by Dennis McKeon
One of the many ways I’ve found, over the years, to obsess about greyhounds–and to avoid window glazing–is to immerse oneself in the pedigree record. Being a pedigree nerd is a way to keep in touch and stay relevant, when you have been out of the sport for 25 years or so. You don’t make any money at it, but you do get to speak with a lot of breeders. Many of whom are nearly as obsessive as you are, and quite interested in the relevance of past matings, and what they may or may not portend for the breed, and their own greyhounds, today.
The whole process of selective breeding depends on preliminary pedigree evaluation as a necessary component, a first step, in engendering performance adaptation and excellence, through the mating of greyhounds from bloodlines that have proven to be compatible with one another, over decades and decades of highly selective breeding.
It also allows one to estimate which contributors within a pedigree are the prepotent breed-shapers—or not. Some greyhounds, for reasons we don’t fully understand, have an extraordinary capacity to “throw to type”, and to pass on their best traits and aptitudes to offspring…others, not so much. No one really knows why, for instance, a sire like Gable Dodge has been so successful at producing outstanding sons who also produce outstanding offspring at a relatively high rate.
Or why Molotov’s daughters have been virtually phenomenal as producers of highly productive racers and brood females. Perhaps we never will. But it is a matter of fact and history now, that these things have come to pass.
Interestingly enough, if you trace the sireline (the top line of the pedigree) of Gable Dodge back through history, you will come to a sire named Westy Whizzer, who was a track racer of historical greatness, and a sire of profound impact. If you trace the damline (the bottom line of the pedigree) of Molotov back through history, you will encounter one Gravel Gertie–who just so happens to be the sister to the grand-dam of Westy Whizzer. It’s truly fascinating stuff–even for normal people.
The National Greyhound Association keeps the “studbook”, which is the history of all matings made in the US. This record allows for the existence of the remarkable, voluminous website, Greyhound-data.com, which is an international effort at building the definitive pedigree history of the Greyhound, as long ago as records have been kept. Greyhound-data is like opium to pedigree nerds. For breeders, it is a roadmap they have never really had before. Most of them seem to make liberal use of it. It has opened vistas of better and more factual understanding of how today’s greyhound came to be who and what he/she is, and where they might be going. It is, in a word, invaluable. If it isn’t the “nerve center” of international greyhound breeding, it is certainly the greyhound world Atlas. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the website developers and owners, as well as its contributors, who have gifted us all with this informational monument to the Greyhound breed.
Over the past 12 years or so, I could have very possibly spent maybe a year of that time perusing pedigrees and discussing them in correspondences with concerned and deeply interested breeders (and only about 2 hours window glazing). That’s why I almost fell off my chair when I read that Grey2k had stated emphatically, that greyhound puppies were raised at “puppy mills”, and that by giving money to Grey2k, these so-called puppy mills would either disappear or maybe even turn into puppy Taj Mahals.
Of all the inane and ridiculous accusations that an ignorant, inexperienced, money-grubbing agitator might make about greyhound breeding, this is perhaps the most preposterous. The fact that greyhound racing is a competition where the spoils belong to the fleetest afoot, virtually insures that most greyhounds are raised meticulously, and given the very best of breeding, nutrition, care, handling, raising and training. It’s a very simple process. You get out of them what you put into them, all other things being about equal.
The breeder’s job is to have his greyhounds “out-adapt” or if you prefer, “out-evolve” the other guys’. Then they will, if given the best of care and with a little racing luck, outperform the majority of their peers. It’s still a very fundamental game.
The smarter and harder you work, the faster your greyhounds seem to run. There is a reason that there is no international pedigree database for “puppy millers”, nor are there performance competitions for their progeny.
I presume that Grey2k was suffering from jet lag or had overdosed on bangers and mash after their recent jaunt to Merrye Olde England, courtesy of donations which supposedly “help the greyhounds”. Either that or they had yet to recover from dramamine or transderm scop perhaps taken before the flight home.
So, the bottom line is this, apparently. If you give only 50 cents a day (really, no kidding) to Grey2k, for the rest of your natural born life, they will keep accusing greyhound breeders of being puppy millers. No matter how ludicrous or idiotic that might sound to anyone with a shred of knowledge about greyhounds and their breeding, they are willing to do it in their relentless battle with REAL greyhound welfare providers, for your charitable donations. So you finance the lies, and they’ll spread ‘em. That is, when they’re not spreading jam on crumpets during High Tea, taken with the British purveyors of Greyhound mythology—all, it seems, on your charitably intended dime.