laurels at Wimbledon, the St. Leger at Wembley Stadium; both of which accompanied the Derby in significance.

Details about the classic races:

  • The Laurels: This was a 500-yard race held at Wimbledon.
  • The St. Leger: It was second only to the Greyhound Derby in terms of prestige. This 700-yard race was a highlight of the events at Wembley Stadium, widely known for hosting the Cup Final.

Throughout Britain, more than sixty licensed tracks held numerous major events annually, indicative of an impending gradual improvement in the standard of racing year-on-year.

Progress in Greyhound Track Racing

Track improvements and advanced knowledge in greyhound breeding and rearing substantially improved race times nearly every year.

Record of Improvement: In 1928, the Derby was won by Boher Ash who achieved a timing of 30.48 seconds. In the following year, Mick the Miller surpassed this with a time of 29.96 seconds. By 1947, Trev’s Perfection clocked 28.95 seconds, being the first to break the 29-second barrier. Mile Bush Pride, the 1959 winner, finished in 28.76 seconds – a record that suggested faster times in the years to come, stirring anticipation among greyhound breeders and racers alike.

Year Dog Name Achieved Time Remarkable Achievement
1928 Boher Ash 30.48 seconds Initial Record
1929 Mick the Miller 29.96 seconds Surpassed the previous record
1947 Trev’s Perfection 28.95 seconds First greyhound to break the 29-second barrier
1959 Mile Bush Pride 28.76 seconds Set the fastest time record at that period of time


Celebrated Greyhounds and their Legacy

Numerous greyhounds gained widespread acclaim across various tracks over the past several decades. Although it is impossible to chronicle each one in detail, a select few significantly distinguished themselves in the world of track racing.

Preeminent Greyhounds

First and foremost, Mutton Cutlet stood out as an extraordinary greyhound. Despite never having competed on a track himself, he left a substantial legacy, fathering over 500 winners across track and coursing field by the time of his death in 1934.

Standout Progeny: One of Mutton Cutlet’s most renowned offspring was Beef Cutlet, widely recognized at one time as the fastest of all greyhounds, and possibly the fastest ever to race. In 1932, Beef Cutlet impressively clocked a time of 28.47 seconds when winning the Laurels over 500 yards – a record matched sixteen years later by Good Worker.

Unique Achievements: Another prominent early track racing figure was Future Cutlet, also a son of Mutton Cutlet. Twice a Cesarewitch winner, he also claimed victory at the Laurels and the Derby. Although he cost his owner a then-astounding £600, he recouped his cost tenfold in prize money, highlighting the immense return potential in successful greyhound racing.

Continuing the Legacy

Moving ahead, there emerged Junior Classic, a son of Beef Cutlet and sibling of the greatest hurdler ever, Juvenile Classic. Until Junior Classic’s passing in 1946 at the age of ten, he amassed over £4,000 in prize money and an estimated equivalent amount in stud fees.

A preserved tribute to greatness, similar to Mick the Miller, Junior Classic’s body was maintained for posterity as an enduring testament to his excellence.

Exceptional Performer: Affectionately regarded as ‘Mick’ by enthusiasts, Mick the Miller is broadly seen as the ultimate all-round track greyhound, known for his human-like intelligence that added to his athletic prowess. His intellect and charm won over racing enthusiasts as he won more than £10,000 in prize money.

Outstanding Competitors

A near-never-ending list of favorites marked greyhound racing history over the years.

Sprint Champions: Few could match the speed of sprinting stalwarts like Ballyhcnnessy Seal, Brilliant Bob, and Tanist.

Middle-Distance Experts: Bah’s Choice, Blackwater Cutlet, Ballynennan Moon, and Shannon Shore distinguished themselves in middle distances.

Long-Distance Stars: Over greater distances of 700-800 yards, Model Dasher, Quare Times, and Monday’s News were nearly unbeatable in their prime.

Female Champions: The world of greyhound racing also celebrated commendable female competitors such as Astra, Bradshaw Fold, Hurry Kitty, Shaggy Lass, Robeen Printer, and Baytown Ivy, specializing over more extended ranges.

Greyhound Achievements Prize Money
Mutton Cutlet Sired over 500 winners despite never racing NA
Beef Cutlet Recognized as one of the fastest greyhounds; Laurels winner NA
Future Cutlet Twice a Cesarewitch winner; Laurels and Derby winner £6,000
Junior Classic Won over £4,000 in prize money; notable progeny of Beef Cutlet £4,000
Mick the Miller Known for his human-like intelligence £10,000

Modern Mavens of Greyhound Racing (1960s-2020s)

The latter half of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st brought forth more celebrated greyhounds, leaving an indelible impression on track racing through their speed, agility, and crowning achievements in influential competitions.

1960s and 1970s: Unprecedented Performance

Mick the Diver: Widely regarded as one of the popular greyhounds of the ’60s, Mick the Diver became a household name in the UK, celebrated for his perseverance and winning spirit.

Sand Star: Leaving her mark on the ’70s, Sand Star was recognized for her montages of victories and was hailed as a leading female athlete in a predominantly male-centered sport.

1980s and 1990s: Racing Stars

Greyhound racing in the ’80s: Showcased several stars, but few were as renowned as Westpark Mustard, known for his astonishing agility and tenacity.

Top of the ’90s: This decade was marked by the dominance of Toms The Best, who defeated competitors with his speed and precision on track.

2000s and 2010s: Modern Champions

Rapid Ranger: A representative of the new millennium, Rapid Ranger emerged victorious in the English Greyhound Derby in both 2000 and 2001, earning a reputation as a reliable and consistent performer.

Taylors Sky: Dominating the 2010s, Taylors Sky, the English Greyhound Derby winner of 2011, set new standards with his performance, even setting the fastest time ever recorded in Derby history.

Leading up to the 2020s: A New Era

Moving into the 2020s, the English Derby found a new home at Towcester Racecourse. This shift was perceived as a nod towards the future, creating new opportunities for racing and fostering new generations of champions.

Significant Competitions: Throughout these decades, the English Greyhound Derby remained the most prestigious event in the UK greyhound racing calendar. Additionally, other significant races included the Grand National, the Scottish Derby, and the Laurels, showcasing the skills of prominent greyhounds and their handlers.

Decades Greyhounds Notable Achievements
1960s Mick the Diver Celebrated for perseverance and winning spirit
1970s Sand Star Noted as a leading female athlete in the sport
1980s Westpark Mustard Recognized for amazing agility and tenacity
1990s Toms The Best Dominated the decade with his speed and precision
2000s Rapid Ranger Won English Greyhound Derby in 2000 and 2001
2010s Taylors Sky 2011 English Greyhound Derby winner, recorded fastest time


Top Greyhounds from 2011 to 2021

Year Greyhound Notable Achievements
2011 Taylors Sky Winner of English Greyhound Derby and other multiple races
2012 Blonde Snapper Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Irish Greyhound Derby
2013 Ballymac Vic Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Easter Cup
2014 Salad Dodger Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Coral Coronation Cup
2015 Farloe Blitz Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Easter Cup
2016 Jaytee Jet Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Pat Hennerty Sales Cork Oaks
2017 Tyrur Shay Winner of Irish Greyhound Derby and Kirby Memorial Stakes
2018 Dorotas Wildcat Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Select Stakes
2019 Priceless Blake Winner of English Greyhound Derby and John J. Casey Open 575
2020 Newinn Taylor Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Gymcrack race
2021 Thorn Falcon Winner of English Greyhound Derby and Pelaw Grange Puppy Trophy

These greyhound champions have performed outstandingly and brought excitement to the spectators through their performances in multiple events. Each of them brings their unique character, breeding strengths, and competitive spirit into the sport, making greyhound racing an exciting spectacle to enjoy.