The Most Exciting Dogs in the World:

Look at the muscles and see the excitement in their eyes! You don’t get that kind of power by sitting around in a crate or being a “couch potato.” You get muscles like that from exercise. You get the energy to run from good nourishment provided by a good trainer. You get a shiny coat from being washed and groomed.

Remember: Nobody forces Greyhounds to run. As anyone who raises them can tell you, that’s impossible. Greyhounds are as opinionated and different from each other as we are – and if there was a way to make them run like we want them to, we would have figured it out long ago!

Greyhounds aren’t horses with riders on their backs telling them what to do. They are not African cheetahs running after gazelles because they are starving. Greyhounds are running for the sheer love of it!

In all of history, what other dog has inspired people to build whole stadiums in its honor? What other dog is so treasured that we build wide-open spaces called racetracks so they can run as safely and as fast as they want to?

Greyhound racetracks are soft and flat, much like playing on the beach. There are no stones for them to step on and hurt their feet, no clumps of grass or holes for them to trip over, and they are simply chasing a toy on the end of a stick.

Greyhounds symbolize passion! The pleasure for them is seeing if they can catch that toy before anybody else does. The pleasure for racing fans who love them, is screaming and hollering and urging them on! Because we know how it feels to set your mind on something and really go for it!

There is a basic need in all of us to set our sights on something and follow a dream. In a society growing ever more rigid and controlled, the sport of Greyhound racing is keeping that instinct alive for all of us. GRA/America is working to make sure that people who love dogs always know what it means to “pour it on” and follow your heart!

THE HISTORY OF GREYHOUND RACING

The connection between mankind and his closest animal friend, the dog, exists for many centuries. Bone fragments found in archaeological digs of Cro-Magnon sites show even primitive man shared his home with dogs.

Around 2500 BC, on the fertile banks of the river Indus - which is now Pakistan, a civilization arose and there a great city was built. Archaeologists digging on the site of the city found a plate of sun dried clay which bears the prints of a cat, and slightly overlapping these are the prints of a dog. These prints were made over 4000 years ago, possibly left in a chase through the dusty streets of the long lost city.

Some of the earliest recorded cases of man's affection to his loyal animal friend are found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. Paintings which adorn the walls of the tombs show every day life in Egypt over 3000 years ago. Among the images of the Gods and farmers and fishermen can be seen representations of the Pharaohs themselves, hunting by chariots which are closely followed by dogs identical to today's Greyhounds and Salukis.

In fact, the greyhound's link with the Royalty of Ancient Egypt is as impressive for it's time as any name-dropper could quote today. Tutankhamen, Amenhotep II, Thutmose III, Queen Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra VII are all known to have had Greyhounds of their own.

History is littered with snippets of Greyhound lore.

For instance, the Greyhound is the only breed of dog to be mentioned by name in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31)

In ancient Arabian culture, the birth of a litter of greyhounds, (or more probably their eastern cousin, the Saluki) was considered only slightly less important than the birth of the owner's own son. Also, the greyhound was the only dog allowed into the tents and allowed to ride atop their camels!

Other famous names from history known to have had a liking for the Greyhound include Odysseus, who after being away from home for twenty years was recognized only by his faithful hound, Argus. (Not bad for a dog over twenty years old, but then the story goes on to say that poor Argus dropped dead shortly after)

Diana, the huntress of Roman lore was also believed to be appreciative of the greyhound, or sighthound as they were known then. One story tells of her gift of a greyhound named Lelaps to her friend Procris. Lelaps chased a hare, which for some reason was favoured by the Gods. They promptly turned Lelaps and the hare into stone, evidence of which can be found in the abundance of such statues that remain in celebration of the event even to this day.

It was probably the Romans who introduced the sport of coursing to Britain, though the sport was already popular among the Celts living in Europe at- the time of the Roman invasion.

The Greyhound's royal connections continued through the middle ages, when they were popular with such historical figures as King Canute of England and King Howel of Wales.

At the time of the Norman invasion the Greyhound was a favorite among the aristocracy, who even went so far as to ban commoners from owning such dogs. Of course the ordinary folk of the day stuck up two fingers to the new nobility and bred dogs with much greater color variation in their coats, brindle being a favorite as it made the dogs more difficult to spot as they hunted on the lands from which they had been banned.

Still, the greyhound's reputation was untarnished among the ruling classes. Lords and gentlemen had their to-mbs designed with the effigy of a faithful greyhound, waiting forever at the feet of it's beloved master.

The true origin of how we come to know this lithesome animal as the "Greyhound" is lost in antiquity. The breed's modern English name has been traced back to the middle English "Greihound" which it is believed originated in the Icelandic "Greyhundr" by way of the old English name "Grighund". Since the people of Iceland are descended from the Norse people, it is a fair assumption that the Vikings, who occupied the north of England at the time of the Norman Conquest, were aware of the greyhound's hunting prowess and took the breed to their own hearts.

For hundreds of years after the Norman invasion, the Greyhound's popularity among the nobility never waned. Mentioned in the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare, the Greyhound continued to figure as an essential part of the lives of the well-to-do.

But the sport called coursing, in which a dog chases a game animal, really was the pre-cursor to greyhound racing.  Scenes of what appear to be coursing have been found on Egyptian tombs dating back to before 2500 BC and the dogs depicted look very much like modern greyhounds.

Coursing a stag in the 1670sThe greyhound is an exceptional hunting dog because of its speed and vision. Unlike most hunting dogs, the greyhound doesn't have an acute sense of smell. Instead of scenting quarry, it tends to chase moving objects, which it can spot at long distances, and it can run up to 45 miles an hour in its pursuit.

In Medieval England, commoners were forbidden to own greyhounds, so the dog became a symbol of high status. The dogs roamed freely through the grounds and palaces of nobility, catching and killing rodents.

Coursing in 19th-century EnglandOriginally, coursing was a sport that exhibited a single dog's skill in sighting and catching a game animal. During the 16th century, though, it became a competitive sport, with two dogs matched against one another in a race for the game. The owners of the dogs usually had a sizeable bet on the result and, at some coursing races, spectators also gathered and placed side bets on one dog or the other.

The first official coursing meet was held in 1776 at Swaffham, Norfolk, England. The rules of the Swaffham Coursing Society specified that only two greyhounds were to course a single hare and that the hare was to be given a head start of 240 yards.

In 1837, the Waterloo Cup Meet was established as a coursing tournament for greyhounds, and it's been run annually ever since then. During the late 19th century, the meet drew crowds of up to 75,000.

Greyhound racing with an artificial lure was introduced at Hendon, England, on Sept. 11, 1876. Six dogs raced over a 400-yard straight course, chasing an artificial hare riding on "an apparatus like a skate on wheels" along a single track, according to a newspaper account.

Dubbed "coursing by proxy," the race drew little interest and the idea was abandoned. But it was revived 31 years later in the United States.

There were greyhounds in the United States at least as early as 1848, when a coursing contest, with antelopes as the quarry, was briefly mentioned in a book about Oregon and California.

George Custer is seated outside his tent with scouts and two reclining dogs.Cavalry officers serving in the West often kept greyhounds because they could both catch game and help scouts by detecting movement at a distance. Among the greyhound fanciers was George Armstrong Custer, who coursed his pack of greyhounds the night before the fateful Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Major James H. "Hound Dog" Kelly learned to breed and train greyhounds while he was Custer's orderly. In 1878, Kelly's team of four greyhounds set what was considered a record by running down six out of a dozen antelopes. That's generally considered the start of American coursing.

As farms spread through the Midwest and into the West after the Civil War, many greyhounds were imported from England to help protect crops from jackrabbits. Coursing meets, usually with two competing dogs chasing a live rabbit, became popular Sunday afternoon diversions. They were also sometimes staged, along with harness racing, at county fairs.

Women spectators enjoy dog racing at a country fair.In 1905, Owen Patrick Smith was director of the chamber of commerce in Hot Springs, South Dakota. He was delegated to organize a coursing meet to attract visitors to the town. The meet was successful, but Smith felt that the sport was cruel. He began thinking about ways to make coursing a more humane sport with broader spectator appeal. Smith probably didn't know about the English "coursing by proxy" experiment of 1876, but he came up with the same basic idea: greyhounds chasing an artificial hare instead of a live one. He also improved on the idea by envisioning a race on an oval track rather than a straight course.

He brought his idea to George Sawyer, a wealthy greyhound owner who had many other interests, including a boxing arena in Oakland, California. Sawyer at first refused to give Smith any financial help. Like many greyhound owners of the time, he insisted that a greyhound wouldn't even chase a lure that didn't have a scent.

Nevertheless, Smith persevered. He organized the Intermountain Coursing Association and built a small circular track near Salt Lake City in 1907, where his artificial lure was introduced. It was a stuffed rabbit skin, pulled around the track behind a motorcycle. It worked, but Smith wasn't entirely happy with it.

Sawyer was impressed by the trial, though, and became Smith's financial backer. In 1910, Smith patented an "inanimate hare conveyor," basically an overhead arm that carried the artificial rabbit, trolley-like, along the track. Unfortunately, the device failed in its first test when water short-circuited the system.

It wasn't until 1919 that Smith had another major opportunity for a public demonstration of his idea for greyhound racing. In 1919, Sawyer and other businessmen financed construction of a track and grandstand at Emeryville, California, using the lumber from Sawyer's dismantled boxing arena. Smith had a new device, a motorized four-wheel cart that carried the lure on a rail around the 3/16-mile track. Attendance, though, was disappointing and several races were halted because the cart left its track.

Sawyer had become a believer, but he felt that greyhound racing would attract spectators only if they could place bets on the races. Smith was personally opposed to gambling, but he reluctantly agreed. They moved their operation to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and allowed bookmakers take bets. Although Smith's lure mechanism still wasn't perfect, the meeting was a success.

The Tulsa venture also produced the first great racing greyhound, Mission Bay, who won 28 of 30 career races.

After five weeks in Tulsa, Sawyer and Smith moved on to East St. Louis, Illinois. The races were so popular there that companies complained about employees missing work to go to the track, so night racing was introduced and was even more popular.

This postcard shows a Florida greyhound track during the 1930s.Despite an average daily attendance of about 2,000 during the five-week meet, the $100,000 track went bankrupt and Sawyer lost interest in the venture. Smith then headed to Florida, where he got the financial backing that made greyhound racing a permanent success.

The first Florida track was built in 1922 in an area called Humbuggus, which was later renamed Hialeah and became better known for Thoroughbred racing. The key to success was night racing, which began in 1925. After establishing that track, Smith moved around the country, helping set up tracks in Erlanger, Kentucky; New Orleans; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Butte, Montana; and East St. Louis once more.

The sport had its fastest growth in Florida. The Hialeah operation closed down in 1926, but other dog racing tracks were established at St. Petersburg in 1925, Miami in 1926, Sanford-Orlando and Miami Beach in 1927. The West Flagler Kennel Club became Miami's second track in 1930 and a track opened at Tampa in 1932.

Meanwhile, greyhound racing had also become very popular in England. Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, in 1925 made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for exclusive rights to use the artificial lure in Great Britain. Munn, with several English backers, formed the Greyhound Racing Association in 1926. Within two years, there were 68 dog tracks operating or under construction in the British Isles.

By 1930, many dog tracks, especially those in Florida, had acquired unsavory reputations because of their involvement with mobsters. A major problem was that betting had to be done through bookmakers, most of whom already had gangland links.

Parimutuel betting was legalized in Florida in 1932, primarily as a way to bring more revenue to the state during the Great Depression. Under government regulation, many safeguards were established to prevent the fixing of races.

The start of a greyhound raceMassachusetts also legalized pari-mutuel betting on greyhound races in 1934 and two major tracks opened there the following year. During the next several years, seven more states legalized betting on the sport. There are now 46 greyhound tracks in 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The American Greyhound Track Operators Association (AGTOA), founded by Florida track owners in 1947, became a national organization in 1960. The National Greyhound Association, established in 1906, is responsible for registering racing greyhounds.

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