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Greyhound Racing

A Brief History of Greyhound Racing in the United Kingdom

Technically, the modern sport of Greyhound racing is quite new addition to the racing world - relatively speaking. However, the racing of dogs has been a much loved British tradition for hundreds of years. The first recorded race involving dogs was recorded in 1776 and is said to have taken place in Swaffham, Norfolk. Back in the day, the running of dogs was known as 'coursing' and the rules specified that two greyhounds were to course (chase and dismember) a single hare, which was given a head start of 240 yards.

In 1876 the mechanical lure was first offered to the racing world in a race of six greyhounds competing to catch an artificial hare. At the time the concept was registered but failed to be adopted as regular practise. It was not until 1926, when the first large scale greyhound race was staged at Belle Vue Stadium in front of an impressive audience of 1,7000 people, that the mechanical hare - an invention of American Owen Patrick Smith - was taken aboard as standard practise.

Today there are 28 licensed greyhound racing venues in the United Kingdom. Although there used to be a lot more in the past, the current stadia are state of the art facilities and run to give the spectators and punters the best greyhound racing experience possible. Just like some of their equine-centric counterparts, these racecourses undergo regular refurbishments and renovations. However, there are also quite a number of so-called 'independent racecourses', which operate outside of the control of the Greyhound Board of Britain. The practise of unregulated greyhound racing is also known as 'flapping'.

How Does Greyhound Racing Work?

Greyhound races in the United Kingdom are limited to six entrants. They were little colour coded jackets, designating which 'traps' - like the stalls in horse racing - they are assigned.

  • Trap 1 = Red jacket with a white number 1
  • Trap 2 = Blue jacket with a white number 2
  • Trap 3 = White jacket with a black number 3
  • Trap 4 = Black jacket with a white number 4
  • Trap 5 = Yellow Jacket with a black number 5
  • Trap 6 = Black and white striped jacket with a red number 6

Once the mechanical hare is one the loose, the hounds are released and a winner is determined only moments later. The betting system is practically identical to betting on horse races, so there should be no great challenge involved if you would like to give it a go.

Famous Greyhounds

Mick The Miller

Active as a racing greyhound from 1929 to 1931, Mick The Miller was led towards a career in racing through divine guidance - being taken to race in White City stadium by Father Martin Brophy, a parish priest. During his career Mick The Miller won five classic races, broke four records and was the first ever dog to win the Greyhound Derby twice in a row. Although his career was quite brief and his records have long since been beaten, his service to the greyhound racing industry by making the sport popular again and giving it its first super star are not forgotten.

Master McGrath

This famed racing canine was active during the coursing days of the sport between 1866 and 1871. He won the Waterloo Cup three times, in 1868, 1869 and 1871. When he died of a heart disease the autopsy showed his heart to be twice the size of a regular dogs heart. A lengthy ballad was written in this exceptional dog's honour, titled simply Master McGrath.