The sport of Greyhound racing originated in the United States early this century and has become popular throughout the world. It came to Britain in1926, when a dog called Mistley crossed the line ahead of the others in the very first race, at Belle Vue, Manchester. A governing body, the National Greyhound Racing Club, was formed, which licenses approved stadiums and maintains a register of the dogs. All dogs raced on recognized tracks must run under their registered name and must be trained by a licensed trainer. These rules and other precautions protect the public from malpractice. On unlicensed or flapping tracks, numerous in the Midlands and the North of England, racing is more devious. The same dog may run at different tracks under several pseudonyms and may be trained by its owner, limiting the degree of control the stadium can exercise. The Greyhound is primarily a betting medium, and it may suit its owner better for it to lose than to win. Many dogs are run below their best form in order to keep 'a bit in hand' - just before the summer holidays or Christmas, winning times can improve dramatically. Races take place on an oval track, and six dogs run at a time. The distances vary from 300-yard (274m) sprints to goo-yard (823 m) marathons. Since the early days, times have improved greatly, and modern Greyhound stars achieve speeds of up to 40 mph (64 km /h).
This form of racing is traditionally associated with the mining communities in England and was widespread before the Greyhound boom. A straight track was divided into taped lanes, and instead of emerging from traps the whippets were thrown into the race by handlers known as slippers. There was no moving lure, with each dog racing to seize a sack or towel, waved beyond the finishing line by its owner. Today this style of run ning, called rag racing, exists only in the Potteries in the North of England.
Modern whippet racing is a thriving and popular amateur sport with little gambling or foul play. Handicapping may be on time or, more commonly, by weight when a one yard (1 m) advantage for every pound (t kg) of weight difference is given to the lighter dogs. Scaled-down versions of greyhound traps are used, and the whippets chase a lure of rags wound in on an electric pulley. The distance varies from 140-200 yards (128- 183 m), but whippets are equally at home on a greyhound track over 300 yards (274 m). Bitches are usually preferred to dogs of the same weight. Whippet racing is popular throughout the world. In most countries it is confined to pedigree whippets, but in Britain the traditional, specially bred racing strain is more numerous.
The lurcher, a type of dog rather than a specific breed, is sometimes defined as a gypsy or poaching dog. Usually the result of crossing Greyhounds with Terriers and sheepdogs, lurchers are enjoying a considerable vogue at the present, and competitive racing is a feature at most of the lurcher shows which are staged in the summer months. Racing is to a lure, as in Whippet racing, and dogs are set loose by their owners. This results in rather uneven starts, which is proabably no bad thing, as most lurchers have had little or no schooling. up to ten dogs may be run at the same time. Lurchers are by definition supposed to run within their capabilities to enable them to turn quickly on a hare, and racing is not a valid test. It also tends to make them hard-mouthed and spoil them for their proper hunting work.
This is the only racing based on scent and is confined to the fells of northern England. The highly specialized hounds, ofFoxhound origin, follow the line or drag of an extremely odorous sack that has been pulled over several miles of moorland. The course, up to 10 miles (16 km) long, is laid out around a valley so that the hounds are in sight of the spectators most of the time. Once the hounds return to the valley floor and are in view of their owners they are 'ragged' like Whippets to produce a finishing burst. Betting on trail hounds can be heavy, but race meetings are governed by strict rules laid down by the various associations.
This is primarily a North American sport although supporters of the Husky breeds in other parts of the world also practice it. Teams of Huskies pull lightweight racing sleds (or wheeled buggies in warmer climates) over trails of varying lengths. Races may be as short as 10 miles (16 km) or as long as the 1169 miles (1881 km) Iditarod race between Anchorage and Nome.
For the shorter distances, the teams are largely crossbred Huskies with Border Collie, Setter, Greyhound or Coon Hound blood to give speed. The true Huskies are at their best in protracted endurance events. Teams of up to si xteen dogs are driven by the 'musher' and can achieve an average speed of 20 mph (32 km/h); the record for the Iditarods race is fourteen days, more than So miles (129 km) a day.