Now here’s a thing. In the 1930s, Greyhound Racing was a serious threat to the popularity of football and forty stadiums across the Uk hosted meets. There were several tracks in London: Catford, Hackney Wick, Harringey, New Cross, Stamford Bridge, Walthamstow, West Ham, White City (which was the spiritual home of the sport), Wimbledon and cavernous original Wembley Stadium among them. Romford in Essex also hosted meets, as it continues to do to this day. Wimbledon is London’s only other functioning dog track.
For the racing public of Essex, it appears that simply watching dogs chase a mechanized hare was not enough. Cheetahs, shipped from Kenya and given a few months to acclimatise, became in 1937 the star attraction at Romford. The Wiki for Harringay Stadium picks up the story, but frankly it poses more questions than it answers. Who made the decision? How were cheetahs persuaded to race for human edification? And did they try to eat any of the dogs? Why did racing stop so mysteriously?
I sought out the Times clipping referred to in the entry, but to be honest it just waffles on about cheetahs and how good they are at racing without providing any more facts. It also does not provide the information in the Wiki, but at least offers some valediction that the whole thing isn’t some kind of fanciful hoax.
Anyone know anything? Anything at all?
**UPDATE: This post, which appears to be from the Daily Mail, has some fascinating details on this, noting that cheetah racing at Romford did indeed happen. “Complaints from the locals and safety issues” put a stop to it. It seems the explorer Kenneth Gandar-Dower was behind it all. He was an Eton Fives ace, too.**