Greyhound Racing History
Today's version of greyhound racing has evolved from a sport known as 'coursing'. The practise of coursing was popular in the 1700s and 1800s; the game had simple rules and made for a great betting and spectator sport: a single hare was released on a meadow or an open field, given a head start 240 yards over two greyhounds; the dogs are then released and have the task to 'course' the hare, in other words to catch and dismember it. The first recorded coursing event dates back to 1776 and allegedly took place in Swaffham, Norfolk.
The use of a live hare to motivate the greyhounds inspired the invention of the mechanical lure we use today. The mechanical lure was first trialled in 1876 at an improvised straight dog track near Hendon's Welsh Harp reservoir, in a race featuring six greyhounds and a skilfully crafted mock rabbit. However, the practise of using the substitute hare did not catch on immediately.
It was not until 1912, when American Owen Patrick Smith - a hero of greyhound racing history - patented the mechanical lure/hare in an attempt to assimilate the sport of greyhound racing further to the practise of horse racing, that the sport began to increase in popularity. By 1920, the United States not only hosted regular greyhound races using the mechanical hare, but betting on greyhound races had become a solid part of the betting scene.
In 1926 Smith handed his patent to Charles Munn( who would sadly not honour their agreement and reap the rewards of the adventure alone), a tremendous coursing specialist, who swiftly took the mechanical lure overseas to the United Kingdom in an attempt to market this great invention to the race loving Englishmen. Munn founded the Greyhound Racing Association (today the Greyhound Board of Great Britain) in cooperation with Major Lyne-Dixon and Canadian Brigadier-General Critchley; and hosted the first official greyhound race in Britain at the Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester. The venture was an extreme success and by the end of 1927 the United Kingdom was home to forty greyhound racetracks.
By 1928 the National Greyhound Racing Club was founded to establish a set of rules and regulations to govern the public's new favourite spectator sport, which continued to boom throughout the 1950s and 60s. However, the 70s turned into a bad decade for greyhound racing, not only due to economical troubles but also as the BBC began to broadcast horse racing, removing the need to go to the track and taking the attention away from the greyhounds. It was not until the 80s that greyhound racing made its way onto television screens.
On 1st January 2009 the Greyhound Board Of Great Britain (GBGB) became operational, taking over the duties of the National Greyhound Racing Club and the British Greyhound Racing Board. It is today handling issues of rules and licensing. Currently there are 28 licensed greyhound racing venues in the United Kingdom. However, there are also an indeterminate number of 'independent racecourses', greyhound racing venues which are not registered with and licensed by the GBGB. The practise of unregulated greyhound racing is known as 'flapping'.