The swift greyhound is an ancient and powerful breed that has been prized by nobility for thousands of years. Today, the greyhound is associated with the controversial sport of dog racing, but this sighthound was first developed for hunting. As a pet, the greyhound is a gentle, loving pet that loves lounging on the sofa.
The origin of the name greyhound is in dispute, but it may have roots in the old English spoken during the Middle Ages. Some believe the breed was known as "grei-hundr," which means dog hunter. Another possibility is that it is derived from "gre" or "gradus," which would mean "first rank among dogs." It is also possible that the name comes from "Greekhound," because the Romans acquired the dog from the Greeks (though the Greeks also acquired the breed from someone else).
History and Origin
The true origins of the greyhound are murky, but greyhound-like drawings appear on the walls of Egyptian tombs dating from 2200 BC. The Egyptians treasured these hounds; the birth and death of them were recorded as if they were members of the family. Indeed, they were often mummified and buried with their owners for the trip to the afterlife.
The Egyptians sold some of these hounds to the Greeks, which clearly depicted the breed in art and on coins. A dog that resembles the greyhound was included in Homer's The Odyssey, written in 800 BC. Odysseus returns home, disguised, after 20 years away, and is recognized only by his dog, Argus.
The greyhound made his way throughout Europe, brought along by the Romans, who enjoyed the breed's hunting and racing skills. During the Middle Ages, however, the breed almost became extinct due to rampant famine and disease. Clergy rescued the greyhound and bred them exclusively for nobility. Laws were enacted to prohibit any "commoner" from owning the dog.
According to records, you could tell the difference between a dog owned by a noble and one owned by someone of a lower rank: royal dog owners wanted their dogs to be bred white, so they could spot them in forests. Others, especially those who used the dogs to poach game on royal property, wanted their dogs to blend in to avoid detection.
The greyhound was brought to North America by Spanish explorers and they were known in America since colonial times. However, they were imported in significant numbers in the mid-1800s to hunt the large numbers of jackrabbits and coyotes that plagued farmers in the American Midwest. Greyhounds were also used by U.S. cavalry forces during the Indian wars (Gen. George Custer used them for hunting and guarding).
In 1877, the greyhound was shown for the first time at the First Westminster Kennel Club show. Then in 1885, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. In 1912, O.P. Smith invented a successful mechanical lure, which lead to the introduction of the racetrack. This sport is still very popular today, despite plenty of negative press and documented abuses.
Appearance and Size
The greyhound is a lean machine built for power and speed. The head is long and narrow with small ears that are facing back and folded at the middle tips. The greyhound has intelligent, bright, dark eyes and a muscular, lean body with a long thin tail that curves upwards. The coat of the greyhound is short and fine. They come in several colors, such as black, gray, white, fawn, brindle, or any of the colors with a broken pattern of white. The greyhound is tall at 27 to 30 inches at the shoulder and weighs 60 to 70 pounds.
The greyhound is affectionate and loyal, but can be submissive around strangers. They have a natural affinity for running and chasing objects.
Home and Family Relations
The greyhound is friendly and obedient. They are very good-natured to adults and children that they share a home with. The greyhound can run and play with children for extended periods of time. They get along with other dogs, but must be closely supervised with cats or smaller animals they can chase or hunt. Although the dog loves to run, he also loves to sit with the family on the couch or the bed.
The greyhound is very intelligent and easily trained, both as a racing dog, lure coursing and in obedience.
Daily grooming with a hand glove will keep the short, fine coat of the greyhound clean and shiny. Bathe as needed.
The retired greyhound may be restless in their new surroundings. Be patient and they will learn the new routine from racing to companion. Greyhounds should never be allowed to roam since they have a tendency to chase small critters, oblivious to the potential dangers. Greyhounds should also be supervised when around small animals to prevent tragedy.