THE SOUND OF A DOG RACE is the sound of paws hitting the sand. It is the sound of the metallic snap of boxes opening and dogs jumping forward in an explosion of muscles and dust.
On a field on the outskirts of Copenhagen, you can see dogs running so fast that they are almost flying, and you might feel the excitement of the race under your skin. Welcome to the Danish Greyhound Championships.
WILD TIGER EYE, WILD BLACK ANGEL and WILD EARP are the names of Erik’s three greyhounds participating in the finals. His fascination for the muscular and elegant dogs extends nearly fifty years back to before the Kallerup Racecourse was built. At that time, races were held on athletic fields and at cattle shows.
“Aesthetically, it looks great when they run. They got these long jumps that unlike most other animals gives them two floating or flying phases. A galloping horse always have a leg on the ground, but the greyhound flies in the air, both when it takes off with the back legs and the front legs. They are built differently than other dogs that have a straighter back. Greyhounds move more like cats.
Once, there was an old Native American who said that you become wise by watching animals that move, and I think I have become very clever by watching these dogs running”.
THE HARE is controlled by ”hare rider” Lars. It is built on a motor from a 3-horsepower chainsaw with huge creativity. There is no standard models in this world — everything is custom built.
“As a hare rider, it is essential to follow the hare and the dogs closely around the track. Only in this way can I keep the right distance between the hare and the dogs. If the hare gets too far away from the dogs, they may lose interest. On the other hand, if the hare gets too close, the leading dog might slow down, thinking it has already caught the hare. It will then lose momentum, and I have ruined the race.
I have not done that many races yet, so I’m very nervous. This is the Danish championships — and the finest awards are at stake”.
AMONG THE CROWD is Lone. She brought her friends and grandchild to the race. It is their first time, but Lone herself has a long love for the fast dogs.
“I’ve been here several times and have always thought that the greyhound is one of the most elegant dogs. The speed they can reach is very fascinating. Their thigh muscles is so big — greater than other dogs, and the power they release at the start, coming out of the boxes, astonishes me.
When I was young, I dreamed of getting a greyhound, but I figured it probably required a 10-kilometer walk every day, and I did not have that possiblity back then. So I never got one”.
AT THE GAMBLING BOOTH, you can play 10, 20 or 30 kroner per dog and race. The size of the prize depends on the number of bets on the winning dog in each race. Today’s biggest prize is 223 kr. In the booth sits Nanna.
“It is all ages and people who visit us. We even had a wedding out here with the bride in white dress and all. I think a big part of coming here is that it is a relaxed atmosphere, where you can bring a blanket and picnic basket. It is not expensive to gamble and the atmosphere is just really nice.
Many first-timers thinks that because we sit here and take the bets, we can easily give them insider tips about what dog will win. But of course, we don’t know who wins”.
Before the race, THE OVAL TRACK is raked, flattened and watered. The soil consists of sand and clay. It has to be hard but elastic to give the dogs the best grip. The greyhound is the fastest dog in the world with a maximum speed of more than 70 km/h. With such a high speed, tailwind means little, while headwind slows them down. Calm, warm and cloudy weather is perfect for dog racing.
ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN BITTEN by dog racing, there is no turning back. Marianne has been involved in many years, and she keeps coming back.
“When your dog is just about to run, it’s like entering a handball game. You have butterflies in your stomach, and when the flag is raised, the sky is blue, and you stand at the boxes with your dog facing the crowd, you have a great feeling — wow!
But it is also the whole atmosphere surrounding the race, it’s like being in an allotment here. Everyone is themself, and nobody gets cross. It’s just really nice”.
Photographs: Astrid Maria Busse Rasmussen / Words: Søren M. Lagoni