Throughout human history, many racing competitions involving animals were practiced, and many of them become an integral part of a culture within which this racing originated. For instance, camel racing is incredibly popular in the Middle East, in some regions of Africa, Pakistan, and Australia. In some of these countries, this tradition has deeply rooted in the national culture. Pigeon racing, which is probably not that popular all over the world, is considered a national sport in Belgium, where it was invented in the 19th century. Sled dog racing is typical for such territories as the Arctic, Canada and Russia. But if we are talking about greyhound racing and its origin, we will have to take a deeper dive into the history of the United Kingdom, known as the birthplace of this fascinating sport.
The history of greyhound racing in Britain started in the Middle Ages when local noblemen began experimenting with dog breeding. The major goal was to come up with a breed that would possess a strong body and senses, would have a strong hunting instinct, and at the same time, would be agile and dexterous to maneuver between trees and bushes and follow the prey into the burrow. Many of the dog breeds that are well known today emerged during the centuries. The early ancestors of a greyhound were bred specifically for hare hunting.
For quite a long time, there was no strict standard for a greyhound breed. As it is clearly seen from written historical sources, any slender, graceful dog with smooth and short coat, good eyesight, and smell could be called a greyhound. However, as the years passed and dog breeding in England became more and more sophisticated, the clear standard for a greyhound was developed. It sometimes happened in the early 19th century when hare cruising became extremely popular among the nobility and rich.
The first-ever attempt to arrange greyhound racing on the track took place in London in 1876. However, things went wrong because a live hare didn’t race the way race organizers planned to. However, in the early 20th century the things had changed when the American inventor Owen Patrick Smith came up with an idea of a mechanical hare. The first-ever greyhound race on the oval track featuring a mechanical hare happened in Emeryville, California, in 1919. Since the 1930s, most greyhound racing competitions were functioning according to the parimutuel betting system, just like horse racing.
Greyhound racing reached Great Britain in 1926 and was introduced to the locals by another American entrepreneur Charles Mann. The success of the new sport was phenomenal – by 1927, there were more than 40 tracks all across the country. One could hardly be surprised if we got acquainted with Great Britain in those days. On the one hand, the legislation that could effectively regulate this sport wasn’t adopted, and it was pretty easy to open races on your own once you had money and fast dogs. Needless to say, there was no shortage of greyhounds in England. On the other hand, British people have always been big fans of horse racing, and the new sport has become popular in almost no time.
Apart from England, greyhound racing has reached many other countries. For instance, dog racing was introduced to the Irish public in 1927 and had an enormous success among the locals. The same year the first-ever greyhound race was held in the state of New Wales, Australia. Also, this sport became increasingly popular in New Zealand and South Africa. Most of these countries are still holding such events. And it is probably needless to mention that greyhound racing is still one of the biggest sports in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Since the middle of the 20th century, when greyhound racing was at the peak of popularity, it experienced a certain decline. However, it is still very popular in the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Macao, Mexico and Spain. Each country had adopted detailed legislation that defines racing rules and sets standards for dog treatment to protect 4-legged athletes from ill-treatment and steroids. A program for the adoption of retired greyhounds was passed in each country, thanks to which 95% of retired dogs found new loving families once their sports career is over.Also, greyhound racing gained its popularity as a fantasy sport. Since the mid-90s, the dog racing simulators have been available as cabinet-based machines at land-based casinos or as games in an online format. Like any other casino game, fantasy dog racing games feature random number generators, making it absolutely impossible to predict the winner of the race.
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