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Everything Greyhound > Greyhound Discussion > Greyhound History through the Years


Posted by: dad2paisley Aug 16 2010, 12:47 AM
History of the Greyhound and Greyhound Racing


by Tim Horan
The Greyhound Review, February 2006

Here's a look at other historical events about the Greyhound breed and Greyhound hunting and racing.

8,000 years ago—Archaeological remains show that a dog very similar to a Greyhound existed in the Middle East.

In her book “The Reign of the Greyhound” Cynthia A. Branigan writes, “Excavations at Catal-Huyuk in Turkey, a site dating back to 6,000 B.C., have a sanctuary decorated with ritual hunting scenes. The dogs assisting in the kill had long legs, delicate muzzles and deep chests. These were the first purebred dogs and progenitors of the Greyhounds we know today.” The original Arab Greyhounds were also used as hunters and a source of sport. The birth of a Greyhound in early Arabian culture was second only in importance to the birth of a son. Cleopatra reputedly was a Greyhound fancier.

The Greyhound is the only canine breed specifically mentioned in the Bible. In Proverbs 30:29, King Solomon displays his wisdom by speaking glowingly of the breed: “There be three things which go well, yea, are coming in going…A Greyhound, and a goat also, and a king against whom there is no rising up.”

600 BC—The Arab Greyhound found its way to other civilizations. Persians believed they were the only dogs allowed in the next world. The Tartars brought the Greyhound to Russia, where it was later crossed with local dogs, giving rise to the borzoi branch of the Greyhound family. The breed made its way to Afghanistan, where crossed with local breeds became the ancestor to the Afghan hound.

The ancient Greeks became caretakers of the short-haired Greyhound, and it became known as the Greekhound, then grakehound, possibly the origins for the name Greyhound.

200 BC—Greek writer Flavius Arrianus wrote about hunting with Greyhounds. His description of the hounds of his time was similar to that of the Greyhound today. It was Arrianus who laid out the first primitive rules of coursing.

AD—The Greyhound was the subject of much art of the Roman Empire.

The Dark Ages—The Greyhound migrated throughout the European continent. There is clear evidence that Greyhounds were used in France and Germany in the ninth century to course hair, deer, wolves and wild pigs.

1014—The breed migrated with Gallic and Celtic tribes to England. When the Gallic tribes were driven out of England to Ireland, they took their Greyhounds with them and managed to keep the breed pure and smooth coated. St. Patrick, on his escape from slavery, traveled in a boat in which the principal cargo was Greyhounds, which were being exported for the use in the Roman arena. In 1014 Canute (A Dane) became King of England and enacted the Forest Laws. The woods and fields at this time were alive with game, and often the hunting by poor villagers would come into conflict with the hunting by the king and chiefs. To remedy that, the Forest Laws included a statute that said only noblemen could own and hunt with Greyhounds.

1500—Queen Elizabeth abolished the Forest Laws and became a fan of the breed. She ordered Lord Norfolk to draft the first formal rules of Greyhound coursing. Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth's fascination off the breed is why Greyhound racing today is known as the “Sport of Queens.”

1776—Greyhounds, used for both hunting and sport, became a fashionable dog of England. The Greyhound had evolved into two types. The first was larger, rougher deerhound, used for hunting big game. The second was the smaller type, which was used for hunting hare and other small quarry. It is indisputable that Greyhounds were first used as hunters for the purpose of putting food on the family table. However, hunting soon turned to sport and recreation. In 1776, the Earl of Orford, a zealous Greyhound owner, organized the first coursing club of England, the Swaffham Coursing Society. Other clubs sprung up.

Lord Orford kept a larger kennel, as many as 100 dogs. He also experimented with crossing the Greyhound with other breeds. He crossed the Greyhound with the English bulldog (which then was more like today's terrier). The result was far from successful, but seven generations later Lord Orford obtained Greyhounds with “small ears, rat tails and skin almost without hair, together with the innate courage found in the Bulldog breed that never gives in…rather to die than relinquish the chase.” Lord Orford's Greyhounds are the ancestors to our modern-day Greyhounds. Lord Orford is also considered the father of coursing..

1825—The Altcar Society gave birth to the world's most renowned coursing prize, the Waterloo Cup.

1838—King Cob (Ion-Kate) is whelped. King Cob won the Newmarket Cup in 1940 and the St. Leger at Barton-on-Humber in 1841. He became the first public stud to be advertised. It is generally believed that all Greyhounds in America, Australian England and Ireland can be traced back to the all-time great King Cob.

1858—The National Coursing Club was founded as the supreme authority on coursing matters in England.

Mid 1800s—Greyhounds traveled to the States. Farmers migrating west to settle in the fertile lands of American's Midwest found raising crops particularly in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas had its share of problems. Millions of pesky jackrabbits, with appetites capable of destroying the small farmers' cash crops, flourished. At the same time the railroad was heading west. Immigrants from Ireland and England came to the Midwest both as railroad workers and settlers and they knew a way to control the rodent population: Greyhounds. It wasn't long before at least one Greyhound became a farmer's watchdog.

1876—General George Custer was a Greyhound enthusiast and traveled with a kennel of Greyhounds. When Custer and the 7th Cavalry were wiped out at the Little Big Horn in 1876, his Greyhounds survived.

1886—The first formal coursing meet in America was held at Cheyenne Bottoms, near Great Bend, Ks. It was a huge success, attended by visitors from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis and other places. The event was covered in Harpers Weekly. Soon after the American Course Board, a counterpart to England's National Coursing Club, was founded.

1906—Coursing meets soon became a mainstay throughout the Midwest. It became apparent that a registry was needed and in 1906 the National Coursing Association (now called the National Greyhound Association) was founded in Friend, Ne. It later moved to Kansas City, Ks., and Charles F. Horne was named Keeper of the Stud Book.

1919—Modern day racing started in Emeryville, Ca., when O.P. Smith opened the first track using an artificial lure. Smith had been developing an artificial lure, which traveled around an oval track, for several years. His first attempt at developing a new sport was never very successful.

1920—The first successful Greyhound track, operated by Smith, opened in Tulsa, Ok. Smith and others opened Greyhound tracks across the country. Wrote Gary Guccione in the article Origin and History of the Racing Greyhound and Coursing Dogs, “Skeptics said the Greyhound would never adapt to chasing an artificial lure around an oval track, but Smith, considered the father of American Greyhound racing, proved them wrong…The first successful Greyhound meet at a racetrack was held in Tulsa, Ok., paving the way for scores of tracks to open at a wide variety of locations in the ensuing decade.”

1923—T. L. Weaver, a lumber entrepreneur expanded his timberland holdings and lumber operations to St. Petersburg, Fl., during the land boom of the 1920s.

He sold one pine tract to a group of local businessmen who constructed a Greyhound track. Unable to pay their outstanding balance, they gave the track to Weaver's lumber company. Derby Lane has been with the Weaver family ever since, and is the oldest continuous running track in the US. In the first years of Greyhound racing, the season was short, so Weaver booked other entertainment events including stock car races and even an exhibition football game with legendary Jim Thorpe.

1930s and 40s—Greyhound racing exploded, as the Greyhounds ran at night under the lights. Tracks would spring up in cities across US in California, Chicago, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, only to be short lived, or be shut down the next day by the local authorities. Greyhound owners often traveled from track to track expecting big purses only to find the track closed or failed to live up to expectations. Carson Alexander wrote in 1985 that after his stepfather bought Greyhounds, “over the next years we were turned into gypsies.”

In describing his journey he wrote, “Down the two-lane highways all the way to the sunny south, pulling the cumbersome trailer behind, eating endless bologna sandwiches washed down with a Pepsi, became standard…It didn't take long to look at the big wash –tub each night full of red hamburger with canned vegetables and dog meal, to question the statement about a dog's life.”

Between 1926 and 1930 over 60 dog tracks were opened, in addition to the seven in existence in 1925.

In Florida Greyhound racing flourished. Derby Lane opened in 1923 followed by Flagler 1932, Tampa, 1933, Hollywood 1934, Sanford-Orlando 1935, Jacksonville 1935, Sarasota 1944, Orange Park 1946 and Pensacola 1946. Multnomah in Oregon also opened in 1933 and two tracks in Colorado, Mile High and Rocky Mountain opened in 1946.

During this time the sport of coursing remained active.

Said longtime Greyhound owner Chuck Lambert, “Back in the 1930 and 1940s they really had a ball. They (owners) would stay in tents and there was a world of gambling. The night they drew they'd have all of the names written down on a board. They'd have two guys sittin' up there, one taking the bets the other callin' the dogs off.”

1945—After having hosted several successful coursing meets, plus a deal with the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, the NGA moved to its present location in Abilene, Ks.

1944-47—Flashy Sir (Lucky Sir-Flashy Harmony) was purchased for $800 by Merrill Blair at a coursing meet in Abilene, Ks. Flashy Sir went on to win 60 of his 80 races at 13 different racetracks, including 18 straight. The five series match race with Lucky Pilot was the match race of the century. Flashy Sir won the series 3-2, with the fifth and deciding race the only event in which a track record wasn't broken or equaled.

1946—The American Greyhound Track Operators Association (AGTOA) was formed. Its goal was to provide the public with the finest possible programs, to improve Greyhound racing, and to protect the interests of the public at all times by encouraging and maintaining the highest standards in the conduct of Greyhound racing.

1949—Joseph Linsey, who purchased Taunton Greyhound Park in 1940, set up the American Derby. With a purse of $25,000 the Derby by far the richest race of the day the start of today's stake race schedule. The first race was won by Oklahoman.

1949-1951—Real Huntsman (Never Roll-Medora) won 10 key stake races, two of them the American Derby. He established himself as one the best ever winning 29 straight races among the best Greyhounds in the country. His career earnings totaled $62,493, with a record of 104—67-9-11.

1950—At the Cavalier Kennel Club in Moyock Paul Hartwell installed the grading system. That grading system, with a few minor changes, most made by Harwell himself, remains today.

1959-65—Rocker Mac*, an import by (Chief Havic-Mystery Rocca) was the top sire on the standings for seven years.

1961—Joe LaCroix and Bob Black imported Tell You Why* (Rocket Jet-Gorgeous Babe) into the United States from Australia. Tell You Why* was the most influential sire of his time. He was the top sire on the standings from 1967 and 1968.

1963—Real Huntsman, Flashy Sir and Rural Rube became the first three Greyhounds to be inducted into The Greyhound Hall of Fame.

1973—The National Coursing Association changed its name to the National Greyhound Association.

1975—Kennel owners across the country—Arizona, Colorado, New England and Florida—went on strike. There were many issues, such as the recognition of a kennel owners association, but the main topic of discussion was purses.

Wrote Paul C. Hartwell in his book The Road From Emeryville: A History of Greyhound Racing, “In 1975 there were some minor concessions made by a few tracks before they themselves were actually struck, but all of the actual strikes ended with the kennel owners being forced to capitulate on the terms of the track operators.”

1977—If ever a Greyhound came close to a house-hold name it would be Downing. With victories in the Hollywood World Classic, the Hollywood Futurity, the Biscayne Irish-American, Wonderland Battle of the Ages, the American Derby and two match races with Rooster Cogburn, he set a single-year earnings record. He was also a regular celebrity featured on national TV twice and twice featured in Sports Illustrated.

1978—The NGA discontinued the sport of coursing in America.

1980—The NGA accepted a breeding using frozen semen, three males by Whizzer Ben and Araglin were whelped on June 21, 1980. That same year the NGA held a Brood Stock and Racing Stock Auction in conjunction with its Meet. Out of 70 consignments, 21 sold for $46,200, an average of $2,200.

1982—The AGTOA launched the $100,000 Purina Grand Prix. The annual event was intended to attract the top Greyhounds in the country. DD's Jackie (President Elect-Carry On Cindy) won the first race. However, because of complaints Purina received from animal rights groups, Purina discontinued the sponsorship. Greyhound racing has not been able to attract another national sponsor. That year intrastate intertrack simulcast wager was authorized for the Colorado racetracks.

1985—Pari-mutuel racing expanded to Iowa with the opening of Dubuque Greyhound Park. Tracks also opened at Council Bluffs (Bluffs Run) and Waterloo.

1986—The NGA and the AGTOA form the American Greyhound Council, dedicated to the welfare of the racing Greyhound.

1987—P's Rambling destroyed the 3/8 record at Hollywood five times, the last a world record 36.43. He also won the Hollywoodian in what many believe is the most exciting victory ever. Knocked back to last place early, he made a move but was knocked back again. Still he weaved through traffic and finished with a frenzy in the homestretch.

1989—Pari-mutuel racing expanded to Kansas with tracks in Wichita and Kansas City (The Woodlands).

1990—Tracks open in Texas—La Marque (Gulf), Corpus Christi and Harlingen (Valley)—and Wisconsin—Kenosha (Dairyland), Kaukauna (Fox Valley), Wisconsin Dells, Hudson (St. Croix) and Geneva Lakes.

1990—Shortly after the expansion of pari-mutuel tracks to Iowa, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin increased competition from Indian and riverboat casinos caused handles to decline. Over a 10-year period Key West, Black Hills, Sodrac, Green Mountain, Yuma, Fox Valley, Waterloo, Interstate, Biscayne, Coeur d'Alene, Pittsburg, Greenetrack and Wisconsin Dells all closed never to re-open.

1991—Flying Train (Oshkosh Station-PK's Cupid) set the NGA track record running 30.33 then sold for a record $56,000. Flying Eagles Kennel sold the pup to Carlyle J. Hall.

1996—Legislation was approved to allow for slot machines at racetracks in Rhode Island and Iowa. A percent of the slots play were allotted to purses at Bluffs Run, Dubuque and Lincoln Park. Similar legislation was passed in West Virginia boosting purses at Tri-State and Wheeling Downs.

1999—The NGA required both the sire and the dam of each litter to be DNA registered. The NGA's Spring Meet Auction tops $1 million for the first time. In the sale, 130 Greyhounds sold for $1,017,600, averaging $7,827.

2003—At the NGA's Fall Meet, Rooftop Gizmo (Craigie Whistler-Rich's Princesss) sold in the Auction for a record $70,000. James Potter sold the pup to Gary Weber. The news makes the headlines nationwide.

2006—Derby Lane and Racing Live Challenge co-sponsored the Derby Lane Million. The $500,000 purse, won by Greys Calibrator, owned by Jack and Mary Butler, Abilene, KS, was the largest purse ever in Greyhound Racing. At the NGA's Spring Meet Greys Brickyard, also owned by the Butlers, sold at the Auction to R. Lester Raines for a record $80,000.

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