Many people know that the Greyhound is a racing dog. It's streamlined body and long powerful legs make it an obvious runner. Sight hounds by nature, they use their eyes to compensate for their underdeveloped sense of smell, and because of this, they can see movement from very great distances, allowing them to chase a lure with ease. What few people know, however, is that at the beginning of a racing Greyhound's life, the difference between living and dying is how well they race.

Usually, a Greyhound who has been raised in a racing kennel is trained from birth to the age of about eighteen months. At this time, the Greyhound competes in it's first professional race, called the maiden race. The dog is given six chances to place fourth or higher. After the sixth race there are two possible outcomes for the dog.

Should everything gone well, and the dog placed, then it will be moved to what is called Grade J, which is for dogs that have just won a maiden. The Greyhound will continue to race, and depending on how well it does, it will move into other grades, ranging from D to A. Typically, a good racer will ascend the ranks, but then as it ages and slows down, descend them again. The difference in speed between a Grade A and a Grade D dog can be as little as 3/4 of a second.

The other scenario is that the dog either didn't place in any of it's maiden races or it just isn't a good racer. While speed is certainly essential, it is not the only important thing in a race. A dog must be agile and flexible in order to dodge the other dogs it is racing with. It must have the ability to keep an eye on the lure, and at the same time also on the dogs around it, in case it should bump into one. This often results in bad injuries and, of course, slows everyone in the race down. A good racer must have good endurance, for if a dog leaps out of the starting box full force, it may very well come in last in the race.

Should a dog be missing one or more of these vital racing talents, and did not win or place any of its maiden races, it is either "retired" and put up for adoption, or it is euthanized, or killed. So it is interesting to think that in fact every one of the dogs on the track is not racing to win. They are very literally running for their lives.

Thanks to "Adopting the Racing Greyhound" by Cynthia A. Branigan for some of the information used here