Yarcombe Terrier Racing

Yarcombe Terrier Racing

Forget the Olympics – this has to be The Greatest Show on Earth!

When it comes to summer fun, this great event sums up all that’s good about living in Devon. Devonshire magazine brings you the highlights from the Yarcombe Terrier Races.

Jack Russells at Yarcombe Terrier Races

Jack Russells at Yarcombe Terrier Racing event in 2016 – Rubi and Wilma

This event has it all, set amongst Devon’s glorious rural countryside, where terriers of all shapes and sizes meet to pit themselves against each other in a mad scrabble for victory.  What’s great is the friendly village feel this event has, thankfully nothing’s taken too seriously, enjoyment and fun is the theme that elevates this brilliant event.

It all began back in 1974 when John Salter and his wife Barbara along with other members of the community (see pic above), were looking for ways to raise money for St. John the Baptist Parish Church, Yarcombe. One of the group, Frank Bond had been to Yorkshire on holiday where he had seen some Yorkshire Terrier racing.  It involved laying an aniseed trail over the hills.  Upon his return to Yarcombe, he discussed the idea with the fund raising group and it was decided a variation on the idea would be sensible.  The plan was to create a lure for the dogs to follow which would be towed along a track.  The dogs would be housed at the start line in traps made from old tea chests.  After a couple of years, Ralph Salter with the help of others, created proper traps which are still in use today.

Photo of Yarcombe Terrier Races - dogs in full flight

Photo of Yarcombe Terrier Races – dogs in full flight

John Salter and his brother Ralph along with another member Alan Parris, who were part of the race planning team, came up with the idea of running a tote.  They enlisted the help of a local auctioneer who advised them of the best way to run it.  So it came to pass, two local ladies who were known as the ‘china ladies’ owing to their involvement with the restoration of china, agreed to take charge of the tote.  The arrangement was that coloured tickets, corresponding to the colour of ribbons which were to be worn by the dogs, would be sold for each race.  Over the years, this practice has proven highly successful.

Contestants in the Yarcombe Terrier Racing event

Contestants in the Yarcombe Terrier Racing event – left to right – Teapot, Skip and Boris

David Meyrick, trustee of the Yarcombe Estate which he inherited from Sir Francis Drake, very kindly allowed the use of one of his fields for the event. It has proven so popular that people come with their dogs from far and wide even London.  Although the event is described as terrier racing, there are other breeds too such as: spaniels, collies, whippets even greyhounds.   The greyhounds have an obvious advantage so have their own race.  The event has grown in size over the years and now has attracts around fifteen hundred people.  There are attractions for children, a very popular food tent and an equally popular beer tent.

The Devonshire magazine race entry
Jack and Alfie Jones – where it went wrong

Jack and Alfie Jones - The Devonshire magazine team

Jack and Alfie Jones – The Devonshire magazine team

To say the lack of training showed in the Devonshire team’s results would be an understatement.  Team Devonshire were gutted with the results – a ‘last’ position in both race 2 and 7.  After much head scratching, the final analysis is that Alfie had been culpable of ‘over thinking’ the race.  Having been guided into the trap through the back door and being unaware that the other side would be opening, he waited patiently to be let out.  See photo far left, showing the stalls and 2 dogs standing in the wrong direction.  Jack, on the other hand, was too busy having a look round after exiting the trap, to notice the target, eventually having to be ushered along by one of the race stewards.  I don’t think team Devonshire will ever live it down!

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This article was written by

Nigel has been publishing magazines since 1995 (some 20+ years now). Passionate about our countryside and heritage, the magazines reflect this interest. Nigel's the Editor of the DEVONSHIRE magazine which he established in 2009 and founder of the innovative HUBCAST event promotion platform which launched in 2011