Modern greyhound racing grew out of coursing, the pursuit of game by dogs that was a hunting technique practised by the wealthy before it was outlawed in many countries. Greyhound racing experiments on straight tracks occurred in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century but it was not an American man, Owen Patrick Smith, invented the mechanical lure in the early 1900s that the sport we know today came into being.
Smith opened the first commercial greyhound racing track in the American city of Emeryville, near San Francisco, in 1919 before striking a deal with a businessman, Charles Munn, to set about promoting greyhound racing on circular tracks in the United Kingdom. Smith, Munn and other associates formed the Greyhound Racing Association and Belle Vue Stadium in the Gorton area of Manchester opened its doors in 1926.
Greyhound racing took the United Kingdom by storm and soon there were more than 40 tracks in operation. The sport had its British heyday in the years immediately following the Second World War, although it enjoyed a spike in the 1980s when Ballyregan Bob became a household name after stringing together a world record 32 wins on the bounce, the last of which was broadcast nationally live on BBC Television.
Where would one find greyhound racing?
The world’s major greyhound racing countries are Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, although the sport is either illegal or not practiced in a large number of the latter’s 50 states.
Greyhound racing takes place in every Australian state and territory and it is not uncommon for there to be more than 10 meetings per day across the great southern land. There are greyhound racing tracks in each capital city, including Albion Park in Brisbane, Sandown in Melbourne and Wentworth Park in Sydney, plus dozens of venues in regional areas.
The Irish love greyhound racing and many of the greyhounds that end up racing in the United Kingdom start their lives on the other side of the Irish Sea. Shelbourne Park is the best known of Ireland’s greyhound racing tracks, with the stadia having staged the Irish Greyhound Derby since 1968.
There are 11 greyhound racing tracks in New Zealand, from Auckland in the north to Southland in the south. The most valuable event on New Zealand greyhound racing calendar is the NZ Cup, which takes place at Addington Raceway in the picturesque southern city of Christchurch every November.
Greyhound racing is one of the United Kingdom’s top sports in terms of spectator numbers, with more than two million people passing through the turnstiles of the country’s 26 tracks every year. Following the closure of Walthamstow Stadium, the title of the United Kingdom’s most famous greyhound racing track has moved on to Wimbledon Stadium, home of the English Greyhound Derby since 1985.
Unfortunately, greyhound racing in the United States of America is in decline. More than half of the country’s greyhound racing tracks have closed their doors since the turn of the century, largely as a consequence of media campaigns from animal welfare activists who say that the dogs are kept muzzled in small cages, fed inferior food, injected with steroids and injured during their races.
Greyhound racing occurs on a much smaller scale in a large number of other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Macau, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and Vietnam.
What are the top greyhound racing competitions?
Greyhounds race for excellent prizes in several countries, particularly Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
When it comes to prizes, nowhere can beat Australia. The Melbourne Cup, run over 515 metres at Sandown in November, is worth a whopping $350,000 to the winner. There are two more Australian greyhound races worth $250,000 to the winner – the Australian Cup contested over 525m at The Meadows and the Golden Easter Egg run over 520m at Wentworth Park. Both the Australian Cup and the Golden Easter Egg occur in March.
Currently the Irish Greyhound Derby is worth 120,000 euro to the winner, while the winner of the English Greyhound Derby receives £75,000. The Irish and British races cannot match those in Australia for money but they are more prestigious, although some Australian fans would argue differently. The fact is, though, that money is not everything.
Where is it easier to back greyhound racing winners?
Well, one would have to say that greyhound racing punters have less on their plate in Ireland and the United Kingdom because greyhound races in those countries are restricted to six runners, whereas races in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America can have as many as eight runners.
Therefore, greyhound racing punters in Ireland and the United Kingdom usually have two fewer greyhounds to research before placing their bets and, also, there is less likely to be a pile-up at the first corner in those countries. Punters who would not dream of betting on greyhound racing have been known to chastise the sport by calling it doggy lottery.
Which are the most popular greyhound racing bet types?
Greyhound racing punters tend to play the exotic markets more than their horse racing cousins. This is probably because they realise that luck plays a greater part in determining the results of greyhound races and, rightly or wrongly, they figure that they should have a crack at winning big for small stakes. Consequently, bets in which punters try to pick either the first two or the first three greyhounds past the post in the correct order are popular.