Dog racing is a sport that involves the fastest dog breeds racing to catch a robotic rabbit. This sport used to be quite common in the US, but has decreased in popularity over the years and is now mostly seen in other countries. Certain dog breeds excel at racing due to their physical shape and temperament.
If you’re interested in learning more about this sport, take a look at our list below to read about the best dog racing breeds.
History of Dog Racing
In the United States, dog racing has roots traced back to 1919 in Emeryville, CA, when O. P. Smith introduced the sport opening the first dog racing track there.
A few years later in 1926, dog racing was introduced to England where it became even more popular than in the US.
Dog racing has since reached several other countries including Mexico, Ireland, and Belize.
The National Greyhound Racing Club was established in England in 1928, which popularized the sport even further and began creating official guidelines for the sport.
Since the later 1900s, dog racing has been banned in the US in many states due to animal welfare concerns, but the sport is still practiced legally in some areas.
Dog racing of some form has been around for centuries though and dates as far back as the Egyptian empire thousands of years ago.
Types of Dog Racing
There are many types of dog racing events ranging from oval track racing where the dogs chase a mechanical rabbit to long-distance course racing.
There are also agility races where the dogs weave their way through an obstacle course usually competing against the clock.
When people think of professional racing they think of the oval track type races where people wager on who they think will win. It is professional gambling.
Other than oval track racing in some countries, most dog races seem to be purely amateur based and simply for the joy of watching a dog run fast.
Is Dog Racing Controversial?
Yes, many animal rights organizations would like to see dog racing banned due to injuries the dogs can sustain and training methods.
What Makes a Good Racing Dog
Great racing dogs are fit, fast, and have a high prey drive to drive them to run fast in the first place.
Because dog races often involve the chasing of a robotic rabbit or other creature, great racing dogs must be driven to chase after prey.
In addition, great racing dogs are easily trainable and have excellent temperaments with other animals, since they will have to be on the same track as other dogs.
Racing dogs must be muscular to propel their bodies forward quickly during a race.
They must also be able to maintain a steady pace, as dogs that tire quickly will not fare well in a dog race. Healthy, fit, personable dogs tend to make the best race dogs.
Racing Dog Breeds
Because of their build and physical ability, some dog breeds are better skilled at racing than others.
The breeds listed below are known for their speed and are frequently seen at dog races for their skills. Take a look at these breeds to see what makes them so special when it comes to being race dogs!
Border Collies are excellent dogs that are known for their intelligence and agility abilities. In fact, Border Collies have won agility competitions more than any other breed of dog.
Because of this, they are often used in dog races as well. Border collies are fast, but can be weighed down compared to other dogs due to their long hair.
However, they make up for their physical characteristics with their aerodynamic form when running. They are also quick to train and do excellently in obedience classes.
Dalmatians, the famous firehouse dogs, make great racing dogs. They are known for their speed and abilities in hunting, guarding, and racing in addition to their famous black spots.
They are extremely high energy which makes them great for racing.
Dalmatian races typically have only four dogs and dogs can run either 260 or 460 meters. Just like in traditional dog races, they chase a robotic rabbit.
Their endurance keeps them going during the race, just as it does with other real-life tasks.
Doberman Pinschers stem from Germany in the 19th century. These dogs have sleek, short coats, which makes them aerodynamic for racing.
They socialize easily and enjoy meeting new people and dogs, so they get along on the track well.
They are intelligent and highly active, so training them to race is not particularly difficult. They also build muscle easily which helps propel them forward toward the robotic rabbit.
Dobermans also make excellent guard dogs outside of racing.
German Shepherds are incredibly fast dogs. GSDs are known for their muscular bodies as well as their speed and strength, making them effective race dogs.
They also have an extremely high prey drive which pushes them to finish the race.
German Shepherds are mostly known for their work as military dogs or police dogs. Just as in dog races, they use their strength and speed to assist officers in emergency situations.
They also make excellent guard dogs because of their prey drive and protective nature.
Greyhounds are the most common and famous dog breed known for racing. I probably should have put them first on the list!
Greyhounds are skinny and have long, muscular legs, which make them the most aerodynamic and the best runners on this list.
They also have high endurance so they finish the race with just as much vigor as the start of the race.
Because Greyhounds are the most common racing dog, they are also often the most abused racing dog.
Irresponsible breeders or racers may treat puppies of this breed poorly if they are not seen to have “racing potential.”
However, they make very loving dogs and are often an excellent addition to families.
Ibizan Hounds are uncommon sporty dogs that make great race dogs. Ibizan Hounds were primarily bred for hunting rabbits which makes them easy to train for dog races.
The Ibizan Hound is a large dog, so its long legs can propel them further and faster than other dog breeds.
Because Ibizan Hounds are a rare breed, you would have to go to a breeder to find a puppy to raise.
However, they love being pampered and cuddling just as much as they love hunting and running. They can be excellent dogs for both families and racers.
Jack Russell Terrier
Not what most people would think of as a racing dog but Jack Russell Terriers are quick little dogs!
They were specifically bred for fox hunting, which has made them agile and faster than other terriers. Because of this, they make popular race dogs. They even have jumps on the courses!
Their endurance is higher than many other small dogs and they are quite high energy, giving them the stamina they need to complete a long race.
They are also great working dogs and learn tricks easily, making them fun for young children.
Pharaoh Hound Dog
Not too many people have even heard of the Pharaoh Hound dog breed and even if they have they probably had no idea how fast they can run!
The Pharaoh dog is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence (if not the oldest) and has its origins in ancient Egypt.
As with most fast-racing dog breeds they were originally utilized for hunting small animals.
To learn more about the Pharaoh sighthound dog and their racing events check out the Pharaoh Hound Club of America website.
Another sleek, fast dog breed is the Rhodesian Ridgeback. These dogs are popular with local clubs and often seen displaying their amazing speed during ‘informal’ club races.
Originating in South Africa, these dogs are large animals ranging between 70 and 90 pounds in weight while standing 24 to 27 inches tall.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback gets its name from a ridge of backward-growing hair or fur that runs along the upper part of its body.
Interestingly, they only come in one color which is called wheaten.
Sometimes called the Persian Greyhound, the Saluki dog is a very old and very fast breed of dog.
Hailing from the Middle East and other parts of Asia, they were a favorite of ancient royalty and used for hunting gazelle as well as being put on display racing.
Scottish Deerhounds have a physical build that makes them excellent race dogs. These dogs are built similarly to Greyhounds but have more coarse fur covering their bodies.
This long coat is beautiful to look at, but can potentially slow them down.
Scottish Deerhounds are strong and loyal. They will train for races easily and will push themselves in training more than other breeds.
They are also quite alert and will take to the robotic hare quickly.
Siberian Huskies are large, beautiful dogs known for their stamina in sled pulling. These dogs have long hair and thick coats and function well in colder environments.
They are also incredibly strong, which is why they are used for sled pulling. There is a famous race held every year called the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that features these amazing dogs!
Huskies have an incredibly high prey drive, which can make them a concern for homes with smaller pets or children.
However, this prey drive is helpful in dog races, as your pup will likely chase after the electric hare without hesitation.
Racing in colder environments is best for this dog to reduce the chance of overheating.
Often called, “The Whippet” these dogs are slender and fast! These dogs have been given the nickname of the ‘poor man’s racehorse’ because they are so quick!
Looking like a smaller Greyhound, some people keep them as pets because they are known for not barking much.
Where to Find Dog Races
In the United States, it is now difficult to find dog races to watch or participate in.
Most states have now made dog racing illegal due to animal welfare concerns, though some states are still legal to race in.
Other countries such as the United Kingdom still consider dog racing a sport and hold events frequently.
Currently, Arkansas, Iowa, and Virginia are legal to race in and have tracks available. However, Arkansas and Iowa are currently in the process of criminalizing dog racing.
It is also legal to race dogs in Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Texas, and Wisconsin, but I didn’t see any active tracks in those areas.
Risks of Dog Racing
Dog racing has been banned in most US states because of concerns for animal welfare. Many dogs involved in racing run the risk of injuring their legs, back, and necks in case of a trip or fall.
Broken bones and torn muscles are common in dog racing.
As with any sport, you also have owners that can be irresponsible when racing their dogs. They may try to give their dogs steroids or an improper diet to make them faster.
These dogs also often end up abandoned after a few years since they are no longer in their prime for racing.
Luckily, some shelters now focus on “retired” racing dogs to give them a second chance at a happy, healthy life.
Why Do People Race Dogs?
People race their dogs for different reasons. Some people race their dogs simply to see if they can win, or for the pride in winning the race.
Others place more importance on the monetary aspect of winning a race or people betting on dogs.
How Fast Was the Fastest Dog Alive?
The fastest dogs are the greyhounds, which are the primary breed used in dog racing. Greyhounds have incredible speeds of around 45 miles per hour.
The highest official World Record speed of a Greyhound was 41.8 miles per hour, but an unofficial record states one once ran at 50.5 miles per hour!
What is the Average Speed a Dog Can Run?
Though this average depends on the breed of dog you are considering, the overall average speed of all combined dog breeds is between 15 – 20 miles per hour.
However, this ranges greatly depending on the specific breed. For example, a German Shepherd will run much faster on average than a Shih Tzu!
How Common is Dog Racing Today?
While dog racing is still very common in the UK and some other countries, it is not as common in the United States due to animal welfare legislation.
Only three states currently have active dog racing tracks, and two of these are scheduled to be closed by the end of 2022.
How Do Dogs Train to be in Dog Races?
Dogs that are contenders for racing first need to be in good health and be kept on a high-protein, healthy diet.
Racing dogs will then need lots of great exercises to build their stamina, particularly in running. They will also learn to chase after a robotic rabbit.
If you need a place to let your dog run and do much exercise, consider taking him to a dog park. Dog parks are great for both vigorous exercise and daily walks.
This also gives your pup a chance to interact with plenty of dog breeds so they become better socialized.
What Breeds Don’t Make Good Racing Dogs?
Dogs that are not particularly fast will not make good race dogs. For example, Bulldogs would not make good race dogs, as they are round and have very short legs.
These dogs typically walk at a very slow and leisurely pace.
Other dogs that would not do well racing include smaller dogs such as Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Pugs.
Because these dogs are so small and round, they are unable to run fast or tire quickly when they do. However, they still make excellent household pets.
Do People Race all Fast Breed Dogs?
Well, how would you really know? Chances are that at some point most fast dog breeds have been raced either formally or informally.
There are many fast dog breeds that you don’t really think about as being racing dogs such as the Great Dane, the Russian Wolfhound, and more!
What Types of Greyhounds Are There?
There are actually nine different types of Greyhounds! The most common is the Italian Greyhound, the Afghan hound, and the English Greyhound.
All of these dogs have skinny, lightweight bodies perfect for long-running and come in a variety of colors. They also make great family pets outside of racing.
Where Can I Adopt a Retired Race Dog?
Many states now have animal shelters that focus specifically on retired race dogs.
Most shelter dogs are no longer in their prime for racing, or perhaps come from an irresponsible racer and have experienced some form of injury.
These dogs are incredibly loving and simply need a new place to call home.
Most dog racing rescues focus on Greyhounds since they are the most widely used breed for dog racing.
However, some dog racing shelters focus on other breeds as well. Research local shelters focusing on race dogs to see if adopting a retired race dog is right for you.
Does the American Kennel Club Recognize Racing Breeds?
Yes, all the racing breed dogs discussed in this article are recognized breeds by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Though dog racing is not as common in the US anymore, it is still a popular sport in many countries around the world.
As time progresses, we can only hope that dog owners will be more responsible and follow important guidelines to keep their dogs safe during these competitions.
After all, a furry friend is worth much more than just how fast they can run!