Greyhound racing in the United Kingdom
Greyhound racing is a popular industry in Great Britain with attendances at around 3.2 million at over 5,750 meetings, in 2007 alone. There are 23 licensed stadiums in Britain and several independent stadiums (unaffiliated to a governing body). The industry use a Parimutuel betting tote system with on-course and off-course betting available, with a turnover of £75,100,000.
- 1 History
- 2 Racing
- 3 Stadiums
- 4 Competitions
- 5 Graded racing
- 6 Racing jacket colours and starting traps
- 7 Racing greyhounds and welfare
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Greyhound racing as it is seen today has evolved from a form of hunting called coursing, in which a dog runs after a live game animal – usually a rabbit or hare. The first official coursing meeting was held in 1776 at Swaffham, Norfolk. 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.
Coursing by proxy with an artificial lure was introduced at Hendon, on September 11, 1876. Six dogs raced over a 400-yard straight course, chasing an artificial hare riding. This was the first attempt of introducing mechanical racing to the UK, however it did not catch on at the time.
The oval track and mechanical hare were introduced to Britain, in 1926, by American, Charles Munn, in association with Major Lyne-Dixson, 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. Between them they raised £22,000 and launched the Greyhound Racing Association. On July 24, 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. This marked the first ever modern greyhound race in Great Britain. They then hurried to open tracks in London at the White City Stadium and Harringay Stadium.
The industry of greyhound racing in Great Britain currently falls under two sectors: that registered by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), and a sector known as 'independent racing' or 'flapping' which is racing unaffiliated to a governing body.
Registered racing in Great Britain is regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). All in the registered sector are subject to the GBGB Rules of Racing and the Directions of the Stewards, who set the standards for greyhound welfare and racing integrity, from racecourse facilities and trainers' kennels to retirement of greyhounds. Stewards inquiries and then disciplinary action is taken against anyone found failing to comply.
The registered sector consists of 23 racecourses, 884 trainers (as at 2012 end), 4,135 kennel staff, 867 racecourse officials, and in excess of 15,000 greyhound owners with approximately 10,000 greyhounds registered annually for racing.
Independent racing, also known as 'flapping', is held at seven racecourses. The number of trainers, kennelstaff, owners and greyhounds involved in independent racing is unknown because there is no requirement for central registration or licensing, and no code of practice. In England, standards for welfare or integrity are set by local government, but there is no governing or other regulatory body.
There are 22 active Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) registered stadiums in the UK: 23 are in England and one is in Scotland. There are no tracks in Wales and Northern Irish tracks do not come under the control of the GBGB.
- Belle Vue Stadium, Manchester
- Brighton and Hove Stadium, Brighton and Hove
- Crayford Stadium, Bexley, London
- Doncaster Greyhound Stadium, Doncaster
- Harlow Stadium, Harlow, Essex
- Henlow Stadium, Central Bedfordshire
- Kinsley Stadium, Wakefield
- Monmore Green Stadium, Wolverhampton
- Newcastle Stadium, Newcastle upon Tyne
- Nottingham Stadium, Nottingham
- Pelaw Grange, County Durham
- Perry Barr Stadium, Birmingham
- Peterborough Greyhounds, Peterborough
- Poole Stadium, Poole, Dorset
- Romford Stadium, Havering, London
- Shawfield Stadium, South Lanarkshire
- Sheffield Stadium, Sheffield
- Sittingbourne Stadium, Swale, Kent
- Sunderland Stadium, Sunderland
- Swindon Stadium, Swindon
- Towcester Stadium, Towcester
- Yarmouth Stadium, Great Yarmouth
There are also five active independent stadiums:
- Askern Greyhound Stadium, Doncaster
- Highgate Stadium, Barnsley
- Thornton Stadium, Fife
- Valley Greyhound Stadium, Ystrad Mynach
- Wheatley Hill Stadium, Durham
This race must have minimum prize money of £50,000. The competition has six-rounds and attracts around 180 entries each year. There are two derbys in Britain; Scottish Greyhound Derby held at Shawfield Stadium, English Greyhound Derby held at Towcester. With a third the Irish Greyhound Derby held at Shelbourne Park open to British greyhounds. There used to be a Welsh Greyhound Derby but the event finished in 1977 following the closure of the track at the Arms Park in Cardiff. In 2010 the Northern Irish Derby was introduced.
Category One Race
These races must have minimum prize money of £12,500. They can be run between one and four rounds but must be completed within a 15-day period, except for special circumstances. In any event the competition must be completed within 18 days.
Category Two Race
These races must have minimum prize money of £5,000. They can be run with one, two or three rounds but must be completed within a 15-day period.
Category Three Race
These races must have minimum prize money of £1,000. They can be run over one or two rounds and within a nine-day period. A category three race can be staged over one day but must have minimum prize money of £500.
A special type of open race usually staged by the promoter in support on the night of other opens.This will be proposed to the committee by the Greyhound Board or by a promoter, with the racers being invited into the competition rather than the usual process. The minimum prize money for these races is £750.
Minor Open Race
This is any other open race. The minimum added money for these races is £150.
This is any other race staged at a track, and prize money is varied. This kind of racing is the core of most stadiums and some of the racing can be viewed in betting shops on the Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS). The Racing Manager selects the greyhounds based on ability and organises them into traps (called seeding) and classes (usually 1-9) with grade 1 being the best class.
- A class represent standard races
- D class represent sprint races
- S class represent staying races
- M class represent marathon races
- P class represent puppy races
- H class represent hurdle races
Racing jacket colours and starting traps
Greyhound racing in Britain has a standard colour scheme. The starting traps (equipment that the greyhound starts a race in) determines the colour.
- Trap 1 = Red with White numeral
- Trap 2 = Blue with White numeral
- Trap 3 = White with Black numeral
- Trap 4 = Black with White numeral
- Trap 5 = Orange with Black numeral
- Trap 6 = Black & White Stripes with Red numeral
- Trap 7 = Green with Red numeral
- Trap 8 = Yellow and Black with White numeral
A racing jacket worn by a reserve bears an additional letter 'R' prominently on each side.
Racing greyhounds and welfare
Treatment of racing greyhounds
Greyhound racing at registered stadiums in Great Britain is regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). In Britain greyhounds are not kept at the tracks and are instead housed in the kennels of trainers and transported to the tracks to race. Licensed kennels have to fall within specific guidelines and rules and are checked by officials to make sure the treatment of racing greyhounds is within the rules. In 2014 the Dog’s Trust carried out an investigation into the conditions of Greyhound training kennels in the UK. In their report they stated that tracks are failing to deliver the improvements that they believe need to happen. Greyhounds' health and condition are checked at the track by the track vet before they are permitted to race, and drugs tests are conducted.
After the greyhounds are no longer able to race (generally, a greyhound's career will end by the age of four to six), owners may keep the dog for breeding or as pets, or they can send them to greyhound adoption groups. The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) have introduced measures to locate where racing greyhounds reside after they have retired from racing but this information is not made available to the public. Not all retired greyhounds find homes and a concern among welfare groups is the well being of racing greyhounds who are not adopted upon their retirement that may be put down or sold by their owners. Euthanasia on purely economic grounds is legal and does not have to be carried out by a vet as shown on the GBGB retirement form.
The main greyhound adoption organisation in Britain is the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT). The RGT is a charity but is partly funded by the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF), who gave funding of £1,400,000 in 2015. In recent years the racing industry has made significant progress in establishing programmes for the adoption of retired racers. Many race tracks have established their own adoption programmes in addition to actively cooperating with private adoption groups throughout the country.
There are also many independent organisations which find homes for retired Greyhounds including Forever Hounds, Greyhound Gap, Tia Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue, Birmingham Greyhound Protection, Celia Cross Greyhound Trust and Bark Inn Kennels. Independent rescue and homing groups receive no funding from the industry and rely solely on public donations.
The 2016 EFRA Committee Report found that the RGT rehome over 4000 "retired" dogs, with an additional 1500 being rehomed by other groups; between 1000 and 3700 are unaccounted for,
Due to the physical stresses of racing, many greyhounds will at some point sustain an injury. Data collected by Greyt Exploitations showed that in 2013 there were 4,656 greyhounds injured on GBGB licensed tracks, 1576 had not returned from injury at the time the data was released. The number of injuries is probably higher as some injuries may not be detected until the following day.
Injuries in the racing greyhound are common because of several factors including the speed at which the dogs race, track design including the angle and banking of the bends, and the track surface. Several studies have been conducted explaining the types of injury that can occur. Most injuries, including broken hocks are treatable, but greyhounds have been euthanized at tracks for these injuries, the most common reason for euthanasia was fracture of the right tarsus The number of greyhounds euthanized due to an injury is not made public. However as part of the EFRA Committee report, 1295 greyhounds were euthanized at 22 tracks in three years.
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) actively work to prevent the spread of drug usage within the registered greyhound racing sector. Attempts are made to recover urine samples from all greyhounds in a race, not just the winners. Greyhounds from which samples can not be obtained for a certain number of consecutive races are subject to being ruled off the track. If a positive sample is found, violators are subject to penalties and loss of their racing licenses by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). 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. Due to the increased practice of random testing, the number of positive samples has decreased.
Greyhound welfare groups in the UK
- C.A.G.E.D. NW
- Greyt Exploitations
- Action for Greyhounds
- Retired Greyhound Trust
- League Against Cruel Sports
There was a report of greyhounds being sold to research labs where cadavers were used for students to practise upon. Liverpool University Animal Training School has stated that it received the remains of dogs put down at Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester because it was essential to improving animal health and welfare. Charles Pickering, a Greyhound Breeder from Lincolnshire was also exposed offering 'slow' dogs to the Liverpool school as live subjects. The Greyhound Board of Great Britain Disciplinary Committee found Pickering in breach of rules 18(i), (ii) and (iii), 152 (i) and (ii), 174(vi) and 174(xiv) (a) and (b) and ordered that he be made a Warned Off person and fined the sum of £5,000. Greyhounds were sent to unqualified euthanization specialist, builder David Smith, in the North East of England who destroyed greyhounds with a captive bolt gun. Smith faced a fine and possible jail sentence and anyone who sent a greyhound to him was warned off for life.
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- The Welfare of Greyhounds - A Parliamentary Report
- Independent review of the greyhound industry in Great Britain
- Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS)
- Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB)
- Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT)
- British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF)
- Greyhound Data
- National Coursing Club (NCC)
- Greyhound Trainers Association (GTA)
- Greyhound Breeders Forum
- Federation of British Greyhound Owners' Association (FBGOA)