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    Simulating the Chase: Mechanical Hares in Greyhound Racing
Simulating the Chase: Mechanical Hares in Greyhound Racing
Mechanical hare. Source: https://www.grv.org.au/know-the-facts/greyhound-education-and-training/

Simulating the Chase: Mechanical Hares in Greyhound Racing

In greyhound racing, the pursuit of prey instinct inherent in the breed is simulated through the use of mechanical hares. These artificial baits mimic the movement of a hare, enticing the dogs to chase them around the oval track. To ensure the safety and ethical treatment of the animals involved, live animals or their body parts are strictly prohibited from being used as bait.

Various types of mechanical hares are employed in greyhound racing, each designed to replicate the elusive movements of a hare while ensuring the welfare of the participating dogs. These mechanical hares can take the form of a bunch of plastic shaped like a whisk, a piece of durable fabric, or a toy resembling a hare. Additionally, some mechanical hares may utilise the skin of animals such as sheepskin, although this practice has become less common due to ethical concerns.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) vehemently opposes the use of live animals or their body parts as bait in greyhound racing, advocating for the humane treatment of animals in both training and competition settings. As such, the use of mechanical hares serves as a humane and ethical alternative, ensuring that greyhound racing remains a safe and enjoyable sport for both participants and spectators alike. 

Artificial hare. Source: https://greyhoundcare.grv.org.au/lures/
Artificial hare. Source: https://greyhoundcare.grv.org.au/lures/

How Mechanical Hares Operate

Modern mechanical hare systems typically adhere to a shared principle, albeit with variations in implementation. A rail is installed along the perimeter of the racetrack oval, positioned either on its outer or inner side. A cable is then drawn along this rail, with multiple pulleys situated around the rail to maintain its tension. Attached to this cable is a carriage adorned with artificial fur or fabric, representing the hare. An electric motor propels the cable into motion, initiating the journey of the carriage along the track.

Although the concept seems straightforward, the system itself is intricately designed, comprising numerous moving parts. Consequently, it demands regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure smooth operation and prevent malfunctions.

Greyhound racing. Source: https://www.top10bettingsites.co.uk/greyhounds/what-is-a-greyhound-lure-and-what-are-the-different-types/
Greyhound racing. Source: https://www.top10bettingsites.co.uk/greyhounds/what-is-a-greyhound-lure-and-what-are-the-different-types/

Mechanical Hare Systems Evolution in the United Kingdom

The introduction of artificial hares in greyhound racing traces back to the pioneering efforts of American Owen Patrick Smith, who spearheaded the promotion of this sport in England during the 1920s.

Building upon Smith's groundwork, James McKee, director of the Irish Dalmore Hippodrome, alongside engineer Jim Scott, refined the mechanical hare system by concealing the hare-carrying mechanism underground. This innovation, known as the McKee/Scott hare, proved highly effective and gained widespread adoption across racetracks.

In the early 1990s, the Swaffham hare system emerged as a game-changer at its eponymous stadium. Spearheaded by Tom Smith, the stadium's general manager, and his son Gavin, this system improved upon the McKee/Scott hare, simplifying its design and enhancing the hare's manoeuvrability. The resounding success of the Swaffham ground system led to its widespread adoption across the UK, with a dedicated company established to produce spare parts.

Subsequent developments saw the emergence of other hare systems such as Sumner, Seeley, and Fennon, each boasting unique features and finding their respective followers. For instance, the Sumner system features a hare attached to a low rail, while the Bramich system employs a long rod to suspend the hare from a vertical rail.

Today, the Swaffham system reigns supreme across most racecourses in the UK, embodying the pinnacle of mechanical hare technology. While other systems like the Seeley system were once prevalent at venues like Coventry Racecourse (now closed), the Swaffham system has become the gold standard, ensuring the continued excitement and integrity of greyhound racing in the United Kingdom. 

Safechase system with remote control. Source: https://www.sterilineracing.com/our-products/dog-racing-lure/#:~:text=Traditionally%2C%20greyhound%20racing%20lure%20systems,should%20the%20cable%20system%20fail
Safechase system with remote control. Source: https://www.sterilineracing.com/our-products/dog-racing-lure/#:~:text=Traditionally%2C%20greyhound%20racing%20lure%20systems,should%20the%20cable%20system%20fail

Steriline Racing's Remote-Controlled Mechanical Hare

Steriline Racing, an Australian company, is revolutionising the greyhound racing market with its cutting-edge, battery-powered, remote-controlled mechanical hare system. Unlike traditional systems, Steriline's innovative approach eliminates the need for cumbersome cables and rollers, streamlining the infrastructure while enhancing efficiency and safety.

Powered by a lithium-ion battery, Steriline's electric hare can facilitate up to 50 races on a single charge, offering unmatched endurance and reliability. With maintenance costs significantly reduced and energy consumption slashed by 80%, racecourse operators can enjoy unprecedented cost savings while delivering top-tier racing experiences.

One of the key advantages of Steriline's system lies in its heightened security, as the absence of cables eliminates the risk of breakage at high speeds, ensuring uninterrupted races. Moreover, the versatility of the system allows for the use of bait hares of various designs, accommodating races for dogs with diverse physical characteristics.

Exciting prospects emerge with the potential integration of a camera on the carriage, enabling live broadcasts of races directly from the track during competitions. This technological innovation not only enhances the spectator experience but also opens doors to new audiences, particularly those accustomed to digital platforms.

While traditional forms of racing may hold sway in UK racecourses for now, the inevitability of progress cannot be denied. Steriline's remote-controlled mechanical hare represents just one example of the innovative solutions reshaping the future of greyhound racing. As the industry evolves to embrace new ideas and technologies, it is poised to attract a broader audience and secure its position in the digital age.

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