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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
greyhound racing

The pursuit of game with dogs is among the most ancient of sports, and the greyhound was a breed already known in ancient Egypt and Greece. The organized racing of greyhounds developed in Britain in the 18C, in the form known as coursing – the competitive chase of a live hare by a pair of dogs, the winner being the one which catches it. The first rules for a race meeting of this sort were drawn up in 1776, and the sport is still practised in Britain (nowadays in such a way that most of the hares escape through prepared routes where the dogs cannot follow, the winner being judged purely on speed and agility).

The chief event of the coursing year is the Waterloo Cup, which has been held since 1836 on farm land at Great Altcar, near Southport in Merseyside; it took its name from the nearby Waterloo Hotel, where the owners dined on the first day of the meeting. Since 1857 the contest has been between 64 dogs, competing in a knock-out tournament over three days.

Mechanical racing dates from an event near Hendon, north of London, in 1876, which was described as 'coursing by proxy'. The proxy hare was pulled along a straight rail over a course of 366m/400yd. It proved a dull event, and little more was heard of this form of greyhound racing until a circular track (offering much more challenge to the skill of the dogs) was opened in California in 1919. During the 1920s dog racing developed rapidly into a popular sport. The first meeting in Britain with a mechanical hare (which the dogs pursue by scent) was at Belle Vue in Manchester in 1926. The two most prestigious British races, the Greyhound Derby and the Grand National (over hurdles), were first run at *White City in 1927 and remained there until 1984; since then the Derby has been held at Wimbledon and the Grand National at Green Hall, Birmingham.

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