There are two forms of greyhound racing – track racing in which an artificial lure is used to lure the dogs around an oval track, and coursing in which dogs chase a live lure. Although not as money-filled or popular as horse racing, greyhound racing is still a popular sport for owners, spectators and gamblers alike.
Greyhounds – a little bit of history
Greyhound racing was originally a form of coursing, in which greyhounds were raced along a straight track. In 1912 an American named Owen Patrick Smith devised a way by which greyhounds could be lured around a track to put an end to coursing, as coursing always involved the death of the 'lure animal', usually a rabbit. The first professional dog-racing track opened in 1919.
The sport moved over the pond in 1926 and the first UK greyhound meeting was held in Manchester's Belle Vue Stadium. By the end of 1926 there were forty greyhound tracks operating all across the UK. The industry peaked in 1946 – 34 million spectators attended greyhound meetings in the UK in that year. However, since the early 1960s the sport's popularity as a spectator sport has diminished, mainly due to changes in 1960 in betting legislation which permitted off-course betting for the first time.
Greyhounds have been specifically breed for their speed. Some people claim that the human race has been specially breeding greyhounds for over six thousand years, but there is no evidence for this. Initially they were bred as hunting dogs for both their speed and their keen eyesight.
It is also not clear where the name 'greyhound' originated. It is almost certainly not a reference to the colour of the dog, as greyhounds come in all shades of coat colours. The most commonly held belief is that greyhounds were originally called grighounds (although it is not known why), and 'grighound' eventually became 'greyhound'.
Curiously, the greyhound is the only dog mentioned in the bible. The greyhound is mentioned as one of the 'four stately things' in Proverbs. However, it appears likely that the appearance of the greyhound in the Bible is a mistake – a mistranslation of a Hebrew term. Many modern versions of the Bible have replaced greyhound with 'strutting rooster'.
Greyhounds typically live for around nine to twelve years, and they are considered 'race ready' when between four and six years old. For many years there has been a great deal of controversy about what happens to greyhounds once they are no longer considered race-worthy. Naturally, the best and most successful dogs are kept as breeding animals, but many hundreds of greyhounds are deemed unsuitable for breeding. It's estimated that at the height of the popularity of greyhound racing in the USA, as many as 20,000 retired greyhounds were euthanised each year.
Efforts by pet adoption agencies, and the fall in popularity of greyhound racing has seen this number dwindle, but it's still thought around a few thousand retired greyhounds are unnecessarily euthanised each year. In the UK and the US there are now several agencies that specialise in greyhound adoption. Greyhounds are not popular as pets because it is perceived that they require a great deal of exercise. This is not the case – a greyhound does not need any more exercise than most other breeds of dog. Greyhounds are also docile, calm and easy-going, and some dogs have even been described as 'lazy'. They are also excessively non-violent – in a survey of dog bites recorded between 1982 and 2014, there was only one recorded greyhound bite on a human being.
As of 2016 there are twenty-four registered greyhound racing stadiums in England, and one in Scotland (Shawfield Stadium in South Lanarkshire). There are no stadiums in Wales or Northern Ireland.
The most successful greyhound of all time is thought to be Mick the Miller, who raced from 1929 until 1931. He was twice the winner of the English Greyhound Derby, and won thirty-six of his forty-eight races.
Mick won the Greyhound Derby at his first attempt in 1929, winning the race by eight lengths and in a new record time. Just prior to the race Mick's owner – Father Maurice Browne – sold the greyhound for £800 and any prize money Mick would win on the night. At the time, £800 would have been enough money to buy a house in some areas of London.
During his career and after retiring Mick the Miller became as much as media icon as race horses Red Rum and Desert Orchid were to become in the 1970s and 1990s. He even appeared in a film, “The Wild Boy”, co-starring with popular singing/comedy double act Flanagan and Allen.
Greyhound racing – how to bet
Greyhound meetings throughout the UK take place on a daily basis. Meetings usually commence in the late afternoon and early evening, and continue for four hours or so. Because of the shortness of a greyhound race in comparison to a horse race, a new greyhound race at a meeting takes place every twenty minutes or so.
Typically, six dogs compete in each race. Betting on greyhound racing is very similar to betting on horse racing. The easiest bet is to bet on the winner. You can also bet 'each way' – half your bet is to win, and half your bet is to place (finish either first or second) at a quarter of the odds.
There are a multitude of other bets available. These include betting on the winning distance of the victorious dog, or where the winning dog will be in an inside trap (traps one, two or three), or an outside one (traps four, five and six).
Despite not being as popular as it once was, greyhound betting is still enjoyed by millions of sports bettors from all across the globe. We'll keep you informed here as to the best online sports books where you can partake in greyhound betting.