A History of Greyhound Racing

Greyhound racing has its origins in ‘coursing’ where hounds pursued prey by speed, relying on sight rather than scent to direct them to their prey. Although attempts had been made in America to conduct racing in a straight track, it wasn’t until 1912 that the sport resembled the modern form, with an oval or circular track and a mechanical hare (known as the lure).

The invention of the lure was made by Owen Patrick Smith, whose sought an end to the killing of rabbits in the sport. In 1926, the sport was introduced to Britain by Charles Munn who, along with Brigadier General Critchley, set up the Greyhound Racing Association. What began in Manchester’s Belle Vue soon spread throughout the country and, by 1927, 40 tracks had been opened. The sport gained popularity with working-class males who found the urban locations of the track and the evening race times convenient with their lifestyles. Owners and patrons from a variety of social backgrounds also displayed a keen interest in racing. Not dissimilar to horse racing, the sport has been popular with gamblers since its beginnings. Even today, betting is arguably the central part of the sport, placed both through on-course bookers and the computer-based totalisator, first used in 1930.

Greyhound racing reached its peak attendance in 1946 following the Second World War but, by 1960, off-course cash betting caused numbers to decline. Since then, the abolition of on-course betting tax, television coverage and sponsorship have contributed somewhat to arresting this decline.