|18th century racing greyhound|
My lovely Millicent Magic came last and I lost one pound. Was the trip to Swindon Greyhound Race Track worth a few seconds of excitement? For thousands of people in Britain, greyhound racing has been their world, their life: as trainers, owners, bookmakers, kennel hands and punters.
In 1926, greyhound racing was introduced from the USA to Manchester, England. Within a few weeks over 11,000 spectators attended each Belle Vue meeting and two years later there were 68 tracks around England. There was not much else for the working man to do, and it was a cheap night out.
“Jock the Thief” was a regular at the Wimbledon track in the 1950s. ‘He always came with a big suitcase,’ remembers Newman. ‘It was stuffed with razors, shirts, silk ties, ladies stockings, scarves, perfume –things that were difficult to get. He sold them out of his suitcase at knock-down prices but nobody asked questions. By the time the races started he had sold the lot. He then proceeded to lose it all on the dogs. Next week, he was back, with another suitcase full.’
|'Running in field', painting by Charles Hampton.|
‘In the old days,’ said Gilly Hepden, ‘rich people raced horses and poor people had dogs. Now dogs are owned by all types.’ A greyhound costs anything from £500 up to £40,000 and then £50 a week to train. ‘You never make your money back, that isn’t the idea. People do it for the love of dogs, and the other people who love dogs.’
|The author with Dylan, a rescue greyhound-cross, or lurcher.|
The Retired Greyhound Trust rehomes nearly 4,000 dogs a year,
funded by a levy from bookmakers.
Greyhound Board of Great Britain
Retired Greyhound Trust
Swindon Greyhound Track
A version of this article originally appeared in The Oldie magazine.