Highett

Highett holds an unusual distinction among suburbs everywhere – few indeed can claim to be the origin of an entire breed of dog. But Highett can: it is the birthplace of the greyhound.

A year or two into the gold rush era, a few bright sparks realised that the kind of man who would travel across the world to take a chance on finding gold in distant Australia was also likely the kind of man who’d wager on a dog race. In 1854, the first ever dedicated dog racing track opened in what is now Highett. At first, there were no particular breed restrictions, resulting in wildly uneven results (and a distressing tendency for dog races to turn into dog fights). Over time, however, faster breeds came to be preferred.

Of all the breeds that had been brought to Melbourne, the fastest at that time was the whippet, a small but very lean and swift breed of dog. And so, the races at what was then called Moorabbin West or Hampton East came to be dominated by whippets (especially after the final split with the dog fighting enthusiasts in 1861). Naturally, this led to whippet owners trying to breed a better racing whippet, which in practice meant a larger racing whippet, trading additional weight for additional muscle power and length of stride.

Because these new taller whippets stood higher than their predecessors, they were originally called highets. Only the intervention of Prince Consort Albert saw them renamed greyhounds (there was already a little known breed in Westphalia called the highett, and Albert wanted to prevent confusion). But the original name of the dog characteristic of the area stuck, even long after greyhound racing went upmarket in the 1970s.

Suburbs near Highett: