114 DOGS AND ALL ABOUT THEM
being regulated by its weight ; but the winners of previous important events are penalised in addition, according to their presumed merit, by having a certain number of yards deducted from the start to which weight alone would otherwise have entitled them. Each dog is taken to its stipulated mark according to the handicap, and there laid hold of by the nape of the neck and hind-quarters ; the real starter stands behind the lot, and after warning all to be ready, discharges a pistol, upon which each attendant swings his dog as far forward as he can possibly throw him, but always making sure that he alights on his feet. The distance covered in the race is generally 200 yards, minus the starts allotted, and some idea of the speed at which these very active little animals can travel may be gleaned from the fact that the full distance has been covered in rather under 12 seconds.
In order to induce each dog to do its best, the owner, or more probably the trainer stands beyond the winning post, and frantically waves a towel or very stout rag. Accompanied by a babel of noise, the race is started, and in less time than it takes to write it the competitors reach the goal, one and all as they finish taking a flying leap at their trainer's towel, to which they hold on with such tenacity that they are swung round in the air. The speed at which they are travelling makes this movement necessary in many cases to enable the dog to avoid accident, particularly where the space beyond the winning mark is limited. For racing purposes there is a wide margin of size allowed to the dogs, anything from 8
lbs. to 23 lbs., or even more, being eligible ; but in view of the handicap terms those dogs which possess speed, and scale 9 to 12 lbs. amongst the light-weight, and over i7
lbs. in the heavy ones, are considered to have the best chance.
Probably there is no locality where the pastime has maintained such a firm hold as in and around Oldham, one of the most famous tracks in the world being at Higginshaw, where not infrequently three hundred dogs are entered in one handicap. The Borough grounds at Oldham and the Wellington