Greyhounds

gryhound_egyptSome people think that greyhounds are the most exciting dogs in the world. No other breed has such steely muscles, speed and agility. It is natural that such incredible power can’t be reached by being a “couch potato” and consequently dogs are being trained properly. But still, nobody forces greyhounds to run.

These are not horses with riders on their backs that tell them what to do, and these are not African lions incited by their instinct to hunt and kill the game. Unlike horses and lions, greyhounds are running for the sheer love of it. It is worth noting that it’s impossible to force greyhounds to do something especially if they don’t want to.

You would be surprised, but greyhounds are as head-strong and individual as we are, so the carrot and stick approach won’t work in this case. Greyhounds embody passion and purposefulness – something that we really lack in our personalities. Once they see the game, they just can’t help but start pursuing it. If we could be as goal-oriented and agile as greyhounds, we wouldn’t have any problems following our dreams.

It’s not a coincidence that dogs are considered to be the closest friends of people and that close connection exists for many centuries or even millennia. Archeologists have managed to find bone fragments in the Cro-Magnon sites indicating that even primitive man shared his home with dogs.

The ancient Egyptians were known to favour dogs to a great extent. In fact it is one of the earliest and most vivid examples of man’s affection to his loyal four legged friend. Paintings that adorn the walls of the Egyptian Pharaohs’ tombs show everyday life in Egypt approximately 3,000 years ago.

Among various images that exemplify different spheres of the Egyptians’ life style we can see Pharaohs hunting with chariots and being followed by dogs that have striking resemblance to today’s Greyhounds. It seems like each and every royal representative in ancient Egypt has had greyhounds of their own.

History abounds in snippets of greyhound lore. Apparently, it is the only breed that was mentioned in the Bible. Ancient Arabs valued the birth of a greyhound litter to the same extent as the birth of the owners’ son. Besides that greyhounds were allowed to ride atop camels unlike any other breeds or animals in general. Frankly speaking, such examples of greyhounds being favored and pampered are countless and they can be found almost in any culture.

During the Middle Ages greyhounds were still marked out by nobility. Well-known historical figures such as King Hywel of Wales and King Canute of England were said to be passionate with greyhounds. By the time of the Norman invasion the greyhound has acquired a status of aristocracy’s favourite breed.

The noblemen even banned the commoners from owning such. However, the commoners also appreciated the greyhound’s hunting skills and in order not to be penalized for owning greyhounds they tried to breed dogs with other coat colour. This way they were more difficult to recognize and commoners could use them safely.

As for the ruling classes, greyhound’s reputation was still untarnished and lords often had their tombs designed with a statue of a loyal greyhound lying at the feet of its beloved master. As time went on, the nobility’s interest towards greyhounds never waned. This breed was even mentioned in the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer and continued being an essential part of the lives of the well-to-do.

Greyhound-Painting

It is natural that greyhound racing didn’t appear at once in the form we are used to see now. Coursing is considered to be the precursor to greyhound racing. Something resembling to what we know as coursing can be found depicted on Egyptian tombs dating back to 2500 BC. It stands mentioning that the dogs featured in those ancient scenes look very much like modern greyhounds.

Greyhounds have lots of exceptional characteristics. For example, no other breed can boast with such incredible speed and sharp vision. Probably its only week point is the lack of acute sense of smell. That’s why instead of scenting the game, a greyhound would rather chase moving objects.

It doesn’t seem to be a problem for a greyhound to spot an object at long distances. Moreover, it can run up to 45 miles an hour in its pursuit. Seeing as the commoners were not allowed to own greyhounds, this breed became a symbol of high status and power.

At the very beginning coursing was meant to exhibit a single dog’s skill in spotting and catching a game animal. However, as time went on it became a competitive sport featuring two dogs matched against one another in a race. At that time it was a common practice for the dogs’ owners to place bets on either of the competing greyhounds.

From time to time, these private coursings gathered spectators who were also eager to wager. Swaffham is the place where the first official coursing was organized. By that time there were already a couple of rules that specified the number of participating greyhounds. According to these rules only two greyhounds were allowed to participate in the race and they were supposed to course a single hare that would have a head start of 240 yards.

1837 is another important year in the history of greyhound racing, seeing as it was the year when the Waterloo Cup Meet was established as a coursing tournament. Since then it’s been repeated annually. The meet was extremely popular during the 19th century and drew crowds up to 75,000 people.

Greyhound racing with an artificial lure, as we know it now, was introduced in 1876 by an American named Owen Patrick Smith. It was a revolutionary change in the way courses were organized. So according to the new rules six dogs raced over a 400-yard straight course, pursuing the game, an artificial hare attached to a specialized device resembling to a skate on wheels. Having introduced the very first mechanical lure and a circular track, Smith signed up a deal with a shrewd businessman, Charles Munn, who had a feeling that this might bring him much wealth.

The first greyhound racing stadium appeared in Great Britain in 1926; it was built by Greyhound Racing Association which was set a year earlier. The stadium was called “Belle Vue Stadium” and the first meeting was held on the 24th of July in 1926. The race gathered 1700 people who were dying to take a look at this exciting new sport. The first greyhound race had a tremendous success and the word about this interesting sport spread in no time. A week later there were already 11,000 people per meeting.

Quite soon greyhound stadiums spread all over the country and the very first Greyhound Derby with a prize of 1,000 pounds was held. It is worth noting that even now the Derby is considered to be the biggest race in the greyhound racing calendar. Nowadays it is held at Wimbledon stadium in south west London. New rules were introduced to greyhound racing in order to prevent foul play and malpractice.

greyhound_racing_today

Greyhound racing has become a very popular pastime and attendances suffered only during the war times, but the situation was the same with all the other recreational activities. During the 50s and 60s the boom continued; however, the broadcasting of live horse racing affected greyhounds’ popularity badly.

Further fall was caused by the property slump in the 1970s. The quantity of tracks was reduced but it didn’t prevent superstar greyhounds such as Scurlogue Champ to appear on the remaining tracks and attract crowds.

The 80s had a greyhound hero, loved and admired by everyone. Ballyregan Bob managed to win affection of thousands of people having achieved a record breaking number of 32 consecutive wins. During the same period, the British Greyhound Racing Board was set up in order to discuss the improvement and promotion of the considered industry.

All in all there are 26 licensed greyhound stadiums in Great Britain. Even despite the fact that new stadiums appear constantly the quality of the service is still of the highest level. It is estimated that approximately 2.5 billion pounds are stacked every year on greyhound racing. According to the recent research, greyhound racing is the third most attended and popular spectator sport in England following football and horse racing.