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|Everything Greyhound > Greyhound Discussion > The Importance of Population|
|Posted by: HoundIsle Jun 26 2013, 05:03 PM|
| This article was written by Dennis McKeon, "Greyt piece !!!!
The Importance of Population
I wish some of the late racing professionals who began the process and who envisioned the concept of comprehensive adoption for retired racing greyhounds, could see the way things have worked out. No doubt, they’d be pleased.
It was a quantum leap of faith back in the late 70s and early 80s, to imagine that racing greyhounds, a breed that had been publicly and raucously vilified by the jackrabbit crusaders and their media allies, could someday have become the sensation they are today in adoption.
This was a time when most young greyhounds, before they were trained to chase a lure on the training track, were allowed to course after live game, specifically the pestilence of jackrabbits. Even though a good “jack” can run a good greyhound right off his legs, even though greyhounds have been chasing hares since prehistoric times, this method of pest-control provoked an outcry from the animal rights activists of the era. The crusade to outlaw the coursing of live jackrabbits was successful in some states, but at a great cost to the greyhound.
He was said, by those activist minions of ignorance, to be “trained to kill”, and to be “bloodthirsty” and “vicious”. The public lapped up this nonsense, regurgitated by the old media at every opportunity. Needless to say, the great jackrabbit crusade and its attendant propaganda inhibited the progress of those early adoption pioneers, who were not only attempting to evolve culture within the racing community, but who now had to deal with re-educating a thoroughly misinformed public.
Fast forward to the present day, and we see the same sort of ignorant and willful misinformation prevalent in all forms of media. The most galling aspect of this mythology, to any of us who ever have worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, caring for greyhounds, would have to be the accusation that racing greyhounds are “abused” and treated cruelly, as a matter of routine.
This is preposterous for many reasons, not the least of which would be that greyhounds are very expensive, and require a significant financial commitment to be raised to the stage where they are track-ready, and finally able to win back some of that investment capital. The fact that this blanket condemnation still has traction, even as thousands of retiring greyhounds each year beguile and fascinate their enchanted, new adoptive owners, is a testament to the power of pure propaganda and shameless bias in media and pop culture.
The idea that such universally abused and cruelly treated dogs, who are not even “bred to be pets”, could have become the pet sensation of the canine world, flies in the face of everything we know to be true about canine disposition and temperament. Greyhounds have been universally acclaimed for their sweet and loving nature, and their unassuming, level temperament. These and other attributes manifest within a population, as a cause and effect of bloodlines, breeding, raising, training, handling and environment. Greyhounds, like all other canines, are the sum total of all these things. The racing greyhound is who he is, with all his affections, charms, instincts, quirks and foibles, because of his racing genetics, his racing background and his racing life experience--not in spite of them, as popular greyhound mythologists would have us believe.
It should go without saying, that making the complete life adjustment from racing athlete to family pet is no mean feat. Yet retired greyhounds do just that, by the thousands each year, to near unanimous acclaim. It could hardly be inferred by anyone of even modest critical thinking ability, that horribly abused and traumatized dogs would, without so much as a pang of conscience, make it their first order of business when beginning their lives as pets, to commandeer the living room couch.
Even though, when entering their new lives as pets, they are without their pack mates for the first time in their lives, they adjust. Even though they are facing brave, new, challenging and intimidating objects, environments and routines for the first time in their lives, they adjust. Even though they are among strange humans, whose voices, commands and mannerisms are unfamiliar to them, still they adjust. And they are able to adjust, because they have learned to trust the humans they have encountered during their lives. That has been the essence of our relationship with canines, from antiquity to the present day. Most retired racing greyhounds are charismatic exemplars of it.
Now, without a doubt, there are timid, nervous and skittish greyhounds, for whom this process of completely re-habituating themselves is more problematic. Some of these are “Omega” personalities, who, within their pack, were always the followers. Some of them are just high-strung, and hard-wired to be reactive. Much of greyhound temperament is highly heritable, and “racing temperament” is a fundamental feedback that breeders use to select which greyhounds will be bred. Yet we must remember that “pet-ability” is never a concern or a consideration among greyhound breeders in the process of selectivity, and “petability” has nothing whatsoever to do with racing ability.
Greyhounds are bred to be bold, tenacious, courageous and athletic race competitors. Some of the most dead game, aggressive and totally dominant greyhounds who ever set foot on a racetrack, however, were edgy, or skittish, or nervous submissive sorts when not competing. Yet many greyhounds of this type were also quite successful as breeders. Hence, those traits they expressed, both on and off the racetrack, were passed onto sons and daughters, and so to future generations.
One of the reasons for this Jekyl/Hyde conundrum we find in some greyhounds, is what they call in Ireland and the UK, “keen-ness”. The much-desired attribute of “keen-ness”, that is, being “keen” to chase and compete, is rooted in the greyhounds’ heightened powers of observation, his acute awareness of his environment and his surroundings, and his natural place in the evolutionary scheme of things as a sight, chase, catch and kill hunter.
“Keen” greyhounds are hyper-sensitive to everything going on around them. They are super-focused. They are the alpha-predator in any given moment. They are always on the lookout for something that offers the possibility of a chase, or anything that constitutes a threat. In an unfamiliar environment fraught with novelty, this aptitude can sometimes be paralyzing, or even render them oblivious of their owners. The latter situation is especially so, when something they feel might be fair game is interpreted by them as being afoot.
The Racing Greyhound pack is all things canine, from the stalwart alpha personalities, to the ebullient and envelope-pushing betas, right on down to the timid, supplicating, sometimes even pathologically fearful omega types. His diverse and ancient bloodlines assure us that there will be a plethora of personality types in the racing and adoption colonies, none of those personalities the result of fashion or fancy, and all of them sharing the common heritage of pure, unadulterated functionality, breathtaking speed and thrilling athleticism.
In pop culture today, the Greyhound holds a unique place. He is widely viewed as a victim of human greed and ruthless exploitation. This, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, in the form of hundreds of thousands of loving, well-adjusted, retired greyhound pets. This is still the misconception, despite the fact that not one greyhound from among that remarkable population has ever been bred to be a pet. The Racing Greyhound is still regarded by many low information and/or propagandized enthusiasts, as an object of pity, rather than the brilliantly adapted athlete and superbly tempered hunter he is.
Some even wring hands and gnash teeth over the supposed indignities, cruelties and abuses poor little Snowflake has been subjected to, without truly knowing anything about their greyhound's history. Their concern is touching, but most times unfounded in the greyhound’s reality.
Nevertheless, there is a chasmic “disconnect” among many greyhound lovers, between the individual greyhound(s) they love so dearly and the greyhound population. Without a genetically diverse, splendidly adapted and supremely functional population, we cannot have an individual greyhound who expresses those many attributes that emerge from such a population—which are the very things that endear the greyhound to all of us. At the cellular level, your greyhound is the embodiment of nearly a century of the genetics, the inputs and the feedback of racing alone. Racing is the one and only thing that supports the Racing Greyhound population.
When a population contracts to the point whereby irreplaceable DNA strains and entire female families of greyhounds are lost forever, we have irreparably damaged that population. For each one lost, we have reached the point of no return. The more a population contracts, the more problematic the breeding of sound and well-adapted specimens becomes.
So while it is heartwarming to see all the love and concern that is showered upon individual greyhounds by their adopters, we have yet to see that concern translated, within the popular greyhound culture, to the greyhound population--which is the wellspring of all greyhounds, past, present and future.
Those original pioneers of greyhound adoption understood this unbreakable interconnection. They cared for the individual greyhound, but understood the crucial importance of the population, and from where, how and why the objects of their affections came to be.
You can’t have one without the other.
|Posted by: galgoman Aug 23 2013, 07:41 AM|
|While I make no judgement, pro or con, towards greyhound racing I do think that this article is not objective and written in a bloviated style purely to promote the industry. Much of it elevates the breeding of the modern day greyhound to mythological levels that suggest that our greyhounds have extraordinary qualities to not only compete as a top level athlete but then transform itself into the perfect pet, all because of the careful breeding practices and loving care given them. Having had both greyhounds and galgos, (still used to hunt hares) in our family for years I can make direct comparisons between the two and say without hesitation that many of the admirable qualities that the author attempts to attach somehow to breeding in the greyhound is just as prevalent in the galgo, if not more so. This seems so even though the galgo has a well documented history of overwhelming abuse and neglect. You would have to be a moron not to acknowledge their plight. If you spend several years in galgo rescue and witness the dogs that enter the shelters having endured unspeakable forms of abuse and then follow their journey to that of family pet, you find all of those qualities that the author attaches to the greyhound and then some. I think it is a false claim to intimate that the greyhound adapts so easily because it has not been abused but in a loving and caring environment. While it may be true that they were not abused the galgo proves that to the contrary, dogs that have been brutally abused are still capable of making that adjustment rather easily. As with most breeds, dogs want to bond with their caregiver, the one who feeds him and cares for its needs. They want to trust and give back affection. They live in the here and now. Every galgo we have taken in has found the couch within a day or two and exhibit the same laid back, sweet temperment that the retired greyhound does. This article attempts to claim that because of the careful breeding and the love and attention that greyhounds receive during their professional career, an unplanned result has occurred. They make great pets. While I agree that they make great pets, it is not because of any refined breeding practices or level of care. The author is right when he says that the racing greyhound was never, (and still so) bred to be a pet. I think trying to refute the claims of the anti racing greyhound crowd with this argument that years of careful breeding and caring treatment while in the industry has resulted somehow in making them wonderful, well adjusted pets is taking a lot of liberty with the facts. This article is just as biased and unobjective as some of the articles I have read on the anti racing side.|
|Posted by: dad2paisley Aug 24 2013, 08:39 PM|
|Posted by: HoundIsle Aug 26 2013, 10:03 PM|
| I disagree, I’ve seen first hand the life of Greyhounds from whelp into adoption. I’ve trained Greyhounds and Whippets for lure coursing and racing events for a few years prior to getting into pro racing . A little over a year ago I acquired my first puppy that I hope will be at a track this fall. I can tell you how he has been raised, what he is feed, how he is being trained and the daily care he receives on the farm. Based on my pup’s ability we will decide what track and kennel are best suited for him. I also spent 5 weeks working in a kennel at Tri State to learn the daily life of a racing Greyhound.
To suggest that breeding is anything other then carefully planned and researched is foolish and buys into the AR propaganda. The traits that make a Greyhound a great pet are a product of their breeding, training and racing not in spite of it.
Breeding, raising and training a litter requires a sizeable investment in money and time for maybe a return on the money and time invested. By passing the puppy stage and buying a track ready pup starts out at about $3000 to over $40,000. Today because of planned breeding we have Greyhounds racing in the US with English, Irish and Australian bloodlines in their pedigree. They are “world class athletes” with some running at the highest levels of competition.
|Posted by: galgoman Aug 27 2013, 06:34 AM|
I'm not buying into any AR propaganda. You, however, are using many of the PR catch phrases to defend supposed issues that I am not raising.
Greyhounds have been described for centuries as fierce hunters and loyal companions. The qualities that make them a good pet is inherent to the breed. That being said however, the modern day racing greyhound which has a history of about 100 years has many differences from the ancient greys of the Celts and subsequent generations. I'm sure some people could argue if the changes in the breed are net positive or negative. The modern day greyhound is bred for one function (job) and that is to race around a flat, oval track at the maximum speed attainable. I don't think breeders are weighing those qualities that make them a great pet afterwards when they ply their trade. Training and racing regimes are not direct factors in what constitutes a good pet. The ancient greyhound which dates back to times BC and for generations leading up to the advent of man made racing competitions was a hunter and courser. The physiology of the dog would have been different since it was bred for a different function. The muscle structure would have been leaner and flatter, built for endurance rather than sprinters speed. The footprint would have most likely been flatter and broader for maximum grip over uneven terrain. They would have most likely been a more social dog with other breeds often hunting along side of terriers and other hunting breeds. Those qualities have been bred out of the greyhound since the environment of the track does not require those attributes. The Galgo Espanol probably most replicates the greyhound of centuries ago and those generations leading up to modern day track racing. Still used as "hare" hunters and in coursing competitions they are true to their origins. I too have lure coursed our galgos and they can run circles around greyhounds in a distance course with multiple left/right turns. This would not have always been true but sprinters speed and shorter distances in one direction are what are required of the track racing greyhounds now. While it may be true that the modern day greyhound racing industry is the custodian of the greyhound bloodlines, it is not accurate to claim authenticity to the ancient greyhounds of the Celts and generations after. They were used for a different function and consequently bred to a different standard. Often I read racing advocates implying that today's greyhound is a clone of the ancient breed. As I said earlier, if the modern day manifestation of the breed is for the better or not, is debatable.
|Posted by: dad2paisley Aug 27 2013, 10:34 AM|
|Our one greyhound we got as a puppy and never raced. You can tell the difference between a racer and one that never raced. A racer is better trained and is much easier to adapt it to retired life. Not that our non racer we did train ourselves while he grew up didn't. He never raced and he does oval runs in our fenced yard. He not smart enough to copy our other greyhounds. Why did he do the oval runs when he was never trained?|
|Posted by: HoundIsle Aug 28 2013, 11:57 AM|
| Today's Greyhounds are still coursed, open field coursed, lure coursed and raced on ovals (sand & grass) around the world. Some of the best open field coursers (US) were NGA registered dogs that hunting "jacks" in the western US. The ASFA Greyhound Lure Coursing Specialty is usually 1000yd + course. Your suggestion that today's Greyhounds are not fierce hunters and loyal companions is simply beyond belief.
It's clear you little or no understanding how Greyhounds are trained for racing or understand the skills a young racing Greyhound must master. Dumbing down racing to "go fast, turn left" demonstrates a total lack on understanding of racing.
A search of GHD will reveal some of great race Greyhounds will lead you back to the 1879 Waterloo Cup winner Misterton.
|Posted by: dad2paisley Aug 28 2013, 12:13 PM|
|Posted by: HoundIsle Aug 28 2013, 12:24 PM|
|Posted by: galgoman Aug 28 2013, 01:28 PM|
Yikes, forget it! You didn't understand a word I said. You are just one of those that regurgitates the company line just like you accuse AR people of doing. You are no different. I'm not making any judgement on racing, race your pants off. Good luck.
|Posted by: HoundIsle Aug 31 2013, 06:55 PM|
|No problems and yes we will continue race.|