Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 22, June 1978

By Colin Huon and Bob Caundle

A greyhound was originally called a "gaze" hound because of its exceptional sight and this was one of the reasons that the Pharoahs [Pharaohs – E] of Ancient Egypt used them for hunting some thousands of years ago. The use of the greyhound as a hunter and domestic pet persisted through the ages until, during the eighteenth century, the Earl of Orford, an eccentric to say the least, decided to cross the pure gazehound breed with bull terriers because in his opinion, the gazehound breed was becoming too inbred and losing its "masculinity" - whatever that meant! Up to this stage gazehounds had always been either grey or white and the introduction of the bull terrier breed created the "brindle" colour which is relatively common in todays dogs.

For Waihi to claim "kinship" either with Ancient Egypt or eighteenth century royalty would be very debatable but it is a fact that Waihi maintained a flourishing greyhound coursing club during the 1930's. During 1931 or 1932 a group of Waihi citizens met in the Secretary's office of the Waihi Miners Hall and decided to form the Waihi Coursing Club and to canvass the town for support. Names remembered are Bill Lunn, E. Sainsbury, C. Pascoe, C. Thorpe, Watty Weeks, Paddy O'Shea, Ted Jennings, Colin Huon, Ces Huon, E. Huon, Bill McCarthy, Jack Weedon, Bob Caundle (Hon. Secretary), J. Dickey (Treasurer).

It was decided to create a Plumpton course and to this end an area of 4-5 acres was bought from Ben Ryan at Willows Road, East End. The members turned to and with commendable effort removed a windbreak of macrocarpa trees and fenced the Plumpton with 12 feet high wire netting to constrain the hare and dogs, and also made the internal race fence and the Home paddock fence, all of the same material.

The hares were caught in the Tauhei and Morrinsville district by club members who went armed with nets and sundry dogs, mainly fox terriers, and were transported in double container units not unlike a banana crate to Waihi. At the club grounds the hares were released into the Holding or Home paddock and thence into the Plumpton, where for the next few weeks they were fed while they familiarised themselves with the area in general and the escape traps in particular, which led back to the holding paddock, and thus safety.

In the meantime the greyhounds were being made fit by being walked about 50 miles a week plus the added exercise of a run on a neighbouring farmers property. After their walk the dogs were rubbed down and massaged to free up their muscles, and brushed, but never bathed. Next a meal of meat and vegetables plus an egg if it was thought the dog was below par. However the efficacy of this last item was debatable amongst members. Medication was confined to oil plus Areca nut, a reddish brown powder which was administered if worms were suspected. A greyhound pup began its career at the age of 5 months when the owner started it on the 1000 mile work deemed necessary to develop its muscles before it commenced running other than in play. A greyhound usually began its career about 15-18 months to 2 year old and by the time it was 4-5 was considered past its best.

Meetings were held two or three times a year between March and October and were attended at times by crowds of two or three hundred some of whom came from Te Aroha, Waitoa, Morrinsville, Whatawhata, and brought dogs to compete. There were 16 dogs competing each meeting, 2 dogs in each of 8 heats, followed by 4 quarter finals, 2 semi finals, and the subsequent final. Thus 15 hares would be used for each meeting with the probable death of 2 or 3 hares each afternoon.

The entrance fee was 30/- per dog and in addition to cups, trophies and prizes donated by local businessmen the winning dog would get £10, second £4, while third and fourth got their entry fees back. Each event would last perhaps 2-3 minutes and the whole meeting would last 2-3 hours. Generally the officials of the day were club members and it was not necessary to own a dog to be a member, and there were several associate members, who although they could not possibly afford the time for training a dog were nonetheless interested enough to pay the two guineas subscription and so help out on coursing days.

Each event began with a hare being selected from the holding or home paddock and being chased by officials down the race and into the box. The two competing greyhounds were placed in position and held by the "Slipper" who was able, by means of an ingenious quick trigger release attached to the collar of the dogs, to slip the dogs simultaneously at the critical moment. When the official released the hare from the box, a second official jumped towards the hare and caused it to swerve to the left and thus bring it into the line of the greyhounds sight. At this stage the "slipper" released the greyhounds who made after the hare which was hightailing it for the safety of the home paddock. During the hares sojourn in the Plumpton after capture it became well aware of which way to run and also appreciated the workings of the trap, that led to safety and which were of course too small for the dog to get through. One dog had a red knitted band attached to its collar and its competitor had a white one so that in the event of two dogs being of similar colour the judge had less chance of being confused.

The judge, originally Jack Dickey, was on a stand near the home paddock and relayed the points awarded each dog to a writer, or judge's assistant, who at the end of the event added up the total awarded to the "red" dog and the "white" dog and thus found the winner. A dog got a point if it turned the hare and made it go in a different direction, if a dog passed its competitor while chasing the hare another point was earned, and of course if a dog caught the hare it won the event. There were also other ways of earning points such as the "lead up" but these were of a more complicated nature and depended on the distance by which one dog was beating or leading the other, whilst chasing the hare.

There is no doubt that greyhound coursing is a blood sport and it would be most unlikely, in the light of todays concern for the welfare of animals, that such a sport would be countenanced nowadays. Even in the 1930's there was antipathy towards coursing and at least on one occasion the hares, during their acclimatisation period in the Plumpton were fed poisoned carrots to save them from the terror of the chase. The hares ran with their heads held high and back and such is the position of the eyes they were able to see the dogs chasing them and could take evasive action, be it ever so limited. Some hares that survived grew so cunning that on occasion the dogs were left exhausted in the Plumpton without having touched the hare. Again some hares were able to judge the speed of the dog and at the critical moment would stop dead in their tracks and the momentum of the greyhounds would carry them past the hare and so give it time to change direction and head hopefully for the escape traps, and safety.

Coursing lasted for about 6 years in Waihi and unlike the hares, died a natural death from lack of interest and no doubt the time consuming chores of training dogs and working bees on the Plumpton lost their appeal after the first flush of enthusiasm. Add to this, that a greyhound represented another mouth to feed during the Depression and the entry fees must have reduced strained budgets even further, then perhaps it is to be wondered how The Waihi Coursing Club ever came into being and existed for so long.

WAIHI COURSING CLUB

(Affiliated with N.Z.C.A.)

Opening of 1937 Season

16 DOG MAIDEN STAKE

1st Dog £11 & Cup - 2nd £5 - 3rd & 4th £1/10/-

and

ALL AGED STAKE

(Stake Money Paid Pro-rata)

on the Club’s Plumpton, Willows Rd., Waihi.

SAT, 5th JUNE

Commencing at 2 p.m.

Patron

President

Judge

Slipper

Secretary

 

Mr W.M. Wallnutt

Mr K. Gardiner

Mr J. Dickey

Mr P. Dean

Mr Morris Allen

 

Admission to Grounds 1/-

Official Programme 3d.

 

MAIDEN STAKE

FIRST ROUND

Top Dog, Red Collar.

1

RAZZIA, f.d.. Cin Paph-Ruching Footsteps.

C. Jesney, Waikino

BONNY AZURE, bd.b. Master Fearnought-Miss Freedom

M. Fletcher, Takanini

2

FIERY FOOTSTEPS, bd.d. Father’s Footsteps - Red Rouche

T. O’Dwyer, Matamata (N.S.)

RUCHING FOOTSTEPS, bd.b. Father’s Footsteps - Red Ruche

A. Skinner, Waihi Beach

3

EXPRESS, bd.d. Black Whip-Black and White.

T. McNamara (N.S.)

SCOTLAND, bk.d.

J. Robertson, Takanini

4

RUSSIA, bd.d. Cin Paph-Ruching Footsteps.

W.J. Weeks, Waihi

SIR ROBERT, f.d. Chewton-Lone Hand.

A.R. Turner, Waihi

5

HAPPY HUNTING, bk and wh.d. Gold Treasure-Lady Val.

R. Penetito, Waharoa

LAZY LU, bk.b. Cin Paph-Rosina.

J. Hayward, Waihi

6

KILLY, bd.d. Beauchamp-Dard Rose.

O’Dwyer and Ryan, Matamata

MASTER CHEWTON, r.d. Chewton-Confidence.

R. Urwin, Waihi

THE POINTS OF A COURSE ARE AS FOLLOW:-
Waihi Coursing Plumpton.

Waihi Coursing Plumpton.

(Not to scale)

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 22, June 1978
Waihi Coursing Plumpton.

SPEED, which shall be estimated as one, two or three points according to the degree of superiority shown. THE TURN: One point. THE GO-BYE: Two points, or if gained on the outer circle, three points. THE WRENCH: Half a point. THE TRIP: One point. THE KILL: Two points, or in descending scale, in proportion to the degree of merit displayed.

FLAGS AND COLLARS

Top dog in each course wears Red Collar. Bottom dog in each course wears White Collar.

Red Flag denotes the Red Collar has won. White Flag denotes the White Collar has won. Both Flags denote NO COURSE.

The Judge will wave his hat if course is undecided.

The Flags will be hoisted from the Judge's stand.

Names Of Other Starters In Maiden Stake

Tonatoe

Grenadier

Flying King

Scots Wha Hae

Carnera

Skittle

Chewtons Confidence

Kings Jubilee

Sans Souci

Bonanza

Black Blizzard

Black Demon

Flying Andy

Andria

Real Girl

Lazybones

All Night

Father Emmerson