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Greyhound Cartoonist Rich Skipworth's Wonderful World

It’s April, so it’s time to celebrate the fact that it’s ‘Adopt A Greyhound’ Month!

Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) volunteer Sue Skelsey delved for us into the wonderful world of Greyhound cartoonist Rich Skipworth.

Have you heard of the Derp, Bed Fail or the Teef Taptastic?

These are examples of the vocabulary created by British cartoonist Richard Skipworth to describe the quirky and lovable nature of Greyhounds. 

The Teef Taptastic is when Greyhounds ‘chatter’ their teeth - an expression of happiness.

Everyone who adopts Greyhounds has had the pleasure and joy of observing many of Skipworth’s wonderful tropes about these dogs.

Greyhounds emerging from their time in the racing industry often bear no resemblance to companion Greyhounds who have been living with caring families as pets.

Racing Greyhounds can be fearful, neglected and stressed when they first encounter the wider world, because they haven’t been socialised properly as pups. Although, in time, they usually blossom into affectionate, joyful creatures whose whimsical antics are magical.

The unsung heroes who assist in this transformation are members of the public who volunteer as foster carers. Almost all of them know about British cartoonist Richard Skipworth and love his work.

Rich, as he prefers to be called, has produced not only an abundance of cartoons portraying Greyhound moods and antics, but he has also compiled his houndie terms in the Greyhound Glossaries (Volume 1 & 2).

Rich said that he had no idea what to expect when he first took a Greyhound home.

“Initially, like a lot of people unused to the breed, I thought that a Greyhound would be a bit like a thoroughbred racehorse – a bit nervy, highly strung and would need a lot of exercise,” he said.
Rich soon discovered the uniqueness of the breed. “A few weeks into adopting my first hound I realised that pretty much all my preconceptions were totally wrong. I was sharing my home with a dog unlike any other sort I had owned,” said Rich.

“Gracie [Rich’s first Greyhound] was quiet, relaxed, affectionate, definitely didn’t need a lot of exercise and seemed to exude a sort of aura of calm beauty combined with a gentle quirkiness.”

It’s little known that Rich’s popularity as a Greyhound cartoonist has an Australian connection. It began in late 2015 when he discovered the Facebook page “Fans of Alice in Wooferland” (now 
Fans of Alice in Wooferland and Xanthie”) which was created by Sydney resident, Suzanne Hopping.

In his first Greyhound Glossary, Rich said this Facebook page was a series of posts supposedly written by a Greyhound called Alice. The page gave a daily account of life as seen from Alice’s point of view.

“I drew some cartoons for Alice’s page and the response from her followers was immediate and quite amazing. Everyone liked my Greyhound cartoons, and they asked for more,” he said.

The requests for cartoons kept coming, indicating Rich had tapped into the unique qualities of Greyhounds that owners were longing to share.

He also developed a language to describe the antics portrayed in his cartoons. This too was applauded by owners who felt for the first time they had a language that would enable them to communicate with each other about the uniqueness of their hounds.

In his first Greyhound Glossary, Rich explains how Greyhounds “are lovely creatures to draw. All smooth, flowing curves and aerodynamic shapes. And of course, they make great cartoons with their long pointy noses, skinny legs and expressive features, especially their amazing multi-positionable ears.”

Rich’s depictions of Greyhounds resonate with owners and foster carers of pet Greyhounds all around the world, if sales of his books and merchandise are any indication.

Eugene Noodles demonstrating
'Perching Derriere'
Sophie, from Sydney, who adopted an ex-racing Greyhound, said, “Richard’s illustrations and books should come as standard with a new hound, along with the collar and lead. Best owner’s manual I’ve seen.”

Kristy, also from Sydney, speaks for foster carers like herself when she said: “Rich Skipworth’s cartoons reinforce the value of what I do as a foster carer, by revealing the quirky and endearing personality traits of Greyhounds who are given security and love. 
His insight into Greyhounds is not what people usually expect from what they hear in the media or from the general gossip of people who aren’t familiar with the breed.”

Rich maintains that he never set out to convey any special message about Greyhounds. He was just expressing the quirky Greyhound nature that he was observing in his fourth Greyhound, aptly named Magic.

“Magic is just funny and amusing to live with and I drew cartoons of him because he is such a good subject,” he said.

It would be inaccurate to claim that Greyhound antics depicted by Rich are exclusive to the breed, although some of them are. So what does Rich’s artwork say about Greyhounds? There are more than 100 cartoons in his two Glossaries, and at least five overlapping themes emerge.

One theme that appears in the majority of his cartoons is quirkiness.

Greyhound Dizzy demonstrating a typical 'Bed Fail'!

No other breed of dog does Bed Fail/Furniture Fail quite as well or as frequently as Greyhounds. Cameras and phones of Greyhound owners overflow with examples of this “baffling inability of a hound to occupy a bed in the correct manner”.

The Perching Derriere is another quirky talent characterised by hounds plonking just their backsides onto chairs because they consider it “too much effort to actually climb all the way up” to a comfortable position on the furniture.

Jordy demonstrating the 'Derp' - Hunter demonstrating 'Ogreygami'

Yet another behaviour identified by Rich, is the Derp which is a facial expression that implies “complete and utter spaced-out empty-headed weirdness. Usually accompanied by a lolling tongue”.

There is also Ogreygami described as “the ancient art of Greyhound folding” in order to fit into a tight space. Greyhounds have been known to use this strategy to steal the beds of cats or small dogs with whom they share their homes.

Skipworth's version of 'Hound of the Blankeyvilles' vs Alice's version - Photo: Suzanne Hopping

One of Rich’s personal favourites is The Hound of the Blankyvilles, which describes the appearance of “the great blanket-shrouded hound” as it moves around the house from bed to bed. The list goes on.

A second theme evident in Rich’s cartoons is the happiness expressed by Greyhounds.

Few people can resist a rush of joy themselves, at the sight of a greyhound doing a Zoomie which Rich defines as “a high speed, lunatic, careless, happy, oblivious-to-everything and completely unstoppable run”. 

Life Imitating Art - Skipworth's version of 'Zoomie' versus Teddy's version

A key feature of the Zoomie is that it is spontaneous and joyful. It should not be confused with racing where running is forced or contrived by humans.

Roaching, which describes “the resting position of a Greyhound that resembles a (probably dead) cockroach” is another expression of happiness.

Xanthie demonstrating 'Roaching' - Photo: Suzanne Hopping

A third theme is the laziness of Greyhounds. “Snoozing seems to be their default state,” said Rich.

Jenga demonstrating 'Greyluctance'

Greyluctance, or “the disinclination of a Greyhound to live up to its reputation as the fastest breed of hound on the planet” is an example of this. 

As is the Rubbernose Doze, another of Rich’s personal favourite cartoons, that gives the impression Greyhounds can’t even be bothered to ensure their noses are comfortably positioned before falling asleep.
Skipworth's version of 'Rubbernozedoze' vs Greta's version

A fourth theme, the desire of Greyhounds to be close to humans, is a special characteristic of the breed. Rich said that one of the surprises he observed with his first Greyhound, Gracie, is that “she would love to be just near you, a great companion.”

Jordy demonstrating
'Velcro Hound'
One cartoon that illustrates the desire of Greyhounds to be physically close to humans is Velcro Hound. Foster carers and adopters will often use this term to describe the behaviour of greyhounds during the early stages of their domestic life when they won’t let their rescuers out of their sight.

Another aspect of their desire to be close to humans, is what Rich describes as “a gentle kind of curiosity. They like to closely observe everything you do in a way that suggests they are just mildly amused by human behaviour. Gracie used to be fascinated by the fact that I put socks on every day. She had to stand very close to me and watch the whole process. Every day, like she was supervising,” said Rich.

Greypervising is the name he gives to this behaviour. One of Rich’s personal favourite cartoons is The Garage Supervisor, which illustrates this talent. 

Skipworth's cartoon version of 'Greypervising' vs Teddy's version

It is quite a nostalgic cartoon for Rich. “It’s drawn from my memories of when I was a kid with my Dad working on our beautiful Austin 10 in our garage back in the early 60s,” he said.

Xanthie demonstrating 'Greypnosis'
Photo: Suzanne Hopping

Some Greyhounds are able to take advantage of their special bond with humans by using Greypnosis, which is a form of greyhound hypnosis, used to procure whatever it is that they want.

Finally, Rich wrote about Greyhounds possessing “a kind of zen-like calm (except for the brief periods of insane high speed running).” This is a quality that brings peace and comfort to humans. It may be one reason that Greyhounds have been introduced to nursing homes.

The Zen of Grey is the only cartoon that specifically illustrates this quality, despite the fact it tends to be a dominant Greyhound personality trait.

Skipworth's cartoon version of the 'Zen of Grey' vs Greyhound Greta's version

Affection for Greyhounds is evident in all Rich’s cartoons: affection that was extended to Alice in Wooferland. Rich showed great compassion for owner Suzanne when Alice’s health declined.

“When Alice was unwell, she received her very own personally illustrated get well cards from ‘Magic’ along with other unique drawings,” Suzanne said.

Rich created two logos to honour Alice. The first, “Alice’s Army” makes reference to a time, several years ago, when many fans of Alice took up a campaign to expose and prevent the plagiarism of Rich’s artworks. 

The other logo “Alice in Wooferland: Loved Around the World” was a tribute to Alice after her death.

Suzanne said, “Richard kindly contributed proceeds from sales of both these logo products, to Greyhound rescue groups of my choice. What he has done for the plight of the Greyhound is awe-inspiring and his talent, generosity, humour and kindness is immeasurable.”

In his first Greyhound Glossary, Rich wrote that “Greyhounds seem to get under your skin. We [he and his wife] wouldn’t be without one now … We seem to have a Greyhound shaped place in our hearts.”

His cartoons certainly reflect these sentiments.

By contrast, in a world where there is an abundance of tragedy, it seems senseless and immoral to permit an industry like Greyhound racing, which stifles the joyful, quirky personalities of these otherwise life-affirming companion animals. Instead, the racing industry makes their lives miserable.

CPG’s research shows that the overbreeding of Greyhounds has led to hundreds of these dogs being unable to find a loving home. The national rate of Greyhound breeding continues to be about six times the racing industry’s capacity to rehome via its state-based rehoming arms (the GAPs - Greyhounds as Pets).

Instead, community rehoming by volunteer groups leads the way in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. While the effort by volunteer-run charities is excellent, many of them are now under serious strain and some are at crisis point. They are in desperate need of more adopters, as well as foster carers, who can assist these hounds with their transition to being happy, goofy, loving pets.

Nevertheless, more and more people are adopting greyhounds. Many people say that once you do, you become ‘addicted’ to their quirky personalities. Rich’s cartoons are testimony to this fact. They make a compelling case for Greyhounds to only ever be kept as treasured companions.

So thank you Rich Skipworth, for shining a light on the magic of Greyhounds.

written by Sue Skelsey, CPG, March 2024 for Australian Dog Lover (all rights reserved).

About Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds

CPG is a dedicated group of people across Australia who work together to inform the public about the cruelties of Greyhound racing. 
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