A Flying Start
Early Development of the Whippet and Greyhound
At its heyday Whippet racing attracted crowds and its skyrocketing popularity surpassed most other spectator sports, including dog shows. The center of “rag racing,” as the sport was known, was Lancashire, England, and the most famous tracks were Oldham and Bury, where at the turn of the century over 300 dogs were often entered in one handicap. “Before then [World War I] there were a number of tracks spread about all districts where Whippets were popular, many being owned by Public Houses. [...] A track at the back was an extremely lucrative means of drawing customers.” (The Book of the Dog)
Whippet racing was an extreme sport — fast, electrifying and often unpredictable thanks to the slippers, professionals who were paid an astronomical three to five pounds per race to literally launch their charges at the starting line. “There are seldom more than three or four crack slippers in Oldham, for their business requires great skill.” (The Twentieth Century Dog)
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