Featured image: Macao Archives
Have you ever heard about the Macau Yat Yuen Canidrome and its dog races? Yes, you read it right. Situated in the northern part of the city, it used to be highly frequented by all sorts of people, from low-income folks to rich society members who loved to see and bet on these races–considered a sport–where several dogs (usually greyhounds) try catching a robot rabbit. Here, we let you in the history of this sport and tell you how it all started in Macau. Read on and find out about a once “pleasant entertainment”, as one of their former flyers advertised.
Watch & Bet
Macau Yat Yuen Canidrome was the only dog-racing track in Asia, making this a very popular and crowded activity by all sorts of race lovers. Although its fans club has been decreasing with time, this used to be a very popular sport during the 1960s and 1970s in Macau. What we now know as the Macau Yat Yuen Canidrome kicked off in the 20th century. The Macao Canine Club (also known as The Macau Greyhound Racing Club) was founded on September 28, 1932, by a group of Americans and Chinese and also Fan Che Pang–the owner of Hou Heng Company who managed Macau’s gambling houses from 1930 to 1937. Most of the greyhounds came from Australia, a country that supplied the Macau canidrome–until 2015–with around 400 racing dogs per year.
Taking inspiration from a then-recently inaugurated dog race track in Shanghai, the collective later built a racing stadium where we can now see the Macau Yat Yuen Canidrome. Advertised on flyers and the newspapers as a “pleasant entertainment”, there are ads–from its inauguration year–in Portuguese dating back to 1932, where one can know about the schedule and prices: taking place on Saturdays and Sundays, at 8:00pm and 2:00pm, admission cost was MOP $1 to see the races from the members stand, and MOP $0.40 to enjoy them from the ones designated to the general public. The building is iconic, filled with neon lights and a majestic entrance with a vintage style.
More than dog races
However, prices were too high and the local population didn’t take to it. By the end of the 1930s, it closed down as a dog racing spot and was revamped into an entertainment venue, offering people opera and acrobatics shows, and gambling. A few years later, the government decided to dedicate the space to sports–mainly athleticism–being renamed into Campo Desportivo 28 de Maio (translated from the original Portuguese name).
In 1962, the land went back to serving its initial purpose: a dog-racing track managed by Macau Yat Yuen Canidrome Company, the result of a contract concession with the local government for the operation of greyhounds racing. On the contract signed in 1964–later changed–concession ended in 1987 and during those years, the managing company was obliged to pay an annual rent of 1.5 million patacas, to which additional money was requested in later amendments to the legal document.
Luckily enough, when the place went back to its original use, owners were able to grab some of the personnel who worked at the former Shanghai dog race spot, already shut down at the time. In 1998, more than MOP $30 million was invested to try bringing this activity back to life, which proved fruitless, as the popularity of greyhound races was already in decline.
In the last decades, Yat Yuen has been managed by one of Stanley Ho’s companies. The canidrome’s heydays took place during the mid-21st century, around the same time the Jockey Club was created.
Animal Rights, a New Era
Animal rights advocates argued that this sport is cruel and inhumane. It was even considered by many as one of the worst dog racing tracks in the world when it comes to its conditions. In 2015, the Macau government told the managing company to either find a new place–and bettering the overall conditions–for the races to take place, or they’d have to shut down.
After a series of protests and outcries from all parts of the world requesting the end of these races and Yat Yuen being unable to honor the authorities’ requests, the canidrome was ultimately shut down on July 21, 2018.
Yat Yuen was supposed to find a new place for the remaining greyhounds but failed to do so. As a result, the company was fined MOP $27 million for the abandonment of more than 500 greyhounds. A few months later, the local association ANIMA took the wheel and dealt with the issue at hand. With the help of the local population and more than 100 international associations–related to animal rights–ANIMA was able to find a home for 517 of those dogs in March 2019.
Also read: How and Where to Help Animals in Macau
In 2018, the government released its plans to revamp the former greyhound race track into a sports and leisure center for all the residents to enjoy for free. The plan also included the creation of a 400 car spaces parking lot. However, in July 2019, none of these construction works are still ongoing.
Macau Yat Yuen Canidrome Avenida Almirante Lacerda, Macau