According to voanews.com, the 1900 Olympic games in Paris, France, had what would today be considered a cruel and unpopular event, Live Pigeon Shooting. “…the competitor who shot down the most live birds was declared the winner”. Almost 300 birds died. I expect greyhound racing will be as dead as live pigeon shooting soon and that the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene, Kansas, will change or close.
Ruth & I entered Kansas this year with time for only one attraction. Ruth was driving so I looked at our options and decided that we’d need a break by the time we reached Abilene. We had been to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum twice, so I looked to see what else was available. My choices included what looked like 20th century, perhaps even 19th, relics: a county heritage center with an antique carousel, something called the Museum of Independent Telephony, and the Greyhound Hall of Fame. For no particular reason, we agreed to check out the last one. We were greeted at the door by Ginger, a friendly greyhound.
Forty states have declared greyhound racing illegal. Cruelty and dog deaths have led to this. Four more–Wisconsin, Connecticut, Oregon, and Kansas-have closed all live-racing tracks but have not officially outlawed the sport….yet. There are still active tracks in six states–Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Alabama, West Virginia, and Florida. I asked our museum host who released Ginger to greet us where greyhound racing is still popular, and she mentioned the last two states. The only time she smiled was when she told me that West Virginia had recently decided to allow the sport to continue. She indicated that it was still popular in Florida, but the Humane Society just reported that important animal protection groups are criticizing this sport’s deficient hurricane evacuation plans there.
On June 16, 2017, Duncan Strauss of the Washington Post called Florida an outlier. Home to 12 greyhound racing tracks, Florida’s Palm Beach Kennel Club and the others lose about $30 million each year on dog racing. Attendance is almost non-existent. When I asked the lady in the Greyhound Hall of Fame why this sport is fading, she told me that casinos are to blame. People today, she indicated, would rather gamble in them than go to greyhound races.
I checked TripAdvisor to see what kind of reactions travelers have to the Greyhound Hall of Fame. They are generally favorable, especially about the dog hosts, but I tended to agree with the reviewer who declared that greyhound racing was “gone to the dogs” and gave this hall of fame only 3 green circles out of 5. DandLTravel of Burbank, CA, declared “Number of stars would be higher if I could ethically support the sport of Greyhound racing – or if they were brave enough to present the other (dark) side of the sport.”
I asked the lady who managed this tourist attraction and clearly loved Ginger why the Greyhound Hall of Fame is in Abilene. She told me that there are more than 70 breeders in Kansas and that over 20 farms in the area raise greyhounds. I asked her the characteristics of the breed and she told me that greyhounds like small spaces, don’t do stairs, don’t bark much, are good with kids, and make really good pets. She told me that 18,000 of them are adopted each year. I didn’t press her for the reasons why mass adoptions are necessary. She told me that loved-by-Arabs greyhounds can run 45 mph.
If the Greyhound Hall of Fame survives, it’ll be because it excels at explaining the long history of this breed and the history of dog racing. I learned about its roots in England, that early Spanish explorers brought greyhounds with them to guard, hunt, and intimidate, that greyhounds almost became extinct like the passenger pigeon in the Middle Ages due to famine, etc. A greyhound named Rooster Cogburn is the Tom Brady of greyhound racing.