Yes, They Really Did Race Cats

In my Hartford Horses Examiner column, I often discuss horse racing and the problems associated with racing horses, a sport that has grown in a multi-billion dollar industry. But, what about cat racing? Never heard of it? Well, at one time it was a reality.

Cat race

At one time, cats were raced.

In the latter half of the 1800’s, cat racing took place both in England and Belgium. In June 16, 1860, author Harrison Weir wrote in his book “The Pictorial Times”: “Cat-racing is a sport which stands high in popular favour. In one of the suburbs of Liège it is an affair of annual observance during carnival time… The cats are tied up in sacks, and as soon as the clock strikes the solemn hour of midnight the sacks are unfastened, the cats let loose, and the race begins. The winner is the cat which first reaches home, and the prize awarded to its owner is sometimes a ham, sometimes a silver spoon. On the occasion of the last competition the prize was won by a blind cat.”

As a cat lover and cat care specialist, I cannot claim to like the idea of cats tied up in sacks. Today, such a cruel and torturous act would be shut down before it even began.

But cat racing did not end there with the coming of the 20th century. In 1936 at Portisham in Dorset, England,  a cat race track was built. It resembled a greyhound race track and ran about 220 yards long. An electric mouse was provided for the cats to chase.

After that failed attempt, cat racing seems to have died out.  The last recorded attempt to race cats was in Kent, England in 1949.

Apparently cat racers were not aware of the cat’s aloof nature and their drive for food or else they would have put cat food at the finish line rather than an electronic mouse.  It is no wonder cat racing has never caught on as a competitive sport.

Perhaps in the future a cat will RUN for President.


One Response to Yes, They Really Did Race Cats

  1. Pingback: The Waltzing Cat of Maine and the Struggle for Freedom : New England Historical Society

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