Speed for attack or to escape always has been one of the physical possessions of the dog. The work of the chase and the struggle in the wilds made speed the decider between life and death. A wise dog knows when to run and how fast to run.
The coursing hounds include the wolfhounds, Irish and Russian, the Scottish deerhound, the greyhound in its many varieties in many countries, and the relative of the greyhound, the whippet, the saluki or gazelle hound, and the afghan. The speediest is the greyhound. This family hunts chiefly by sight.
The Irish wolfhound is too heavy and tho, like other large dogs such as the great dane, has a long stride, he moves too slowly. In endurance, the foxhound excels all other breeds for he will keep on the run after a fox for twenty-four hours without a halt. He can not be excelled in traveling over briary ground or thur thick undergrowth.
The greyhound is faster than the whippet. His record is twenty-five seconds for the quarter mile; the whippet’s best record is two hundred yards in eleven seconds or twice the speed of a human. A greyhound running his best in the chase, is speedier than any other breed of dog.
The whippet races in a straight course, two hundred yards long, between lanes of tape ten inches above the ground and four feet apart. Dogs weighing not more than twenty-five pounds or not less than ten pounds can compete.
The race begins upon the firing of a pistol. Two men handle one dog. Of these the runner-up stands at the end of a course and waves a white rag. Whippets are trained when puppies, to have a mad desire to seize a white cloth waved in front of them and at the end of the race their reward is to tear the white rag into shreds. The first training distance should be about twenty-five yards.
The other of the two men is the slipper, who starts the dog. He may start the dog by unleashing him or by hurtling him thru the air on his way toward the goal. An automatic electric starting device has been tried recently and is superseding the other methods as it is impartial and alike to all.
Whippets are handicapped by weight. The dog weighing twentyeight pounds starts at scratch or the beginning of the two hundred yards. The handicap is a yard advantage toward the goal for every pound down to seventeen pounds and below seventen pounds, two yards per pound ahead of the seventeen pound dog. Thus a ten pound dog starts twenty-five yards ahead of the twenty-eight pound dog.
The merit handicap is an additional handicap, by which a known slow dog is placed ahead of a known fast dog in order to make an equal race. This system is employed chiefly for the benefit of wagers in order to render the outcome uncertain.
Greyhound coursing, that is, coursing within an inclosure after a live rabbit, is done in pairs. The live rabbit is pushed out of its pen within the inclosure. Two greyhounds are unleashed after the rabbit, and the race is on. If the rabbit gets to the escape hole provided for him, he wins the race and his life. Alas, it is usually death for the rabbit.
The greyhound that turns the rabbit in its running course oftener, is declared the winner. The greyhound that catches the rabbit does not necessarily win the contest for the actual catching and killing is counted only a certain number of points.
The chief activity in dog racing is the greyhound racing on an oval track after a stuffed rabbit that moves along the inner side of the race track and is raised about a foot from the ground, and moved by electricity along a metal track.
The greyhound pays not any attention to rags or pistol shots; he wants a rabbit and a stuffed rabbit on an electric rail speeding around the course is a deception he never becomes aware of nor cares about. The only upset is that some dogs may try to snap and bite. These fighters are ruled off the track. All dogs are muzzled and each one bears his number on a cloth band about his body.
Eight greyhounds race at a time; they leave their starting place, or post, just as the rabbit, with a buzzing sound, is about to pass the post. Each dog is placed in a closed box and all boxes are opened at the same time by an electric lift. The choice position is the box next inside of the track; the positions are determined by lot.
The greyhounds leap forward and are after the rabbit. They make a pretty picture with their many colors of coat, their numbers on cloth around their bodies. The head is down, the body stretched out and every ounce of effort is put into the straight line of the body to urge it on. The judges at the finish line post the winners on the bulletin board.
Ten races usually are hold each evening; one of them is a hurdle race, the rabbit leaps the hurdle also. A novelty race may he featured by using monkies as jockies.
Greyhound racing in America began about 1927. It has suffered a setback, from opposition by horse racing interests, who fear the popularity of dog racing. A track represents a large investment. Races are held at night on brilliantly lighted tracks and thousands of spectators attend. The season extends from June to September; most courses hold only a thirty-day season and then the dogs are taken to another track. (Florida racing is from December to April).
It is to be added that tho the vast crowds in attendance love dogs, they also love to wager their money upon the dogs according to the pari-mutuel system used in horse racing.Some states, like Illinois permit horse racing with its wagering and at the same time inconsistently prohibit dog racing and its wagering.
At present ( 1941), only four states permit pari-mutuel wagering at dog tracks-Massachusetts, Oregon, Arkansas and Florida. England has accepted dog racing with enthusiasm. There are approximately forty recognized tracks.
The dog in the race does his best; he wants to win. No jockey sits astride to interfere. Laming a dog by placing pebbles between his toes is a deception usually detected. The only other deception is the injection of a drug into the dog; this deception can be practiced against all animals. At most tracks a veterinarian examines the dogs just before the race; so a deception or trick seldom is put into effect.