This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
But let us leave such a troublous period, and at once enter upon that epoch in the history of the greyhound when he was used much in the same fashion as he is to-day. In Elizabeth's reign the first rules and regulations as to coursing were drawn up at the instance of the Duke of Norfolk, and they are very similar to those of the present day. That dog which led to the hare, won, if no other points were made; the hare had to have twelve score (?) yards law; two wrenches stood for one turn; a go-by was equal to two turns. If a dog that led and beat his opponent stood still in the field, and refused to go further he lost the course; if, by accident, a dog was run over in his course, the trial was void, and he who did the mischief had to make reparation. There were other regulations likewise, but this short summary will show how closely they approach the rules in force at the present time.
In 1776, the Earl of Orford established the Swaffham (Norfolk) Coursing Club, the earliest of its kind, and contemporary writers tell us this was the turning point in the popularity of the sport. In 1798, the club numbered twenty-four members, there being one vacancy, and in addition there were the lady patroness, the Marchioness of Townsend; vice patroness, Countess of Cholmondeley; assistant vice patroness, Mrs. Coke, and one honorary member, the Earl of Montraith. Following Swaffham in 1780 the Ashdown Park Meeting was established by Lord Craven, Lord Sefton, and Lord Ashbrook, and this exists at the present time, and is by far the oldest established coursing meeting we possess. The Altcar Club, established in 1825, and the Ridgway Club, in 1828, still amongst the leading meetings of the year, are well supported, and appear to have a. long and useful existence in front of them. Swaffham was resuscitated on more than one occasion, and in 1892, and ever since, meetings have been held there. Other old fixtures that may be mentioned were Malton, in 1781; Louth, 1806; Newmarket, 1805; Midlothian, 1811; Ardrossan, established a few years later, and, although there is no specific date given, Mr. W. F. Lamonby, the keeper of the "Stud Book" believes that the Biggar meeting was in existence prior to the present •century, but like many other of the early gatherings, it has long been discontinued.
Mention has already been made of Lord Orford, a nobleman of great sporting proclivities, and of unusual eccentricities. If reliance can be placed upon the "Sportsman's Cabinet," published in 1803, and I believe there is nothing to the contrary, it contains some particulars of greyhound coursing just prior to that date that may be of interest. His lordship's bitch Czarina is said to have won forty-seven matches without being beaten. She had no puppies until about thirteen years old, when she gave birth to eight, all of which lived and coursed. The last match that Czarina ran took place when her owner, confined to the house, was supposed to be watched by an attendant. However, just as the two greyhounds were slipped, Lord Orford, looking wild as he was, and ill, came on to the field riding his piebald pony, and no one could restrain him from his anxiety to view the course and gallop after the dogs to see his favourite bitch win, which she did. The trial was barely over when Lord Orford fell from his pony, and, pitching on his head, expired almost immediately.
Afterwards his greyhounds were sold, and Czarina with the pick of the kennel purchased by Colonel Thornton, at prices ranging from thirty guineas to fifty guineas apiece. These appear to be pitiful sums when compared with the 850 guineas Fullerton produced in the sale ring in 1888, and, though the matches run by Czarina cannot be compared with the work done by the late Colonel North's crack, both having, comparatively speaking, a similar record, the two may be placed side by side.
Major Topham's pure white dog Snowball, up to the close of last century, was said to be the best greyhound yet produced, and was a cross between the Norfolk and Yorkshire strains, each equally fashionable at that time. Snowball won ten pieces of plate and forty matches, and his owner accepted every challenge that was made for him to run, irrespective of the kind of country, rough hills, abounding with fences, or otherwise. Whether the greyhounds of that day had greater staying powers than those of the present time, or were not so handy with their teeth, or the hares were stronger, we know not, but Snowball's chief performance was in a course "extending over four miles without a turn, including a hill half a mile (sic) in height, twice ascended." He is said to have won this trial with his sister, whom he beat, killing the hare close to Flexton. A dog like Master McGrath would have saved himself such a long trial by reason of his extraordinary skill with his teeth. Now, a greyhound must not only be fast, but a "good killer," to prove of extraordinary merit. Courses of four miles, "up and down a high hill twice," would quite preclude any modern greyhound getting to the end of a stake, when perhaps he might have four or five courses to run before being returned the winner. Major, a brother to Snowball, and both out of Czarina already mentioned, was said to be the faster of the two, but without the stamina of his brother; still he was successful in his matches, which at that time were much more common than they are now, when coursing meetings are more numerous.
The latter quickly attained the position they hold at the present day, for they afforded capital sport to the million at a minimum cost; they were the means of producing first-class dogs, and as now a man to keep a greyhound need not of necessity be a "gentleman," or of extraordinary means, coursing obtained a hold on the public second only to those gatherings which took place on the racecourse. Even at this time, say about 1850. the licence to keep a greyhound cost more than it did for any other dog, viz., 12s. 6d. This was an arrangement that the growing liberality of our Government soon abolished, and after various changes a greyhound has to pay but the 7s. 6d. duty, just the same as though he were a mongrel terrier. I do not know that anyone objects to this, or has hitherto looked upon the equalisation of the dog licence as specially dishonourable to those of the canine race which can lay claim to an ancient lineage.