Greyhound racing as we know it today is very different from the attempt that was made in Hendon in 1876 to race greyhounds on a straight track. It was not until 1912 when the mechanical hare was invented that things really started to develop to create the sport of greyhound racing. Here we discuss greyhound racing history in some detail, from that first attempt up to the current day.
It is believed that greyhound racing evolved from the sport of coursing. Coursing is the pursuit of game or other animals by dogs, mainly greyhounds, using sight and speed rather than scent. Both the wealthy and upper class as well as the lower classes of society participated in the sport until Carolingian hunting law appropriated hunting grounds for the King and the notability.
A number of animals were coursed including hares and rabbits as well as deer, wolves, foxes, antelope, as well as other animals. In 2004 however, the Protection of Wild Mammals Act in Scotland and the Hunting Act in England and Wales made it illegal to course mammals other than rats and rabbits.
When American Owen Patrick Smith invented the mechanical hare in 1912 is when greyhound racing really began to take shape. He had a vision for dog racing where he wanted the killing of jack rabbits to stop and for people to see “greyhound racing as we see horse racing”.
Charles Munn was responsible for introducing greyhound racing to the UK in 1926. Along with Brigadier-General Critchley, Munn founded the Greyhound Racing Association or GRA as it became known and still is to this day. Munn and Critchley held the first official greyhound race meeting in Manchester at the Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium on July 24, 1926, in front of 1,700 spectators. By 1927 there were 40 greyhound tracks in operation in the UK.
Greyhound racing became an extremely popular past time among the working classes as time went on. Track locations and the fact meetings were held in the evenings made the sport very accessible for those from a working class family.
Betting at greyhound racing meeting was officially introduced in 1930 with the introduction of the totalisator, as well as on course bookmakers. Greyhound racing as a betting medium is still very popular today and although betting at the track may not be as active as it once was, greyhound racing still provides bookmakers around the country with a large percentage of their product. Greyhound betting turnover in the UK is over £75m.
The highest attendances recorded at greyhound racing meetings was just after the Second World War in 1946 with over 34 million patrons attending dog racing that year. Although the attendance at greyhound stadiums came into decline from the 1960’s once off course betting was permitted, the abolition of betting tax in the 90s and the big marketing campaigns in the last five years or so have meant the sport has seen a resurgence. Attendances in recent times have been as high as 3 million with over 3.2 million people attending greyhound racing meetings in the UK in 2007.
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