Greyhound racing was an American sport that became popular in England in the 1920s. It attracted huge crowds from all social classes, although it was particularly popular with male working-class audiences because the tracks were in cities, and therefore easy to get to, and meetings were held in the evenings after work.
Greyhounds do not have an acute sense of smell and they hunt by chasing moving objects, which they can see from long distances. In 1912, American Owen Patrick Smith invented a mechanical 'hare' that ran around a circular track. This humane target appealed to spectators.
One of the best-known features of greyhound racing was the totalisator, the computerised machine that controlled the betting system. The totalisator was invented by a London-born Australian, George Julius, and it enabled machines to take over the betting completely. The totalisator at Haringey greyhound racing stadium was a full-scale Julius machine installed three years after the stadium opened in 1927. It remained in use until the stadium closed in 1987.
At the peak of its popularity, there were six greyhound stadiums in London. Harringay Stadium opened in 1927. It was built on a spoil tip left by the extension of the Piccadilly line to Finsbury Park. The vast 50,000-seater stadium provided glamorous nighttime racing and is said to have experimented with racing cheetahs! The stadium closed in 1987, and was demolished.
Greyhound racing began in Wimbledon stadium in 1928 and continued throughout the 20th century. William Chandler opened the Walthamstow stadium in 1933. It was still operating at the end of the century, and run by the same family. It had a capacity for over 5,000 spectators.
White City stadium was built in 1908, but the first greyhound races were staged in June 1927. The stadium was demolished in 1985.
In 1966, the owners of Wembley stadium refused to cancel the regular greyhound meeting scheduled for the same day as the World Cup football match between Uruguay and France. The match had to be held at the White City stadium.
Catford greyhound stadium opened in 1932 and closed in 2003.
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