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All about Greyhound Racing

Updated on December 6, 2010


Greyhound racing or more precisely, greyhound track racing is a sport, in which dogs (greyhounds) are set to chase a mechanical lure around a track until the finish line arrives. Whichever dog first noses the finish line first, remains the proclaimed winner. 


Modern day greyhound racing started out as coursing, which dated back as far as 4000 BC. The hunt of game progressed over the centuries into the sport of chase. Being a primeval game, it finds its origins even from the time of Pharaohs, who rated them above all animals as pets and hunters. Images of early greyhound hunts are etched on walls of Egyptian tombs. Similar standings for greyhounds were found in other ancient cultures like Persian, Roman and Greek.

Greyhound racing was first established as a sport in England, which was enjoyed by only a few citizens, where Forest Laws allowed only noblemen to hunt with greyhounds.

Greyhound Track Racing began in America at early stages of the 20th century in 1919, when Owen Patrick Smith organized first race meeting in California. Since 1906, O.P. Smith had been working on a way to develop greyhound racing as a bloodless sport. Before this, greyhounds were set to chase a live jack rabbit around the track and eventually get to mutilate it.

To prevent this, O.P. Smith invented a revolutionary mechanical lure, which is a decoy, stuffed rabbit that traversed a circular or oval track. He is considered as the father and founder of “American Greyhound Racing” and the founder of “Modern Greyhound racing,” respectively.

The sport finally returned to England very different than how it had started in 1926 and since its popularity soared. Today, there are racing tracks all around the country.



The greyhound is a large hairless dog (Males stand up to 76cm high on four legs) with a long streamlined body suited, especially for top speed running and acceleration. Its key is a lighter body, bigger heart, good muscular build and faster muscle twitch rate than in any other dog. More details of the basic features that also help it to do so are:

1.        A thin and long stomach: Suited to lessen weight, allow for further bending of back legs, and create a more powerful surge increasing acceleration.

2.       Long thin legs: Allows the greyhound to move at high speeds with longer legs covering more ground in larger strides. Thin legs aid efficiency of a gallop.

3.       Long thin tail: This helps to create balance, when the dog is in motion balancing him.

Greyhounds also come in a unique or mix of colors ranging between black, white, bridle, fawn, grey and red.


The temperament of a Grey hound is not fierce or wild, but instead, they make lovable, friendly and loyal pets even after retirement. They are mild-tempered canines and being pack-oriented dogs, they accept and employ rules of leadership.


The greyhound racetrack is a simple affair consisting of an oval or circular dirt track, fenced in on the outside and has a railing running along the inside. The green belt adjacent to the dirt track is equipped with the mechanical lure that is so essential for racing. On the outside circumference sit the spectator podium, perpendicular to the crates or boxes located on the starting line. Along that face, the betting stalls or the bookies are also situated.

The track has a couple of cubicles on the starting line also named as ‘crates.’ These harbor the racing dogs just for starting the race. Number on jackets worn by the dogs in contrast to the jacket’s color is: Number 1 is red; number 2 is blue; number 3 is white; number 4 is black; number 5 is orange; number 6 is white and black stripes.

First the lure is sent forward and then the traps are opened. The greyhounds chase lure until they cross the finish line. The first to cross it is the winner. Bets of various sorts are placed accordingly on the assumed winner, either off-course or on course. The betting party wagering on the winning dog receive winnings.

Track dimensions and prefixes vary from one track to another. No specific dimensions exist overall, but by summing up various lengths and widths, we get crude approximate, as follows:

  • Track width: 8 meters
  • Track length:

1. Basic lengths: 275, 325, 480 and 515 meters

2. 2 bends (D or sprint races): As low as 400 meters

3. 3 bends: 4805 meters

4. 4 bend racing (A or Middle distance races): up to 515 meters

5. 6 bend races (S or Stayer races): up to 545 meters

6. 8 bend races (E Marathon Races): Up to 550 meters.

· Length of straight section: up to 90 meters

Bear in mind that there are numerous other abbreviations that are particular to each track.


Betting takes place before the race. The type of betting utilized here is termed as ‘Pari-mutuel’ betting, which means that racing fans bet among themselves and not against the track. Parimutuel betting is when wagers are placed on different dogs (or the favorite), presumed to be winners in the race and those who betted on a resulting winner share from the money pooled and equally receive a profit above the payback of their initial wager.

In some cases, the profit or the amount paid out is rounded off at intervals (to the nearest 10 in currency, for example) to ensure equal shares and the subsequent loss is received by the Betting agency as a form of commission. This is known as ‘breakage.’ Apart from that, the betting agency draws a specific percentage of commission of not fewer than 14.25%.

People select their bets by deducing performance of a dog from the race card provided and make their picks. The challenge is to analyze given information and make a precise judgment. To be a probable winner, one has to take in account three main factors, analyze them and act on the results consequently. The factors are:

· The selection (based on the data)

· The odds and their prices

· The type of bet

  Types of bets are:

  • Straight bet, single bet or win bet: Betting on the first dog to cross the finishing line. Winning only when selected dog comes first.
  • Place bet: Betting on the second dog to cross the finishing line. Winning only when selection arrives on second or first place.
  • Show bet: Betting on the third dog to cross the finish line. Winning only when selected dog attains third, second or first place.
  • Across the board bet: Betting on one selection with win, place and show bet. If the dog comes first, winners collect all three bets, whereas, if second, they collect winnings for Place and Show and if third, they collect only for Show.
  • Quinella or Reverse forecast bet: Betting on any two dogs to first cross the finish line in any order, either second or first
  • Perfecta, Exacta or Straight forecast bet: Betting on the first two dogs to cross the finish line in EXACT order.
  • Trifecta or Tricast or Treple Forecast bet: Betting on the first, second and third to cross the finish line in EXACT order.
  • Superfecta bet: Betting on the first four dogs to cross the finish line in their EXACT orders.
  • Twin Trifecta Bet: Betting on two Trifecta selections in two races. Winners of the first race exchange their tickets for a second Trifecta in the second race and share in one-half of the Twin Trifecta pool, when they submit their tickets. If no one wins the second Trifecta, it is carried on to the next performance.
  • Tri-Super bet: Betting on the winning Trifecta of the first race and exchange that ticket for a Superfecta in the second race.
  • Titanic Tri-Super bet: Works the same way as the Tri-Super, except for that correct selections of Trifecta and Superfecta combination should be made for the 5th and 7th races, respectively.
  • Daily Double bet: Betting on the winning selections of the first and second races of that day. Both selections must win in order for winners to receive their winnings.
  • Jackpot bet: Betting on six winners in six races to share in a jackpot prize. Rules and prices vary from each race track.
  • Parlay or Accumulator bet: A multiple bet, in which bettors make simultaneous selections and after winning a bet in one race, may press their winnings on the bet of the second or third race and so on. All selections must win in order for bettors to win the parlay. If a race is a tie, postponed or cancelled, the parlay will automatically be reduced by one selection.
  • Pick 3 bet: Selecting winners of three consecutive races.
  • Pick 6 bet: Selecting winners of six consecutive races.


Laws and legislations govern the usage and practice of greyhounds and greyhound racing in all jurisdictions. Outlined below are some of the fundamental dos and don’ts of this sport.

  1.  Using of animals as lure/bait is illegal.
  2.  Humane treatment of greyhounds must prevail. Retired greyhounds are to be adopted or disposed-off by euthanasia injection or other humane ways.
  3.  Greyhounds under 16 months of age are not to take part in any race.
  4.  Individuals who carry out the disposition must first fill a form as to why did they do so.
  5.  State representatives monitor disposition acts and keep a tab on all greyhounds within their jurisdiction who participate(d) in races.
  6.  Penalties for violation include fines and imprisonment.


0-3 months

The puppies are whelped, vaccinated and not to be moved from the property from where they were whelped.

4-6 months

Puppies are ear-branded for identification. At this stage, puppies may be sold, advertised or relocated. Puppies are then reared and taught to wear a collar. They are left in open paddocks, allowing them to run and learn to gallop.

7-12 months

This is the further stage of rearing. Puppies are placed on a diet and exercise scheduled and also taught to walk on a lead.

13-16 Months

Sometimes, puppies are not fully mature or developed and ought to be given time, until they can be fit to be broken in. Breaking in refers to the stage in a greyhounds life, in which, it is educated for the race track. This ranges from being taught to be placed in boxes to running with other greyhounds.

After this period, the greyhound is given some more time to get familiar with this new experience. The owner is then allowed to name and register his dog for racing and receives papers for doing so. No greyhound is allowed to race prior to 16 months of age.

16 months-4 years

Once nominated, the greyhound now enters qualifying levels as a maiden dog and is to compete against other maiden greyhounds under full racing conditions. It is now legible to race.

Post racing

Once a greyhound finishes its racing career, which rarely exceeds 4 years or retires, it is legible to be adopted, used for breeding purposes and is re-trained for adoption in homes and families. In worst cases, it is liable to be disposed off.


Globally, greyhound racing is an official sport, but there is more to it than this face of speed and glamour we see. The plight of greyhounds in more impoverished and unauthorized regions is pitiful. Activists protest against the abuse and neglect of greyhounds found abundantly in the sports’ vast empire. People say that dog racing is a useless, meager and cruel practice serving the cause of a specific industry of profit and entertainment at a heavy price from the animals, such as ill confinement, starvation, race injuries, brutal culling etc.

It is said that more greyhounds are bred every year than are needed. Protesting against poor dwelling places and lack of human contact of greyhounds activists have, in my view, taken a rather tactless stance against this sport. Instead of campaigning for animal rights, they have summed up an impressive list of facts, devoid of clever strategies and simply attacked this sport itself with all its reforms, laws and assets.

Apart from the fact, they are not thinking along the lines of Mother Nature, but like any opposing party – just like others do. True that there is a widespread inhumane treatment to most of our furred and feathered friends, but I am against it with all my heart, but a solution is not a ban or a boycott to a very popular sport.

Even if, a bill was passed controlling greyhound races, there will always be a legal side to this game and even worse, with tougher sanctions, most likely animal cruelty will soar due to lack of opportunities to rise and race greyhounds by those, who can ill-afford it. Overall, the best ultimatum would be campaigning for the right thing in a right manner!


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    • jericho911 profile image

      Kenneth Claude 

      5 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Very informative article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Your article is quite informative. First you say:

      Humane treatment of greyhounds must prevail. Retired greyhounds are to be adopted or disposed-off by euthanasia injection or other humane ways.

      There are so many ills involved with racing and the above is one of them. Why must greyhounds die? What kind of sport kills off its own? Winners and losers still die. Where's the humanity in that?

      You have no proof that the world would be a worse place for greyhounds without greyhound racing.

      To get the real facts about greyhound racing and how we can all work together to phase it out and bring an end to this mass cruelty, please visit


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