Most of the dogs participating in organized competition are male or female greyhounds, although races between whippets and between salukis are also held. The racing greyhound, a slender, graceful animal weighing about 29 kg (about 65 lb), is in its prime at approximately the age of three; however, it actively competes between the ages of one and five. It can attain speeds of up to 64 km/h (40 mph). The price of a trained racing greyhound depends on its record in competition. During its racing life an outstanding greyhound may earn up to $200,000 in purses and breeding fees.
Most dog-racing stadiums are specially designed facilities consisting of a grandstand, a running track, kennels, accommodations for pari-mutuel betting, a judges' stand, and a system of floodlights to accommodate night racing. The racing area proper varies but is approximately 402 m (? mile) in length and averages 6 m (20 ft) in width. Its inside circumference is ringed by a metal rail along which the lure is propelled by electrical power. There are some 55 tracks currently active in the United States.
Races in the United States are commonly held at the distances of 503 m (5/16 mile), 604 m (? mile), and 704 m (7/16 mile). About 13 races are run during a given program, with 8 or 9 greyhounds competing in each race. The competing greyhounds are muzzled to assist the judges in photo finishes and as a precaution against fighting. They are raced in brightly colored numbered jackets to facilitate identification by judges and spectators.
As a prelude to each race, the mechanical lure is set in motion in full view of the greyhounds, which are confined in a starting box. When the lure is approximately 6 m (20 ft) beyond the starting box, the dogs are released in pursuit. As the race progresses, the speed of the lure is controlled so that it remains in advance of the pack. If any of the dogs interfere with the lure at any point short of the finish line, the race is automatically declared null and void.
Wagering and the prospect of winning large purse amounts are the important elements in the appeal of the sport to both spectators and greyhound owners. American stakes offer prizes up to $200,000. In the U.S., greyhound racing is ranked sixth among spectator sports. Wagering is legal in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In 1988 some 27 million spectators wagered in excess of $3 billion at U.S. dog-racing tracks.