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    The Evolution of Greyhound Racing - From Ancient Rome to London
The Evolution of Greyhound Racing - From Ancient Rome to London

The Evolution of Greyhound Racing - From Ancient Rome to London

The world of greyhound racing is fuelled by passion and competition, a deep-seated desire to triumph and emerge as the first, and therefore, the best – a concept ingrained in the human psyche since ancient times. Amidst wars and sports, the ancient Romans sought to satiate this thirst in a somewhat indirect manner, orchestrating battles between gladiators or animals.

Though dog fighting is now universally banned, it once thrived as an industry in the 19th century. Concurrently, alongside these brutal life-and-death clashes, more humane contests emerged, focusing on the running speed of dogs. As far back as the 1st century BC, the ancient Greek historian and geographer Flavius Arrian detailed greyhound competitions pursuing live game in his treatise "On Hound Hunting."

Initially, the game involved a rabbit, driven out of a hole with the aid of a ferret. Later, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, it transitioned to a hare pursued by a pair of greyhounds. A judge trailed this group of "athletes," assessing which dog exhibited the best speed, agility, and intelligence.

Concerns for the welfare of the hare prompted vehement protests from humane societies against the use of live bait. Consequently, from 1870, races shifted to straight tracks up to 200 meters long. Instead of live bait, owners stood at the end of the track, enticing their dogs with rags. The sound of the starting pistol marked the release of the dogs from their cages, a few seconds of furious running, the exuberant cheers of the audience, bets placed, victories and defeats - this form of entertainment for homo sapiens evolved into a burgeoning industry.

Yet, the intrigue lay with the hare. In 1876, the first mechanical race unfolded in Great Britain, with six dogs chasing an artificial hare along a 400-yard straight line. Despite its novelty, this form of competition initially struggled to gain traction, and the excitement around the races waned.

At the turn of the 20th century, dog racing experienced a revival in the United States, gaining momentum and popularity. In 1926, a group of enthusiasts breathed new life into dog competitions in Great Britain, establishing the Greyhound Racing Association. The first competition took place at the Belle Vue stadium on an oval track, where seven magnificent greyhounds raced to catch an electric hare. Subsequently, tracks opened in London, and the races proved not only spectacular but also financially successful.

Since then, the greyhound racing industry has flourished, navigating peaks and troughs, capturing the attention of enthusiasts, and either replenishing or depleting the wallets of dedicated fans. It also caters to those who revel in betting on races, infusing the activity with excitement, courage, and a high dose of adrenaline. Dog racing provides people with a sense of celebration, elevating them above the mundanity of everyday life.

The greyhound racing industry supports thousands of individuals, ranging from dog owners, and kennel and stadium workers to veterinarians, trainers, groomers, bookmakers, cashiers, experts, and dog handlers. The races span continents, encompassing Europe, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. Despite continuous advocacy by animal protection societies for a ban on competitions due to potential injuries and exploitation, the fervour for races endures, with some even being held clandestinely.

Alas, the human passion persists!

In London, bets on weekdays reach a substantial £7,000, and on weekends, the stakes are even higher. Numerous sports exchanges operate, where people place bets, experiencing both losses and fortunes. The pursuit of a mechanical hare in circles seems destined to endure, as the human thirst for victory knows no bounds.


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