What kind of a lure would it take to persuade you to strain every sinew and fibre of your body in running after it at full pelt?
For this particular writer, it would be a Ginsters pasty (other baked goods are available), but in the world of greyhound racing the dogs simply cannot get enough of the mechanical lure known as ‘the hare’.
If you tune into a greyhound meeting on TV or via the streaming channel of your favourite betting app, you’ll see the hare in all his/her glory – whizzing by on its track as the dogs chase after it at tremendous speed.
Of course, the idea is that the hare stays in front of the greyhounds’ line of vision, encouraging them to run on. As you can see from this video, when the lure breaks down the dogs are pretty quick to lose the thrill of the chase:
What you might not know is that there are different types of greyhound hares, and the variant used can have an impact on the outcome of a race.
The mechanical lure has been used in greyhound racing since the 1800s, but the fairly antiquated systems of old were replaced by a more efficient model invented by the American racing enthusiast, Owen Patrick Smith, and quickly introduced at major venues like the Belle Vue Stadium from the 1920s onwards.
But James McKee, a director at the Dunmore Stadium track in Belfast, felt that the hares could be better, and he and business partner Jim Scott set about creating a new system that utilised an underground wire to prevent the greyhounds from getting distracted.
So successful was it that McKee and Scott formed the M.S Cable Hare Company, and started rolling out their innovation at other tracks in the UK and Ireland, including Hall Green.
The Swaffham Stadium, which hosted greyhound racing between 1987 and 2000, would leave an indelible mark on the sport that remains to this day.
It was here that the modern mechanical hare was devised, and it’s a system – still known as the ‘Swaffham’ – that you will find at many of the greyhound tracks still in operation today.
It all began in the early 1990s, when Tom Smith took over the lease for the track. He was constantly looking at ways to improve greyhound racing, and alongside his son Gavin came up with a new hare system… this would revolutionise the sport.
Based on the McKee-Smith blueprint, their mechanical innovations created a lure that was smoother and more reliable – within a matter of years, the M.S Hare Company and Sumner varieties had all but been consigned to the scrapheap by this plucky upstart.
Another greyhound lover who thought he could have a crack at making a better hare system was Norman Fannon.
The proprietor of the Wheatley Hill stadium in County Durham, Fannon constructed his mechanical lure using a job-lot of ex-Army bedsteads that he had acquired, and from that prototype an industry standard was born – many hares used to this day remain true to Fannon’s original design.
KTF, or Kennel & Track Fabrication, is a company that is still active today – and they can call upon the extensive experience of Jeff Sealey, who pioneered his own hare system.
Still offering hare system installations and repair to the remaining greyhound tracks, with Coventry one of the prominent venues with a Sealey system in operation until their closure in 2016.
Promising the ability to work in any weather, with a downtime of just 20 minutes should there be a fault,
There’s not a great deal of information available about the Sumner company, nor the people behind it.
However, their hare system proved to be popular and was implemented at a number of different tracks – including the White City Stadium in Glasgow, up until its closure. They used both an ‘Outside Sumner’ and an M.S Cable hare at the track.
Other venues that used a hare manufactured by Sumner included Slough and Kings Heath, while Perry Barr and Meadow Court still operate their system to this day.