Greyhound racing

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Several greyhounds before a race.

Greyhound racing is an organized, competitive sport in which greyhound dogs are raced around a track. There are two forms of greyhound racing, track racing (normally around an oval track) and coursing.[1] Track racing uses an artificial lure (now based on a windsock)[2] that travels ahead of the dogs on a rail until the greyhounds cross the finish line. As with horse racing, greyhound races often allow the public to bet on the outcome. In coursing the dogs chase a lure (originally a live hare or rabbit that could be killed by the dog).[3]

In many countries greyhound racing is purely amateur and solely for enjoyment. In other countries, particularly Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, Spain, the UK and the US, greyhound racing is part of the gambling industry and similar to horse racing - although far less profitable. Animal rights groups are critical of the welfare of dogs in the commercial racing industry where, in some countries, dog trainers illegally use live baiting.[4] A greyhound adoption movement has arisen to assist retired racing dogs in finding homes as pets, with an estimated adoption rate of over 90% in the USA.[5]


Greyhound during a race.

Modern greyhound racing has its origins in coursing.[6] The first recorded attempt at racing greyhounds on a straight track was made beside the Welsh Harp reservoir, Hendon, England, in 1876, but this experiment did not develop. The industry emerged in its recognizable modern form, featuring circular or oval tracks, with the invention of the mechanical or artificial hare, in 1912, by an American, Owen Patrick Smith. O.P. Smith had altruistic aims for the industry to stop the killing of the jack rabbits and see "greyhound racing as we see horse racing".[citation needed] In 1919, Smith opened the first professional dog-racing track with stands in Emeryville, California.[7] The certificates system[clarification needed] led the way to parimutuel betting, as quarry and on-course gambling, in the United States during the 1930s.

The oval track and mechanical hare were introduced to Britain, in 1926, by another American, Charles Munn, in association with Major Lyne-Dixson, a Canadian, who was a key figure in coursing. Finding other supporters proved to rather difficult however and with the General Strike of 1926 looming, the two men scoured the country in an attempt to find others who would join them. Eventually they met Brigadier-General Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle.[1] Between them they raised £22,000 and like the American 'International Greyhound Racing Association' (or the I.G.R.A.), they launched the Greyhound Racing Association[8] holding the first British meeting at Manchester's Belle Vue Stadium. The industry was successful in cities and towns throughout the U.K. - by the end of 1927, there were forty tracks operating.

The industry of greyhound racing was particularly attractive to predominantly male working-class audiences, for whom the urban locations of the tracks and the evening times of the meetings were accessible, and to patrons and owners from various social backgrounds. Betting has always been a key ingredient of greyhound racing, both through on-course bookmakers and the totalisator, first introduced in 1930. Like horse racing, it is popular to bet on the greyhound races as a form of parimutuel gambling.

Greyhound racing enjoyed its highest UK attendances just after the Second World War— for example, there were 34 million paying spectators in 1946. The industry experienced a decline from the early 1960s- after the 1960 UK Betting and Gaming Act permitted off-course cash betting. Sponsorship, limited television coverage, and the later abolition of on-course betting tax have partially offset this decline.


Greyhounds rounding a turn on a track.

Commercial greyhound racing is characterized by several criteria, including legalized gambling, the existence of a regulatory structure, the physical presence of racetracks, whether the host state or subdivision shares in any gambling proceeds, fees charged by host locations, the use of professional racing kennels, the number of dogs participating in races, the existence of an official racing code, and membership in a greyhound racing federation or trade association.

In addition to the eight countries where commercial greyhound racing exists, in at least twenty-one countries dog racing occurs but has not reached a commercial stage.

In 2016, a bill was passed through the government of the state New South Wales, in Australia to ban greyhound racing. This new law will come into effect mid 2017.

Medical care[edit]

Greyhound adoption groups frequently report that the dogs from the tracks have tooth problems, the cause of which is debated. The groups often also find that the dogs carry tick-borne diseases and parasites due to the lack of proper preventative treatments. The dogs require regular vaccination to minimize outbreaks of diseases such as kennel cough.[9]

Recently[when?], doping has also emerged as a problem in greyhound racing. The racing industry is actively working to prevent the spread of this practice; attempts are being made to recover urine samples from all greyhounds in a race, not just the winners. Greyhounds from which samples cannot be obtained for a certain number of consecutive races are subject to being ruled off the track. Violators are subject to criminal penalties and loss of their racing licenses by state gaming commissions and a permanent ban from the National Greyhound Association. The trainer of the greyhound is at all times the "absolute insurer" of the condition of the animal. The trainer is responsible for any positive test regardless of how the banned substance has entered the greyhound's system.[9]

Life after racing[edit]

Generally, a greyhound's career will end between the ages of four and six – after the dog can no longer race, or possibly when it is no longer competitive. The best dogs are kept for breeding, and there are both industry-associated adoption groups and rescue groups that work to obtain retired racing greyhounds and place them as pets. In the United Kingdom, according to the BBC, one in four retired greyhounds finds a home as a pet.[10] In the United States, prior to the formation of adoption groups, over 20,000 retired greyhounds a year were killed; recent estimates still number in the thousands, with the industry claiming that about 90% of National Greyhound Association-registered animals either being adopted, or returned for breeding purposes (according to the industry numbers upwards of 2000 dogs are still euthanized annually in the US while anti-racing groups estimating the figure at closer to 12,000.)[11] Other greyhounds are sold to research labs, such as Liverpool university animal training school, who have received the remains of dogs killed at Manchester's Belle Vue stadium.[12] A trainer in Lincolnshire was also exposed offering 'slow' dogs to the Liverpool school.[13][14] Additionally dogs are sent to foreign racetracks such as Spain and sometimes in developing countries.[citation needed] In the North East of England a man is believed to have destroyed as many as 10,000 healthy greyhounds with a captive bolt gun.[15]

Several organizations, such as British Greyhounds Retired Database, Greyhound Rescue West of England, Birmingham Greyhound Protection, GAGAH, Adopt-a-Greyhound and Greyhound Pets of America, and the Retired Greyhound Trust try to ensure that as many of the dogs as possible are adopted. Some of these groups also advocate better treatment of the dogs while at the track and/or the end of racing for profit. In recent years the racing industry has made significant progress in establishing programs for the adoption of retired racers. In addition to actively cooperating with private adoption groups throughout the country, many race tracks have established their own adoption programs at various tracks.


Crated greyhound at Jefferson County Kennel Club

Greyhound racing has been a source of controversy since the 1980s. A number of animal welfare organizations are critical of the greyhound racing industry, alleging that industry standard practices are cruel and inhumane, and that the industry violates animal welfare laws and conceals evidence of wrongdoing.

There has also been criticism of commercial racing internationally, particularly regarding the overbreeding of dogs, concealment of injury figures and high euthanasia rates. An independent 2014 review of the Irish Greyhound Board criticized the body's corporate governance, its handling of animal welfare issues, and poor financial performance.[16]

The humane community has utilized the legislative process to end dog racing and improve the conditions for racing greyhounds. For example, in March 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a measure that prohibited commercial greyhound racing in Colorado, making it the 39th state to outlaw the activity.[17]

In Australia, Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) Chief Executive Brent Hogan said in 2013 that an estimated 3,000 greyhounds are euthanized each year in that state alone.[18]

In February 2015, a report by television program Four Corners discovered the use of 'live bait' to train dogs for racing in Australia.[19] This is illegal in many countries, including the UK and Australia, and against the rules and regulations of the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006.[20][21]

Australian former High Court judge Michael McHugh conducted a Special Commission of Inquiry for the Australian state of New South Wales.[22] The review evaluated the breeding and wastage practices, the use of coursing and live baiting by some trainers, and the reporting rate of deaths of dogs at race tracks. The review concluded that there was widespread cover-ups and deception of the public. Some key findings in the report included: a high death rate, where at least 48, 891 uncompetitive greyhounds were killed over the past 12 years, and the under reporting of greyhound deaths and injuries despite a recent undercover expose. The report also found up to 20% of trainers engaged in illegal live baiting practices, and that for the industry to remain viable, 2,000 to 4,000 greyhounds would still be killed each year.[23] New South Wales premier Mike Baird announced that all greyhound racing would be banned in the state from 1 July 2017.[24]

By country[edit]


Further information: Greyhound racing in Australia

The Australian Greyhound Racing Association (AGRA) is divided into many state governing bodies, which regulate greyhound welfare and living conditions. Some racing authorities in Australia, partly finance some of the Greyhound Adoption Groups, which house dozens of greyhounds a month.[citation needed]

Each Australian state and territory has a governing greyhound racing body. Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) and Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) are the two largest authorities, governing over 40 racetracks. The Queensland Greyhound Racing Authority (QGRA), Western Australian Greyhound Racing Authority (WAGRA), Tasmanian Greyhound Racing Authority (TGRA), Greyhound Racing South Australia (GRSA), Northern Territory Racing Authority, and the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club (CGRC), all contribute to running and monitoring of greyhound racing in Australia.

Major greyhound racing venues include Wentworth Park in Sydney, Cannington Raceway in Perth, Greyhound Park in Adelaide, Albion Park in Brisbane and Sandown Greyhounds in Melbourne.[25]

Many adoption programs have been set up throughout Australia known as Greyhound Adoption Program or Greyhounds As Pets, GAP. They generally work with their Greyhound Racing Administration. Greyhounds are checked for parasites, malnourishment, or any other medical conditions by an on-course vet before being able to compete.[citation needed]

Greyhounds are usually bought and sold as puppies just after having been whelped or as racing dogs that have been fully trained via word of mouth on the track or via the few greyhound trading and sales platforms. In Australia the buying and selling of greyhounds is controlled and regulated by the states and territories.

A 2015 television investigation revealed widespread use of small live animals as bait, to train greyhounds to chase and kill.[26] As a result, many in the industry called for a complete overhaul of greyhound racing's controlling bodies in Australia.[27]

New South Wales and ACT ban[edit]

On 5 May 2015 former Justice of the High Court Michael McHugh was appointed to head the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW.[28]

On 7 July 2016, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced that greyhound racing was to be banned in the state from 1 July 2017 after the inquiry found overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting.[28][29][30] After the NSW announcement, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Minister Andrew Barr stated that greyhound racing would be banned in the ACT.[31]

In response a rally was held in Sydney,[32] and legal action taken in the Supreme Court of NSW.[33] After running newspaper advertisements supporting the ban, the NSW Government was criticised by Brenton Scott, the chief executive of the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association. Luke Foley, NSW Labor leader, led his party's opposition to the ban.[34] In August 2016 legislation was introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly and three National MPs crossed the floor to vote against the government; with one Liberal MP abstaining from the vote. On 24 August the legislation passed the lower house.[35][36]

On 11 October 2016 the NSW ban was reversed, with several conditions.[37]


Greyhound racing is a popular industry in Ireland with the majority of tracks falling under the control of the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) which is a commercial semi-state body and reports to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.[38] The vast majority of greyhounds racing in UK are imported from Irish breeders (estimated 90%). In the greyhound industry Northern Irish tracks are considered to be in the category of Irish greyhound racing and the results are published by the IGB. They do not come under the control of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, around 700 dogs are bred each year for racing[39] (Take average from "Greyhounds Named" table), and around 500 are imported from Australia.[40] Over 200 are retired annually by a charity established and partially funded by the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association.[41] Many greyhounds are kept as pets or rehomed by their trainers after racing as well as a large number rehomed by other greyhound adoption organizations throughout the country. Some greyhounds are even returned to overseas owners. Greyhound racing is a NZ$75 million industry[citation needed]. There is some concern over the welfare of New Zealand racing greyhounds by a small Anti Racing community [42] that has led the racing industry to initiate its own internal inquiry into their outcomes, injuries and welfare.[43]

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa dogs are kept with their owners. Due to the amateur state of racing, owners are usually also the trainer and rearer of the dogs; it is very rare that a dog is kenneled with a trainer.[citation needed]

Racing is controlled by a partnership between the United Greyhound Racing and Breeders Society (UGRABS) and the South African Renhond Unie (SARU - South African Racing Dog Union). The studbook is kept by the South African Studbook and organization who keep studbooks for all stud animals. Racing takes place on both oval and straight tracks. Racing is illegal in South Africa.

United Kingdom[edit]

Greyhound racing is a popular industry in Great Britain with attendances at around 3.2 million at over 5,750 meetings in 2007. There are 26 registered stadiums in Britain, and a parimutuel betting tote system with on-course and off-course betting available, with a turnover of £75,100,000.[44]

On 24 July 1926, in front of 1,700 spectators, the first greyhound race took place at Belle Vue Stadium where seven greyhounds raced round an oval circuit to catch an electric artificial hare.[45] This marked the first ever modern greyhound race in Great Britain.

Greyhound racing in Great Britain is regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).[46] Greyhounds are not kept at the tracks, and are instead housed in the kennels of trainers and transported to the tracks to race. Those who race on the independent circuit (known as 'flapping'), do not have this regulation.

There have been 133 regulated tracks (117 in England, 11 in Scotland and 5 in Wales) and 256 known independent tracks since 1926.[8]

Some of the more prominent stadiums that have closed where greyhound racing has been staged in the past are as follows: White City Stadium, Walthamstow Stadium, Wembley Stadium at Wembley Park, Harringay Stadium, West Ham Stadium, Powderhall Stadium, White City Stadium, Glasgow and Cardiff Arms Park.The Stadium between the wars

Greyhound racing began at Wembley in December 1927. Almost 50,000 people attended that first meeting. The last greyhound meeting at Wembley was held on 18th December 1998, 71 years later.

Greyhound racing as a whole in the UK has been in terminal decline for several decades now, as there were once 33 greyhound stadiums alone in London, now only three are left (Crayford, Romford and Wimbledon).

United States[edit]

Status of greyhound racing in the United States:
  Legal and practiced
  Legal, but not practiced
Ear tattoo on an American racing greyhound. Ear tattoos are used for identification of dogs during their racing careers.

In the United States, greyhound racing is governed by state law. Industry attempts at self-regulation have been criticized by humane organizations.[47] There are strict industry imposed enforcement system, in conjunction with state and local laws.[48]

At American tracks greyhounds are kept in kennel compounds, in crates that are approximately three feet wide, four feet deep, and three feet high.[49] Most kennels turn the dogs out 4 to 6 times per day. Each turnout can be from 30 to 90 minutes.[50] Because greyhound kennels often house upwards of 50-70 dogs, crating is essential to the safety and wellbeing of canine life.[51] Greyhounds are cared for by professional and licensed staff.

In addition to state law and regulations, most tracks adopt their own rules, policies and procedures. In exchange for the right to race their greyhounds at the track, kennel owners must sign contracts in which they agree to abide by all track rules, including those pertaining to animal welfare. If kennel owners violate these contract clauses, they stand to lose their track privileges and even their racing licenses. In order to be licensed to own, handle a race dog or work in a kennel, dog professionals must have a FBI background check and be licensed by the states. Additionally, the National Greyhound Association holds their membership to strict standards towards the care and handling of the athletes. Failure to comply can result in lifetime termination of membership and a ban from the sport.

In recent years, several state governments in the United States have passed legislation to improve the treatment of racing dogs in their jurisdiction. During the 1990s, seven states banned gambling on live greyhound racing. In November 2008, Massachusetts held a vote to ban greyhound racing, which passed 56% to 44%. Currently, 40 states and the territory of Guam have standing laws banning the practice, and 5 more states, Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin, do not practise greyhound racing despite the practice not being illegal there.[52]

In late 2016, Texas plans to re-introduce greyhound racing.[53] In addition to Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and West Virginia have active racing industries. Fifteen states without live racing allow simulcast betting on greyhound races in other states.[54]

Between 2001 and 2011, the total amount gambled on greyhound racing nationwide declined by 67%.[55]

In Florida, where 12 of the operational dog tracks in the US remain, the financial decline is even more significant. In the state, the amount gambled at dog tracks declined by 72% between 1990 and 2013.[56] According to a study commissioned by the legislature, the state lost between $1 million and $3.3 million on greyhound racing in 2012.[57] As recently as 2016, Florida industry professionals are starting to question if wagering is seeing a decline or just transitioning to unreported online formats [58]

List of United States active tracks[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Genders, Roy (1981). the Encyclopaedia of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7207-1106-1. 
  2. ^ "American Greyhound Council - Frequently Asked Questions About Greyhound Pets". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "Shocking New Audio Of Cruel "Live Lure" Greyhound Training - Care2 Causes". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "Page Not Found". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "American Greyhound Council - Adoption Programs". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "dog racing." Encyclopædia Britannica, Online Library Edition, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2012. Web. 5 Feb. 2012
  7. ^ Jane Alexiadis, What's it Worth? Greyhound collection sale to benefit charity, San Jose Mercury News (Dec. 23, 2011).
  8. ^ a b "Greyhound Racing History". 
  9. ^ a b "Answers to Commonly Asked Questions". Greyhound Protection League Official. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Inside Out - West: Monday 24th February 2003". BBC Inside Out. BBC. 2003-02-24. Archived from the original on 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  11. ^ Greyhound Racing Association media kit: The referenced industry figures do not include information about unregistered litters, nor outcomes for dogs after they finished as breeding dogs. The statistics vary depending on the reporting organization. According to the Greyhound Network News one page fact sheet estimates that of the 26,600 greyhounds that were no longer racing in 2005, 45% and of them were euthanized by either groups that could not adopt them out or by the dog breeders via farm culling.
  12. ^ Qureshi, Yakub (28 April 2010). "¿30 injured greyhounds put down at dog track". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  13. ^ Foggo, Daniel (May 11, 2008). "Greyhound breeder offers slow dogs to be killed for research". The Times. London. 
  14. ^ Jeory, Ted (29 May 2010). "Agony of caged greyhounds". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  15. ^ Foggo, Daniel (July 16, 2006). "Killing field of the dog racing industry". The Times. London. 
  16. ^ "Bord na gCon faces 'significant challenges' financially". The Irish Times. July 7, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Greyhound racing ban signed into law in Colorado". The Denver Post. The Associated Press. March 10, 2014. 
  18. ^ "About 3000 unwanted greyhound racing dogs put down each year in NSW". The Australian. November 15, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Greyhound racing: Piglets possums and rabbits used as live bait in secret training sessions Four Corners reveals". ABC News. February 16, 2015. 
  20. ^ Animal Welfare Act 2006
  21. ^ Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "NSW bans greyhound racing after evidence of systemic cruelty". 7 July 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  25. ^ "Australian Greyhound Racing". 
  26. ^ "Australian Greyhound Racing News". 
  27. ^ Pitstock, Kevin (18 February 2015). "Greyhound racing boards and stewards must resign". Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  28. ^ a b "Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW". Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  29. ^ "Greyhound racing to be banned in New South Wales, Baird Government announces". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 July 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  30. ^ Greyhound Racing Regulation 2016, available at:
  31. ^ Belot, Henry (11 July 2016). "ACT government says it can no longer support greyhound racing after NSW decision". Canberra Times. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  32. ^ "Hundreds protest greyhound racing ban as Mike Baird seeks to calm MPs". The Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 1 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  33. ^ "Greyhound racing ban: industry alliance launches challenge in supreme court". The Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  34. ^ Davey, Melissa (1 August 2016). "Anti-greyhound racing ads a misuse of NSW public funds, says industry". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  35. ^ Fogarty, Siobhan (24 August 2016). "Greyhound racing ban: Nationals MPs cross floor as bill passes Parliament". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  36. ^ Nicholls, Sean (24 August 2016). "Greyhound racing banned after bill passes NSW parliament". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  37. ^ Glanville, Brigid; Gerathy, Sarah (11 October 2016). "NSW Premier confirms backflip on greyhound racing ban". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  38. ^ "2014 Annual Report" (PDF). Irish Greyhound Board. 
  39. ^ Further Microchip Analysis To Be Undertaken | Greyhounds Australasia
  40. ^ "Easier ride for Aust greyhounds stirs controversy". 29 April 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  41. ^ "Greyhound Adoption Programme - NZ Greyhound Racing". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ "News Articles - NZ Greyhound Racing". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  44. ^
  45. ^ " - GBGB". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  46. ^
  47. ^ "GREY2K USA". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  48. ^ "American Greyhound Council - Greyhound Care at the Track". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  49. ^ "GREY2K USA Report on Greyhound Racing in Texas (February 2013)" (PDF). Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  50. ^ "Off to the Races - Greyhound Facts". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  51. ^ Crating greyhounds
  52. ^ "Take Action: State by State". Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  53. ^ "Live greyhound racing to return to Valley Race Park". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  54. ^ "GREY2K USA: State by State". Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  55. ^ Association of Racing Commissioners International, Statistical Summaries for 2001 and 2011.
  56. ^ "Annual Reports.". Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  57. ^ "Gambling Impact Study" (PDF). Spectrum Gaming Group. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  58. ^ "Online Wager.". Sunshine State News. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gwyneth Anne Thayer, Going to the Dogs: Greyhound Racing, Animal Activism, and American Popular Culture. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2013.

External links[edit]