Stud Book & Kennel Club Registered Sporting Greyhounds
Please visit Dennis McKeon and his page for a great collection of even more article, which will make you laugh and cry out of enjoyment:
''It's truly amazing the effect that these dogs have on people. I don't think a person who hasn't gotten up close and personal with one can entirely wrap their mind around the sort of beguilment that only greyhounds are capable of. But there it is. You've all experienced it, whether you approve of racing or don't. Makes no difference-- that mystical, untamable, nebulous, ethereal quality is undeniable. It's what makes them unique. It's something that is beyond us, something that we can't put our fingers on or hold in our hands. It lies very close to their skin, but you can't feel it. It's something that doesn't require your sanction, or necessarily, your understanding. They understand. They know exactly who and what they are, and what they're all about. Whether it's the coyote-lonesome howling of the kennel chorous in full throat, or the fog-piercing gaze of the goshawk as he sizes up the gaps in the tree limbs, just before launching his strike---in those moments, in his private world, you don't exist. You can't touch it. You can only embrace it with your heart and soul. It's what I like to call "the wild gene". And it is an intrinsic part of all of them. It comes from somewhere long ago. It's kept alive because ancient greyhound voices can still be heard by these remarkable dogs, who, in their modern incarnation, are really not all that different from their long ago forbears. There's a reason for that, and we all know what that reason is. You don't have to like it, but please understand, it is the thing that preserves those beatitudes for these dogs...and for you.''
For the New Adopter---A Simple Primer To Help You Understand Your Greyhound
The Greyhound you have just adopted is a unique individual from a unique population of canines.
The Greyhound breed is steeped in antiquity and history.
While you may have read or heard that Greyhounds were once the cherished pets of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, recent explorations into the canine genome seem to debunk that commonly held belief.
It is more likely, given the DNA evidence, that the Greyhound breed was developed by the Celts, a tribal society which inhabited central Europe and the British Isles in Medieval times.
As western civilization progressed, Greyhounds became the favored pets of the nobility in Great Britain, so highly regarded for their skills as hunters and for their charms as companions, that it was unlawful for a “commoner” to own one for some time.
Later on, the supreme speed and skill of the greyhound attracted the notice of sportsmen and agrarians, who coveted them for their superb athleticism, their utility as killers of vermin and pests, as providers of game for the table, and who devised competitions for them, coursing after small game.
These “coursing” competitions were extremely popular, and became a major sporting attraction to spectators as well as to Greyhound breeders. The pinnacle of Greyhound athletic achievement soon became victory in the esteemed Waterloo Cup coursing competition.
The Greyhound found its way to the New World, likely with the early Spanish colonists. It is known that US Army General, George Armstrong Custer, was a keeper of Greyhounds, and enjoyed hunting coyotes and smaller game with them.
We do not know for certain if any of our domestic strains are the direct female lineal descendants of these earliest importations to America. Our modern Greyhound is, however, the direct descendant of those old Waterloo Cup winners and competitors.
After World War I, an American named Owen P. Smith had a vision. He imagined Greyhounds competing on an oval track, like the racetracks that horses compete on, chasing not a hare nor a small antelope, but a motorized mini-cart, with a prey effigy attached to it. All he had to do was invent a device that could attach to an electrified track, and which had an arm that would overhang the racing surface, and to which the “lure” could be fastened.
And so the “mechanical rabbit” was born, and along with it, the sport of Greyhound racing.
By the 1930s, track racing had become quite popular in the US, Ireland, England and Australia. A decade later, it had easily eclipsed coursing as the primary venue for competition among Greyhounds, and by the 1950s, track racing had become a sensation, the focus of most greyhound breeding throughout the world, as it remains today.
So your greyhound comes to you through the vaporous mists of prehistory, over the emerald and verdant meadows of the British Isles, across oceans of sea and time, to the vast and endless prairies of mid-America, finally, emerging from the racetrack to the adoption kennel…into your very hands…then, onto an all-embracing couch, somewhere, in Anywhere, USA, or nearby Canada.
Throughout his many historic and heroic incarnations, the Greyhound has proven to be supremely adaptable. There are few breeds who match his record of constancy as both a companion and a provider, and none who can match his skills as an uncommonly evolved athlete.
Popular mythology has, at times, cast the Greyhound as both a vicious and bloodthirsty killer, and as a wretched, put-upon, object of pity.
You may, however, rest assured that your Greyhound remains as blissfully unaware of the mythology and the controversies that surround him, as he remains the beautifully adapted embodiment of his ancient and sweeping history and bloodline, as well as his environment and experiences as a modern, racing athlete.
The Greyhound you see before you was not bred to be a “pet”. His parents were selected by his breeder because of their bloodline and family, and usually because both were outstanding performers on the racetrack, in head to head competition with their peers.
A Greyhound breeder does not factor into his selective process, whether or not the sires or dams he chooses to breed from, were congenial or companionable personalities, in the traditional sense that we normally desire in a pet.
Greyhound personality runs the gamut of types, from ebullient and outgoing, to shy and introverted, from aloof and detached, to needy and embracing, from focused and edgy, to playful and mischievous …and everything in-between.
Almost all of them, once they have become accustomed to their handlers and owners, are good natured and loving with them and their families—whether it is their breeder’s family, their racing family, or their adoptive family.
Most Greyhounds today, in the USA, are whelped and raised on sprawling, elaborate professional breeding establishments, called “farms”, as evidence of the rural origins of the Greyhound in America.
These farms have special areas and outbuildings to accommodate sires, dams, newborns, growing puppies, saplings, and greyhounds who are about to begin their race-training in earnest.
Greyhound puppies remain with their dams for a much longer period of time than do puppies of just about any other breed, some litters for as long as 5-6 months. Their dam teaches them correct “pack” behavior, as well social and play skills, and how to stalk and hunt prey.
Greyhound puppies are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, and they play hard and roughly with one another, often to the point where needle-like puppy teeth penetrate delicate and paper-thin skin, sometimes even leaving scars. It’s all in a day’s play for them, however, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
As they approach what we might say is canine adolescence, the puppies begin to exhibit the dramatic speed for which the breed is renown and prized, and the litters are usually placed together in extremely long, straight runs, so that they can stretch out and gallop, and begin to find their racing legs.
At this time they often begin lead-training, and are introduced to the grooming bench. Good manners and ease in being handled, to a racing athlete, are very important components to their later success.
The long runs at the Greyhound farm are separated only by chain link fencing in most cases, and you can watch one litter racing another litter, racing yet another litter, and so on, up and down the expanse of these straight-aways, competing with and goading one another to keep up the pace.
This sort of competitive urge is bred into them, from centuries of meticulous and high selectivity. They don’t need to be taught to compete. It is a part of who they are. Even the most shy and retiring of Greyhounds can turn into a rip-snorting, hell-bent-for-leather competitor once the gauntlet is thrown down.
The young Greyhound is often introduced to the starting box at some point in his early to mid developmental phase, with some breeders preferring to begin this training very early on. Once they have gotten the idea that they must remain in a stalking position, ready to strike as soon as the lid on the starting box is sprung, often they will learn to chase after a “drag lure”. This is usually a lure made of hide or cloth, attached to a long rope, which is pulled away from them by a motorized reel.
Some breeders also have what is called a whirlygig, a small, circular track, with a horizontal pole situated inside a wooden rail, on a center hub. There is a small wheel that allows the handler to walk in a circle, pushing the pole. The wheel tracks on top of the rail, with the lure pole overhanging the track, so that the greyhounds can learn the proper footwork of racing around a sharp turn at top speed, and to do so with all abandon and good courage. It is often on the turns at the racetrack, where the extraordinary will separate themselves from the ordinary.
When they are young, nearly fully-formed adults, in cases where the breeder does not have access to a training track, the greyhounds are then sent to a specialist, called a “finisher”.
Usually, the finisher has a standard-size training track on premises (about ¼ mile in circumference) or has easy access to one. In most cases, he will introduce the young greyhounds to a facsimile of a racing kennel, where the routine and the environment approximate that of the routine and environment of the kennel at the racetrack.
Here, everything needs to be done on a tight and precise schedule. Greyhounds have remarkably accurate biological time clocks, and like any other athlete in serious training and competition, they thrive on punctuality and routine, and do less well with the random and the novel.
At the training track, they will likely also compete with Greyhounds from other breeding farms, as well as any the finisher might have been raising. They will “school” in a rotation that approximates what they will encounter in a racing kennel. Once they have demonstrated to the finisher that they are ready to race in earnest, they will be transported to the track where their owner or breeder has chosen to race them.
The finisher can provide valuable input to the breeder/owner in this regard, as he has a fairly good idea of their level of competitive viability and maturity, and at which tracks they might find their best chances of success.
Racetracks can be either “major” or “minor” league in the quality of competition they attract, and there are levels at each stage. In this way, they are not unlike baseball franchises, where there are rookie leagues, class A leagues, class AA leagues and class AAA leagues for an athlete to demonstrate their abilities, before they can ascend, finally, to the major league level.
Some young Greyhounds are very precocious, talented enough so that they are able to compete at a major league venue as soon as they arrive. Others take time to develop their skills and to mature. Most greyhounds, whatever their natural gift, do find a level where they are able to compete credibly, and go on to have at least a moderately successful career as a racer.
Once the greyhound arrives at the racing kennel, the trainer and his/her assistants become the most important people in the Greyhound’s life. The Greyhound is entirely at the mercy of their intuition, insight, devotion, talent, compassion and skills.
Good trainers are punctual, attentive, calm, empathetic, energetic, have the eyes of an eagle, and possess a super-human work ethic.
The trainer is responsible for everything that affects the Greyhound’s physical conditioning, his emotional contentment, and his overall well-being. The better trainers treat each and every Greyhound in their care, regardless of that Greyhound’s ability, as if they were the greatest racer who ever set foot on the Earth---or flew over it.
A poor trainer, even those who try their best, can completely undo the grandest design that nature and selective breeding might engender.
Good trainers do everything within their power to make sure that stresses within the Greyhound’s environment, both existential and exercise-induced, are kept to a bare minimum. Content, relaxed, stress free Greyhounds are happy greyhounds, and with all other things being about equal, they will outperform Greyhounds who are less so.
The wise trainer always tries to maximize the potential of each and every Greyhound in his/her care, and makes sure to place them in situations where they will succeed.
Greyhounds in good health and condition are amazingly consistent and willing athletes. The more the trainer gives to them of his/her attentions, wisdom, empathy and experience, the more he/she will receive in return. A trainer who bonds with his/her Greyhounds is always in a better competitive position than one who does not, or one who cannot.
No trainer in the world, however, can turn a Greyhound who lacks the skills, speed, stamina and desire to become a great athlete, into one who does.
Fortunately, the economics of racing usually expose poor trainers in no uncertain terms. The racing world is very insular, and bad news tends to travel fast within it.
When the Greyhound reaches the point where he is to be retired, provided the breeder or owner does not plan to use the Greyhound as a sire or dam, the trainer is often the one who makes arrangements with the adoption kennel or group to place the dog.
Trainers can provide the adoption agent with useful information about the Greyhound’s disposition and temperament, his quirks, his likes and dislikes, and his history. This can be a help to them in placing the Greyhound with the right adopter, in the most appropriate setting.
We already know that Greyhound “personalities” are individual and variable, and that many of their tendencies are genetically predisposed, and to some degree, predictable.
The adoption group is staffed with volunteers who, like successful trainers, usually have a great deal of experience and intuitive acumen in placing Greyhounds in a situation where they are likely to succeed.
These volunteers have often placed Greyhounds from previous generations of the same Greyhound families and from the same breeders, and inasmuch as there is a familial (and rearing) component that tends to run in families and in certain strains, they can provide unique insights to the adopter.
There are many challenges ahead for both the Greyhound and his new adoptive owners. Your Greyhound is about to embark on a voyage to an entirely new and alien universe.
He has left behind his littermates and pack members, some of whom he has been with since birth. He will confront environments, situations, places, objects, and people with whom he is entirely unfamiliar.
He has bid fond farewell to his human familiars and caretakers, their voices and their touch, to the regimented, predictable routines and the security of his racing environs, and he is now faced with novelty at every turn.
The Greyhound no longer has the outlet of training and racing—“hunting” with the pack, to expend his excess energies, and to express himself in the fashion that forged his very being.
Even the food he will eat in his new home is likely to be strange and unappealing.
As we have previously mentioned, Greyhounds thrive on punctuality and routine. They prefer the known to the unknown. Novelty can be their undoing. Novelty is what they face when beginning their lives as house pets.
Greyhounds, because they are sight-chase-and-kill hunters by nature, have extremely keen powers of perception, and a 270 degree field of laser-sharp vision. They notice things that we may not perceive, and they perceive things from the vantage point that in any given moment, they might be both predator and prey.
As a new adopter, you must be careful not to place your new Greyhound in a “sensory overload” situation.
The track trainer knows that when preparing a Greyhound to race, never to allow that Greyhound to overextend himself. Training is done by increments, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the workout, over a period of time, until the Greyhound is finally ready to compete.
When introducing your new Greyhound pet to novel situations, environments, objects and people, you can approach it the same way. We never know how much is “enough”, until we know how much is “more than enough”. Take your clues from your Greyhound, before it gets to that stage. He is communicating things to you all the time.
He has to learn the boundaries and rules of life within your family unit, and you have to learn to interpret his signals and body language, and to react in a calm, compassionate manner.
Your adoption representative has likely given you the basic “do-s and don’t-s”. It is up to you to remember them, and to provide a structured and predictable routine, which will be a great help to your Greyhound as he re-habituates to his entirely new life outside of racing.
There are ample resources on social media, where some of the world’s most experienced adoption reps, veterinarians, veteran adopters and even racing and breeding professionals are just a simple, typewritten question away.
There is no such thing as a foolish question, and when your preliminary feeling is one of perplexity or doubt, it is always better to ask before forging ahead, or failing to make necessary accommodations.
While Greyhounds are infamous for being “40 mph couch potatoes”, and while they can sleep for 12-16 hours a day, they do need exercise.
Unless the Greyhound has a physical limitation or incapacity, the wise adopter sees to it that his Greyhound has a daily exercise outlet. This can be as simple as a brisk, mile-long walk, or a bracing galloping session in the backyard.
Your Greyhound does not have to be in “racing condition”, but neither should he be allowed to become sedentary and/or grossly overweight.
Once your Greyhound has settled into his new universe, you will begin to experience the full scope of his multi-dimensional and totally captivating charms, which have utterly beguiled humans since prehistoric times, and which have become legendary throughout the pet world.
Injuries in Racing Greyhounds
The toughest thing in the world for anyone to do, is to get greyhound breeders and/or trainers to agree on anything. This seemingly congenital inability to coalesce pretty much defines the nature of a “my-dog-is-faster-than-your-dog” sport, a last bastion of rugged individualism if ever there was one.
Injuries are the exception that proves the rule, however. No one likes them. We all agree. Racetracks spend thousands upon ten thousands of dollars upgrading and maintaining racing surfaces, usually with a full time staff employed to do such painstaking work. It’s not easy, and the guys who labor at it never hear from anyone when thousands of dogs go around the track safely in race after race after race, without so much as a shucked nail. Then the inevitable happens, and during the week in question, a couple of greyhounds suffer metacarpal fractures, another displaces a hock, and another breaks a toe—and the track guys can already hear the war drums beating, off in the distance. Injuries in racing greyhounds have produced almost as much angst among the low-information public as they do among greyhound professionals, but for different reasons. Breeders and trainers spend a significant portion of their lives with their greyhounds. Breeders nurture and raise them as a canine family, from their own breeding colony and of bloodlines they have developed, often for as many as a dozen or more canine generations, and sometimes for even 3 or 4 human generations of their own family. For example, the Randle family, one of racing’s pioneer clans, has been breeding dams from a single female family, which goes all the way back to a 1925 whelp they acquired, named Miss Judy. That is almost 90 years of producing champions and near champions, generation after generation, from the same female taproot. This is breed custodianship and nurturing excellence of the highest order. Their immortal Real Huntsman, two-time winner of the hallowed American Derby and winner of just about every other major race of his era, was from this very same female line. He is considered by many, including yours truly, to have been perhaps the most accomplished and versatile racing greyhound of any era. Breeders take an enormous amount of pride in their racing greyhounds, and invest even more emotion, labor, time and money in caring for, improving and preserving their bloodlines. They are never happy to see one of their canine family members hurt or injured in any way. And yes, it is an expensive proposition to see one’s greyhounds suffer a rash of injuries, even minor ones, and to deny that would be fundamentally disingenuous. But if you think for one second, that is the only “hurt”, then you haven’t a clue as to what motivates real greyhound professionals. It’s a sad commentary on our pop culture, and anti-racing dogma and ideology, that anyone would think breeders are casual or blase about having a hurt greyhound who wears the emblem of their passion, devotion, labor, skills and attentiveness to details–one they watched and helped come into the world at an ungodly hour of the morning–one that they placed on her dam’s teat so she might take her first drink of mother’s milk. If that is the case, we are missing the ocean for the waves. The greyhounds placed in care of the track trainer are their co-workers. The track trainer knows each and every one of them as well as he knows any of his human friends or family members, and spends far more time with them. A sharp and dedicated trainer will visualize and memorize every nuance of every greyhound’s movement and galloping action, every quirk or idiosyncrasy of their personalities and kennel habits, and can tell in a moment, when something is not right with them. He can also tell, simply by touching them, without seeing them, who they are. He gives himself to them, and they to him. The more he gives, the more he receives in return. It’s a beautiful thing. Nothing is more upsetting to a good track trainer than seeing one of his greyhounds suffer an injury, unless it would be one of his own children. That’s a fact. It shouldn’t take a whole lot of empathy for anyone to understand that. And if you have trouble with that, well then, I’m truly sorry. I can’t reach you. Now a lot of controversy has arisen as a result of certain, self-anointed “humane greyhound protectors” who contend that greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane because greyhounds can and do suffer injuries while racing. They seem to promote the idea that even one racing related injury is too much, and it is the result of unbridled human greed over-ruling compassionate, empathetic kindness. So, for the “humane greyhound protector”, state-regulated greyhound racing should be a crime, because greyhounds are sometimes injured while racing, and therefore racing is “cruel and inhumane”. My question to them is “compared to what?” I have never received an answer to that question from any “humane greyhound protector”. It’s not as if accidental injury is the sole domain of racing greyhounds. Ordinary and sedentary household pets suffer injuries all the time. As a matter of fact, Consumer Reports, in an article on pet ownership, cites a study done by the American Veterinary and Medical Association and says: “Roughly 1 in 10 cats and dogs visited the vet for an emergency in 2001, according to a survey of 54,240 pet owners by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2002.” One only has to visit websites like Greytalk, which specializes in greyhound adopter networking and advice to greyhound adopters, to see that a shocking number of retired greyhounds manage to injure themselves in a plethora of ways–not to mention the innumerable amber alerts, where greyhounds manage to get loose, often for days, and often a bit worse for wear when they are found. Whether racing or retired, these are large dogs, otherworldly athletes, who can reach super-canine speeds in a very short time, who can turn on a dime, and often do. Injuries happen. So while we may read about the numbers of injuries that occurred at a certain racetrack over a certain period of time, we never seem to see that number placed in any sort of context. We know that injuries happen to all breeds in all manner of ways, no matter what their lot in life. Common house pets, military dogs, police dogs, service dogs, flyball dogs, agility dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs, sled-pulling dogs, and lure coursing dogs, all have the opportunity, and sometimes do sustain injuries. Injuries are not unique to racing greyhounds. So the crucial information we need, to avoid singling out greyhound professionals for special censure and discrimination, is: “are greyhounds in the racing population, and in their tightly controlled and state-regulated racing environs, doing what they have been bred and love to do, at greater or lesser risk of injury than are these other unique groups of sporting or working dogs? Or even the everyday family dog, who according to the AVMA, has a about a 1 in 20 chance of being rushed to the vet for an emergency this year?” Again, the pregnant question remains “compared to what?” To establish some sort of context to racing greyhound injuries, Sportsvet.com has this to offer: “In a survey reported by Bloomberg and Dugger, there were 761 injuries reported for a total of 47,323 races ran at sixteen racetracks between the years of 1984-1990. Eight Greyhounds run in a race, so the total number of greyhounds competing one time or more included in this survey were 378,584. This means that the injury ratio is 0.2%. This number of injuries is miniscule, when compared to figures from the field of human sports medicine. Sports Injuries Online, a website developed to provide sports medicine information, reports that sports injuries are the leading cause of unintentional injury in children and youth and peak at 42% annually for people aged 15 to 24. They also report that sport Injuries represent a significant public health concern accounting for 23% of all traumas. When a comparison is made between human athletes and canine athletes, it shows that Greyhound racing is a very safe sport.” Copyright, 2013
We often read, on social media, messages from people who are having some difficulty either understanding or coping with certain retired greyhound behaviors. Usually, advice from a remarkable array of adoption professionals, experienced adopters, even veterinarians and racing professionals is immediately forthcoming. One thing they are seldom told, but something they need to know, is that racing greyhounds are not bred to be pets.
That particular aspect of selectivity never enters into the decision of whether or not the individual is a greyhound worthy of carrying on with the breed. Contemporary Racing Greyhounds are performance dogs, and superior performance in head to head competition is what usually determines who does and who doesn't get to input the genepool.
"Petability" is not one of the criteria used in this selection process involving the breeding of modern racing greyhounds. Many greyhounds, while they are superb track athletes and quite prolific as breeders, can have personality traits or exhibit certain behaviors that are not necessarily desirable in a pet, or conducive toward making an easy adjustment to life as a companion dog or family pet.
However, one attribute that is quite desirable in a racing dog, and in one who might be used for breeding, is what we term "keen-ness". This involves a heightened ability to perceive one's surroundings, and a heightened ability to react quickly and decisively to them. “Keen-ness”, in a track racer, is expressed as an irrepressible willingness to compete in racing competition, or to simply chase with abandon. Keen-ness, in a sire or dam, is something we want them to pass onto their offspring.
Especially keen dogs are very focused, often to the point where they can be oblivious to the humans around them. When something gets their blood up, the result can be less than ideal in a non-sporting, uncontrolled venue.
These unusual powers of perception can also predispose them to skittishness and nervousness, as they inevitably perceive and react to the known as well as the unknown, quite often to a degree not always in common with other breeds. Remember this--your retired greyhound, at any given moment, in any situation, is, in his own mind, both predator and prey.
This primal aspect is held very close beneath their thin skin, as a result of centuries of highly selective breeding to a specific function. It is the essence of who they are.
Now, seldom are these unique qualities deal breakers to potential adopters--but it is important to understand that greyhounds are primal, reactive, competitive dogs by nature, and when they are bred for “racing temperament”, it isn't for the same sort of temperamental qualities that we might wish to see in a Pug or a Maltese.
The fact that so many retiring racing greyhounds are still able to make a seamless adjustment in the face of a quantum leap of change in their lives, from racing athlete to family pet, is a tribute to their own innate intelligence and already learned faith in their humans.
Their coursing and racing heritage, and the mystical, ethereal aspects of their nature that it preserves, once taken into account and embraced, are just a bonus.
One of the most frequently asked questions among people who are unfamiliar with the breed, has to be “what is the difference between an AKC show-bred greyhound, and an NGA racing greyhound?”
Aside from what the question itself tells us, there are many more and crucial differences.
Visually, the two can be sometimes almost indistinguishable, but more often than not, are significantly different in structure and “type”. Show-bred greyhounds tend to be larger, heavier and thicker boned. Their rear legs are usually more rearward and sharply angulated when viewed in profile. Their torsos are much deeper, and their necks are longer and more forwardly arched. Their spines are more curved, and their shoulders are usually more laid-back.
AKC show greyhounds are bred to a visual ideal that is described in the breed standard. This visual description is then interpreted by a judge, and the dog who most closely resembles the description in the eyes of that judge, is declared the show winner.
AKC people like to call a dog who comes very close to the breed standard as being “correct”.
Racing works a bit differently, and so NGA racing greyhounds are not always AKC-correct. In fact, very few, if any of them are, by today’s standards. The reason for this being, that head-to-head competition has already proven which racing greyhounds are functionally “correct”. No judges are needed. The racing greyhound who consistently defeats his competitors in actual competition, is, by definition, “correct”. For the NGA breeder, “correct” is, as correct does. It has worked like this for nearly 100 years of track racing and track breeding.
Today’s racing greyhound is the physical, mental and emotional embodiment of nearly a century of highly competitive racing, and meticulous selectivity in breeding only the most “correct” racers. That means breeding the best racers to the best racers of their respective eras, with no consideration for their resemblance to an arbitrarily interpreted, subjective breed standard.
The only breed standard the NGA greyhound strives to replicate, would be the ability to win when competing against the best of their generation.
Adaptation/evolution in the AKC show greyhound population has been impelled by subjectivity in judging greyhounds to a visual ideal. In NGA racing greyhounds, every adaptation has come about naturally, as a result of function, and nothing else. Hence, they are a more compact and straighter of limb, to attenuate the tremendous quickness, agility, power and leg speed that racing demands. They are lighter of frame, heavier of muscle and smaller of torso, so that they can literally stay airborne for longer periods of time when at a full gallop.
None of this came about by serendipity. Every aspect of the NGA racing greyhound is the result of a natural, evolutionary, adaptive process that racing has compelled.
The AKC greyhound population in the US is very small and not particularly genetically diverse. There were fewer than 200 AKC greyhounds whelped last year in our country. Some AKC breeders have chosen to breed their females to NGA sires, and vice-versa, in order to infuse their bloodlines with the functionally “correct” and diverse bloodlines of the NGA greyhound.
The NGA greyhound is an amalgamation of 46 different and extant female families of greyhounds, who emerged at the time of track racing’s introduction. These were the greyhound families who proved capable of adapting from coursing to racing. Their blood has been intermingled with the best of our domestic racing greyhounds, as well as those from Ireland, Great Britain and Australia. The result has been a contemporary racing population that possesses unparalleled racing courage, stamina, fortitude, determination, derring-do, athleticism, and speed.
Their character is that of the alpha-predator, who will race on after the “prey”, even when every fiber and sinew within them screams for them to stop. Their character is that of the velveteen playmate of children of all ages, as gentle as the hares they once coursed on emerald fields, and so swiftly, that you could not imagine their mirth.
The modern, AKC show-bred greyhound has been formed mainly by the opinions of judges and breeders, and from a verbal description. The NGA racing greyhound, on the other hand, has been forged on and by the racetrack. He is the physical and mental embodiment of fierce, demanding, head-to-head competition, and of meticulous, diverse, highly selective breeding to a specific function.
Is one “better” than the other? Of course not. But different? As different as sunrise and sunset.
Have you ever wondered what a U.S. Racing Greyhound Trainer does? Well, here is your chance to find out. What a learning experience this was for me.
By Dennis McKeon
The trainer of record is the “sole insurer” of all the dogs on his kennel roster. That means he is legally responsible for them and answerable to racing authorities for any ethical, welfare or rules violations.
The track trainer does not actually teach the greyhound to race. That should have already been done by nature and the breeding farm or the finisher—these are specialists who simulate the racing kennel and racing routine/experience for the dogs when they are saplings.
When the dog arrives at the racing kennel, he will need to be examined thoroughly for injury, wormed, exercised and then schooled in the mornings, until such time as the trainer feels he is ready for an official race. Then he is officially schooled against greyhounds from other kennels, until he shows that he may be capable of winning a real race. The trainer can enter or remove the dog from the active roster after any race, at will. The trainer is responsible for structuring the kennel routine so that all cleaning is done efficiently, and that bedding is replaced as required for the dogs comfort. He also prescribes the dog’s diet—controls the feedpan, mixes the feed—sets the dog’s weights, and gives medications when necessary. He grooms the dogs and checks them for injuries, oversees rehab and exercise in between races, and decides what the protocols are in that regard. I would check and groom the racers the day before, the day of, and the day after a race, and either massage or whirlpool bath them before and after…in the case of a whirlpool bath, leave a day in between whirlpooling and the race. A trainer who does his job properly should be able to tell, while blindfolded, who any dog in his kennel is just by placing his hands on him. The trainer should watch the dogs run anytime they do, and he must have the eyes of an eagle, to detect even the slightest hiccup in the dogs locomotion, or deviance from their habitual behavior on the track or in the kennel. There’s a lot more to it, not the least of which is doing 6-7 turnouts a day and being at the track to watch and catch the dogs. A good helper or co-trainer is invaluable. IMO, the most important job of all for any trainer, is to eliminate stresses of any and all manner. Content and relaxed greyhounds are productive greyhounds.
There is so much hateful, ignorant and deliberate disinformation out there it simply boggles the mind.
Canines are all pack animals. All canines are "denners". This means that left to their own devices, they will seek out places to sleep and rest that provide close cover and protection, not only from the elements, but from their enemies.
Greyhounds, unlike most domestic canines, are raised in a pack. As puppies and then as saplings, that pack is comprised of their littermates and/or other greyhounds their age who are being raised on the facility where they reside.
When they arrive at the racing kennel as young adults, they become members of a larger pack, with sub-packs. Each pack member in the racing kennel has his/her own "den", which we (and those companies who sell them commercially) refer to as crates, and anti-racing propagandists prefer to call "cages", for maximum, negative connotation.
Canines have been observed, ad infintum, to sleep anywhere from 12-16 hours per day, both in domesticity and in the wild. That is perfectly normal behavior for canines of almost any stripe. Greyhounds, whether in a racing kennel or kept as pets in the home, are so fond of sleeping for protracted periods of time, and for such huge portions of the day, that they are known by all and sundry, affectionately indeed, as the infamous "45 mile per hour couch potato".
After a brief period of adjustment and evaluation, once they begin their racing careers, greyhounds are kept on a program of vigorous exercise, training, handling and grooming. They gallop in long runs, or on the racetrack itself. They are schooled behind the lure. They are walked on walking machines or by hand, and sometimes they even swim at facilities that have hydrotherapy units, nearby lakes or other bodies of water that the trainer can make use of.
They take whirlpool baths and/or receive relaxing massages, and they are brushed, combed, pedicured and slicked up before and after racing or training sessions. They are kept busy, and at all times, sharing their lives with their pack members. In all cases, conditioning them to race successfully takes time, repetition, commitment, and more than anything, it takes a lot out of the greyhound. Greyhounds cherish and require their downtime, their rest and their relaxation, to recover from the exertions of playing, training and then, racing.
Those of us who have never seen a greyhound immediately after a race or a training session behind the lure, have no idea just how much effort and energy they expend getting after it. Until you see the pumped up muscles, almost appearing to bulge through the greyhound's skin, the heaving sides, and the expression of pleasant fatigue and satisfaction on the face of the dog, it is impossible to imagine the degree of their desire, satisfaction and commitment. Once you witness it, it all becomes perfectly clear. The amount of sleeping and lolling about they do is roughly a reflection of the depth of their natural and healthy expressions of their genetic and athletic heritage.
So that couch potato you have at home, blissfully snoozing the day away as you occasionally check in to see if he or she is still alive, was, before he met you, a 45 mile per hour "crate potato" in the racing kennel. He learned to rest and snooze in his own private den space, feeling perfectly secure, while the kennel was a virtual beehive of activity all day long. He was deprived of nothing, was anything but bored, and was perfectly exhilarated when his name was called for either galloping, schooling, walking or racing---or just about anything other than the dreaded nail-trimming. Read more: http://awesomepaws.proboards.com/thread/100/couch-potato-crate-dennis-mckeon#ixzz3Kzryh7hB
I suppose one of the reasons I loved to train greyhounds was rooted in my impatience for all other things but dogs. Most of my personal troubles always were. Why not a good thing? You see, one of the wonderful aspects of race-training, is that if you make a significant change in a dog’s routine, diet or training protocols, you don’t usually have to wait 3-6 months to find out if you did the right thing. I liked that. You usually receive a quick, definitive answer from the Fates, informing you that you are either a gormless blockhead who might be better off managing ant farms for grade-schoolers, or that you are a blossoming genius whose horizons in canine husbandry are as endless as space itself.
Lippy came to us one mist-drenched spring morning in the emerald mountains called Green. He was nothing to look at, underweight and blowing his coat. Of course, just about every greyhound who was not mine, looked underweight to me. I like them fat and sassy.
So I looked Lippy over, and he was most cooperative. He seemed to have no obvious injury issues, and he walked and trotted perfectly, with no hint of imbalance or lameness. Poor guy had no idea what he was doing here in the western mountains, or what he’d done wrong to be sent here. As for myself, well I had no idea why we were sent a 30-month old dog who had graded off at Hinsdale, which was pretty much last call at the time.
But as I said, I was reactively impatient with everything in life but dogs. Someone must have thought something of him. I’d give him a try. I knew I needed to start stuffing Lippy with groceries, he was framed to carry about 10 more pounds than he was packing at the time. I shuddered mentally at the sight of him, but knew that whatever the case may be, he’d be a different dog with some muscle and fat added to his diet and that frame, and some attention to his grooming and fitness.
About an hour after bathing and putting him in his crate, he began to fret--that is, to whine and hyperventilate at once. So I let him out by himself, knowing that any dog stresses out after being thrust into a new situation, and knowing how tough that is for some of them. He was content to lay down in the cool of the pens, and look around at his beautiful new surroundings, as the sun struggled to burn away the misty morning. I had lots of stuff to do, and he’d be fine out there. I told him not to worry about a thing, and he’d be right as rain in a few weeks, and just to learn some patience—as much trying to remind and reassure myself.
As I got the feed ready, I heard the same fretting noises I’d heard before, only this time, coming from the turnout pen. So I went out there, and gave him a nice pet, and brought him back in, putting him up in his new crate, and promising him he was about to have the best meal of his life. As I added the steaming stew to the meat and meal, I asked him if he’d ever smelled anything this good. He didn’t answer until I’d given him his feed pan filled to the brim. I didn’t bother to weigh it, I just piled it on. He devoured it at once, and I had my answer to several questions. A dog with a good appetite for food is usually one with a good appetite for work. And he sure needed both.
So I turned everyone out post-meal—one should always turn the dogs out before and after feeding—and Lippy met his new pack mates without incident. After I had put them all back up, I groomed Lippy thoroughly, paying particular attention to stripping away what tufts of his blown coat hadn’t rinsed off with his bath water. His nails needed filing desperately, and so it was done.
After I had put him back up and while I was puttering around some with the others, he began again to fret. So I figured he needed to go out once more after such a huge meal. I left him there to attend to business while I puttered around some more, and maybe a half an hour later, the same thing. I heard the breathless, coloratura-soprano fretting from the turnout pen.
So Lippy was a fretter, or as they were also called, a “weight loser”. That somewhat explained why he weighed only 59 pounds. In bygone days, dogs who lost more than 3 pounds of body weight while being held in the ginny-pit waiting to race, were designated in the racing program as “weight losers”, with the letters WL printed next to their name. This was to advise the wagering public, though common practice at the time for a trainer was to keep the dog several pounds heavier than his/her ideal weight, to compensate. Apparently, no one had done that for Lippy. Now, however, Lippy’s kennel life would be spent going in and out of the kennel as his fretting implored—all day long, each and every day. Otherwise, he’d drive us all nuts.
So the verdant and splendid mountain springtime once again revealed its multi-hued tonalism to us as the days went by, and we were surrounded and touched by its magnificence. Lippy grew strong and fit. He proved to be a demon for work, just as I had hoped. Schooling him against moderate stock, it looked as if he had no holes in his game--only the fretting. It went on all day long, and every hour or so, Lippy began to fret, either to be let out or in. And I dutifully obliged him. I wondered what sort of treatment he had received elsewhere for this most disconcerting quirk of nerves. He was a son of Lucky Bannon, who was a great sire and an American Derby winner. Lippy had some class about him, too--and now, filled out, all muscled and slicked up, he was a sight to behold. He was a most loving and companionable sort, a sweetheart of a greyhound, who wanted to be with you all the time.
I had solved the problem of his keeping the others awake all night with his operatic fretting, by bringing him home with me, when the toys and the music had failed to calm him. He still fretted, but simply letting him out on the lead during the night for a minute or two seemed to do the trick. I was a high-energy person anyway, so I didn’t really mind the interrupted sleep. I sucked it up. And, heck, I liked Lippy.
While having lunch at a local diner, I decided that it was time to put Lippy on for official schooling, and get a sense of who he might be on the racetrack. He was a different dog now. While pondering our plan of attack, I caught a glimpse of the deaf girl who was always there, dining and speaking in sign language to a much older man, who I assumed was her father. They were regulars.
She was an utterly stunning, dusky hued, twenty-something beauty, with dark brown hair and deep brown eyes that were perpetually on fire. I’d seen eyes like that in a greyhound once. It was what we call the “look of eagles”. I couldn’t help but be captivated by her. This day, she seemed more animated than usual, and as I dull-wittedly gazed upon her striking loveliness, she made some motions that indicated to me that I should stop my stupid staring, and come over to her. Ever in the mood for adventure, there I went.
The man she was with said to me, “Donna wants to know if you work with the dogs at the track?” So I told him my story, and he relayed it to Donna, who seemed thrilled by it all. He further informed me that his daughter (I was right) loved the greyhounds, and wanted to have one. So I wrote down their telephone number and said I’d be glad to help arrange an adoption for her if she was still interested when a suitable greyhound became available. I’d have been glad to run up Rattlesnake Mountain backwards, with a backpack full of lead and several New Years Eve noise-makers dangling from my belt loops for her.
Back to business, I entered Lippy for official schooling, and brought him to weigh in on his scheduled day. He weighed in at 70 pounds. The clerk of scales looked at me with a great degree of puzzlement. He then mentioned that for Lippy’s last race--some 60 plus days ago—he had weighed in at 59 pounds. Then the presiding judge came over with Lippy’s Bertillion card, and began to scrutinize what markings were noted on the definitive ID card, including the color of each of Lippy’s nails. Onto the ear tatoos, and everything matched up just fine and dandy. Except for the weight. This should not have been an issue by letter of the rules. Lippy had not raced in over 30 days, and so his weight should have been of no consequence. But it was to these guys. They smelled a rat.
I was informed that Lippy would not be allowed to school that evening, and that he must be “re-Bertillioned” before he would be allowed to do so. I had no earthly idea what difference this would make, but I held my temper, and went along with the silliness. The last thing I wanted to do was to throw a tantrum at the weigh in with Lippy on lead—he’d be fretting enough in the ginny pit waiting to race, no need to have him associate weighing in with my impotent ranting and loss of composure. So we went through the process later on in the week, where a new Bertillion card was drawn up by the judge. It noted his color, markings and ear tatoos once again, just as the original had, and as if that had changed anything, the new and heavier Lippy would now be allowed to race.
I don’t recall how Lippy did the night he first schooled officially. But I do recall that he became one of the top greyhounds at the small venue, mainly used to break in puppies, called Green Mountain Park. He was a tad short, but he was a lightning bolt out of the box. He could take the turn from all but the 2 or 3 best dogs on the grounds. He was, to put it mildly, a revelation. He taught me more than I could have ever learned on my own, and something that was indelible. Because I had accepted and shown him some love and patience, even with all his quirks and flaws, he had gifted me with his great and boundless heart. He laid it on the rail every time he ran. There was never a question that if your pup drew in with Lippy, he was in for the ride of his young life trying to catch him. Lippy never gave in, and if you beat him, you were someone to reckon with.
Lippy never stopped his fretting. He just couldn’t help being who he was. And who he was, was a grievous angel.
As the meet at Green Mountain wore on, and as the lush, heavy husk of summer became the vivid explosion of brilliant and then melancholy autumn, I began to make preparations for my next move and job. It was about this time that Lippy came off a bit lame one day after winning his 12th grade A race. No, it wasn’t the major leagues, but 12 grade A wins anywhere usually means you can run. Lippy could damn well run. But he wouldn’t be running for a while. He’d torn a slight hole right in the center of one of his clavicle muscles, a very rare injury, and it would require some care and rehab. He was done for the meet.
It dawned on me that I had no idea where Lippy would go after the track closed for the season. I couldn’t risk his winding up with anyone who couldn’t deal with his odd and disruptive behavior. I made numerous inquiries of Lippy’s listed owner as to what was to be in his future, and received no reply. I asked the track to intercede. Again, there was no reply. It seemed as if no one wanted or owned Lippy. So I decided I did.
His incessant whining was an anathema to any kennel’s tranquility. I knew that. Lippy was over the top. He wasn’t a pup with a big upside. He was a 36 month-old with an uncontrollable habit that would test the patience of Job.
So there we were, Lippy fretting away, and me in my autumnal reverie, two lost souls. And then, I had the vision. She was someone like Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. She was dressed in a long white gown tied at the waist and slung across one shoulder, with a quiver of arrows on the other, her bow and her graceful, brindle greyhound in hand. But I realized that it wasn’t Diana at all. The face was too beautiful, the eyes were too aflame—and I recognized those eyes—why of course!
Every now and then, when I start to feel a little depressed, I like to visit with one of the most unforgettable characters I ever knew….
Caesar, The Dude
There are some greyhounds you barely notice as you go about your daily kennel chores. They’re usually the top graders. The ones who leave it all on the track, so that they don’t have a lot of pent up energy to expend driving you nuts.
Then there are some greyhounds you just can’t help but notice, because they’re just too winning with their charms and ways. They cajole you into their web of personality, which simply draws all the attention and silliness out of you, and you’re helpless. And then there was The Dude. Caesar was a white greyhound with black ticking and some patches. He was an import who was owned by a priest in Ireland. He was a compact 69 pounder, who was muscular and powerful looking, and whose main attribute was his ability to leave the traps quickly, run the turns aggressively, separate himself from the pack on the backstretch, and then hang on for dear life during the last 75 yards. Whenever Caesar didn’t get the jump on his rivals, he usually began looking for a taxicab or a rickshaw. Caesar, once he realized that he had not seized the opportunity immediately, preferred to save his ample energies for other things. Even though there were probably 45 other dogs in the kennel at any given time, Caesar liked to pretend that he was the only one. This entailed roaring like Godzilla to be let out first…to be let in first…to be fed first… to be groomed first… to be loaded into the truck first… to be taken out of the truck first… to be petted and fussed over first… and whenever the whim possessed him, to have his presence recognized and applauded by all and sundry, wherever he was, whatever he was doing. Caesar was an uber-character. He was literally bursting at the seams with what the French call “joie de vivre”. Caesar always looked like he was grinning, always with that mischievous twinkle in his eye. You expected him to wink at you at any moment, no matter what nonsense he was up to. He was irrepressible and irresistible. He was also a major nuisance. He was the Class Clown, the Teachers’ Terror and the Most Mischievous all rolled into one, hyper-kinetic bundle of joy. Nothing could get him down. His spirit was both ebullient and transcendental. Even when he had to have both his wrists fired, he was ready to go back to training the next day—or thought he was. Everything was a reason to party for Caesar. Bringing him to the racetrack was something else again. Not that he cared much about racing. He was good at it, and a solid top grader. But racing to Caesar was just an interlude in a much more vast sea of opportunity to make a spectacle of himself, and to ingratiate himself with anyone and everyone he encountered along the way—and, of course, to test the limits of my patience. Though Caesar never engaged in fighting with others, he was an expert at bluffing them. On the way to weigh in, invariably he would encounter at least one other strange dog for whom he would put on a display of aggressiveness that was worthy of a Grizzly Bear-in-rut. He liked to get his hair up, kick dirt and growl, while maintaining a safe distance from whichever dog he was trying to impress with his studliness. Once that was done, the real fun would begin. Everyone at the track and from the kennels knew Caesar by reputation, sight and name. His call name was “Dude”, and once we would finish with the obligatory tangling up of all his mates with his abominable behavior on the lead, and had made the necessary ablutions before beginning the walk to weigh in, invariably someone would spot him coming up, and call out “Dude!!”. At that point it would be mandatory to just remove the lead from Caesar’s collar, because he was simply unable to contain himself, and one could certainly not contain him. He would otherwise make an utter nuisance of himself trying to run over to whomever it was that had called him. And so that was the way Caesar went to weigh in. I’d lead the others, and Caesar would go to weigh in on his own– stopping whenever he felt like it, to pass the time of day with his many friends. Eventually he’d catch up to us, or we’d catch up to him, and get past the scales. On the night of the Wonderland Derby one year, Caesar was also on the card. We had qualified one of Jack Kahn’s “K’s” prefix females for the final (who had no chance of winning the race unless all the others went on strike at the box). I walked her up to weigh in by herself, while leaving Caesar and the rest of our charges in the truck. Of course, realizing that he was not to be the center of attention at that moment, Caesar began to howl as if someone had jammed the tip of his tail into an electric pencil sharpener. The truck box was actually quivering from his discontentment. He was beside himself. That being done, I returned to the same cacophony of hurt feelings, and got Caesar and the others leashed up to go through the process. He was entirely disgruntled at the disregard for him that I had shown, and made himself unusually difficult to control as I attempted to leash up the others. As we headed for the clean-out area, I spotted Delores Connick, the wife of the legendary trainer Clarence Connick. She was walking the great Unruly, who was the prohibitive favorite to win the Derby. Unruly was anything but—unruly, that is. He was actually a spook, and Clarence and Delores had worked very hard to get him to relax, so that he could perform up to his vast potential. Now Caesar–he was unruly. As I sidled over to Delores to wish her luck, I guess I was paying more attention to Unruly’s deportment than to Caesar’s. So while we were chatting, Caesar managed to get his face near Fred’s ear (“Fred” was Unruly’s call name). And then Caesar gave him his best Grizzly Bear-In-Rut performance, complete with hair-up, fierce and savage growling, along with abundant, comically exaggerated dirt kicking. Fred was a bit flummoxed to say the least, and tried to skitter away from the puffed-up and faux-agitated Caesar. Delores looked astonished, and exclaimed to me…”Dennis, is that Ceasar?!?! Get him away from us!!!” I felt like a complete, Martian-green idiot, and apologized profusely for having allowed Caesar to disturb the great Unruly on the night of his most important race. As luck would have it, Unruly ran a clunker that night, and of course, I figured that Delores would blame me and Caesar–though she never said as much. When I saw Clarence after the race, I owned up to and apologized for what I had allowed to transpire. He just laughed it off like the gracious gentleman he was, and told me not to give it another thought, and that Fred had lost because he was racing against seven other dogs who were all capable of winning on any given night when things went their way. Clarence had a reserved “aw shucks” manner about him that always reminded me of many of the characters that Jimmy Stewart played in movies…that and his tall, slender appearance. I still felt like an idiot. Possibly costing Unruly his shot at the Wonderland Derby was not the only trick in Caesar’s repertoire. One odd thing (among many others) we had noticed about Caesar was that whenever a pretty young lady would pet him and pay the proper amount of attention to him, he would become, shall we say, aroused. Now the only physical display he would make of this arousal, was the highly noticeable engorgement of a certain part of his anatomy. He was never aggressively rude or impertinent in that way. He just sort of exposed himself, and that was it. We, of course–that is, most of the trainers who were aware of this little quirk—took great amusement in watching the leadout (any time it was an attractive young lady) pet Caesar during the post parade. And when they stopped for inspection by the Patrol Judge, and while they waited on the reviewing stand. Even some of the patrons would notice the dark pink protuberance, and like giddy little schoolboys, we’d make ourselves sick from laughing about it. Every time. It didn’t take much to amuse us, we lived in a very sheltered world. Caesar, I’d always figured, due to his Irish upbringing, was probably rabbit crazy. He was crazy about everything else, so why not rabbits? We kept a huge, corpulent and haughty rabbit named Marvy, outside the kennel, in crate next to a trailer. I don’t know how it came to be that this gigantic rabbit wound up at the kennel, but he never did a lick of work. I wasn’t big on rabbits. Marvy had become just a pensioner, growing fat and lazy on carrots and celery, and from pure inactivity. Caesar, inevitably, had transitioned into veteran racer-hood, and he had begun to lose his edge. He was 4 years old now, so it wasn’t unexpected. I mused over how much easier (and quieter) my life would be without Caesar and his relentless antics, and at the same time, about how much I’d miss him when the day finally came to hang up his racing muzzle. I got it in my head that I wanted him to retire after winning a race. Every one of his other racing connections thought that was a good idea, too. Somehow, he had managed to work his way back up to grade A, just to complicate matters, as only he could. They were carding the occasional 3/16ths race back then, so when the opportunity arose, I would enter him for that distance. It was really his only chance to win in top grade at that point. The devil in me thought that with a little luck, he’d pull it off, and I’d be rid of him–and all of his nonsense. I, however, required some assurances. I prepared Caesar as if he were going to contest the Irish Derby. I pulled out all the stops. He was just busting to run. He went for walks on the beach, he took whirlpool treatments, had chiropractic adjustments, and ultra sound sessions for his wrists. I flushed his kidneys and biled him out. And I decided, just for good measure, to introduce him to a big, fat, lazy rabbit named Marvy–just in case he needed a reminder of what his real job was–besides making my life more complicated then it had to be. I had a diabolical plan in mind. I brought Caesar out to the grass turnout pen to let him graze for a while. I placed the blubbery rabbit in a paper shopping bag, the kind with the built in handles. They strained at the weight. I went into the dirt pen next the grass pen, where Caesar was now watching my every move, and wondering what was in the shopping bag. I taunted him a little with the bag, letting him get a good look at it and a good sniff of it, before dumping Marvy out of it, onto the sand. Caesar went outhouse ballistic!! You’d have thought the grass had turned into hot coals the way he was carrying on. “Mission accomplished”, I thought to myself. I gathered Marvy up and put him back in his rabbit crate, hidden from view of the turnout pens. Caesar was still high on his toes and keen as an officer’s dress sword, when I returned to let him back into the kennel. A few nights later, Caesar would be performing in what I hoped would be his swan song. He didn’t owe anyone a dime, and if ever there was a dog who was born to be a pet, it was Caesar–the Dude. So on the night in question, we went through the usual Dude goes to weigh-in folderol, Caesar, resplendent in the attention- getting, and the soul of affability, as always. I thought about how he had grown to be something larger than life, both as a public character, and as a pain in my neck. But you couldn’t help but love him, and his relentless love of life. He had lived every moment to its fullest. I made sure I was at the rail when they brought them out for the post parade. And I had the infamous shopping bag tucked beneath my jacket. When they stopped before the patrol judge, I called out “Dude!” Caesar glanced my way, and saw the shopping bag I was now holding out for his perusal. He lunged toward me, only to be brought up short by the leadout, who had no idea what was going on. I stayed where I was, and wiggled the bag so that he could see it while the Judge inspected his blanket and muzzle. Then I walked off, dumped the bag in the trash, and waited for the race to begin. Caesar hit the lid like his hair was on fire. He still had the lead as they turned for home, and at 330 yards, no one was going to catch him. It was truly a bittersweet moment. Caesar would retire after winning a Grade A race. I would no longer have to cater to his every whim just to keep peace and quiet in the kennel. It was like the last day of school all over again. Sweet freedom! I also realized that like those aimless, sultry summers, our kennel routine could become somewhat more dull and more boring. Especially without Caesar and his endless antics, his unquenchable thirst for life. Somebody knew somebody whose little girl wanted a pet rabbit. We sent Marvy packing with a bemused little tyke, who probably only weighed a few pounds more than he did. One of the assistant trainers at the kennel in Lincoln, RI, had called dibs on Caesar. He wanted a pet with some personality. Oh brother, did we have the dog for him. On the day Caesar left, it was none other than Hall of Fame trainer Don Cuddy who volunteered to drive him down to his new owner in Lincoln. He and his wife Marie, who was Caesar’s greatest proponent and who was unfailingly amused by his relentless shenanigans, hopped into the truck, and Caesar somehow, true to form, had cajoled his way into the back seat. It was the height of irony, that in a business where people are quite used to the coming and going of dogs they have grown attached to, and who are regarded as being entirely without sentimentality–there must have been 12-15 people gathered round to see Caesar off, and to bid him fond farewell. I felt guilty for feeling as if a weight had just been lifted from my shoulders, in spite of my high regard for Caesar. I could see him as the truck wheeled round to the driveway, and I caught a glimpse of that guileless grin, and the mischievous twinkle in his eye for the last time. And this I will swear to until the day they lay me in my grave. As he passed my gaze, on the road to new and endless vistas he’d never even dreamed of, and as if he knew precisely what I was thinking, the Dude winked. Copyright, 2013
You Only Get Out of ‘Em As Much As You Put Into ‘Em
As a young racing greyhound trainer, I always listened attentively to the advise of well-respected and accomplished, veteran trainers and breeders. I’d even seek them out. To a man (or woman), they would insist that as far as greyhounds went, you could “only get out of ‘em, as much as you put into ‘em”—-which was a nice way of informing me that racing greyhounds were not raised or trained in the coffee shop, or at nightclubs after hours, and that successful breeders and trainers were mostly guys (and gals) who were willing to out-work their competitors, to make personal sacrifices, and to sweat the most minute of details. Furthermore, as retired greyhounds are adopted by the dozens of thousands, and have achieved a popularity that none of those veteran breeders and trainers would have imagined in their wildest dreams, the current state of the racing greyhound in retirement is a monument to that sage advice, and to the hard work they undertook as caretakers and custodians of a unique canine population. And, as well, to the “handing down” of the art and the craft. Ironically, the astounding popularity of the retired racing greyhound is the antithesis of the mythology that has been concocted by anti-racing agitators—particularly the hallucinogenic dogma of those who are ever in search of more and more tax free donations, from a softhearted but gullible public, and who choose to portray these magnificent, beautifully adapted athletes as pathetic objects of pity. To put it simply, a population of dogs that was the byproduct of widespread abuse, mistreatment, and/or environmental and existential factors that were incongruous with outstanding and humane husbandry, could never make the quantum leap from “professional athlete” to “lovable couch potato” in the numbers that we bear witness to today among retired greyhounds. The racing greyhound is uniquely adaptable and agreeable, because of—not in spite of—-his bloodline, breeding, raising, training, environment and handling, as a beloved racing athlete. Everything we know to be true about the cause and effect of breeding, raising, training, handling, environment, and the functionality and culture of a population of canines, upon their temperament, disposition, and adaptability, is empirically observable in the yearly, retiring greyhound population—-which is, to say the least, thriving and in great demand. Dogs who are the victims, in their formative years and afterward, of systemic cruelty and abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, are usually poor candidates to make good family pets, without significant rehabilitation and painstaking, empathetic handling thereafter. Greyhounds, on the other hand, are phenomenally popular today, not only as sweet-natured and loving pets, but as cherished family members. As the old-timers would have said, “Remember, you only get out of ‘em, as much as you put into ‘em, son.” Copyright, 2009
Demystifying Greyhound Stride, (Part 1)
The other day I watched a film of a very fast farm pup. The pup showed a brilliant burst of speed in around 2 turns (approx 3/16ths), after breaking belatedly from the backstretch. I noticed that as the greyhound raced around the turn and into the stretch, she failed to change her lead as she straightened, after completing the turn.
I mentioned it, and I got the feeling that no one seemed to know what I was talking about, or cared too much. It’s pretty important that one understand the basics of the double suspension gallop of a racing greyhound, and why greyhounds change their “lead”. First of all, in double suspension, unlike the galloping gait of a horse, the greyhound achieves “lift” in the extension phase of stride as well as in the flexion phase. The horse’s 4 hooves are only off the ground, simultaneously, in the flexed—-or closed—-stride phase. The greyhound, however, extends forward with such athleticism and velocity, that he literally becomes airborne at the point of full rearward and forward extension. Since greyhound (and horse) tracks have counter-clockwise turns, the racer has to adjust his stride into the turn, so that his right side is the weight-bearing side. To actually race around a counterclockwise turn, a greyhound must be on its “left lead”, which is the terminology for a sequence of footfalls through the stride, that goes like this (aerial view) LR-1_________________________________________LF-4 ……….RR-2___________________RF-3…………. What that means, is that the left rear foot strikes the ground first (hence the “left lead”), the right rear falls 2nd, the right fore falls 3rd, and the left fore falls 4th…… Now, some greyhounds break on their left lead, and some break on their right lead. But to maintain speed and velocity, they all must run the turns on their left lead, to equalize the effects of centrifugal and centrifugal force, and to bear their body weight as they turn. The greyhounds’ footfall sequence on the right lead looks like this…. ………LR-2______________________LF-3……….. RR-1_________________________________________RF-4 Now, when a greyhound is running the turn on its left lead, its right side naturally becomes more affected by fatigue. So if the greyhound switches to its right lead, as soon as it comes off the turn, it will usually allow itself to continue at a similar or even slightly increased stride frequency, perhaps even with a bit more power. If it fails to switch its lead, the exponential effects of fatigue will assert themselves, and the greyhound will—-sooner or later—–suffer a decrease in the the scope and the power/frequency, and thus the efficiency of its stride. It will begin to lose velocity, or “lose its action”, which can happen even if the dog changes leads. But that will happen sooner if it doesn’t change leads. Often, greyhounds who “blow the turn”—-that is, suddenly swing extremely (and often unexpectedly and dangerously) wide from an inside or mid track line, do so because they are unsighted of the lure in traffic, and cannot judge where the first turn is. So it is late changing its lead from right to left, so it runs straight, as the lure turns, until it finally makes its lead change. Of course, there are some dogs who prefer to run wide, and do so in any event. We can tell whether a greyhound breaks on its right or left lead, if we watch closely. This is important to know, when deciding on whether or not you wish to enter a greyhound in a 3/8th race, where the a turn presents itself immediately after the break. Greyhounds who begin on their left lead have a distinct advantage in this race configuration, as they do not have to make the split second change from right lead to left lead to negotiate the turn after only a few strides. Many great 3/8ths racers are greyhounds who prefer to break on their left lead. Likewise, sprinters who neglect to change their lead from the far turn into the homestretch, though they might be very “strong”” sprinters, are not likely to thrive in 3/8ths races, where they will have to run 110 yards further, on the wrong lead during the stretch drive. A smart trainer can steal a lot of 3/8ths races with certain types of sprinters, if he understands and applies basic stride fundamentals, and can often predict when greyhounds are going to be “short” in sprints, because they don’t change their lead when coming into the homestretch after the 4th turn. More importantly, a trainer can sometimes tell when a greyhound is either incubating an injury, or has already injured his hindquarters, by knowing which lead his greyhound prefers to break on. When a greyhound suddenly changes his break-to lead from right to left, or vice versa, very often that can be a signal that something is amiss. It could be anything from a slightly strained muscle or hock, to a foot bruise, to a subluxated lumbar vertebra, or even a pelvic misalignment. Copyright, 2005
The following was written by Dennis McKeon, who was a trainer for many years at the Wonderland Race Track. Dennis has years of experience and knows greyhounds very well. Since we try to place many of the shy dogs (on Craiger’s List), we feel that this information is helpful in understanding them: Ideopathic Fear and Withdrawal In Greyhounds by Dennis McKeon One of the most educational aspects of working with large populations or colonies of Greyhounds in racing, is to watch how the pack interacts, and to observe the dynamics of it. Greyhounds have always been pack animals. Not just historically, but in actuality. They have hunted and coursed in packs, and today they race in packs. They are kept with their dams much longer than most, if not all breeds, and they begin their socialization training within their own family units. Within that unit, a pecking order develops. There is usually always a dominant individual, or an “alpha”, and depending upon the size and nature of the litter, there might be both an alpha male and female. Often, they are the play leaders. The others are submissive to them, and to one another, and so-on, down the “chain of command”. The alphas are not always the best athletes or the fastest in the litter, but they do often command a certain degree of supplication. More educational, is when these small packs are introduced to the larger pack of the kennel, either at the track, or on the breeder’s facility. It is simply fascinating to see how they integrate themselves within the pack dynamic and the established hierarchy. Sometimes it can mean trouble, when introducing future colony alphas to current colony alphas, or to one another. You have to be able to read dog body language well, and to recognize instantly when there is a disturbance within the pack “force”. Now the alphas are not the only ones that require your attentions. Betas, or sub-dominant individuals, can be in constant need of your supervision, as they often push the envelope of the pack’s serenity, and while not seeking pack dominance, sometimes seem to almost invite correction. Greyhounds at the bottom of the pack hierarchy are omegas. These are often high strung, nervous, shy, retiring, submissive types, who are only followers. Sometimes this “follower” mentality results in a racer who doesn’t want to lead the pack at all. But more often, the omega personality is simply a tightly wound follower, lacking in self-confidence, readily submissive and somewhat introverted. We used to call these types “touchy” or “squirrelly”. Sometimes, adoptive owners of omega and other lower ranking pack members, mistake their dog’s pack-ordained personalities as being the result of inattention, or even rough or inappropriate handling. And this could be the case in some instances. More likely, their natural nervous energies and absence of self assurance is amplified by the extremely challenging life adjustment from the racing kennel to the family domicile—where all sorts of new and intimidating objects and arrangements confront them. Good and empathetic pet owners are patient with these dogs—and there are many more of them than there are alphas—and they slowly acclimate and re-habituate them to their new lives. It has all worked out splendidly, as we know, and retired greyhounds are phenomenally popular as pets. Even the shy, touchy types seem to find their forever homes. One of the great mysteries of the Greyhound world, and the dog world in general, is the “spook” phenomenon. Spooks are greyhounds who are pathologically fearful of everyone and everything with which or whom they are not intimately familiar. They are profoundly terrified of any sort of novelty. Spooks are genetic. Spooks who are bred, tend to throw a higher percentage of spook offspring, though some never pass the anomaly on. All dogs develop a natural fear response at about 8-12 months of age. For some reason we don’t quite understand yet, sometimes this natural fight-or-flight instinct goes haywire, and the dog becomes entirely fearful and withdrawn. Anyone who has ever raised a litter of spooks—and I have—is always heartbroken when they see this phenomenon developing, and are powerless to do anything much to remedy it. According to PetMD: “Profound fear and withdrawal of unknown cause (so called idiopathic fear and withdrawal) has also been noted in certain dog breeds, including the Siberian Husky, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, Border Collie, and Standard Poodle, among others. There appears to be a strong familial component, with the likelihood of a genetic influence.” While the racing greyhound who develops idiopathic fear and withdrawal syndrome can behave quite normally around his/her handlers and familiars, they become completely withdrawn and terrified of any new people who are introduced to the kennel environment. Naturally, they are a true challenge to potential adopters, and only greyhound savvy individuals with a great deal of empathy, time and patience would be advised to adopt a greyhound who exhibits this unusual disorder. These aren’t simply shy, touchy, squirrelly omega types, or just high strung greyhounds. As a matter of fact, I’ve handled at least one spook who was the alpha female in a racing kennel. The rewards, needless to say, of winning the trust and love of a true “spook”, are well worth the time and energy required. It’s almost as if they’ve kept it all stored up just to shower down their affections upon you, once you have finally broken through those vexing personality barricades.
Only In Greyhound Discussion
Only in greyhound discussion, can you hear such a diversity of opinion in the face of people who have worked for decades within racing and breeding greyhounds for racing.
Only in greyhound discussion, can we speak of a situation where there are probably in excess at any given time, of 100,000-plus retired greyhounds, happily living out their lives as beloved and cherished family pets and companions, yet still encounter people who feel that the Greyhound’s formative and defining experiences were abuse, neglect and mistreatment. It’s absurdity taken to an entirely new and extreme level. Greyhounds are all asked to make a universe-spanning leap of adjustment when they move from their racing environment to a home environment. Everything they had become used to, everything and everyone they knew and counted upon is gone—including their kennelmates, and often their siblings, with whom they have lived since birth. They are then literally thrown into what is, for them, an alien universe—full of scary, noisy, intimidating, and strange sounds, objects, places and people. Try to imagine if somehow a Dolphin could grow legs, and get around on the land. How do you think he might react to the experience? Well that’s about the way it is for a newly re-homed greyhound. Yet, in spite of these daunting and harrowing challenges, most greyhounds make a splendid adjustment, and do it with a minimum of fuss and bother. And that’s a direct result of their breeding, raising, handling and training—and because they have learned to trust and love the humans they have encountered along the way, during their time spent as racing greyhounds, and before that, as racing greyhounds in development. That’s how dogs manifest. Those who know little or nothing of a greyhound’s life as a racer, often confuse “socialization” with “habituation”. Greyhounds, because they encounter so many people during their careers as racers, are usually quite well socialized. From the time they are whelped until their early race training begins, and then afterwards as racers, they encounter dozens and dozens of people, including their breeders, their families, their handlers and often their families, their veterinarians, various racetrack personnel, and sometimes even their fans among the racing public. They are also quite well habituated to their structured and carefully monitored training and racing programs and routines, and all of the attendant care that goes into forging a racing career. What they lack is “habituation” to life as an ordinary pet. This is where things, for some greyhounds and their new owners, can become problematic. They have to learn the routine and fundamentals of life in a home, just as they had to learn about life as a racer. In that sense, YOU must become the trainer. Like any good trainer, you need to observe and react, and to place the greyhound in situations where he is likely to succeed. Like any good training protocol, progress is achieved by increments. We can’t take a racer who has been spelled for a month of rest and relaxation, and suddenly ask him to negotiate the distance of a marathon with only a light sprint as a prep. We have to prepare him properly, over an extended period of time, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of his work, until such time as he has the necessary foundation. The same is true of the newly adopted pet. He’s not going to know or even necessarily understand what the routine and rules are in his new universe. You have to slowly, and with punctuality, empathy and understanding, re-habituate him. They are intelligent and perceptive dogs, and they are attuned to human body language and the energy you give off. And yes, there are skittish, shy, fearful and abnormally high strung greyhounds. And in some cases, they are this way because of sloppy, thoughtless, unprofessional, inattentive and even rough handling and caretaking, and/or poor socialization. But more often than not, as we know, much of a greyhound’s traits, temperament and disposition are highly heritable. So are the greyhound’s greatly heightened power of perception, and his uber-awareness of what is going on within the 270-degree field of his laser-sharp vision. Greyhounds, because they are essentially sight chasers/hunters, are keen and super-reactive to what they see. When something moves in a way they interpret to be threatening or a reason to chase, they are hard-wired to respond emphatically. That’s why we tell folks to be careful with them at the dog park, and also why some of them are so intimidated by novel experiences, objects, and even strange people, and their natural “fight or flight” instincts take over. So we can let our opinions be formed by those whose need is to cultivate intolerance, cultural division, narrow-mindedness, ignorance, and in some cases, even hatred. Or, we can make a concerted attempt to educate ourselves about the breed we care so much for, and to see him in a new, realistic and holistic light. There is a lot more to the Greyhound and his racing experience than you are ever likely to read on an agenda driven website. More than you will ever hear from agenda driven people, who feel that because they perceive themselves as “rescuers” of greyhounds, most of whom were never in need of rescue at all, they are also entitled to lash out at others in the most ugly ways imaginable–whenever the mood suits them, and without having done their due diligence. The choice is ours.
“Ignorance” is a funny word. Most people think of it as an insult, if they are told that they are “ignorant” of something or other. And often it is meant as such. “Ignoramus”—eg: one who is ignorant--is perhaps even a more cutting word. It certainly sounds ugly.
We are all, however, ignorant of many things. I plead guilty to being ignorant of fishing, ignorant of how to read music, and ignorant of Shakespeare, among many more things that others have long ago committed to muscle memory, and which have somehow escaped my grasp.
We can’t all know much about too many of the bizzillions of things in this kaleidoscopic universe. So I guess we might say that we are essentially a species of ignoramuses, if one were to take a truly holistic view of it.
Be that as it may, most of us take a healthy interest in something. That healthy interest can even border on or become a passion, and usually, it’s all good. The rub being, that ignorance and passion are not mutually exclusive.
For example, I’m a guitarist. I’ve known and still know some really talented musicians. Some of them are incredible technicians, and quite passionate about their music. Some of them, however, are almost completely ignorant of the roots and origins of the music they love so passionately.
Neither their passion nor their ignorance, in this case, is a crime. Some people, however, might feel it is a crying shame that a gifted, modern blues guitar slinger had never even heard the music of Charley Christian, Big Bill Broonzy, Reverend Gary Davis, Memphis Minnie, Charley Patton, or others who helped define the idiom.
Revelations of that sort can greatly expand one’s own musical horizons and vision, as well as nurture a more profound understanding and sublime appreciation of the times and the culture that spawned such wondrous music, and from where they themselves, as musicians, have evolved.
So we see that ignorance is clearly only a state of mind. It’s not a pejorative at all.
It’s a choice we make by lack of curiosity.
And so we will steer the conversation, as we always do, to our iconic, beloved Racing Greyhound, the object of oceanic waves of our deepest passion.
He is a prodigy, yet more ancient than our own recorded history. He is an athlete of unthinkable grace and power, and he is a dozy couch companion of the most immobile sort. He is a hunter of ruthless and supreme skill, and he is the dove-natured, velveteen playmate for children of all ages.
In our pop culture of sensational sound bytes and 20-something second attention spans, the Greyhound has become little more than an object of pity to the vast majority of people who are aware of his existence, but are largely ignorant of him.
However, simply acknowledging his existence, or even passionately championing him as this pathetic object of pity, betrays an ignorance of the most profound sort.
If you were to stumble, trying not to step on a multi-faceted, jewel-like thing you found on your morning walk, you would not refer to it as “just another stone in the road”, would you? I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t take it to your local gym and ask the local muscle-heads about it—or even the local Zumba-dancers.
You would investigate what you had found, by consulting those who had experience with, and who had deep and extensive knowledge and understanding of such precious things. You would ask experts to tell you about it, what type of jewel it was, where it might have come from, and finally, what it was worth.
Yet many of the people who are most passionate about Greyhounds--without a doubt a diamond among canines—are content to derive their “greyhound information” from those who, while they may be excruciatingly passionate themselves, have no particular expertise, and who are more often than not, entirely ignorant of the Greyhound. Or, in the worst case scenario, from those ignoramuses, to whom the Greyhound is no multi-faceted jewel at all, but to whom he is just another stone in their road toward realizing a cultural or political agenda, and a source of donations for them.
So like some of my musician friends, we can remain happy and content inside our own cocoon, pleasing ourselves, without ever deepening our understanding of the source of our joy, never even sensing the rainbows and canyons of its history and evolution.
Or we can learn. We can choose to meet the greyhound in the field of his prism-like dimensionality. It is as green and verdant as any upon which he ever coursed after the wild hare. We see him through the mists of millennia, as easily as we can see him at the foot of the bed when we rise in the morning.
He is a grievous heartbreak, and he is transcendent triumph. He is a name on a pedigree of illustrious ancestors, and he is a member of your own family. He is as ancient as the trilithons of Stonehenge, and he is the new sensation of the pet world.
He is the glorious and flawlessly formed physical embodiment of thousands of years of adaptation and of selective breeding to a specific function, and he is the humblest and most unassuming of servants, always willing to go along, to get along and to please.
Ignorance is only a state of mind. It’s not a point of view.
If we choose to remain ignorant of the Greyhound, and to let those who are the most willfully ignorant of him continue to write his modern narrative, as we have come to know him, and as we need to know him, the racing greyhound will surely perish.
Grey2k, Animal Rights and the Cultural War by Rockingship Anyone who has ever spent any time around Racing Greyhounds with their eyes, heart and mind wide open, knows that there is something very special about them. There is no other breed of canine with which to compare them, even though there are quite a few breeds of dogs that have descended from them. There is a nebulous quality about them that sets the Racing Greyhound apart from other canines, and it is as ancient as starlight and as striking as a flaming meteor. Because of the ongoing unraveling of the canine genome, we now know that Greyhound DNA is one of the several foundational strands of all modern dogs. Scientists and researchers feel that the halotypes of our contemporary Racing Greyhounds probably first emerged as part of a branching-off process from the Grey Wolf, which began perhaps as many as 140,000 years ago. This is a staggering proposition. What it essentially means is that Greyhound-like dogs evolved naturally, until they eventually became companions of men. Since the Greyhound has always had a utilitarian purpose, either as a pre-historic, wild and deadly hunter of game, as a swift and efficient courser of vermin, or as a racer of astonishing speed and athleticism, he is unique among canines. As respected Greyhound pedigree researcher and writer Martin Roper has suggested (in his essay, Everything You Know Is Wrong), it is highly unlikely that the Greyhound was ever domesticated by Egyptian Pharaohs, as had been long thought to be the case. The DNA evidence from Greyhounds and the various African sighthounds just does not seem to support that romantic notion. The Greyhound, as John Henry Walsh (aka, “Stonehenge”, a 19th century breed expert and chronicler) had offered, and which Roper has seconded, was most likely domesticated and brought to British Isles by the Celts. Today, as science peels away the ancient layers of mystery that shrouded the origins of the Greyhound in antiquity, for our appraisal, we are faced with the double-whammy of having to counteract the deliberate falsification of the current “state of the breed” by animal rights/anti-racing propagandists. So while on one hand we have gained a much deeper and more accurate understanding of how our Greyhounds have come to be who they are today, on the other hand, we see a new litany of outrageous dis-information being disseminated throughout all forms of media. This popular, contemporary Greyhound mythology has arisen from a cartel comprised of “four-legs-good, two-legs-bad” academia, animal rights activist extremists, donation-seeking lobbyists and propagandists, and a daisy chain of activist-“journalists”. This new mythology is rooted in an elitist, “New Age” dogma, which preaches that the use of any animal for any human purpose whatsoever is “speciesism”, and is, by definition, oppressive, imperialist and “colonial” in its nature and practice, and therefore must be prohibited. A culture comprised of the mostly non-university educated, rural, agrarian, working-class, which views the keeping of animals not simply as an end unto itself, but as the means to an end, is therefore deemed intrinsically and systemically cruel, inhumane, barbaric, inferior and outmoded. That would be “outmoded”, as in “doesn’t deserve to exist”… as in “greyhound racing professionals”. This is the case, we have learned, no matter what considerations are made for the welfare of the animals. Even as an estimated 200,000 retired Racing Greyhound adoptees happily live out their lives as personal and family pets. Make no mistake about it, this adoption phenomenon is most certainly not a scenario that could ever have come to pass if it involved a population of systemically brutalized, abused, neglected or otherwise mishandled or mismanaged canines. Period. We won’t belabor the preposterous concept of “speciesism”, since the essence of Darwinism and the nature of all species is to compete ruthlessly and without remorse for domain, habitat, food–and in the Darwinian model, often to the complete annihilation or extinction of less well-adapted species. Something as silly as “speciesism” could only have emerged from academia that is virtually detached from (or oblivious to) large colonies or populations of animals, or any animal society–or the fossil record. It is an academia who apparently can’t or won’t differentiate between what is human and what is not. Nor should we give any credence to the oxymoron of “animal rights”. Proponents of animal rights wish to co-mingle amoral creatures within the realm of uniquely human, intricately-reasoned, moral constructs like rights. The first person who can successfully plead the case of Salmon’s Rights to a hungry Grizzly Bear will be the first person who can speak credibly to such a ludicrous concept. The reality is that “sentience” is not the operative factor as to why men alone have evolved rights-based societies. Rights are the result of complex human reasoning capabilities, and rights-based societies are not the default-state of affairs among populations of merely sentient beings, as animal rights ideology professes. That is why no animal population has ever evolved a “rule of law”, aside from what nature has dictated must be so, as a matter of evolutionary demand and of adaptations expressed by an organism to ensure its survival. Animals survive primarily by instinctive reactions to stimuli and by the exertion or avoidance of pure, brute force. There is no right or wrong, no morality or immorality to any of it as far as they are concerned. Rights are moral constructs that entitle human beings to take an action in their own, rational self-interest, without being subjected to brute force exerted against them. Rights, ironically, are what protect vicious propagandists from brutal, animal-like retaliation, as in the case of the disenfranchised families of Massachusetts’ greyhound racing community, who were uprooted or displaced by a decade long campaign of deceit and dis-information. The propaganda and misrepresentation of anti-racing activists, for all intents and purposes, turned what were one day meticulously, state-regulated jobs into a criminal activity the next day. Prohibitions are constraints of legislation enacted to prevent humans from taking certain actions. Animal rights activists cannot rationally or legally endow animals with rights, because rights are antithetical to animal nature, and conceptually, they are far beyond the reasoning capacities of animals anyway. So they must invent prohibitions that stop or preclude men from having certain interactions with animals, and call it animal rights. These so-called “animal rights”, moreover, demand that a state of “apartheid” exist between men and animals. In its purest form, fully realized, animal rights would, as a matter of necessity, entail the extinction of all domestic animals, including pet and food crop animals. Animal ownership, after all, is akin to slavery, according to animal rights dogma. Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, a powerful and well-funded animal rights lobbying concern, recently had this to say in a Daily Racing Form interview (2/23/12), concerning the hugely successful phenomenon of retired Racing Greyhounds re-habituated as adopted pets: “Now I’ve met a lot of folks in the greyhound industry, and they talk to us about them being humane, but they are churning out a lot of dogs and putting them out into the world for other people to handle. That’s an issue for us.” So the CEO of the HSUS has “an issue” with retired Greyhounds as adopted pets. Is anyone surprised? They shouldn’t be. In 1993, Pacelle told Animal People News: “We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” It should be noted that the most media-active and infamous anti-greyhound racing lobbying group, Grey2k, essentially acts as a subsidiary of the HSUS, having received hundreds of thousands in support from them, and both are part of a powerful, well-funded national network of animal rights political activist organizations. In our country today, we hear a lot of talk about multi-culturalism, and the desirability of aspiring to and embracing a multi-cultural society. We are told to remember that we are a nation of immigrants, and that our diversity in culture and thought is our greatest strength. This open-mindedness seems to hit the proverbial brick wall when it concerns the anti-racing, animal rights culture expressing profound, diabolical contempt and intolerance of the culture that has emerged around the lawful and state regulated breeding and racing of Greyhounds. In that case, as portrayed by the media, there is a superior “culture of modern enlightenment” waging a just and necessary war upon an inferior “culture of outmoded primitivism”, and the righteous ends of this war justify the use of any and all means to win it. The relentless assault waged against greyhound racing and those who participate in it is a cultural war. The inflammatory rhetoric and talking points of the anti-racing propagandist are designed to prejudice public opinion against not only greyhound racing, but against the people who are employed by it. It doesn’t seem to matter that none of these antagonists have any practical experience as Greyhound racing professionals in any capacity. Most of them have never even been to a professional racing kennel or breeding facility, nor have they ever seen a greyhound race in person. Whatever accusations they make, no matter how sensational, irrational or ignorant, are usually reported by media as the “truth”, without any attempt at investigation, balance, or even, heaven forbid, journalism. Just a brief sampling, below, of comments made on internet discussion venues by anti-racing activists and/or their sycophants (some of them by members or officers of “charities”). These comments and others like them, appeared on assorted blogs or in the “comments” sections of various Greyhound related articles, directed at greyhound racing professionals or their supporters. They would seem to demonstrate that there is something more at play here than just wholesome activism or animal welfare: “With so many people joining in to help end the abusive racing industry, many of these greyhound exploiters will be looking for jobs. Too bad many of them can’t read or write beyond a second grade level. From the looks of their posts, I guess you don’t need much of a brain to lock a dog in a cage for 23 hours a day.” “Sombra, feel free to emigrate. Since this is the United States, you have that right.” “Hey all you Greyhound racing, hormone-raging females belonging to the “human race”… “…what do you women do on a date?” “…these no class, greedy, lying and thieving members of the greyhound racing “Industry”…” “Is it any wonder this “business” breeds criminals.” “Well, if you put how many Irish are in on the take of Greyhound Racing, like the Carneys and the Whiteleys and the list is utterly endless…” “Well there are a lot of different nationalities in Greyhound Racing but by far, what I see, the most seem to be Irish and Italian.” “being Sunday, all the Italians must be at Mass (or not) and all the Irish are still out drinking. (or passed out)” ‘When the “white man” takes decades to see that this “dog industry” is doomed since the revelation of all its cruelty, what did you expect?’ “Truly, you “white people” in Greyhound racing are either brain dead, cannot read, or are definitely over 60 and need a jolt of blood transfusion.” “Dr. Joe Robinson like most of the veterinarians in Greyhound Racing, is a complete and utter joke. He can barely speak english so how was he supposed to read…” “Never cost a penny for a bullet. The cheapest way for all these racetrack people…” “Let another track close because no one comes to watch greyhounds risk life and limb so the overlords can make the trailer payment …” “Middle class educated white people don’t go to bet on the dogs. That is Skechers or the TGPs wet dream.” That last little pearl of wisdom was offered up by no less than a Board Member of Grey2k, in the aftermath of Grey2k’s failed campaign to censor a Skecher’s Super Bowl commercial, which portrayed greyhounds racing a French Bulldog. To my knowledge, as of this writing, Grey2k’s spokespersons have yet to explain or disown the remark, which in any event, speaks for itself. Does it speak for you? Do any of these remarks? If this is what is put out there for public consumption, what do we suppose is said and done behind closed doors? Are these the sentiments of the sort of people you would trust to tell you the truth about anything? Are these the sentiments of the sort of people you would choose to follow? The fate of the ancient, beloved Greyhound breed literally hangs in the balance while you consider your answer. Note: A special thanks to Dick Ciampa, Martin Roper and Brian Witt for their contributions.
Head, Heart, Kidneys
There is an old expression in greyhound racing, and it’s not too far from the truth. It was what we call a cliché. You’d mention in casual greyhound conversation, that you had a greyhound who wasn’t quite right, but for some reason you just couldn’t put your finger on precisely what it was that was troubling him. And then some old timer would chime in with his ancient wisdom: ”It’s either his head, his heart or his kidneys.” ???Huh??? By way of explanation, “head” would refer to racing quirks, preferences or habits a greyhound might develop, which do not necessarily enhance his ability to race successfully, or as successfully as he might, otherwise. An example of this would be a dog who decides he doesn’t care for inside (or outside) pressure from greyhounds within close proximity to him. So he decelerates, or fails to accelerate, to the point where the traffic clears, and there are no dogs to his left (or right), losing precious ground in the process. Another would be a greyhound who refuses to pass to the inside of another, even when there is a clear lane and plenty of room, and instead always takes the overland route, again losing ground and letting his rivals get first run on him, as the dogs get ready to battle it out through the homestretch. Extreme examples of “head cases” are greyhounds who dramatically slow down or “check” when entering the turns, or greyhounds who refuse to break, or who “quit” in the middle of a race, for no apparent reason. The “heart” part of the equation would refer to a greyhound’s desire, or will to win. Some greyhounds refuse put forth their best effort unless they break well and are able to outrun their rivals to the turn, entirely clear of them. If they have to deal with any adversity or traffic, or if they are not in the lane they most prefer, they will fall back, and simply follow the leaders within the pack, never making a genuine effort to lead it. Others might shrink away and give ground to a rival the moment they are challenged, finding themselves eyeball to eyeball with a competitor, becoming intimidated, or not wishing to expend their energies in a head to head dual, or to fight hard against the effects of fatigue when they are beginning to feel its pangs. Sometimes, these affairs of both the “head” and the “heart” are at least somewhat predisposed by genetics. Other times, it might be the result of improper or insufficient training when the dog was being schooled prior to his racing career. Still, others can be anomalous in nature, and cannot be attributed to any specific incident or to a habitual pattern, developed in spite of training and corrective actions. They can simply be part of the dog’s make-up. I can recall one greyhound who was a grade A marathoner at Wonderland (in Revere, MA), when it was a top tier track in the 1980s. He would always race on the extreme outside part of the track, right next to the grass apron, giving away gobs of ground to his rivals. He never deviated from this path. We tried everything short of performing a Holy Novena to correct or at least modify that unusual track behavior. No dice. Now, the “kidney” aspect of the “It’s either his head, his heart or his kidneys” homily, is perhaps a bit more inscrutable. Kidneys and the muscular network that enables urination or withholding urine, have nothing to do with intangibles, which are always a matter of the head and heart. Kidneys are organs within a greyhound’s body. They are critically important, however, to a greyhound’s physical fitness and overall well-being, and therefore to his performance potential. A greyhound’s kidneys are located on either side of the spine, just about beneath/alongside the oblique-type muscles, which comprise the widest part of the dog’s back, as you look down upon him. The kidneys help to regulate the PH of body fluids, as well as removing waste products and cleaning extra fluids from the bloodstream, which are then excreted as urine. A racing greyhound’s kidneys are kept quite busy dealing with exercise-induced stresses, and their effects upon all of the above processes, as well as coping with the typical racing greyhound’s high protein diet, and preventing that protein from leaking into the urine and damaging the kidneys. One of the ways a trainer can help to keep a greyhound’s kidney and urinary system functioning at an optimal level, is to do frequent turnouts so that the greyhounds may relieve themselves, and not be forced to withhold urine, which creates discomfort and therefore stress, especially for greyhounds who will not wet their bedding under any but the most extreme circumstances. Since greyhounds who are actively racing or in training require a greater intake of fluids to replace what is lost due to those exertions, greyhounds should each have their own water bucket in their crate, so that they are able to take a drink any time they like. This way, they won’t “tank up” at the outdoor water buckets, or quibble with others over who gets first dibs, when several of them are desperate to quench their thirst at once. It is crucially important to greyhound health, kidney/urinary function, and to achieving maximum athletic performance, that they be properly hydrated, and that they be given a chance to urinate frequently, and keep their system adequately flushed and flushing, and the muscles that actuate or withhold urination from becoming over-stressed. Legendary greyhound trainer, Aaron Kulchinsky, used to advise that small groups of greyhounds should be in a near constant state of going out and coming in during the days’ activities, in addition to the normally scheduled full turnouts. When other trainers would protest that useful advice, and complain that the greyhounds instead “needed their rest”, Kulchinsky would then ask: “What do you suppose they do all night long? Are they having poker games in there after midnight?” We can often tell when a greyhound’s kidneys and/or urinary system are likely being over-stressed, or when he/she is not getting proper fluid intake, by noting their urinary habits and output. They should have a strong urine stream, and urination should be uncomplicated and efficient. Males can show a weak, erratic stream, and sometimes take an unusually long time to develop any urine flow at all. Females who “spot high”, that is, who don’t get low to the ground when urinating, can also be suffering from inadequate fluid intake and/or reduced or compromised kidney/urinary system function. Greyhounds who never wet beds, but who suddenly develop the habit, can also be suspect, and might even have developed a urinary tract infection. So, when a greyhound is not getting enough fluids, and not being turned out as frequently as is ideal to urinate and to flush his/her system, we can imagine how that might affect his kidney and urinary system function, and therefore his ability to eliminate metabolic wastes efficiently, or to simply be comfortable. It doesn’t take a degree in urology to surmise that how well a greyhound’s kidneys and urinary system function, and how frequently he is afforded the opportunity to eliminate, can have a significant effect upon his/her performance, and how compromised kidney/urinary system function can have an inhibitive effect upon it. Now there are greyhounds whose genetics predispose them to sluggish kidneys/urinary systems, but they tend to be few and far between in the case of young racers in the prime of their lives, who are approaching the height of their powers as athletes. Many kidney/urinary issues can be trainer-induced. The fundamental and prophylactic solution is to increase the frequency of turnouts, reducing the duration of them, as the great Aaron Kulchinsky always advised. Switching pens–letting the males into the females’ pen, and vice versa, halfway through the turnout, will also tend to induce more complete emptying of the bladder. Keeping clean and fresh water in the crates with your racers is elementary, and I believe should be mandated by all racing commissions. Doing a late night turnout after racing concludes is a must, if you wish to encourage optimal kidney/urinary system function, and simply make sure that your dogs are comfortable, getting a good nights’ rest…and not staying up playing poker. The extra time and attention you devote toward management of this hugely important responsibility of the professional greyhound trainer, will be more than well compensated for by the increases in your purse checks, and the reduction in wet bedding. The old timers weren’t talkin’ through their gimme caps when they imparted to us their sometimes nebulous, but nevertheless, valuable wisdom. Copyright, 2014
An Open Letter To Greyhound Trainers
By now everyone is aware that the latest tactic the anti-racing movement is using against greyhound racing, is spotlighting premature mortality in the racing greyhound–whether that is the result of controllable or uncontrollable circumstances, via racing or non-racing related incidents.
In case you haven’t reasoned through it, the endgame will be to vilify you, the trainer. You are the “sole insurer” of the greyhounds placed in your care, and the expectation of the media and anti-racing fanaticdom, is that you must perform with godlike efficiency and acuity. We are all aware that injury is a part of any and all athletic activity, and that sometimes injuries to the canine athlete are unavoidable, even resulting in death or humane euthanasia, no matter how painstakingly the athlete is prepared, no matter how meticulously they are handled. I am waiting to read or formulate a literate and unbiased analysis of this latest controversy, a report of mortalities mandated by the state, which posits that 74 dogs died within the premises of Florida racetracks (some apparently not greyhounds, and some for reasons unrelated to athletics) over a 7 month period. The paperwork and the reports are dauntingly difficult to decipher, and would take even a military decoder some time to analyze and translate into readable prose. Be that as it may, the news networks and local TV reports are unquestioningly running wild with it, and anti-racing zealotry is orgasmically self-flagellating, as if they had somehow stumbled over the Cross of Mount Calvary, haphazardly buried under the infield at Derby Lane. Nevertheless, each and every incident of the premature mortality of a greyhound, whether it is caused by disease, or the result of an accident, or by anomaly that even the best veterinarians can’t explain, is reason to be deeply aggrieved and concerned. I know most of you already are, and have always been so. Inasmuch as there are racetracks currently conducting racing who no longer wish to make the necessary commitment to it, and who instead would prefer to devote all resources to casino activities, your job is now more complicated than ever. The more negativity that can be extracted from the activity of racing, or even from the periphery, and broadcast, ad infinitum, by the assorted brothels of media, the more it suits the ends of certain racetrack operators. I have every faith, as a spectator, that racing surfaces are being maintained to the best of everyone’s ability whose job it is to perform such tasks–but I would not necessarily make that leap of faith were I trainer in Florida today. I would redouble my efforts to troubleshoot potential injuries before they became traumatic injuries, and I would question every nuance of every greyhound in my care, that planted even the slightest seed of doubt in my mind, and when primarily in doubt, I would err on the side of extreme caution. I would take no one’s word that any greyhound sent to me was “ready to go”, until such time as I had verified that by empirical observation, and by going through the process as if it were not. I would make sure that every greyhound in my care was examined and groomed the day before, the day of, and the day after their race or workout, taking every necessary precaution and using all allowable athletic maintenance techniques to keep them at optimal fitness and fettle. Trainers, you are the ones in the crosshairs now. You’re going to have to work even harder than you normally do, and you must use every iota of your powers of observation, your skills as a handler, and your compassion as a lover of the breed, to insure the safety of your greyhounds. If you are unwilling to do that, it’s time to find a new career. You are not living or practicing your craft in a vacuum. What you do or don’t do affects each and every person in greyhound racing. The landscape has changed. No longer can you assume that everyone in the racing partnership is pulling the Safety Parade float in the same direction. Question everything, and use your veterinarian liberally for feedback and advice, documenting each incident or doubt with a paper trail. Be pro-active, not reactive. Be professional in every sense of the word. Finally, to the track and state judges and officials of racing—before each and every performance, somebody needs to walk the track. Take a trainer with you. Inspect the racing surface. Make certain the surface is resilient, with sufficient cushion and moisture, consistent from rail to apron, and that there are no hard or soft spots. That is part of your job, and it should be part of your personal makeup, and humane inclination. If you find a problem, insist that it be corrected. No shortcutting. Just do it. Copyright, 2014
It’s What You Say, Not How You Say It
I was just reading some of the usual propaganda from the usual suspects, concerning injuries at two of the greyhound tracks in the US, specifically the venues in West Virginia.
Between January 2008 and June 2012, 30% of those injuries were “career ending”.
So that begs the question, what constitutes a “career ending” injury? We certainly can’t rely on people who still haven’t learned to hold onto their greyhound’s leash in public to know one when they see one. But career ending sounds pretty serious. What on earth can they mean? Well let’s see. In the worst-case scenario, a displaced fracture of the central tarsal bone in the hock is almost always career ending. Thanks to the miracles of modern veterinary surgery, these injuries are usually operable, and greyhounds who sustain them, usually go on to have perfectly happy and fulfilling lives as pets. Greyhound professionals will all tell you that hock injuries are the most common of the career ending type. Or are they? The first pet I adopted was a greyhound who was pushing 4 years of age, had run over 100 races, and who dinged one of his toes. Didn’t break it, just split open a cuticle. The trainer decided, given the dog’s age and the fact that he owed no one so much as a dime, that this minor injury was to be “career ending”, and so I had my first greyhound pet. I can recall a nice Raynham grade A greyhound, owned by one of the largest and most successful kennel operations in the country, who cramped one day in a grade A matinee race. He was fine afterwards, just a bit sore. He was 40 months of age, and a sterling character, a true prince of a greyhound, who had been a stalwart competitor in Florida on the major circuit in his heyday. Splendid behavior. I knew a lady who had just lost her greyhound, and who wanted another. I phoned the greedy, mercenary, cold-blooded owner, and asked him if I could pet out this grade A dog, who would have missed maybe one or two starts as a result of the minor trauma he suffered. The answer was, “Sure”. Whoops. Another “career ending” injury. As a matter of fact, older greyhounds who have had long and successful careers, often sustain minor injuries that are “career ending”, only in the sense that a racing career has to end at some point. We might also say that these injuries are “career beginning”, for the vast majority of greyhounds who sustain them, and for whom a nagging injury or even a traumatic injury is their ticket into an adoption program, and a new life as a pet. But that wouldn’t fill too many fishbowls, would it? copyright, 2013
Dear Tucson…To Whom It May Concern:
As a retired professional greyhound trainer, over the course of my career, I handled thousands of females, who, with few exceptions, were all given monthly injections of testosterone as a means of responsible birth control. Those few who showed a sensitivity to the hormone were simply taken off them. That sensitivity usually indicated that you had a female who wouldn’t come into season easily, at any rate. The recent clamor that has come to my attention concerning the administration of hormones to females at the Tucson facility is a bit vexing. For 50 years, greyhound breeders have been castigated by the same anti-racing lobby who now demands forcible cessation of birth control for young female greyhounds, for “over-breeding” their dogs—allegedly creating a glut of greyhounds each year who were in excess of the demand for them by the racetracks in the USA. As if there were no expense involved in breeding and raising those greyhounds, and as if racing opportunities were limitless. Now we are being led to believe that this was apparently not the case, and that in actuality, female greyhound’s reproductive systems were being ravaged by hormone injections, creating all manner of widespread illness and reproductive tissue dysfunction. So which is it? They can’t have it both ways. I would be interested in seeing the peer-reviewed papers and studies which indicate that there is a cause and effect relationship between the hormones used for birth control in female greyhounds, and the frequency of the alleged diseases, syndromes and dysfunctions, which exceed the frequency of these things occurring within the general canine population. Because that is the only issue that matters here. The various maladies that are alleged to occur among racing greyhounds are not in any way unique to the breed, nor are they rare among the rest of the female canine population. Let’s stop playing “he said, she said”, and bring some real science to the table for the purposes of comparing the wherewithal of the two populations. Without that, we are simply evaluating the veracity of anecdotes and hearsay, and viewing the greyhound population as an anomaly. As far as the allegation that these birth control hormones confer a performance advantage upon females, that is easily disproved. One only has to look at the actual facts. Since the advent of formal, competitive coursing and then racing, it has long been known that female greyhounds can compete, stride-for-stride with males, and that racing ability is not sex-linked. There is no segregation of females in track racing, nor has there ever been. Historically, before and after the use of hormones as estrus suppressants, females have always won races at a rate that was proportional to their opportunities. The Tucson females today are no exception. Were they the recipients of a performance advantage as a result of these hormone injections, it is eminently logical to assume that they would then win a disproportionate number of races, compared to their opportunities. But they don’t. Recently, Christopher Molnar, who performs the database inputs of race results from the USA for Greyhound-data.com, the world’s definitive greyhound pedigree resource, did a study of all the greyhounds who competed, and the race results at Tucson, from April 1, 2011, through September 8, 2012. Here are the results of that study, which encompasses a very large sampling: Races Recorded from 2011 Apr01- 2012 Sep 08: 6873
Total Races won by female dogs: 3850 (56%)
Total Races won by male dogs: 3023 (44%) Total starts made by greyhounds: 53,890 during period
Total Female Starts: 30081 (56%)
Total Male Starts: 23809 (44%) Total number of individual dogs during this time period: 1308
Total number of individual female dogs: 713 (55%)
Total number of individual male dogs: 595 (45%) So we can see that females win at a rate that is in exact proportion to their opportunities, as they have historically. No more, no less.There was no performance advantage implied or expressed. They comprised 56% of the starters, and 56% of the winners. All of this information can be verified on Greyhound-data.com, which has the official charts of the races. I won’t exhaust you by hyperventilating over my astonishment that 100 veterinarians in the Tucson area apparently feel that male greyhounds should be exposed to the debilitating and cruel stresses and the inevitable physical battles that will ensue should females be allowed to come into season randomly, within close proximity to them. It’s Canine Behavior 101, and I won’t ask you to spend any more of your time on something that is so easily grasped by anyone who is even casually familiar with the subject. We will also not belabor the unwanted and unplanned pregnancies that are sure to occur as a result of this monumentally absurd, proposed legislation. That will all happen in Court, when a handler is seriously injured, maimed, or worse, breaking up one of those canine battles for mating privileges, which would not have taken place had simple, humane, birth control protocols been allowed.
What Is the Plan?
Controversy is the name of game when the word greyhound is mentioned. I can’t think of any other canine subject that has generated more misinformation, more misunderstanding and more unthinking prejudice.
Frankly, I don’t blame anyone for not liking a particular form of sporting competition. I don’t like golf. It looks like a nice way to spoil a good walk, as far as I’m concerned. So I give golf the thumbs down. It’s boring, it’s tedious, the whispering of the announcers is obsequious, and some of the athletes look as if they couldn’t do a chin up while standing on a step-stool. What I don’t have the gall to do is to say that simply playing golf for a living makes all golfers joke athletes, incorrigible boozehounds, degenerate gamblers and serial womanizers, just because a few of them are. But that sort of broad-brush tar and feathering is the essence of the AR movement. Be that as it may, what I never hear from anyone who is a vocal critic of racing, is the answer to a simple question. What is your plan for the population of greyhounds, once you have gotten the thing you wished for, and once all the people in racing, who breed, raise care for the dogs have been disenfranchised? There are probably about 60-70K NGA greyhounds at some stage of their racing/breeding careers currently residing in the USA. What becomes of them, and what is your specific solution to the problem of dealing with an entire population of greyhounds who now have no financial support? Furthermore, what is your plan to preserve the crucial strains, families and bloodlines of the NGA greyhound, which, for almost 100 years now, has adapted entirely, right down to the zygote, to the inputs and feedback of racing, and for which racing is the sole means of its support? So before we can have any sort of meaningful or reasoned discussion with those who have no answers to these questions, it is incumbent upon THEM to provide those answers. Book, chapter and verse–not only as a matter of basic and humane breed husbandry, but as a matter of breed custodianship. Activism, if it is to have any real value, must be more than just a scorched-earth, slash and burn venting of hatred, prejudice, culturism and ignorance. copyright, 2014
Grey2K and the “O-Word”
“…this is the true face of the greyhound racing industry. A dwindling number of people who buy and sell eight-year-old greyhounds and view them as nothing more than “producers” and “overstock.” This kind of ideology is out of touch with mainstream values, and will soon disappear with the industry it supports.”
Once again, Grey2K has dredged up yet another negative stereotype. Commenting on their “Saving Greys” blog, regarding the recent National Greyhound Association Auction, a board member of the political activist group called Stop Predatory Gambling, contributed the above quote. This anti-gambling fanatic also happens to be the Executive Director of Grey2K, USA. Surprise, surprise. A stock auction, by the way, is where people go to purchase bloodstock that they might need to improve their own, or to sell some of their own greyhounds to others who may covet them. In either case, future generations of greyhounds are the beneficiaries of these auctions. The end result of all this wheeling and dealing is, for the breeder, a more genetically diverse greyhound breeding colony, and thus, for all and sundry, a more genetically diverse greyhound population. No one forces anyone to do anything against their will at an auction. If you think the bidding has gone too high, you can simply drop out. The seller can set a “reserve” price, below which, should the bidding end, he is not bound to sell said greyhound(s). Needless to say, this Board Member of Stop Predatory Gambling seemed dutifully unimpressed with the auction. So much so that he felt compelled to slur an entire culture of working-class people with what he perceived to be the unforgivable sins of several sellers. The thrust of his diatribe seemed to be that some greyhounds are perceived as “overstock”. That, and as I inferred, there is something unclean about the term “overstock” itself, and anyone who would use it, or attempt to–gasp!–sell it. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of racing greyhound “overstock” are dreamily ensconced on sofas, in living rooms all across our nation, and throughout nearby Canada. They are, as a matter of fact, given away for free (by these heartless and mercenary evildoers), to the utter delight of the racing greyhound’s ever-growing adoptive—or, if you prefer, “overstock” community and fan base. Now let’s talk some more about “o-word”, shall we? Overstock means a surplus. There are all kinds of overstock. Our local Kia dealer has lots of overstock, and tells us all about it every day on the radio. My wife says I have an overstock of guitars, and that she is sick of tripping over the cases. The poor dear has no appreciation of the luthier’s art. Then there is the occasional political action group, which poses as a greyhound charity, taking in over 2 million dollars in donations during the period from 2006-2011!!! But spending only 1.37% of that 2 million dollars in donations received (to “help us help the greyhounds”) on actual “unspecified” charities. Did someone mention something about being out of touch with mainstream values? Now that’s some real “overstock”. copyright, 2013
Here we go again.
Once more, the know-nothings are calling for the head of another poor sap of a Greyhound trainer who was found with testosterone pills in his possession.
The mythology goes, in case you have missed it, that these low-dose pills used to prevent the onset of estrus in females who are actively racing, somehow confer upon them a performance advantage.
So once and for all, let’s look at that. For those who are unaware, wagering on greyhound racing is done through the (French) “Pari-Mutuel” wagering system. What it means is that all monies are placed in a “mutual” pool. There are no fixed odds, as the bettors are wagering against one another. The odds fluctuate as bets are placed. The more tickets that are sold on greyhound A, the lower the odds, and hence, the lower the expected payoff will be on that greyhound. The final odds on any dog, or combination of dogs, are not determined until the betting windows close, just before “Rusty” begins his circuit around the track. The reason greyhounds are “graded”, is so that greyhounds of similar abilities and current form can compete against one another on as level a playing field as possible. The track, who simply handles the money, and gets a fixed percentage of each wagered dollar, has incentive to make sure races are fairly drawn. The more money that is put through the betting windows, the more money they make. The more difference of opinion among the betting public there is on a race, the more money will be wagered. The more closely matched the race participants are, the more difference of opinion there will be. The track wins. The track loses when there is a huge favorite, at low odds, or even odds-on to win. Smart gamblers don’t wager when the risk is not equal to the chance of reward. And when a surplus of bets are made on one greyhound, in the Pari-Mutuel system, the reward gets smaller and smaller—because the odds are not fixed, and as more action is taken on the big favorite, the odds drop. It kills the handle, particularly if there are no greyhounds, or only one or two other greyhounds with a reasonable expectation of beating the favorite in the race. The handle stalls. It has long been known, by anyone with even an inkling of insight into greyhounds and racing, that females can compete, stride for stride, with their male counterparts. It was always this way, and ever shall be. Long before estrus suppressants were even dreamed of, females competed against males in greyhound racing, and did so on a par with them. There is no segregation by sex in greyhound racing. Had this not been the case, then greyhound tracks would have had to either segregate females, or go out of business. Why? Because of the Pari-Mutuel system. Let’s look at a hypothetical grade B race with 4 males and 4 females, and let’s pretend that females, indeed, are inferior, as a matter of their sex, to males. So the gambler is armed with some powerful knowledge even before the race begins—the females are all handicapped by their sex. When the wagering opens, the early money is on the male greyhound in box 4, who is a former grade A winner, who has dropped into grade B, after being bumped around in his three previous starts. One of the other males is a promising youngster who has won his maiden, and his grade D and C races with ease, and who figures to be a nice track dog in the making. The rest are ordinary graders, capable but flawed racers, who have been up and down the ladder for most of their careers. The early money is mostly on these two male greyhounds, and the early odds are, respectively 2-5 and 2-1 on them. Betting on them now slows to a crawl. The other males attract little support, and the females, because they are inferior by sex, almost no support at all. At four minutes after betting had opened, the odds are now 1-1 on the older dog, and 3-2 on the younger dog. Not much of a return either way, and if the older dog gets bumped around, as he has in his past three starts, that sort of payoff is hardly worth the risk. The younger dog is as green as winter wheat, and he might finally have risen to the level of his own talent—so he is also a risky proposition at those low odds. The gamblers who are trying to beat the chalk don’t have any incentive to play any of the four females in the race, and the other 2 males have not shown anything in their recent form to inspire confidence—and so the handle dies. This is about how wagering on almost any race would go, were females unable to compete with males. They would be a poor risk-reward proposition. The tracks would have either segregated the females, or they would have gone bust. But we know that females are the equal of male greyhounds on the racetrack. Recently, when this same controversy was stirred up in Arizona, Dr. Christopher Molnar, who performs the database inputs of race results from the USA for Greyhound-data.com, the world’s definitive greyhound pedigree resource, did a study of all the greyhounds who competed, and the race results at Tucson, from April 1, 2011, through September 8, 2012. Here are the results of that study, which encompasses a very large sampling: Races Recorded from 2011 Apr01- 2012 Sep 08: 6873
Total Races won by female dogs: 3850 (56%)
Total Races won by male dogs: 3023 (44%) Total starts made by greyhounds: 53,890 during period
Total Female Starts: 30081 (56%)
Total Male Starts: 23809 (44%) Total number of individual dogs during this time period: 1308
Total number of individual female dogs: 713 (55%)
Total number of individual male dogs: 595 (45%) So we can see that females win at a rate that is in exact proportion to their opportunities, as they have historically. No more, no less. There was no performance advantage implied or expressed. They comprised 56% of the starters, and 56% of the winners. All of this information can be verified on Greyhound-data.com, which has the official charts of the races.
There seems to be more than a bit of confusion among the readership as to how the business of greyhound racing works, and how it evolved—or if you prefer, “de-volved”, to its current state, and what can be done about that little bugaboo.
While I’m sure there are others here who might do a better job of explaining this, I figured I might start the lure rolling. I hope to present here, a very rough outline of how things have come to pass, just so no one will be entirely in the dark. I’m certain I’ll manage to piss off someone from every faction involved. Tough. There is a lot truth to the old saying that the greyhound is “the poor man’s racehorse”. That is still true today, though certainly not as alluring a prospect as it was some 50-70 years ago. For our purposes, we’ll discuss ”modern” greyhound racing, and skip the days of the gypsy racetracks. Florida and Massachusetts were the centers of racing east of the Mississippi, when Joseph Linsey decided to offer “big money” to greyhound owners, in the form of his then unprecedented $25K American Greyhound Derby, first run at Taunton, MA, in 1949. This single race, more than any one individual or event, revolutionized greyhound racing, and brought it into the mainstream, in localities where greyhound racing was offered, and even, occasionally, to national attention. Never had anyone heard of such money being offered for winning a dog race. It was utterly preposterous. And so the media, as they are wont to do in their abject perversity, paid some attention. Other tracks soon jumped on board with Mr. Linsey and Taunton, and offered similar purses for “derby” races of their own. Pretty soon, greyhound racing had achieved a respectable level of credibility. The tracks and the states were making money, and local breeding colonies began to spring up, and business networks around them were developed. Things were on the upswing. At that time, racing was seasonal, and where there was a concentration of tracks in a relatively small area, racing dates were granted so as not to conflict. Greyhound racing kennels worked a “circuit”, and there was great demand for their “racing product”. As there was no racing in New England during the winter, kennels from the north made like “snowbirds”, or spelled their greyhounds for the winter. Almost everyone in a given locality knew someone who either raced greyhounds, raised greyhounds, trained greyhounds, or worked at the track in some capacity. Greyhound racing was a vibrant and vital part of local and state economies, wherever it existed. The revenues it generated for the towns and states were easy to assess, and required a minimum of investment. It became part of the local lore and culture. A greyhound professional was a respected and valued member of the community. In those days, if you had the land, the skills and some luck, and if you did not run afoul of the powers that be, you could make yourself a nice little living raising and racing a few litters a year. Because racing was seasonal, it was well received and attended wherever it re-opened. There were no matinee races, and Sundays were dark. Racing had done well. So well in fact, that in the 1970s, the states wanted more and more of it. They wanted to increase racing dates, to add matinees, and here in NE, they wanted to begin racing year round. There was mixed reaction to this among greyhound professionals. Generally, those larger entities were open to expansion, and smaller operators, not so much. Then, in 1975, over a dispute as to the percentage of the pari-mutual handle that was to be allotted to the kennels in Florida, a strike took place, affecting tracks in Florida and Massachusetts. It was a disaster for all parties. It disrupted racing and racing revenues, and it fractured the racing community, as strikebreakers were brought in to take the place of striking kennels. When all the dust settled, greyhound racing then embarked upon an unprecedented expansion. To punish strikers and to reinforce the idea that this must never happen again, strikebreakers were, in some instances, granted racing privileges at some venues where they had not raced prior to the strike. While the strikers were, for the most part “forgiven”, things would never be quite the same again. Now, where there weren’t before, there would be contracts signed between the kennels and the tracks, insuring a steady supply of greyhounds, as well as complete, unquestioning obedience to whatever the tracks or the states might decree. If you didn’t like that, they’d be more than happy to hand you your papers, send you on your way to whichever greener pasture you had in mind, and/or see you in court. Now, an unfortunate result of all this miraculous expansion, was that the smaller, local breeder was being squeezed out of the equation. As racing dates and performances increased, by as much as 50%, the value of each greyhound race began to decrease, inversely. This was acceptable to the larger racing and breeding operations, who had the resources to cope with a racing format that had now become a “numbers game”. The more starts you could get, the more money you could make. As long as you had an endless daisy chain of greyhounds, turned them out, fed them and wormed them, you could rake. However, in any given locality, the entertainment dollar of the public is finite, as racing would soon learn. The guy or gal who raised 20 greyhounds a year, to keep a string of 10-15 active racers, was now at a distinct disadvantage. Not only were the purses now significantly reduced, but so was the value of each of their greyhounds. Whereas in bygone days they could get by with winning a grade A race and a couple of grade B or C races every week or so, and running “in the money” half of the time, they now needed more—quite a bit more. And no longer were locals “automatically” allowed to race under their own “brand”. Unless they had a “booking” and a contract, they would be forced to lease their greyhounds to someone who did. Which meant that they’d see only about half of the return on investment they might have otherwise. There were no “right to race” laws in MA or FL, so many of these smaller breeders just threw out the anchor, rather than expand beyond their capacities and comfort zones. As a result, local breeding and racing communities and concerns, and the business networks they had developed, began to disappear. So too, did their political influence. Many of the larger kennels were not from the states where they raced, and the local and state politicians were not directly answerable to them. So racing had essentially evolved into a competition of who could get the most starts at the best “bookings”, rather than who had the skills to compete with a limited supply of dogs, and to maximize the potential of each and every greyhound, each and every time they went postward. Things went along swimmingly for a while after the purge, if you were a well-monied and well stocked racing business. Then, as the states realized that over-exposure had begun to bleed racing dry, and the humane challenges of a young, urbane and modern culture, both within and outside of racing, had again attracted the jaundiced eye of the media, casinos became the focus, and the states and (some) tracks did a juke step. Some would have been happy to throw racing entirely overboard, but because the voting public and some Native Americans would have the final say on casinos, they chose to have their cake and eat it too, and they did an end-around the democratic process. They essentially “bribed” the racing kennels at existing venues which sought slot machines and other gaming entertainment, with a nice percentage of the “take”, if they would just shut up, take the money, and not make too much of a public fuss. Then everyone would be happy—the public, the tracks, the states and the kennels (everyone except the Indians, that is). While most greyhound professionals realized that this was the beginning of the end, and that eventually these promises would be broken or reneged upon, they were pretty much forced to “ride the wave”. Where else were they going to go? Today, as the National Greyhound Association flirts with sinking below 1000 members, and as fewer and fewer kennels control more and more of racing opportunity nation-wide, the threat of even further contraction looms. The infamous “decoupling” question is simply code for, “we got what we wanted, and now we don’t need you any longer.” The other night, there was a nice stakes race run at some track or other—I forget which one. The eight finalists were from only three kennels. There’s nothing like competition, right? This is the future of racing, under the corrupt and patently unconstitutional “contract booking” system, where taxpayers and property owners, who live in a town or a state, cannot race their own greyhounds under their own brand without a contract, or without being forced into a partnership with a kennel who does. So for those who wish to see change within the industry, to the betterment of all, and to the breed as well, this is the fundamental wrong that must be made right. Without the right to race, and Right-To-Race laws, there is no incentive for new entrepreneurs to engage, no local, grassroots political base, and so eventually there will be only a handful of Corporate kennels left to “put on the show”, if the show is to go on at all. And at that rate, what will be the point? copyright 2013
Amber to Green
There are 120 of them. They come from places far and wide, as disparate as Lowell, Massachusetts, and Milton, Ontario, and Lubbock Texas.
They have names like “Rusty” and “Lizzy” and “Comet”. They all share one unusual thing in common.
They are, all 120 of them, retired Racing Greyhounds who have somehow escaped from the homes and hands of their adoptive owners, or their fostercaretakers this year alone, and who have been featured in the Greytalk discussion board’s “Amber Alert” forum. The Amber Alert is used to alert other greyhound owners in the area where a dog has escaped, and to rally them together, to the cause of finding that greyhound as soon as possible. It is always heartwarming to hear the wonderful news when greyhound enthusiasts put aside their differences and succeed in locating and then apprehending the prodigal, and it’s cause for even greater celebration when the escapee is found to be none the worse for wear, after their little misadventure. It’s not that retired greyhounds don’t like their new adoptive families, lest you jump to a hasty conclusion. It’s just that when a greyhound retires and is adopted, he is entering an entirely new and foreign world, full of strange and often, to him or her, intimidating new places and things. For the first time in their lives, they are outside of their normal, busy, familiar, athletic routines, and their greyhound-centric environs. They are without their kennelmates, their littermates and the people they have known, depended upon and loved. For the first time in their lives, they are often without any canine companionship at all, or the security of the pack that they have known since the day they were born. For some of them, this adjustment is a can o’corn–for others, not so much. Because of their essential nature as hunters, who locate and then chase after game by sight, racing greyhounds are very highly attuned to their surroundings. They notice things. The simple flick of an upright, velveteen ear among briars, while entirely imperceptible to us, can be, for a greyhound, the clarion call to a thrilling chase and catch episode of the purest excitement and delight. It’s what they do. Conversely, the horn blast of a passing automobile, or even the crash of a milk glass on hardwood, can be absolutely terrifying to them. They notice things. But they only know what is familiar to them. Everything else is a crapshoot, and to the most high strung and skittish of them, some things can be terrifying. We hear a lot about “socialization”, or the lack of it, from those who themselves lack greyhound experience or first hand knowledge. The truth is, that mostly all racing greyhounds are quite well socialized, both with and among canines and humans. They are handled by a plethora of individuals from the day they are born, from the breeder and their helpers, to assorted guests, to the veterinarians they visit, or who come to visit them. Again, with their handlers, when they begin to learn how to chase after the artificial lure, and to also learn proper manners, while being walked on the lead, exercised, groomed, bathed, and/or massaged. At the racetrack, they encounter many different people, from the leadouts, to the judges, to the track vets, and then of course, in addition to their own handlers, the many other handlers they also come to know. Most of the time, it’s not lack of socialization that can cause upset to a greyhound. The real challenge is complete and utter “re-habituation”–from life as a racing athlete, to life as a family pet. Like all dogs, racing greyhounds are primarily creatures of habit and routine. They have remarkably accurate psychological time clocks in their pointy little heads. They have led very structured and predictable lives. They demand your punctuality and your attentions at what they have learned to be the “appointed” times. They thrive on routine. It is novelty that can sometimes completely undo them and even drive them into an ill-advised “fight or flight” panic . So it’s entirely understandable that some greyhound pets, particularly those who have yet to completely settle into their new lives, or who are not yet fused to the couch cushions, decide that it is easier to hit the road than to try and figure out what these crazy new humans expect them to do (never mind that yucky new “food”). Thanks to the Amber Alert, and to the cooperation of greyhound lovers and enthusiasts of all persuasions, most of these wanderers are found and returned to their new owners, and go on to live happily ever after. It was somewhat surprising to me—though I don’t know why—when a friend pointed out that a certain “greyhound protection group” was making a big hullabaloo over a greyhound who had jumped the fence of the kennels at the Palm Beach, FL racetrack, and had disappeared to parts unknown. I had never heard of these vigilant “greyhound protectors” offering so much as a word of support, encouragement or comfort to any of those 120 greyhounds who had escaped from their adoptive owners this year, and who are listed on the Greytalk Amber Alert forum. Read the posts for yourself. Can you say, “conspicuous by their absence”? I thought you could. Nevertheless, they saw fit to post an article entitled “Palm Beach Kennel Club Racing Dog Goes Missing” on their Facebook page. Naturally, this invited the usual uniformed, bigoted and hateful commentary, nearly all of it insinuating that the dog was better off alone, terrified, parched and starving, than he was in his racing life, among the rednecks, throwbacks and sadists who populate greyhound racing. Unlike those 120 Amber Alert subjects on Greytalk this year, who received not so much as a mention among these “greyhound protectors” this greyhound, named “Commander”, was special and worthy of their commendation. He had escaped, you see, from the prison camp of the racetrack. He had escaped to make a statement, to score a political point. And of course, to induce donations for “greyhound protectors”. Fortunately, after a few days, Commander was intercepted, apprehended, and apparently, given to adoption by his owner. All’s well that ends well. Leave it to Grey2K, in their unbridled cynicism and money-lust, to be the first to attempt to turn the “Amber” in “Amber Alert” into “Green”—in their pocketbooks. Copyright, 2013
“The Wild Gene”
Martin Roper, one of the world’s foremost Greyhound pedigree researchers and authorities, authored his myth-bursting essay, “Everything You Know Is Wrong” in 2008. With it, Roper dispelled the long-held notion that Greyhounds were the personal and highly esteemed dogs of Egyptian Pharaohs. He explained how, in light of modern genomic research, we now know that the Greyhound is unrelated to the Saharan breeds of sighthounds. He suggested that the Celts, and not the Egyptians, were likely the breed’s original and only custodians in its domestication. Some earlier, authoritative 19th century writings on the matter had suggested the same thing, before hard science sustained the thought. Roper could have expanded the scope of his essay to include the contemporary, popular mythology of the modern, Racing Greyhound. If you have read about the National Greyhound Association Racing Greyhound in the mainstream or online, via the “new media”, chances are that everything you “know” is also likely to be wrong. Very wrong. Barbarians At the Gate Tax-generating, State-regulated Greyhound Racing has been under assault by anti-gambling and animal rights activists/propagandists for more than 40 years. The only thing more consistent than their tenacity in prosecuting their anti-racing agenda, is their utter disregard for (and/or their complete ignorance of) the truth and, tragically, of the breed itself. Thanks to modern science and the unraveling of the canine genome and canine DNA, we now know that our modern Greyhound’s direct prehistoric ancestors evolved in nature. They survived the ages because of the adaptations they developed which made them swifter, more cunning and deadlier than their prey, as well as the other carnivores with whom they competed for habitat and survival. Popular anti-racing mythology, such as that professed by the Massachusetts-based Grey2k (the nation’s most media-friendly, anti-greyhound racing activist/lobbyist group), teaches, among other misconceptions, that greyhounds are “forced to run” for the benefit of their greedy and exploitative owners and handlers. Modern, peer-reviewed science suggests quite a different story. It tells a story of a natural evolution toward a genotype and phenotype perfectly adapted and inclined toward the expression of extreme speed as an essential survival tool. The modern Greyhound is bred to race on a track, chasing after a prey effigy, which is the mechanical lure. The prehistoric Greyhound had to literally race its prey to ground, in order to survive and to breed on. In their domestication, until the advent of track racing early in the 20th century, Greyhounds were used to course and kill vermin, and to provide food for the table. Any way we care to look at it, running and racing is written on the DNA of the natural Greyhound. It’s not only a desire. It is an ingrained and inbred demand, echoing across a universe of time. The Mythological Greyhound The mythological, anti-racing narrative, promoted by Grey2k and their networks, in a nutshell (no pun intended), goes roughly like this: “Greyhounds are bred and raised to serve the “racing industry”. The supply side of the racing industry is comprised of greyhound breeders, owners and handlers whose only interest in the Greyhound is to extract profits from him, essentially by heaping various forms of abuse upon him. These abuses entail the way he is raised, the way he is trained (both in preparation for and during his career as a racer), the way he is housed, they way he is fed and the way he is employed for pari-mutuel (wagering) activity. Shamelessly greedy and mercenary greyhound breeders, owners and handlers have only one interest in their greyhounds, and that is to accrue as much profit as possible while exploiting them by forcing them to race, thus exposing them to the risk of athletically-induced injury or worse.” Common Sense Let’s have a brief, common-sense examination of that narrative so far. In 2008, there were 20,365 NGA Greyhounds whelped in the USA. This figure would include stillborn and any greyhounds who died prematurely of natural causes (approximately 10%). For our purposes here, let’s just say 18,000 greyhounds were raised from that year’s population of newborns, up to the stage where they would begin careers as racers. Let’s also use the (conservative) figure of $2,000 expense per greyhound, to raise them to this stage of their lives, including all costs, like feed, supplements, immunizations, anthelmintics, veterinary care, paying the help, boarding fees and transportation fees when required, etc. We are looking at a total national expenditure by greyhound breeders and owners, of at least 36 million dollars, just to raise that crop of 2008 pups to the “track-ready” stage. So think about it. We’re being asked to believe that the first thing these singularly, greedy villains do, to begin to recoup their 36 million dollars in expenses, and then to make a profit—the money for which they supposedly lust—is to subject these living, breathing, 36 million dollar Greyhound “investments” to abominable living conditions, substandard diets and brutal treatment. As the anti-racing narrative further informs us, racing greyhounds are kept in cramped, atrophy and neurosis-inducing sleeping quarters, to which they are confined for 20 hours per day. Furthermore, as an enhancement, they are fed a substandard and deficient diet. To complete the fable, we are told that racing greyhounds are subjected to long, torturous periods of inactivity and boredom, devoid of even the simplest of human attentions that all dogs seem to crave, while otherwise being subjected to inhumane, even brutal handling. Then, at the first inkling that the self-fulfilling prophecy has finally come to pass, meaning as soon as these greyhounds demonstrate that they are unable earn their keep on the racetrack as finely tuned athletes, or when they suffer an injury, they are discarded like rubbish. That’s quite a business model, don’t you think? Need we say any more? Does anyone, with even a shred of dog-sense, business acumen or critical thinking ability actually believe these absurd, contradictory, irrational talking points? Everything You Know Is Wrong Redux Additionally, according to this popular mythology, everything we know (those of us who have actual hands-on experience in breeding, raising and training racing greyhounds) is indeed wrong. The general public is told that the real experts on the breeding, raising and training of the Racing Greyhound are not those who actually rely upon their experience, knowledge and skills in the matter for their living. The real experts, the media implies, are the politically motivated, propaganda-spreading, anti-racing lobbying groups. It matters not that none of the principals of these organizations have ever been any closer to a professional racing kennel or breeding facility than they have been to the moons of Saturn. It doesn’t matter that political lobbying is the realm of hyper-partisanship and untruth for virtually every other issue in the public discourse. They and they alone, somehow, have all the answers, and everything that dedicated, career racing professionals and breed custodians know to be the truth, is indeed wrong. Likewise, most of the hundreds of thousands of pet greyhound owners, who have adopted retired racers through the more than 350 track/industry sponsored and independent adoption organizations cross-country, must also be wrong, or at least delusional. Despite the litany of inflammatory, ignorant, manipulative and sometimes hateful anti-racing rhetoric and talking points, the retired Racing Greyhound has become a virtual sensation in the pet world. How can this possibly be? How do such badly raised, improperly socialized and miserably treated dogs manage to make the intimidating, life-altering, quantum leap of re-habituation from mere, disposable earning devices, to beloved and cherished, well-adjusted, personal and family pets, by the tens of thousands each year? Everyone knows that dogs are a reflection of their breeding, raising, training and handling, their environment and their experiences. It is a basic matter of genetics and of cause-and-effect. Dogs who have seen nothing but a lifetime of neglect, cruelty and abuse, usually need extensive professional rehabilitation, and very careful, empathetic handling thereafter, if ever they manage to adjust to everyday life in a family/pet situation. Racing Greyhounds, on the other hand, are an unprecedented and hugely successful pet phenomenon. They are reknown for their sweet, placid, steady temperament, and for their non-aggressive and sociable tendencies, with people as well as with other canines. Like all other canines, they tend to reflect and express the quality of their breeding, and the nature of their upbringing, training, handling, environment and life experience. Retired Racing Greyhounds have become the sensation of the pet universe because of, not in spite of, the totality of their incarnation and experiences as well cared for and highly valued racing athletes. Everything we know to be empirically true concerning the manifestation of individuals, colonies, populations or breeds of canines tells us that this must the case. Whether the individual is an outgoing “alpha” personality, a passive “beta” personality or even a timid, skittish “omega” personality, most retired racing greyhounds seem to be capable of making the challenging adjustment from life in the “racing pack” to life in the “family pack”, without too much bother. The Wild Gene Retired Racing Greyhound adopters, as a group, are perhaps the most enthusiastic, enthralled and bemused pet owners in the world. Many of them have adopted small packs of retired racers, unable to resist having “just one”. The Racing Greyhound is a bewitching creature, indeed. One only has to search the various internet Forums, like Greytalk.com, (dedicated to discussing the experience of retired greyhound adoption and ownership) to infer that there is something very special happening here. People all seem to sense in their greyhounds, an ethereal, mystical and beguiling quality, the essence of which they just can’t seem to identify, grasp, or wrap their minds around. They don’t quite understand it, but they know it is there, just below the surface. Since before the dawn of civilization, Greyhounds have been the companions of men. They have always served a purpose, and they have been maintained as a supremely functional breed, because of this symbiosis. Yesterday, they were lethal coursers and hunters. Today, they are racers of astonishing athleticism and speed. The essence of our modern Racing Greyhound’s ancient ancestors is still held just beneath their skin. When you see that certain look in his eye, when you notice that certain set to his ear, or that certain body language and expression that seems foreign to you, almost otherworldly, don’t be alarmed. You’ll never touch it, you can’t hold it, and you can’t feel it. It is beyond you. The ancient dogs of pre-history who culled the elk herds, the dogs who hunted and fought with the Celts, and the dogs who coursed after the hares and deer on the verdant fields of Ireland, are simply calling out to him. He can hear them as clearly as you hear the alarm clock in the morning. He can hear them, and he can understand that ancient language which has resonated across countless generations and through oceans of time. He can hear them, and he must heed them, because he is a Racing Greyhound. When racing is gone, when Greyhounds no longer perform even a variation upon their natural function, only then will those voices forever be still. Copyright, 2012
In view of some of the recent discussions, I think this might have even more relevance. The American greyhound population is the mother lode of genetic diversity. Our domestic greyhounds are uniquely blessed with the best and most perfectly adapted contributors from all realms of the greyhound. Our our dogs are universally admired and sought after for their courage, honesty, desire, determination, stamina and soundness. Surprisingly, after years and years of pouring over pedigrees, I have come to the realization that the American racing greyhound is the melting pot of all the best greyhounds in the history of the sport. Even the blood of Chief Havoc, who in my opinion is the most important and influential greyhound in modern history, flows most strongly in the American greyhound. 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 activists, 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. 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. copyright, 2013
The ETSY Book of Revelation
I have no compelling reason to defend greyhound racing. I don’t make a living from it, and haven’t earned a penny from racing or anything even remotely connected to it since the mid-1980s. I don’t belong to the National Greyhound Association (NGA), or any breeder or owner groups. No one within or outside of racing has ever asked me to be their spokesperson, or to even “speak up” for them. My main connection to racing and greyhounds these days, is online, not in person. Nowadays, I get my greyhound thrills vicariously, through old or new friends who are racing professionals, breeders who enjoy and are interested in pedigree and bloodline discussion, through greyhound adopters and enthusiasts, and by watching the greyhounds perform by live video streaming. Sometime after I ended my career as a greyhound trainer, I adopted a couple of greyhounds, and only later became aware of the online greyhound community. Perusing those various internet greyhound communities, I was stunned and shaken by the sheer volume of greyhound misinformation and mythology that existed. It was as if I had been living in an alternate universe all during my career with greyhounds, and now these cyber people, who in my time wouldn’t have known a greyhound from Grey Poupon, had borne personal witness to what I had only imagined in my existential dimension. Or perhaps it was dementia. Hmmm… I didn’t know where to begin to dispel this outrageous mythology, or to begin the process of educating the public on the good, the bad and even the ugly of greyhound racing. The fact that the new mythology was so often professed with such shocking ignorance of the most profound sort, such self-righteous vitriol and even nauseating hatred, significantly complicated the matter of trying to get the truth out there. The fact that wagering on greyhound racing had been turned into a criminal activity, by ballot initiative, in my home state of Massachusetts during the 2008 election, deepened my dismay with this vacuous pop culture. It heightened my awareness of the modern mass media’s obsession with sensationalism and negativity, their abandonment of journalism, and their descent into unabashed, partisan activism. The greyhounds I knew were magnificent creatures, icons of unparalleled athleticism and otherworldly grace. They were beings with a presence and dignity of bearing unique in the canine world, loving and unassuming creatures of a gentle and even timid persuasion, entirely without pettiness. At the same time, they were fierce and tenacious competitors, who were capable of mind-boggling speed and agility when put to the task they were bred to perform, joyful beyond our imagination. I was godsmacked to learn that in my brief absence, the greyhound had undergone a most unlikely metamorphosis. To the anti-racing activists and via their friends in media, the ancient, majestic and supremely gifted greyhound had transitioned into a miserable object of pity and pathos. A wretched creature, belonging to a horribly abused and outmoded population, which was essentially unnecessary in today’s world of supermarkets, scientific pest and vermin control, and a “four legs good, two legs bad” academia-spawned version of selective Darwinism. Those who are the most distant from large colonies and populations of animals, those who are the most unknowledgeable and ignorant of them, had passed judgement on the greyhound. And he was judged by them, and by a diabolically misinformed electorate, to be expendable. I recently became aware of a group of internet vendors who fancy themselves as “artists”, and who have decided to join the Hallelujah Chorous of those who “advocate” for the racing greyhound by helping to assure his eventual extinction. They call themselves ETSY (EFA) For Animals. “Artists helping animals”. Yeah, I still don’t understand how they came up with “ETSY”, either. They have a new internet page that explains why they have decided to honor as their Charity of the Month, a lobbying group which does very little for charity, and has historically done next to nothing for greyhound welfare. Unless one considers donating a mere 1.37% of over 2.2 million dollars in donations accrued since 2006, to “unspecified” charities, being worthy of special commendation. (see Grey2K, IRS 990 forms) At any rate, their new page all but boasts that these artists are the new Isaiahs, and their page is your very own Book of Greyhound Revelation. The first “seal” in their Book begins with the statement: “pro racers say: If it were not for greyhound racing there would be no greyhounds.” Well, not exactly. Kindly let me explain. What lovers and admirers of the highly functional NGA Racing Greyhound say, is that without the financial support that racing generates for the NGA greyhound population, which is that population’s only means of support, this unique, racing population will pretty much expire. To elaborate a bit, for almost 100 years now, the greyhounds we have come to know, honor and love, have adapted and evolved, solely and exclusively, to the inputs and feedback of racing. Your greyhound is, at the cellular level, entirely imbued and blooded with the genetics of racing, and those greyhounds who were the most highly adapted to it. Everything you love, and even some of the things you might not love about your greyhound, are the immutable cause and effect of his racing heritage, his racing genetics, his racing experiences, his racing environment, and the inputs and feedback that racing has engendered, and which have formed him. That’s how evolution, adaptation and selective breeding manifest throughout and within a population of functional canines. When the support, input and feedback of racing are no longer part of the racing greyhound equation, what we will be left with is a tiny population of racing greyhound effigies. For all intents and purposes, the racing greyhound as we now know him, will have ceased to exist. As a matter of genetic science and selection, this is self-evident, and sad to say, it’s not debatable. Once a unique strain of precious Greyhound mitochondrial DNA has been diminished beyond the last surviving female, that strain is gone forever. As it is now, the NGA racing greyhound is a remarkably, genetically diverse population. It is to the benefit of all greyhounds, that we nurture and preserve these precious, irreplaceable wellsprings of the breed. That is what racing, whether you love it or hate it, insures. A popular idea among anti-racing activists, is that the tiny, relatively non-diverse and deeply inbred population of mostly non-functioning AKC greyhounds (the vast majority of whom about as removed from functional racing greyhounds as are Circus Horses from Thoroughbreds), could actually “replace” or replicate the NGA racing greyhound. That is a whimsy I would not dream of subjecting you to the debunking of, and which could only have arisen from an ideology that is completely oblivious to the realities of selective breeding and to the genetics and custodianship of a unique, supremely functional canine population. (I have no axe to grind on the AKC greyhound, and find many of them to be stunning creatures in their own right. But they are not racing greyhounds, and that is by design. Vive la difference) “Advocacy by extinction” is not now, nor has it ever been, a humane concept. The “second seal” in the ETSY Book of Revelation reads like this: “pro racers say: Greyhounds love to run. I say: Granted, greyhounds do love to run, but give them the choice of running free with their friends at a beach or park, at a pace & in a direction of their choosing, or bolting around a track with steep (dangerously steep – many greyhounds sustain fatal injuries on them) bends in pursuit of an unreachable dummy, & I think I know which one the dogs would prefer.” Aside from the sad fact that more than a few retired racing greyhounds have, from time to time, mistaken smaller dogs while “running free” in the dogpark and elsewhere, as prey they should chase after and attack, this is a shockingly ignorant statement—even for mind-locked ideologues. If you want to appreciate how much your greyhound would rather “run free” than race on the track, simply let them hear the audio of a racetrack lure, many of which can be found on You Tube. And please…be careful they don’t try to jump through the computer or speaker screen to get out there on the track. All levity aside, the need to race and compete is written on the DNA of the NGA racing greyhound. The deepest cruelty of all, as anyone who is familiar with them can attest to, would be to deny these creatures of the hunt and the chase the opportunity to express themselves as their most ingrained and ancient desires compel them to. True, racing is only a simulation of the chase, but it is the modern, humane simulation for which they have been bred for nearly a century to compete with one another. They are made complete by it. Without it as an outlet, and in good health, they would likely develop all manner of neuroses and undesirable/destructive behaviors. It would break their spirits. As a personal aside, I have seen a mating sire try to dismount a bitch he was engaged with, upon hearing the sound of the lure at the training track. That’s commitment. The third “seal” in the ETSY Book of Revelation is pretty much the same as the second seal: “pro racers say: Greyhounds enjoy racing” Actually, greyhounds revel in racing. They are ecstatic from the moment they know they are going to the track, either to race or simply for a dawn workout. If they could jump out of their skin to get there more quickly, they would. It’s not something they reason with, it’s who they are. Racing is essentially a simulation of what the breed has been doing since prehistoric times. It’s an improvisation upon how they have co-exited with men as cherished and valued companions, hunters and providers for thousands of years, and it is how their most ancient forbears survived in nature. It’s Darwinism in action. The fouth “seal” in the ETSY book of Revelation gets a bit more disdainful, bigoted and personal, and, if it is possible, betrays an even greater ignorance of basic common-sense husbandry and dog-sense. “pro racers say: Greyhound owners/trainers take good care of their dogs.” Greyhound breeders and trainers are like any other group of people involved in any other occupation. They compete for financial compensation, to survive and hopefully prosper, and some are more talented than others. Some, regardless of their talent, are underachievers, and some, overachievers. Occasionally, just as do people in the general workforce, one of them even goes “postal”, and does something evil. No one receives a set of angel wings or a halo when they pass the test for their owners’ or trainers’ license. Nevertheless, this year, breeders will spend approximately 36 million dollars raising and training the current generation of youngsters to the stage where they are finally ready to race. Ready to race means ready to begin to earn back some of the money (not to mention the relentless and physically demanding labor) that has been invested in their racing futures. The idea that these people, who have invested all of this money and hard labor in these greyhounds, would be satisfied with mediocre or neglectful handling of their dogs, is a bit vexing. After all, it is their greyhounds’ performance on the racetrack that will determine the quality of their own families’ lives. Not providing for these greyhounds properly goes against everything we know to be true about human reason and nature, and even human greed, if you prefer–not to mention basic business sense and economics. Likewise for their trainers, whose salaries are predicated upon their own success, which is determined by how well their greyhound charges perform. The ETSY person goes on to suggest that “if, hypothetically” all greyhound people did treat their greyhounds well, it wouldn’t make racing “right” anyway. I’m taking it on faith that whoever composed this litany of woe, has first person knowledge of the many wrongdoings he or she recounts to us. But I can tell you first hand, not all people treat their greyhounds well. That goes for racing people and adopters. There are always a small minority of slackers and wrongdoers. Fortunately, the economics of racing are such that the really bad actors don’t usually last too long in professional greyhound racing. To sum it up, the reason greyhounds make such wonderful pets, is because of their lives prior to being pets. Once again, it goes against everything we know to be true about canine temperament and disposition to profess that a population of dogs who were the victims of systemic abuse and cruelty, and who lacked human contact and socialization, could become the pet phenomenon that is today’s racing greyhound. Like all other canines who are loving and lovable, the greyhound is a reflection of his bloodlines, his environment, his training and his handling. He is the personification of all these things, with his many attributes and quirks, his irrepressible instincts and drives, and even his endearing and sometimes vexing, perhaps even alarming foibles. The fact that in this era of sharply reduced breeding, many adoption groups are now unable to acquire enough greyhounds to satisfy popular demand for them, should speak volumes to all but the most intransigent and tunnel-visioned zealots who insist upon making entirely unsubstantiated claims of mass euthansia and culling. The fact that the overwhelming majority of retiring greyhounds each year, make the “world-turned-upsidedown” transition from racer-hood to pet-hood without too much trouble, despite the fact that they are not bred to be pets, should be ample testament to their life experience as well-cared for and socialized racers. I’m sad to say that it is not enough for ETSY, apparently. Like many others, they seem to conflate socialization with habituation. Most retired greyhounds are quite adequately socialized, but completely un-habituated to life in the average family domicile. This, they have to learn, as would any other dog from a regimented sporting, working or service environment. Literally overnight, greyhounds are confronted with an entirely different universe, full of strange and very intimidating new things, places and situations. Their kennelmates are no longer there, nor are the people upon whom they have depended for most of their lives. Nevertheless, most of them are smart enough and have already learned to train their people well enough, so that their first order of business in their brave, new, adoptive world, is to appropriate the family couch. We will return soon to reveal the rest of the “seals” in the ESTY Book of Revelation. Please stay tuned, and hug those houndies! copyright, 2013
THE PEDIGREE OF HBs COMMANDER, THE AMERICAN DERBY, AND WHY RACING GREYHOUNDS RACE by Dennis McKeon
Mostly everyone who owns a racing greyhound, either as a racing professional, or as a pet owner, has heard the story of the legendary HBs Commander. He was sired by a greyhound that few people were aware of, out of a less-than-fashionable branch of an old and classic American-based female family. While he was an extremely precocious racer, and though he eventually was stopped by injuries and surgery, he was to prove to be an absolutely revolutionary sire. He led the US sire standings from 1994-1997 inclusive, and was elected to the Greyhound Hall Of Fame in 1999, in a large measure because of his prepotency as a modern cornerstone of the breed. He passed away unexpectedly due to an annuerism, at the relatively early age of 8. His son, Molotov, who led the sire standings for 5 years, and another son, Oswald Cobblepot, a highly influential contemporary of Molotov, distinguish HBs Commander as not only a sire of fine dams—–like Oneco Malee, the dam of the mercurial Talentedmrripley—-but as a sire of sires, an almost certain guarantee that HBs Commander’s influence upon the breed will be indelible. To say that HBs Commander’s phenomenal success was unexpected at the beginning, would not be an understatement. But succeed he did, in spite of the fact that he was not exactly lionized by breeders at the outset of his career as a sire. That would come later, after it was apparent that he was throwing quite a bit of himself into many of his offspring. And despite the protestations of his detractors, there was little doubt that HBs Commander seemed prepotent toward imparting a high degree of pace and power aptitudes, as well as his own rough hewn and burly—-some would say unrefined and coarse—- conformational attributes, to a great many of his progeny. Why this particular greyhound, among all his peers, and in the broader historical context of the breed, should become a sire of profound influence, is a matter for some inquiry, and might never truly be ascertained, from a standpoint of hard science. Yet, if we do a bit of research into his pedigree—- which at first glance, seems not particularly extraordinary—- we begin to understand the importance of racing, and why racing competition is so essential to the Racing Greyhound as a unique breed. Racing is what allows the breeder to place a relative value upon the quality of the stock he is producing, and the bloodlines from which he produces his stock. Racing, at it’s highest competitive levels, illuminates for the breeder, which individuals, and the families they are from, have achieved the highest levels of adaptation in response to the function of competitive racing, for the purpose of competitive racing. It allows for the most accurate and “correct” selectivity from among the racing population, as to which greyhounds, and which families of them, are best adapted and likely the most capable of carrying on with the breed, and of having input to the genepool of the Racing Greyhound. The high degree of accuracy in selectivity of breeding specimens that competitive racing provides for the Racing Greyhound breeder, has enabled the Racing Greyhound to become perhaps the most phenomenal athlete in the history of sport. It has not been an accident, that among all large breeds of canines, only the Racing Greyhound is virtually free of the crippling defects of congenital, degenerative hip dysplasia. Nevertheless, HBs Commander imparted a certain degree of adaptational “advantage” to significant percentage of his offspring, who in turn have done the same for their offspring. While some may see this as an accident of nature, I think that with a bit of investigation, we may begin to understand that HBs Commander was the result of generations and generations of selective breeding, cause-and-effect related to racing competition and the insight that racing at the highest levels, has provided to the breeder. He traces his direct female ancestry to the Randle Brothers’ foundation dam, Miss Judy (circa 1924, by Judas III x Irish Midget). While the female family has several distinct branches, it was another offshoot of the Miss Judy family, through Medora, the dam of Real Huntsman (by Never Roll), which was to first distinguish the line. Real Huntsman’s legendary career, and his 2 victories in the greatest and most prestigious open stakes race in the history of the Sport Of Queens in the US—-the legendary American Greyhound Derby (first run at Taunton, MA, in 1949)—-remain virtually unparalleled in the history of racing. Another branch of the Miss Judy female family was to produce the foundation dam of the Beckner family breeding dynasty, Mary Moore, who is the direct female ancestor to Buzz Off, a Hall Of Fame brood matron. The branch of the Miss Judy family from which HBs Commander descends, is divergent from both of these. It’s most profound previous expression had been the 2 time All American, Rock A Dee, by Go Rockie ( a son of 1956 American Derby winner Go Rock) x Dixie Day, a brood standings leader in her time. Interestingly enough, Hbs Commander’s sire, the unheralded and sparingly bred Akbar, traces his direct female ancestry to Je Nays Empress—–who is a direct female descendent of Medora—–the aforementioned dam of the aforementioned 1950-1951 American Derby winner, Hall of Fame inductee, Real Huntsman. Akbar’s paternal grandsire, Tara Bounder, also carries Je Nays Empress as his 2nd dam. Je Nays Empress (Ample Time x Je Nay) carries the first American Derby winner, Oklahoman, as her damsire. She is the dam of 1967 American Derby winner Xandra, by Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar is the 2nd damsire to Kelton, who is the sire of Akbar—–and Julius Caesar is the damsire to Big Whizzer, the sire of Downing…..who is the damsire to HBs Commander . Downing is thought by many to have been the most precocious and perhaps even the fastest greyhound ever to set foot upon a racetrack in the US. In addition to his startling and legendary victories in the prestigious Hollywood World Classic, and the Biscayne Irish American—–Downing bronzed his immortality as a racer, by winning the most coveted trophy of all , with his hard fought victory in the 1977 American Derby. So, while we may debate the state of the sport of greyhound racing today, and its place in the modern day scheme of things, there can be no debate whatsoever as to the critical importance of one single race—–The American Greyhound Derby, in the pedigree and to the immediate ancestors of HBs Commander. He is steeped in the blood of American Derby winners and their families. This single race appears to have been a highly predictable indicator of the bloodlines which were paramount in their era, and among the most worthy of perpetuation, as we can see, as an indicator of the most highly adapted and prepotent individuals who would carry them forward into this modern era. They would one day again find ample and at times, exquisite expression throughout the racing greyhound breed, through a greyhound who at first glance might seem to have been from the “wrong side” of the breeding tracks. When in actuality, he was quite adequately predisposed, by virtue of his ancestral relationships to success in the American Derby, to be both a racing and breeding “locomotive”…..HBs Commander.
ASSORTED COMMENTS ON THE CRAFT OF TRAINING RACING GREYHOUNDS, AND TO GAMBLERS WHO ARE CONVINCED THAT TRAINERS CONSPIRE TO SABOTAGE THEM… by Dennis McKeon I’m having some laptop issues with my screen, so I am going through some old things and trying to salvage them. I thought some of them were actually coherent, and might be of some interest. These are pretty random, and taken from discussions. Hopefully the reader can get the drift…. ASSORTED COMMENTS ON THE CRAFT OF TRAINING RACING GREYHOUNDS, AND TO GAMBLERS WHO ARE CONVINCED THAT TRAINERS CONSPIRE TO SABOTAGE THEM… “The worming cycle might vary depending upon where you are racing and the life cycle of the parasites you are dealing with. Generally speaking, in the Northeast, most trainers would worm every 28 days, with a broad spectrum wormer. With most wormers, performance will lag after administration of them. Back in the days when we actually trained racers—before McRacing—each dog was kept to a basic schedule, which varied only according to the dog’s individual requirements and the racing rotation frequency at the time. Certain protocols are always observed, which include rubdowns and/or whirlpools sessions before and after racing, grooming before and after racing, exercise in between as required by the individual, either walking or sprinting, occasionally, when weather would allow, a light swimming session. Diet is of critical importance. Meat, meal and water may keep your greyhounds fit and healthy, but you can make the daily meal a really enjoyable and even healthier experience for the dogs with a little variety and enhancement. The most important thing that a trainer can do is to keep the dogs as free of stresses as possible—that includes not only athletically induced stress, but also environmental and existential stress. The dogs should feel completely relaxed and secure in the kennel at all times, and not be made to feel as if the are being kept on tenterhooks, until the next human outburst or manifestation of human angst is expressed to their perplexity and/or discomfort. The kennel is their home, the only one they have. Don’t bring your personal troubles to it. The trainer should always include some bonding time with each individual—that can be as simple as a five minute walk with the dog, or simply stopping by the dog’s crate and showing some physical acknowledgement of him/her. Each racer should be treated as if they are your All American—that sounds whimsical, but it doesn’t cost you anything but the thought just to see to it. It’s still basically a common sense craft. You don’t need to be an alchemist or a biologist to induce best performance from a willing greyhound—and most of them are that way. You need only to minimize your mistakes, and to observe and react to what you see as it regards predictable and habitual behaviors, and especially any sudden departure from them. These are amazingly willing and consistent creatures. Most will return an honest effort for your honest effort, sometimes tenfold—you’ll get out of them only what you put into them. If you respect them first as individuals who are entirely at the mercy of your insight and competence, you will make it your business to become more and more insightful and competent. I don’t think it can be said too many times. When a good, reliable, consistent greyhound suddenly throws out the anchor without having an excuse—something is wrong. Greyhounds are as much creatures of habit on the racetrack as they are in the kennel and in the home. However, they aren’t able to send you a message by carrier pigeon saying “The reason I finished 22 lengths behind the winner last night was because I strained my hip shortly after the box opened, and it hurt to run really hard.” As the trainer, you have to learn to question everything, and to “BELIEVE YOUR EYES” (Aaron Kulchinsky). …but one thing needs a bit of elaboration. You shouldn’t use a bench to check over a greyhound. You should check them over with all four feet level on the floor–for the obvious reasons. Then you may stand them on the bench to groom them, etc.” SOME ANALYSIS ON THE EBB AND FLOW OF BLOODLINES “When I first became interested in greyhound racing, Rocker Mac was all the rage as a sire. The kennels were literally brimming with his offspring, as were the stakes races. He threw lots of great 3/8th types. His influence waned rather dramatically, though. Shortly after he had become a single sire dynasty, more Australian sires were to make their way here. One of them, in particular, named Tell You Why, while he would not be a 7 time sire leader like Rocker Mac, would literally re-invent the American greyhound, and infuse them with dramatic pace, to go along with their remarkable stamina, a hallmark of the American greyhound. His siblings and his sons were nothing less than breed-altering, and phenomenal, to say the least. This did not bode well for Rocker Mac daughters and grandaughters, who were numerous, and Rocker Mac’s true hope to sustain his own dynasty, as he left no sons that were anything like him as sires. You see, Tell You Why was a maternal grandson of Chief Havoc (in other words, Chief Havoc was Tell You Why’s damsire)–Chief Havoc was also Rocker Mac’s sire. Now most US breeders were just not ready to inbreed that aggressively, by putting Tell You Why or his sons to Rocker Mac daughters of even his grandaughters. And so Rocker Mac’s female descendents were not able to use the most phenomenal segment of the sire population at that point in time. Which is not to say that there were not other good sires around–there were—but none of them had quite the prepotency of Tell You Why or several of his sons…and so many female lines who carried Rocker Mac as their sire or damsire, fell a bit behind on the adaptational curve–and they never quite recovered. However, Rocker Mac lives on in the American greyhound today, through a most auspicious individual—that would be the great Gable Dodge…whose damsire, the equally great Dutch Bahama, carries Woodward as his own damsire…Woodward’s damsire is none other than the legendary Rocker Mac.” ON WHY SOME DOGS WHO APPEAR TO BE NATURAL LONGER DISTANCE TYPES, CAN’T CUT THE MUSTARD WHEN THEY GET THE CHANCE “The general consensus as I always inferred was that stamina was something you looked to the dam’s side for. Nevertheless, because a sire was a distance star, that doesn’t necessarily mean that is what he’ll tend to throw. Ks Flak threw a lot of sprinters, though he himself was at his best at 660 yards. Downing was a superstar sprinter who threw some tremendous stayers out of Irish and half Irish females. Go figure. Then there is the matter of the course configuration. It could be argued that the typical 3/8ths configuration is not so much a test of stamina for most, as it is a matter of aptitude. There are hundreds of powerful closer/sprinters who are thought to be distance superstars in the making, as they come up through the ranks. Then when they make the switch, you can’t find them with a telescope. In a sprint, they break behind, then they find their line–usually the mid to outer lanes…then they kick into gear as they turn onto the backstretch, and pick up the phony speed dogs who didn’t make the turn on top. Around the turn and into stretch, they are reaching the zenith of their run, as the pacesetters tire, and sometimes as the pace entirely collapses. They’re full of run as they blow by the fading leaders, 50 yards out…and everyone says, “wait until they go over to the other side”. But what often happens, is that the moderate to slow break that they consistently showed in sprints, gets them in big trouble—as nimble, quicker breaking, turn hugging stayers take the turn away from them, and speed off to a huge advantage. The closer/sprinter still has a card to play, in that he has a more dynamic turn of pace than the stayers do, so he recovers from his disadvantage and begins to close some ground—and now he has 110 more yards in which to catch the leaders. As they go by the tote, he’s now about five lengths in arrears of the pace, and entering the far turn, has clear sailing. But something happens then. The stayers on the pace don’t come back to him quite as easily as spent sprinters, and now there are deeper stayers pressuring our closer/sprinter from behind, and they are closing on the leaders even faster than he is. Halfway through the stretch, his burst of speed is spent and he begins to fade as the leather-lungers wear him down and set their sights on the pacesetters– who are now burning up their final fumes. The bottom line is that the dog lost because the configuration of the course doesn’t suit his particular skill set—not necessarily because he lacked speed or stamina. He lost because his skill sets did not match up with or exceed those of the dogs he was competing against on that particular course, as it is designed. Now if you raced that same field at 660 yards, but with a long straight run up to the first turn, rather than breaking right into a turn, our closer/sprinter might win with distance to spare. Why? Because his aptitude and skill set is flattered by that sort of course design, but not by the garden variety 3/8ths venue.” copyright, 2014
The X Factor in Greyhounds A PHENOMENON This is a series of articles concerning the identification of a “genetic marker” who is in the proper pedigree position to have possibly been the originator of a greyhound X-Factor phenomenon. The X-Factor could be the result of some sort of anomalous genetic mutation that had involved the genetics that determine heart size, which from all indications, are carried on the X chromosome. Or maybe it doesn’t exist at all. Intrigued and inspired by the ground breaking work that has been done in this field for the Thoroughbred, first detailed in the books of Marianna Haun, years ago I got the idea that this might be worthwhile to investigate in greyhound pedigrees. To synopsize, by using the pedigree record, Haun noticed that a disproportionate number of great and breed-shaping Thoroughbreds carried 1 of 4 stallions in the X chromosome passing position. Since there were records of the heart size of many deceased Thoroughbreds, she was able to verify her pedigree research to some extent, which sustained her original proposition, that some horses were the receptors of a “super-motor”, carried via genetic mutations found on the X chromosome of a small group of sires. These sires were not themselves the authors of dominant sire lines, but were outstanding broodmare sires. Haun hypothesized that the reason they had failed to produce male line heirs who carried on, was because their genetic “edge” was carried on the X chromosome they received from their dams, which could only be passed onto their daughters. Of course, her books were met with significant skepticism, as well as outright hostility. Nevertheless, the recent mapping of the equine genome seems to support her work, inasmuch as the genetic material for heart size/structure is found on the equine X chromosome. Today, there are a number of biomechanical research companies who charge hefty fees for their services, which in addition to locomotion analysis, also report on cardio-pulmonary function and output for breeders and prospective buyers of young Thoroughbreds. To a great extent Haun’s research and conclusions seem to have been vindicated. There is a Thoroughbred X-factor. So what we will demonstrate here is not a “blueprint” for breeders, or a way to breed stayers or anything else. It is an accounting of breedings that have already been done and adjudicated, and the placement of certain breed-shaping individuals within those pedigrees, along the X chromosome-passing corridors, which are a matter of history, as best we can account for it. We will show, by using the pedigree record, that there is a very strong anecdotal case to be made for one greyhound—–the ever-present Misterton (b/w dog by Contango x Lima by Cock Robin), winner of the 1879 Waterloo Cup and a sire of enormous importance—-as a POSSIBLE carrier of a POSSIBLE greyhound X-factor. If there is indeed a greyhound X Factor, this would be the preliminary work necessary to establish a history of transference and a “genetic marker”. Any X Factor phenomenon, such as the “super motor” of Thoroughbreds, should it prove to be the case in greyhounds as well, would not exist in a genetic vacuum. Expressed through a phenotype, it would work, for better or worse, in conjunction with all the other “moving parts” The intent is to provoke thought and discussion, not to advise or consent on potential matings.
THE X TRAIL TO MISTERTON AND THE PERFECT GREYHOUND For those of you who have seen the videos or who saw him in person, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven’t, no explanation is possible. It was as if God had decided to make the perfect greyhound, and then decided that we simply weren’t worthy. When I first heard of him, it was on a horse racing discussion board. Someone who knew I had been a greyhound trainer and who had seen him break the track record at Mile High, gave me the heads up. A week or so later, he was never to race again. That didn’t stop him. After all, he was more an artist’s conception of a greyhound in motion than anything else. So fluid and powerful, even watching him in those grainy, shaky old videos, it almost puts you in a state of denial—or a state of shock. He would go on to be the sire board leader for 5 years, but that would not be his greatest achievement. His daughters, and now his maternal grand-daughters would see to that. Molotov could be in the Hall Of Fame on his grace, power, form and style alone. I like to say to those who use the old cliche “he was a freak” when trying to explain him, that he wasn’t a freak at all, he was an alien. But alas, he didn’t race long enough to accumulate the resume that other Hall of Famers usually compile. He will be remembered and revered as a sire of great dams. Like Handy Andy, Rural Rube, Lucky Bannon, Kunta Kinte and Dutch Bahama, mostly dogs of significant abilities on the racetrack, and they mostly superseded their worthy racing accomplishments with their production of breed shaping dams. So Molotov is in some pretty good company. When I mutated from a reasonably normal, rational human being, into a quasi-hermit/pedigree nerd, it didn’t take me too long to figure out that sire lines were boring to study, and that the real action in most great pedigrees was on the damside—-and that the heavy hitters were the damsires, the second damsires and so on. These were the dogs who shaped the breed, who enhanced and improved the damlines, and steered them into the future—or not. The sires who produce male heirs to carry on their bloodline from sire to son to grandson always seem to enjoy the limelight and the notoriety. But any breeder will tell you that a good dam will produce good offspring from any number and type of sire. What was it that made these “good dams” so fertile and prepotent? I had to find out. There are, to borrow the phrase, “patterns of greatness” present in the pedigrees of many great greyhounds—-racers as well as producers. We used to have some wonderful and fascinating discussions about such things as we could observe them on the old Global message board, with an international cast of contributors. These discussions only drove us all to study harder and observe more closely, as well as to infer more and more that certain repetitious patterns of transference indeed do exist in the pedigree record. They’re not always easy to find, but they are there in nearly all of our immortal racers and breeders. The most curious and fascinating of them are to be found on the damside of the great damsires, along the pathways of the X chromosome. Now Meadows was our first great and prolific sire of dams. There is probably not an American pedigree of any classicity, in which he does not appear. Often, in pedigrees, he is overlaying a bottom damline. Meadows was descended from quality greyhounds—-Waterloo Cup winners. His grandsire, Heavy Weapon was one. Heavy Weapon’s damsire was Gallant, also a Waterloo Cup winner. Gallant’s damsire was Misterton—-yup—- another Waterloo Cup winner. Meadows’ 2nd damsire is Blue Rock. His damsire is also Gallant, whose damsire was Misterton. Meadows, despite his exploits as a damsire, is probably best known for being the sire of the great Traffic Officer, who Gary Guccione astutely called the “Grandfather of the American Greyhound”. Traffic Officer’s damsire is Fine Harmony, whose 2nd dam is Pensa, by Gallant…..damsire?…….Misterton. Meadows is also the 3rd damsire to Traffic Officer’s paternal grandson, Rural Rube. Rural Rube was a very prolific racer and sire, particularly of classic dams. On his damside we see not only Meadows, but Rube’s own damsire, Gangster, an Australian import. His damsire is the immortal Australian damsire, Andrew Micawber— whose own damsire is White Hope, out of the bitch Game Un, whose damsire is—–Gallant—whose damsire is Misterton. Rural Rube is probably best known for being the damsire to the great and hugely influential sire, Mixed Harmony. Mixed Harmony is the sire of Great Valor, littermate of American Derby winner Clydesdale, and a sire of enormous importance. Great Valor’s damsire is Pageant, whose own damsire is another immortal Australian, Handy Andy—maybe the greatest damsire in our history. Handy Andy is out of Minda Lass, whose damsire is Wilkie Collins. Wilkie’s damsire is White Hope—the same White Hope we see behind Rural Rube. White Hope, to Gallant, to Misterton…….. patterns of greatness. Great Valor is the damsire to Lucky Bannon, who is the damsire to Kunta Kinte, who is the damsire to Blendway—–who is the damsire to Molotov. The patterns are very similar for them all. Through the damside, and via the trail of the infamous X chromosome, they all end up at the champion of the 1879 Waterloo Cup, Misterton. Chief Havoc, to speak of sires who generated enormous and breed shaping impact, is the damsire to Tell You Why, all his siblings, and the great Australian dam Elsie Moss. Chief Havoc’s 2nd damsire is Sterling, whose damsire is Taleeban, whose damsire is Senator, whose 2nd damsire is Hedley, whose damsire is……….you guessed it…….. Misterton. Patterns of greatness. There they are.
HOW DOES IT WORK? The pathways X chromosome transference can be a little confusing as you look back through pedigrees. It takes some time and practice to get a handle on it. Each greyhound receives a sex linked chromosome from each of its parents. All greyhounds have 2 sex-linked chromosomes. Males are all X-Y, females are all X-X. So the male contributes either an X or a Y chromosome to the offspring. The female contributes one of her two X chromosomes to the offspring. If the male passes on his X chromosome to an offspring, that pup will be a female. If he passes on his Y chromosome, it will be a male. So the X chromosome of a sire can never pass onto one of his sons. It can only be passed on to his daughters. Those daughters can pass it on to their daughters and sons (the sire’s maternal grandsons). The X chromosome contains a lot more genetic information than the Y chromosome. This genetic edge could be the reason why so many great sires fail to produce a strong male line heir, but turn out to be splendid and amazingly influential damsires. So, for example, Craigie Whistler cannot inherit the X chromosome of his sire, Molotov, so he can’t pass it on. Now if Molotov’s “edge” was cause and effect related to the genetics carried on his X chromosome, Craigie Whistler can’t inherit them or pass them on. Whistler inherited a Y chromosome from Molotov. But contemporary sires Ben Awhile or Extruding Dream can conceivably carry and pass along Molotov’s X chromosome to their daughters, because they are out of daughters of Molotov—-and both Bistro Queen (Ben Awhile’s dam) and Iwanthatrophy (Extruding Dream’s dam) carry their sire Molotov’s X chromosome (as well as one other X that they each inherited from their dams). Ben Awhile and Extruding Dream each inherited one of their dam’s X chromosomes and their sire’s Y chromosome. There is a 50/50 chance that either of them carries Molotov’s X chromosome. But Craigie Whistler doesn’t……or does he? Now Whistler, you see, is becoming a fair damsire in his own right. Whistler’s damsire is Oshkosh Tease. Tease’s damsire is Pecos Cannon, a speedball of the first water, and a top sire in his day. Now Cannon’s damsire is Spec Harmony, the lesser known brother of the legendary Cactus Lonesome (is that a great name or what?). Now Spec Harmony’s damsire is Bill the Boozer, a well thought of son of Chief Havoc—-but old Bill couldn’t be carrying the Chief’s X chromosome—-he got Chief’s Y chromosome—remember?….it can’t be passed on from sire to son. Anyhow, Bill the Boozer’s damsire is the Australian, Ribbie—-whose damsire is Expert—-whose damsire is White Hope…..who is out of the female Game Un, whose damsire is Gallant—–whose damsire is Misterton. Spec Harmony also carries Mixed Harmony as his 2nd damsire. Mixed Harmony’s damsire, as we have previously seen, is Rural Rube…whose damsire is Gangster….whose damsire is Andrew Micawber…. whose damsire is White Hope, out of Game Un…whose damsire is Gallant….whose damsire is Misterton. Oshkosh Tease, the damsire to Craigie Whistler, also carries Oshkosh Viget as his 2nd dam. She is by Oshkosh Champ, a real crack damsire. Champ’s damsire is Great Valor….whose damsire is Pageant….whose damsire is Handy Andy, a son of Minda Lass, whose damsire is Wilkie Collins….whose damsire is White Hope, out of Game Un…. whose damsire is Gallant….whose damsire is Misterton. Oshkosh Viget’s damsire is Sky Jet, a sibling to Tell You Why……Sky Jet’s damsire is Chief Havoc, (out of Thelma’s Mate) whose damsire is Sterling, whose damsire is Taleeban, whose damsire is Senator, out of Federation…….whose damsire is Hedley, whose damsire is Misterton. Whistler’s 2nd damsire is Unruly, one of the great stayers from a long line of stayers. Both his dam, Basic Black and his 2nd dam, Monotony were as long winded as this article. Monotony’s damsire is Gun, a fine sire in his day, and still quite prevalent in modern pedigrees. Gun’s 2nd damsire is the incomparable Traffic Officer, whose damsire is Fine Harmony, whose own 2nd dam, Pensa, is a daughter of Gallant, whose damsire is Misterton. Unruly’s 3rd damsire is the Australian Sunmarker. His damsire is Chief Havoc, out of Thelma’s Mate, whose damsire is Sterling, whose damsire is Taleeban, whose damsire is Senator, out of Federation…….whose damsire is Hedley, whose damsire is Misterton. Interestingly enough, we can see that not only could Craigie Whistler be carrying the SAME X chromosome as his sire Molotov (though not inherited from Molotov), he does carry the DNA of one of his most illustrious predecessors—-that being Traffic Officer. They each trace their direct female line ancestry to the common female ancestor, one Maggie’s Pet, circa 1900…..by the way, Maggies Pet is out of a dam named Lady Walks….whose damsire is St Clair, out of White Lips….whose damsire is …..that’s right……..Misterton!
THE HOMECOMING____HIS X CHROMOSOME RETURNS TO THE LAND OF MISTERTON Any of us who have been around greyhounds for a while and who have shared ideas with international discussion groups, are well aware of how proud Australian greyhound men and women are of their dogs. With pretty good reason, I think we’d all agree. Their sires have revolutionized breeding in the US more than once, and today, are revolutionizing breeding in IRE and the UK. For some reason, likely because many of the primary early exponents were exported, there seems to be less concentration of X Factor pathways through Irish greyhounds, back to Misterton. Those bloodlines are sometimes there, along the X-trails to Misterton, but not in the reinforcing multiple doses we see with American and some Australian greyhounds. Could this be one reason why Australian sires have had such a stunning recent impact upon the modern Irish greyhound? I don’t know. I suspect it might be so. The modern Australian greyhound is often more closely inbred than many, and probably most in the US or IRE. Some of this inbreeding and linebreeding is focused on the legendary Temlee, a sire of enormous and unflagging impact. Temlee was profoundly important to Australia’s greyhound breed. Temlee’s damsire is Mister Moss, out of the “blue hen” dam Elsie Moss. She is by Magic Babe, a full sibling to Tell You Why—which means that through Mister Moss> Elsie Moss, Temlee traces back to Chief Havoc, (Elsie’s damsire AND her sire’s damsire, making her a possible “double copy” carrier of Misterton’s X chromosome). By now you know the route to Misterton on this particular pathway. Temlee’s 3rd damsire is Dream’s Image (the sire of Cleveland Lad, who had an especially prolific sire career here in the US). Dream’s Image carries Roccabright as his damsire (as did Rocker Mac, 7 time US sire champion). Roccabright’s 2nd damsire is Wilkie Collins. In case you’ve forgotten the directions, the road to Misterton goes Wilkie Collins>White Hope>Game Un>Gallant>Misterton…..or it might go Wilkie Collins>Senator (Wilkie’s 2nd damsire)>Hedley>Misterton. Dream’s Image is especially interesting because, additionally, he carries Australian Magner as his 2nd damsire. Magner’s dam, So Long Letty, carries a dog named Fluke as her 2nd damsire. Flukes 4th dam is Lady Wyndham. She is fascinating and tantalizing here—-because she is 3×2 to Hedley>Misterton, and they are in the X passing position through both her sire and dam—-Hedley is not only Lady Wyndham’s damsire, but he is the damsire to her sire (as is Chief Havoc to Elsie Moss) . So she could be a carrying a “double copy” of Misterton’s X chromosome, via her inbreeding to Hedley—-which would mean that ALL of her immediate offspring received that X chromosome. At any rate, remember the names Australian Magner and Lady Wyndham. We will meet them again along the X trails. One phenomenon that I feel especially close to, was the Maythorn Pride miracle. Maythorn was the authoress of a modern, international breeding dynasty that has few, if any equals. She was a very competent track dog, but as a dam, she would become a greyhound Matriarch—with a capital M. She was bred to be a champion, being by the redoubtable Own Pride, an Irish Derby and St Leger winner. Own Pride would go on to become only slightly less highly regarded than his paternal grandsire, Clonalvy Pride, who is held in high esteem as a breeder, maybe only just below the likes of legends like Monalee Champion, Champion Prince, etc. To digress a bit, Clonalvy Pride’s damsire is the obscure Australian import, Westbury Sammy. Sammy’s damsire is a dog named Australian Matador—-who just so happens to be the full sibling to Australian Magner. Now Own Pride couldn’t have received any benefit from this coincidence, because Australian Matador is on his sire’s side of the pedigree highway. However, if we look a bit more closely, we will see that Own Pride’s 3rd dam, Clohenberg Dancer carries as her damsire, one Westbury Sammy. Which means that Own Pride was in line to receive an X chromosome—-perhaps the X chromosome of Misterton, from our could-be “double copy” dam, Lady Wyndham. At any rate, Maythorn Pride was bred to a slew of fashionable sires, including Americans like Ks Flak, Rooster Cogburn and his sibling, Sand Man. Some of those pups passed through our hands here in the US, either running at Revere, and mostly running without distinction there, and mainly going on to less demanding venues. The best of them, apparently, stayed in IRE. Most of them were by the unlikeliest of superstar sires, a dog who lived and toiled in the shadow of the shadow of the shadow of his far more talented and accomplished siblings, Rooster Cogburn and Highway Robber, among others. No one had ever even heard of Sand Man when it became known that Father Dan Greene would be bringing him to Ireland. Maybe that was why it seemed so funny to some of the greatest breeders in history, who were on hand at Revere, and who found wonderful amusement in speculating just how far back he might set the Irish breed. Father Greene and Sand Man, as we now know, would have the last, very long laugh. Sand Man and Maythorn Pride simply electrified and changed forever the racing and breeding WORLD, not just Ireland and the UK, through their daughters and their offspring. This humble dog, the butt of the jokes of all and sundry who knew anything of breeding, played the biggest joke of all on everyone. Sand Man, as we shall see, might have been packing a bit more than his 65 or so pounds. Sired by the very American Friend Westy, his dam was Hall Of Famer Miss Gorgeous, an All American quality greyhound herself. She was a daughter of none other than Tell You Why. By mating her to Friend Westy, the bloodlines of Kinto Nebo, (the dam of the immortal Westy Whizzer and Friend Westy’s 2nd dam) those same bloodlines that had produced the Whizzer, whose sire was Tell You Why, were again fused, but in reverse. Tell You Why on the damside was not the fashion in those days, but it worked spectacularly with Miss Gorgeous. We are familiar with the X trail of Chief Havoc to Misterton that Tell You Why passed onto Miss Gorgeous. But beneath him we see that Mar Dilly is the damsire to Miss Gorgeous. Mar Dilly’s 2nd damsire is the imported Bill’s Secretary, a highly thought-of sire of dams in his day. Bill’s Secretary’s damsire is the Australian, Goodo, whose damsire is Andrew Micawber. The X road to Misterton, to review, is Andrew Micawber>White Hope>Game Un>Gallant>Misterton. Andrew Micawber himself is Bill’s Secretary’s 2nd damsire. Miss Gorgeous, to frost the X-cake, carries Rural Rube as her 3rd damsire. Rural Rube, we may recall, also takes the Gangster>Andrew Micawber>White Hope>Game Un>Gallant X trail to Misterton. So perhaps it is that Sand Man and Maythorn Pride, together, returned to the mainstream in Ireland, the “edge” that dear old Misterton, so long ago, had brought into the greyhound world, by whatever genetic serendipity he conjured up. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Oops….I almost forgot….Bills Secretary?….remember him?……among other things, he’s the 3rd damsire to a female named Elsie Jones….but that, dear reader, is another dynasty best left for another day.
DOWNING, HBs COMMANDER, and TALENTEDMRRIPLEY…..FROM THE BEST TO THE BEST TO THE BEST Whenever there is a detailed discussion among aficionados concerning the American Greyhound, invariably, the name of Downing comes up. As a racer, he was an enigma. No dog had ever entered the prestigious and grueling Hollywood World Classic with its 9 elimination races prior to the final, after having won only a maiden and Grade D race. Something like that was simply unheard of. It was madness. No dog could possibly be that good, no matter how much they had schooled, no matter with how much hyperbole the insiders and the racing press had touted them. But Downing wasn’t “no dog”. He was THE dog. All he did was win 8 of his 9 elimination races and the final, against many of the best sprinters in the country, and a few from outside the country. The sky was the limit, as he proceeded to win the Biscayne Irish American, and after he had been placed in the skilled hands of Irish and American Greyhound Hall Of Fame trainer, Don Cuddy, a couple of legendary match races against the dauntless, tenacious, fire-breathing Rooster Cogburn. It was then decided that Downing could not break any new ground, other than to try to wrest the coveted American Derby trophy from the hands of Joseph M. Linsey, owner of Taunton Dog Track, who had pioneered big money stakes racing in the US, and overseen the evolution of his American Derby into the most prestigious and competitive of all American greyhound races. There were plenty of nay-sayers and doubters among veteran greyhound men and women and savvy gamblers as to whether or not the 3/8ths, 6 turn course at Taunton would prove to be unflattering to Downing’s particular aptitudes, and a reach too far in distance. He didn’t scare anyone away. He had handled the extra distance of the Biscayne course, sure, but that was a 4 turn configuration. Downing simply didn’t fit the mold of a dog who could come from even a step behind on that Taunton Derby course and at that distance, against world-class stayers, no less. He wouldn’t have the benefit of the extended run up to the turn that sprints presented, where he usually managed to either take the turn, or put himself into position to challenge the leaders, blasting off it, and overwhelming and demoralizing foes on the backstretch with his astonishing turn of pace. At 3/8ths, and breaking right into a turn, he’d have to break sharply and get right into stride, and use his speed and considerable cornering abilities to seize an instant and insurmountable advantage. And that’s just what he did. He smashed the track record in the 3rd round, winning by what seemed like half the stretch to those of us who were lucky enough to have witnessed this stunning performance. He was racing in a world where no American greyhound had ever before set foot. After stumbling at the break in the Derby final, he picked his nose off the dirt, and, miraculously, shot through a gap in a split second, to take the early command. He extended his lead as far as he could, in spite of what his disastrous start had cost him, enough so that the relentless All American stayer, Malka, who Cuddy was also handling for the Derby, was the only greyhound with a realistic chance of catching him. While he was clearly leg weary and shortening stride as they neared the finish wire, he had resisted the furious charge of the great Malka, and crowned his illustrious career with the biggest prize of all. Despite a slow start to his sire career, Downing was to be become as important a sire as he was a track racer. Particularly so, through one of his daughter’s offspring named HBs Commander. HB’s Commander, in turn would sire Oneco Malee, the dam of Talentedmrripley. Downing’s 2nd damsire is Johnny M, whose 2nd damsire is Rural Rube. The X-trail to Misterton through Rural Rube is Ganster>Andrew Micawber>White Verse>Senator>Misterton. Rube’s 2nd damsire, Just Andrew, another Aussie import-turned-American icon, provides another X pathway to Misterton through Fluke>Lady Wyndham>Hedley>Misterton, and yet another through his 3rd damsire, White Hope, via >Game Un>Gallant>Misterton). My Friend Lou, a great and highly influential sire, and Downing’s own damsire, provides still more X pathways to Misterton. My Friend Lou’s damsire, Suncheck, carries the aforementioned Just Andrew as his 3rd damsire, and Suncheck’s own damsire, Beaded Dick, carries Celerio as his 2nd damsire. Celerio’s damsire is Gallant, whose damsire is Misterton…. naturally. So now we can see a number of direct possible X trails from perhaps our greatest modern greyhounds, back to the 1879 Waterloo Cup winner, Misterton, and then forward from, arguably, our greatest racer of the past century, Downing, to our most prolific contemporary sire, HBs Commander, (ex Princess Donna by Downing ) and our greatest contemporary racer, Talentedmrripley (ex Oneco Malee by HBs Commander)…..damsire, to damsire, to damsire. THE GHOST OF REAL HUNTSMAN, and DUTCH BAHAMA, A CHIEF HAVOC DOPPELGANGER There were only two greyhounds to ever win the prestigious American Derby twice. The first was the legendary and ill-fated Real Huntsman. He was the all-purpose dog of all time. He could race against and beat the best of his era at any distance, on any track. His resume is, shall we say, “complete”. He never got much of a chance as a sire, because he would perish, tragically, prematurely, in a fire. He would never be forgotten by anyone who cherishes greyhounds and greyhound racing, and those greyhounds who leave it all on the track, every time they race…..who answer every call gladly, and with their best effort…..whose spirit and courage will live on as long as there are greyhounds who have the desire and the will to race as fast as they can for as far as they can. While it is doubtful that very many of us reading this essay ever saw Real Huntsman, each year at Taunton when they would announce the roll call of all the past American Derby winners, prior to the post parade and introduction of the current contestants, Real Huntsman would live again in the hearts and minds of those who were privileged enough to have known him or to have seen him race…. and those of us who hadn’t, had only our imaginations to conjure up his misty image there on the golden rail, racing to his own immortality, down the grueling homestretch, up and over the curtain, into the apple-crisp autumn air, finally, a shadow across the Harvest moon. The second two-time winner of the American Derby is more familiar to many of us, not only because a lot of us saw him race, but because of his near omnipresence in modern, classic pedigrees. There has been a lot of scuttlebutt and second-guessing as to whether or not the unheralded Hairless Joe, a good grader at what was primarily then a second-stringer’s track in Lincoln, was actually the sire of the great Dutch Bahama. Fortunately, for our purposes here, trekking along the X chromosome trails in search of Misterton, we need not steal any honey from that little beehive. Dutch Bahama, as we know, received Hairless Joe’s—-or whoever’s—-Y chromosome. I was happy to see that someone had posted the replay of one of Dutch Bahama’s American Derby victories, as he was a dominant stayer. He was also a world class sprinter, and he turned his Biscayne Irish American into a laugher, rocketing from the starting box and simply running away from the best and stoutest sprinters of his era. Just like he usually did to the middle distance and route grinders he faced. He was a shoe-in for the Hall Of Fame after the Irish American and his first Derby win—-the second American Derby was just an exclamation point. It almost seems ridiculous to say that his exploits as a sire and a breed-shaper might actually have superseded his amazing accomplishments on the racetrack, but it’s arguable. Aside from having played a key role in the shaping of the Greymeadows dynasty, he is virtually guaranteed a place in pedigrees as long as greyhounds are bred to race, having been the damsire to the hugely influential Greys Statesman, and the damsire, also, to that omnipotent, contemporary sire of sires, Gable Dodge. There are few greyhounds anywhere who have more of a concentration of X corridors to Misterton, or through more potent individuals, than Dutch Bahama. His own damsire is Woodward, a half sibling to LGs Ada, winner of the 1968 American Derby. Woodward’s damsire is Rocker Mac, whose own damsire is Roccabright, whose 2nd damsire is Wilkie Collins, who traces an X trail to Misterton through both his damsire, White Hope (>Game Un>Gallant>Misterton) and his 2nd damsire, Senator (>Hedley>Misterton). Dutch Bahama’s 2nd dam is Dutch Discreet, by Thunderbolt Moss out of Charm Jet. Dutch Discreet is a veritable Autobahn of X trails to Misterton. Thunderbolt Moss is a son of Elsie Moss, she who is inbred to Chief Havoc, 3×2, and in each case, Chief Havoc is in position to pass on his X chromosome to her (and so to Dutch Bahama). Dutch Bahama’s 3rd dam, Charm Jet, being by Tell You Why sibling Sky Jet, again brings Chief Havoc (>Sterling>Taleeban>Senator>Hedley>Misterton) into X Factor play. Looking at photos of both Chief Havoc and his descendent Dutch Bahama, they appear remarkably alike. They seem to share the same colors, markings, conformation and good looks. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they shared the same heart?
A SECOND HOMECOMING I don’t know much about his racing career in Australia. The first I had ever heard of him was in a trans-Atlantic conversation with the great trainer Don Cuddy, who explained that he felt the dog might possibly have been every bit as effective a sire as either Sand Man or Monalee Champion. Huh? At that point, the dog it seems, was in the process of re-introducing some of the very same old Australian bloodlines to the Irish greyhound that Sand Man, decades before, had “brought back”. Looking at the record now, we can see that Don was not exaggerating. Top Honcho was not only a breed-shaping sire, but he was perhaps a breed-altering sire. His success paved the way to acceptance for other imports who would soon follow, perhaps most importantly, the indomitable and sensational Brett Lee. Top Honcho was a son of the prodigious Australian sire, Head Honcho, and out of a female named Rainbow High, whose sire was a handy little track dog named Double Summit. Double Summit’s dam was a female named Zimbabwe, she being by Temlee x Zulu Moss by Clay Moss—-another son of the great Elsie Moss. If you’ve been following along, you already know that Zimbabwe is a virtual mother lode of X Factor concentration. Zimbabwe should have been born with a warning label marked XXX. Through his daughter Zimbabwe, Temlee is in position to deliver the X chromosome of Chief Havoc (you already know the X trail to Misterton) to Top Honcho, (as well as the X chromosome of Dream’s Image). Zimbabwe’s damsire, Clay Moss, brings into play two more X trails to Chief Havoc through his dam, Elsie Moss. Zimbabwe’s 3rd damsire is Rocket Mac, whose damsire is none other than Chief Havoc—-putting him into X factor play once again. As if that weren’t enough, Top Honcho’s 3rd damsire is …..uhhmm……it’s on the tip of my tongue…..oh yes….Temlee! Top Honcho, aside from very nearly re-inventing the Irish greyhound, threw a whole passel of world class racers and productive daughters (one of his daughters is the dam of the mercurial US-based Farloe Black). I think his most successful son, at least at sire, was Droopys Vieri. But Vieri couldn’t receive any of the cornucopia of X Factor genetics that Top Honcho carried, because he got skunked—-and only received a menial Y chromosome from the great Top Honcho. But fear not, dear reader. Once again, the hallowed American Derby will assert its powerful, breed-shaping force. Look to Vieri’s 2nd damsire, the American Ps Riptide. He is by Benjis Alibi out of BD Ruffian. Never heard of them, you say? Well then take a look at Riptide’s four grandparents. Three of them, Downing, Abella, and SS Jeno were American Derby winners. Ps Riptide has a very high class pedigree. We’re going to concentrate on SS Jeno here, Ps Riptide’s damsire, and the runaway winner of our 1972 American Derby, because he is in the X passing position to Ps Riptide—-who is in X passing position to Droopys Vieri. Jeno’s damsire is Metal Jet….another sibling to Tell You Why. Their damsire is Chief Havoc…another X trail to Misterton. Jeno’s 2nd damsire is Westy Colonel, a sibling of the invincible Westy Whizzer. Their dam, Kinto Nebo is by Johnny Leonard, whose 2nd damsire is Rural Rube….another X trail to Misteron. Kinto Nebo’s damsire is Pre Flight, whose damsire is Traffic Court, whose damsire is Fine Harmony, whose 2nd dam is Pensa….whose damsire is Gallant, whose damsire is good old Misterton (in case you’ve forgotten). The Colonel’s 3rd damsire is Hall of Fame damsire Handy Andy himself, who brings in yet another X trail to Misterton. So Droopy’s Vieri, son of the iconic Top Honcho, finds himself in the enviable position of carrying on with his sire’s re-working of the modern Irish greyhound….on each side of the pedigree. Returning, once again, the mysterious X chromosome of Misterton to that part of the world from where it emerged, and apparently, re-invigorating the breed there. THE QUEEN OF SILVER CITY She was the Queen of the Silver City dog track. She won the hearts of all and sundry who frequented the quaint, country racetrack in Taunton, which had grown to “Saratoga-like” proportions in the hearts and minds of fandom, as a result of greyhounds like her, who forged their own legends on the swift quarter mile oval. Feldcrest would go on to win the coveted American Derby in 1958, after smashing the track records for both the 5/16ths and 3/8ths courses. Amazingly, her 5/16ths track record would never be broken, despite the fact that each year many of the best greyhounds in the country, and sometimes in the world, would arrive at Taunton to race and/or lay claim to the precious American Derby trophy. In 1982, when the last American Derby was run there at old Taunton, Feldcrest still held the track record for 5/16ths of a mile. Before she was crowned Queen of Taunton, she was the Princess of the Orville Moses dynasty, greyhounds who all but ruled the American Derby from 1957-1969, distinguished members of the clan winning an unprecedented four of them during that time. She was whelped in 1955, a daughter of No Refund, who was a full sibling to the future Hall Of Fame greyhound Beach Comber, a dog who was a legend in his own time. Her dam was Ornamental, a daughter of future Hall Of Fame brood matron, Butterflies, via her mating to future Hall Of Famer, Lucky Pilot, another legend in his own time. Feldcrest had a license to speed. Feldcrest’s damsire, Lucky Pilot, boasted Hall Of Famer Just Andrew as his 2nd damsire. Just Andrew’s 2nd damsire is Fluke, who traces his direct female line ancestry to the previously mentioned Lady Wyndham—-who carries 2 X trails to Hedley, whose damsire is Misterton. Lucky Pilot traces his own direct female ancestry to the UK import Chocolate Candy, whose damsire was Hopsack, who won the Waterloo Cup in 1916. Hopsack’s 2nd damsire is Spyfontein, whose 3rd damsire is Misterton. Hopsack’s 3rd damsire is Seventy Six, whose damsire is Beaufort, whose damsire is Misterton. Butterflies, the authoress of the Moses breeding and racing dynasty, and the 2nd dam to Feldcrest, is a daughter of the Hall Of Fame sire of great dams, Handy Andy, whose X trail to Misterton, to review, goes through his 2nd damsire, Wilkie Collins, and his dam White Verse, whose paternal side 2nd damsire is Gallant—whose damsire is Misterton……or via Wilkie Collins’ 2nd damsire, Senator, whose 2nd damsire is Hedley, whose damsire is Misterton. Feldcrest never produced any offspring of her quality. Her daughter Durana, however, a result of Feldcrest’s mating to kennel mate and close relative Great Valor, who brought Butterflies again into X Factor play, produced Montague Ribbon, by Joe Moss—-yet another son of Elsie Moss, to whom we have referred many times, and who was possibly another “double copy” X Factor dam, via Chief Havoc, etc.—-you know the way back to Misterton from there. Montague Ribbon was bred to Bill Moss, yet another son of Elsie Moss, and they produced the star-crossed Ks Clown—-a dog that his breeder, Jack Kahn, claimed was faster than Ks Flak. Ks Clown burst onto the national scene by winning the main stakes in Abilene, defeating the likes of Rocket Charge, Fruit Float, Sunbows Best and Highway Robber. He continued that sort of dominance on the racetrack—unfortunately though, he became, should we say, “overly competitive” from time to time. He fought at Tampa and he fought at Plainfield, though when he kept to the task, he usually won with consummate ease—-and once in Plainfield, on their elongated 3/8ths, he won in track record time. Sadly, the Clown proved to be an incorrigible roughneck, and was retired. He got quite a few breedings, despite his extra-curricular sorties as a racer, and was a very successful sire. He turned into quite a fine sire of dams, too, as his many X trails to old Misterton might suggest. Today, he can be found, often in multiple doses and in the X passing position, in nearly every pedigree of every star of the DQ Williams breeding and racing empire—whose subjects are reknown for their stamina and desire….which, if we give any credit at all for it to Ks Clown and his great grandam Feldcrest, apparently has quite a foundation in the Misterton X Factor.
LEAPING THROUGH TIME IN A SINGLE BOUND In the first installment of this informational series, we looked at some of the historically classic sires of track greyhounds, notably sires of great dams, who are in the US Hall Of Fame. While not all of them were born in the US, they all made huge contributions to the adaptation and shaping of the breed we know today. There is one whose contributions are a bit out of phase with all of the others. Aside from the fact that Handy Andy and Kunta Kinte are two Hall Of Famers who are enshrined purely for their breeding contributions, Kunta Kinte is the only one whose contributions are still obvious in pedigrees today, by virtue of his having been one of the early sires whose semen was frozen and stored for future use. It is a tribute to his impact as a sire that Kinte could never have gained his Hall Of Fame berth on his racing career alone. Which is not to denigrate it, as he was a powerful sprinter and middle distance runner, good enough to have run a distant second to the great Blazing Red in the prestigious Wonderland Derby. But it was his influence as a sire, particularly of fine dams, that sealed his Hall Of Fame deal. Among his many breeding achievements, Kunta Kinte is the sire of Hall Of Fame dam Buzz Off, who whelped the Beckner wonder litter by Kinte’s close relative Perceive (ex Lucky Carmell, Kinte’s littermate), which included, most notably, Blendway—- who would go on to sire Mystic Rose, the dam of the incomparable Molotov. Kunta Kinte was sired by the great SS Jeno, winner of the 1971 American Derby. Kinte’s damsire, Lucky Bannon won the American Derby in 1969. Lucky Bannon’s damsire, Great Valor, is the littermate to Clydesdale, the winner of the 1958 American Derby. We have previously documented the X trail from Great Valor to Misterton, and then forward onto Kunta Kinte. Given the extremely high quality of his pedigree and track performance, in hindsight, and considering, if we like, the potential X Factor implications, it isn’t entirely a surprise that he became a sire of profound importance. What is surprising—astonishing, actually— is that Kunta Kinte continues today, 35 years since the date of his own whelping in 1976, to be a sire of some significance. He is the damsire to Flying Hydrogen, a 2003 whelp, himself a well performed racer and a more than useful sire. One might have thought that given the passing of at least 7 generations since Kunta Kinte had begun his stud duties, perhaps the breed would have “out-evolved” him, and that infusing his decades-old genetics to the genepool would be a step or two backwards. Apparently not. The blurb on the Greyhound-Data pedigree database about Flying Hydrogen says that he was “the fastest dog” ever raised by Flying Eagles—-which covers a whole lot of ground. Well then, maybe Flying Hydrogen was a freak? It happens.
Tonight we bear witness to one of the latest sensations in greyhound racing, as she attempts to win her 11th race in a row, which includes an undefeated stretch of stakes level victories as well as the final of the Hecht Marathon. She is, by any reckoning, a contemporary superstar. Slatex Cadillac, in case you haven’t noticed, was sired by Flying Hydrogen—-who carries the irrepressible, generations-leaping Kunta Kinte in the X chromosome passing position to all his daughters. The X trail to Misterton continues to reveal itself in phenomenal breeding and racing achievements.
MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE WAVES While we’re on the subject of current sensations, in case you missed it, the greyhound world outside the US is abuzz and agog with the early racing performances of one Milldean Panther, who is based at Shelbourne, in Dublin, IRE. Milldean has yet to taste defeat in his brief career, which spans 10 official races. In his 9th start, he broke the track record for 525 yards, rocketing from the traps and running away from the competition. It was a flawless performance, to say the least. Apparently, he will now be spelled for the winter, perhaps having semen drawn, and then likely return to racing in time for the Easter Cup. Milldean is a son of 2009 Irish Derby winner, the sensational College Causeway. That being the case, there is every reason for many to believe that 525 yards, despite Milldean’s track record breaking performance on that course, might not be his best distance. Causeway was capable of staying 750 yards in good company, and 600 yards in top company. What is especially interesting about Milldean Panther is that his immediate damline is rather tepid and indistinguished, not the sort of fashionable line that one would expect the fastest greyhound in Ireland, and maybe the world, to have emerged from. His dam, Auld Nag, however, has thrown some nice pups from top sires. So at least for her branch of the family, it seems to be a family in the “flow” mode. Milldean Panther is, apparently, its Niagara Falls. Auld Nag’s damsire is Pepes Dilemma, a GR2 winner, who developed a reputation as a sire who threw some fighters. While he had a decent career as a sire, he was never what you might call fashionable. He was useful. He was eventually banished to the US, where he never quite caught on, or produced much of note. Now, looking at his background, we note that his 2nd damsire is none other than Gambling Fever—who just so happens to be a full sibling to Sand Man. Which places that wellspring of X Factor possibility right smack in line to Milldean Panther. Interestingly enough, the dog whose track record Milldean Panther broke, was the mercurial Premier Fantasy, who was also a prodigious talent. There is no telling what he might have accomplished had he not been undone by injury. Prior to that, many greyhound men and women with the wisened eye of experience, thought that Premier Fantasy might have been the fastest greyhound they’d ever laid those wisened eyes upon. Premier Fantasy carries Murlen’s Slippy as his own damsire. Murlen’s 2nd damsire is Sand Man. A happy coincidence?….or the heart of Misterton? Copyright 2011 by D. McKeon
The Pedigree of Rob Gronkowski by Dennis McKeon Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the pedigree of Rob Gronkowski, is his sireline. It traces back through the influential sire, Don’t Bother, whelped in 1964, to his grandsire, one Johnny Leonard. There is no Tell You Why, or Cleveland Lad, or Monalee Champion to be found on this topline. Just Johnny Leonard. He was a veteran campaigner in his day, and quite well regarded, a versatile sort, who always gave a good account of himself. He is a son of Mixed Harmony, and he was inbred, 3×3, to the nonpareil tracker, celebrity, and sire of great dams, Rural Rube. Johnny established himself as a fine sire in his day as well, with his son, Solomon Sol, becoming especially influential. But Johnny did one thing that no other greyhound ever did, and perhaps no other greyhound will ever do, if we count the ability to literally transform a breed as being of some importance. Johnny was mated to a daughter of Handy Nebo, named Pintada. Now Handy Nebo had a sister named Gravel Gertie, who become the matriarch of a female family that culminated in the emergence of a greyhound, in 1994, who was beyond otherworldly, and who would soon grow up to become none other than Molotov—but I digress. Pintada would throw a brindle female from her mating to Johnny Leonard, who turned out to have a somewhat star-crossed and insignificant career as a racer. The soothsayers said she was a no-account, and they said she was a spook. Still, someone thought something of her. Johnny Leonard’s daughter out of Pintada, named Kinto Nebo, was bred to the Australian import, Tell You Why. Their offspring, one Westy Whizzer, would go on to become perhaps the greatest and most influential greyhound of the modern era in American racing and breeding. Johnny Leonard is Westy Whizzer’s damsire—his maternal grandsire–and that alone, secured his immortality, and bronzed his legend. Unfortunately for Johnny and his sons (and paternal grandsons), Westy Whizzer and his sons became so influential and were so prepotent, that they exerted tremendous compression on the Johnny Leonard branch of the Mixed Harmony sireline, through his own daughter, Kinto Nebo. Thanks to Tell You Why and his siblings and their sons, “outcrossing” became the vogue, and no one wanted to inbreed to Johnny Leonard, or anyone else. Nevertheless, the line survived, and even prospered, on a very small scale. Recently through the electrifying speedster Galena, who is Rob Gronkowski’s grandsire, and a maternal grandson of the Australian import, Kim’s Nifty. Her daughter and Galena’s dam, Syrah, by Video Signal, was a dazzling performer over the 685 yard Revere Course at Wonderland Park, virtually unbeatable there in her prime. Syrah is a direct female line descendant of Secretly, whose grandson, Dusty Rapid, is the damsire to Gun Law Osti, the sire of the mercurial super sire, Brett Lee. Like so many great contemporary racers, Switzler Jammin, the sire of the Gronk, is a maternal grandson of the mighty Molotov, who brings in the Gravel Gertie branch of the greater family that gave us Kinto Nebo, Johnny Leonard’s co-conspirator in revolutionizing the American greyhound. Switzler Jammin’s 3rd dam, Switzler Thinkin, is inbred to Westy Whizzer himself, 3×4, and her damsire is Wonderland World Sprint Champion, Beau Boogie, who, like Molotov, is a direct female line descendant of Gravel Gertie. Rob Gronkowski’s damside is somewhat less arcane, his dam, Chatty Cathy, being a daughter of the fine sire of sires, Gable Dodge. Dodge, interestingly enough, is a direct male line descendent of Westy Whizzer. Chatty Cathy, and so her son, Rob Gronkowski, is from the great and prolific Millie’s May female family of Ireland, she being also the direct female line to Pat Dalton’s immortal Maythorn Pride. This particular branch, through Yurituni, among many others of note, has given us the leather-lunged Ballyregan Bob, thought by many to have been the greatest of all UK greyhounds. In America, it is responsible for a greyhound the great trainer and impeccable judge of talent, Aaron Kulchinsky, felt was as fast as Pigalle Wonder, named Wild Breeze, by Ostracized. Keith Dillon, is reported to have claimed that Wild Breeze was the fastest dog he ever saw—no faint praise, when you have raised the likes of Perceive, Abella, and Keefer. Ostracized, oddly enough, was a Mixed Harmony line sire, just like Johnny Leonard. Just like Rob Gronkowski seems destined to be. And if you’ve seen the Gronk pick ‘em up and put ‘em down, that can only mean good things for our American greyhounds—and for the continuing legend of an obscure, almost forgotten sire, named Johnny Leonard.
Deteriorating Toward Speed A friend of mine, a small-output breeder of Thoroughbreds and a bloodline expert, once made a startling statement to me in a conversation we were having about aptitude in racing greyhounds and horses…and I quote: “The Thoroughbred naturally deteriorates toward speed”. Stop reading, and think about that statement for a minute. It is an astounding remark. Now this man has a doctorate degree in literature, he chooses his words very carefully and with the precision of an archer. He’s also a former Hollywood screenwriter who dated starlets and hung out with stars in the heyday of his youth. He’s a clever enough horseman to have once purchased as a 2-year old, a colt who ran in the Belmont Stakes and who won multiple other stakes. He’s a first-rate mind. I was out of my league. I couldn’t quite wrap my cut-rate mind around the proposition he had challenged me with. I thought about it for a long while. I obsessed over it. For me, at the time, it was like trying to comprehend infinity. I knew he had planted the seed of that statement to get me to grow my wits and to figure it out for myself, but it was just too vexing. I had always presumed just the opposite of what I felt he was saying to have been the case. Being a student of the obvious, I had always figured that a Thoroughbred (or a Greyhound) would seem to “naturally deteriorate” towards the lack of speed. Years later, by the simple accumulation of my observations and experiences, it all became much clearer to me. When we view it in its simplest terms, the process of selectivity in the breeding of performance animals for the purpose of racing is the process of accelerating natural adaptation, if not evolution. The breeder whose bloodstock can “out-adapt”, or if you prefer for conversational purposes, “out-evolve” the bloodstock of others, is the breeder who has the best chance of success, all other things being about equal. The basic maxim of breeding that has always been true, and remains true to this day, is that “like tends to beget like”. The operative word is “tends”. Selective breeding is mostly about tendencies and much less about absolutes. Another truth of breeding, and of adaptation, is that form follows function. Function dictates form. The feedback we receive from racing is what impels and influences the inputs that are germane to the process of selectivity as well as the management of a colony of greyhounds. The “inputs” encompass all aspects of a greyhound’s genetics, environment, raising, training and handling, designed to produce more specific and positive feedback. A successful breeder, whether he realizes it or not, constantly reacts to feedback from racing competition. What he ends up with is a phenotype. The phenotype is the physical manifestation of inputs and feedback, the embodiment of the “form” that has emerged purely as a result of the “function” and the breeder’s perception and inputs. In the Darwinian epic, organisms adapt by random genetic mutations that engender specific physical manifestations which are the result of the organism’s natural drive to survive, and which help it to deal with challenges to its survival. This, Darwin called “natural selection”. The best-adapted phenotypes are those that have the best chance at survival. In selective breeding for a specific function, the challenge is to adapt to either a variety of feedbacks, or to a singular feedback. The more varied are the types of feedback, the more variable are the phenotypes. In any event, all adaptations that influence selectivity from the feedback racing engenders, are focused on the eventual ability of the phenotype to express speed. Where there is an imbalance in feedback, there is an imbalance in phenotype. As it applies to racing greyhounds, it simply means that when we focus on one aspect of the entire range of speed expression of which the greyhound is capable, sooner or later the phenotype that emerges becomes self-limiting. There is a finite limit to what a phenotype can bear under race-induced stress, in its expression of speed. What my friend had told me was true. What he was saying to me, was that speed expression by a phenotype that has been selectively bred to express speed, sooner or later reaches a tipping point in that phenotype. Simply put, what basically happens is that the elementary physical manifestations or adaptations which impel speed in the phenotype—higher muscle to bone ratios–at some stage of adaptation, will cancel one another out. In greyhounds, and in Thoroughbreds, as my friend had told me in not so many words, the lighter skeleton and its connective networks are eventually “cancelled out” by the heavier, denser muscle masses (and vice versa) that initiate and enable the expression of speed, and along with the racing surface and configuration, exert force on the phenotype. The phenotype becomes somewhat, if not completely “dysfunctional”. It has over-adapted to the inputs and feedback. It has naturally deteriorated toward speed. It’s important for racing departments to offer and for trainers to support longer distance racing at the tracks. From everyday, overnight races to stakes events. This tends to ensure that there is an even population distribution of racing aptitude, and that the Racing Greyhound remains the versatile and remarkable athlete he is Enjoy the American Derby. It just might be more important now than it ever was in the past. copyright 2012 by Dennis McKeon
What the Greyhounds Think of Prefixes by Dennis McKeon One of my trainer friends was quite a character. He was a plumber by former trade, and he had rigged up individual water spigots running into each crate in his kennel. So all you had to do to replenish the water in them was to tun on the spigot, provided they were not dirty. He also had constructed an indoor turnout pen for inclement weather, and for the worst snows of winter. He was a fussbudget of the highest order, as you might imagine. His kennel was always immaculate, he had installed softwood floors and hardwood crates, and the place was a veritable showpiece. Often, when I’d take a break from my morning routine, or was done with it, I’d stop by to visit him and chew the fat. And more often than not, the place would be in a upheaval of cleaning, turning dogs in and out, grooming, and so on—he preferred to work the kennel in the AM by himself. One day I recall vividly, he was cutting and installing fresh beds, and had piled a huge mountain of freshly slit paper on the far corner of the kennel floor, from which he would wrestle each new bed, and then pile into a crate. He had about 10 bitches in one of the pens, and I was exhorting him to “hurry up and let’s get something to eat.” So he let the group of girls in, who immediately made a beeline for the mountain of paper, and who all began nesting in it at once, having a grand old time about it, too. My friend was beside himself. With me egging him on to rush, he had forgotten about the paper mountain, and now all the dogs were excited and jealous of the group of girls having such a great time. The girls soon decided that in their excitement, it would be great fun to taunt their kennelmates by running around the kennel floor, rooing and barking, and then dashing and diving into Mount Papier—and back again. It was quite a scene, and my friend was a bit taken aback by the whole shebang. Rather than scream and holler, he tried to catch one of the girls as she made a dash for the paper pile, and he missed her, and lost his balance in the process. One of his many quirks was that whenever he was flustered by a greyhound, for any reason, really, he would prefix whatever he had to say to that dog with the phrase “You dirty, filthy, rotten….” For him it was not a pejorative, or even a scolding—I came to learn that it was actually a term of endearment. For example “You dirty, filthy, rotten….stop that digging!” At any rate, as he rose, he composed himself, looked at the offending female, and pointed to her crate, and said, with more than normal emphasis and the appropriate elongated pause in between the words. “You dirty… filthy… rotten….”….and before he could spit out the words “get in your crate”, the rest of them all came over at once, sufficiently contrite, tucked tails timidly wagging between hunched and lowered hindquarters, ears plastered to their skulls, greyhound grins on several of their impish little faces. He, being the easy mark that he was, then dropped to his knees and began hugging and petting them all, and cooing sweet nothings to the girls–who I could only assume, all figured out, long ago, that “You dirty, filthy, rotten..” was the kennel prefix to all of their call names. copyright, 2013
Dennis McKeon was a professional greyhound trainer for a couple of decades in the 70s and 80s, and retired from the profession to find more stable and less demanding work, being a family man, and needing to spend time with that family. He has a wife, 4 children and 5 grandchildren. He stayed connected with the sport, having long been a fan and a sireent of bloodlines, and also a keeper of retired greyhounds as family pets. Today he helps promote his brainchild, Race For Adoption (http://www.RaceForAdoption.com), and do pedigree analysis and research, free of charge, for anyone who asks. He is a dedicated Committee Member of GRA/America (The Greyhound Racing Association of America - http://www.gra-america.org). He is working on writing a book about the Racing Greyhound Chromosome X-Factor, which will revolutionize how we view pedigrees and breeding in the future.