Why Do Greyhounds Wear Muzzles When They Race?

Adrienne Farricelli

Why do greyhounds wear muzzles when they race? If you ever attended a greyhound race or saw a picture of these sprinting dogs racing, you may have wondered why they're wearing muzzles.

Why do greyhounds wear muzzles when they race? If you ever attended a greyhound race or saw a picture of these sprinting dogs racing, you may have wondered why they're wearing muzzles. The last thing you knew, greyhounds were gentle dogs who are sweet and friendly and being in a racing environment they sure must be used to being exposed to lots of dogs, so why on earth do greyhounds wear muzzles when they are racing? Turns out, those muzzles have two important functions when these animals are racing nose-to-nose.

A Look Back in Time

Greyhound racing has its roots from an ancient hunting technique known as "coursing." Coursing entailed the pursuit of game by swift dogs, mostly greyhounds and other sight hounds hounds. This hunting technique was commonly practiced by nobles in the Middle Ages and consisted of dogs chasing and hunting prey animals such as rabbits, deer foxes and hare mainly by sight. The oldest form of hare coursing often involved two greyhounds chasing a hare, and the winner was the dog who caught the hare.

Today's Greyhound Racing

Greyhound racing with muzzle
Greyhound racing with muzzle

Due to controversy over the bloody sport of hare coursing, today, greyhounds are no longer chasing after hare in open fields. Track racing entails greyhounds chasing after an artificial lure on a track up until the finish line. The mechanical artificial lure consists of a stuffed toy or a small plastic wind sock. Despite this sport's initial popularity, greyhound racing is now declining due to welfare issues. According to the Humane Society of the United States, this sport is now now illegal in 39 states.

A Word About Temperament

Many people assume that greyhounds are aggressive because they must wear muzzles when they are racing. This can sometimes discourage potential foster homes or those wishing to adopt a retired racing greyhound. Racing greyhounds are raised among other greyhounds and are used to their presence from an early age. Most have good skills in reading dog body language and play well with other greyhounds. Aggressive tendencies can be troublesome in the race track and can even put an end to a greyhound's career. According to Greyhound Crossroads, an organization that aids in greyhound adoptions, greyhounds who show any aggression towards other racers during a race are banned from the race track. 

A Matter of Safety

The purpose of the muzzle is to protect one greyhound from another as they are excitedly racing nose-to-nose. According to Greyhound Crossroads, when greyhounds are racing they do so with their mouths open. A bump with a tooth into another greyhound at 40 miles per hour or more can cause injuries in this breed with a thin, delicate skin. The muzzle can therefore help prevent potential injuries in these valuable animals. An additional reason reported by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain is to prevent greyhounds from trying to damage the artificial lure at the end of a race.

Determining the Winner

Muzzles help determine the winner.
Muzzles help determine the winner.

On top of protecting the delicate skin of greyhounds, muzzles offer another advantage. When two greyhounds are racing nose-to-nose and cross the finish line, it can be difficult to determine which one wins the race. The muzzles can turn helpful in determining who is the true winner in the case of a photo-finish race, according to Daytona Beach Kennel Club.

Adopt a Loving Greyhound!

Every year, thousands of greyhounds are retired from the race track and put up for adoption. According to a study conducted by James Serpell Deborah L. Duffy, and Yuying Hsu, greyhounds were among several other breeds that ranked as the least aggressive toward both humans and dogs. Greyhounds tend to be peaceful with medium to large breeds of dogs, but a watchful eye must be kept when around cats and tiny dogs because of their heritage as chasers . However, many greyhounds can learn to coexist with these smaller pets, explains dog trainer and author Michele Welton.

Overall, these dogs are very docile and have a sweet temperament that makes them great therapy

dog candidates. Surprisingly, they are generally laid back if you allow them regular opportunities to romp a few times a week. Because of their chasing tendencies though they required a safely enclosed yard and must be always kept on leash (and on a safe martingale collar) when out and about on walks.

Did you know? According to veterinarian Dr. Robert L. Gillette, the greyhound stride is known as a "double suspension rotary gallop."This gait, which allows greyhounds to have their legs completely off the ground at two points, is definitely the fastest gait, but also the most fatiguing.