Modern greyhound racing has its origins in coursing. The first recorded attempt at racing greyhounds on a straight track was made beside the Welsh Harp reservoir, Hendon in 1876, but this experiment did not develop. The sport emerged in its recognizable modern form, featuring circular or oval tracks, with the invention of the mechanical or artificial hare 1912 by Owen Patrick Smith. O.P. Smith had altruistic aims for the sport to stop the killing of the jack rabbits and see “greyhound race as we see horses”. The certificates system led way to parimutuel betting, as quarry and on-course gambling, in the United States during the 1920s. In 1926, armed with the Smith patents and a hand shake, it was introduced to Britain by an American, Charles Munn, in association with Major Lyne-Dixon, a key figure in coursing, and Brigadier-General Critchley. The deal went sour with Smith never hearing from Munn again. Like the American, International Greyhound Racing Association, the In.G.R.A. Munn and Critchley launched the Greyhound Racing Association, and held the first British meeting at Manchester’s Belle Vue. The sport was successful in cities and town throughout the U.K. – by the end of 1927, there were forty tracks operating. The sport was particularly attractive to predominantly male working-class audiences, for whom the urban locations of the tracks and the evening times of the meetings were accessible, and to patrons and owners from various social backgrounds. Betting has always been a key ingredient of greyhound racing, both through on-course bookmakers and the totalisator, first introduced in 1930. Like horse racing, it is popular to bet on the greyhound races as a form of parimutuel gambling.
In common with many other sports, greyhound racing enjoyed its highest attendances just after the Second World War—for example, there were 34 million paying spectators in 1946. The sport experienced a decline from the early 1960s, when the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act permitted off-course cash betting, although sponsorship, limited television coverage, and the later abolition of on-course betting tax have partially offset this decline.
Greyhound racing is undergoing a resurgence in popularity as more and more people discover it as both a sport and a form of gambling.