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While we here at PetPlace genuinely adore all canines (mutts included), we recognize that many dog owners are breed loyal. Our “Breed of the Month” series celebrates those iconic dog breeds that have amassed widespread popularity and/or developed a cult following. For July 2016, we feature the greyhound.
Gentle, independent, and exceedingly sweet, it’s easy to see why we love the noble greyhound.
The greyhound has an overall sleek appearance, with their long, narrow body, folded back ears (except when they’re excited), and powerful muzzle. Their bright, intelligent eyes shine with high spirit, and their loving, affectionate nature makes them wonderful pets.
The greyhound was first recognized by the AKC in 1885, but it’s actually one of the most ancient dog breeds, with roots in almost every country on every continent. Spanish explorers first brought greyhounds to America back in the 1500s, as their speed and agility coupled with keen eyesight and ability to spot and recognize the movements of their prey made them ideal for hunting. A fierce loyalty to their owners also made them perfectly suited to the hunting lifestyle.
Here are some amazing things about greyhounds that make them so beloved.
What’s in a Name?
There’s a lot of speculation as to where the breed got its name, but there are two schools of thought that are most widely considered. One is that greyhound is derived from “gazehound” because greyhounds were considered “sighthounds” since they hunt by sight rather than by smell. The other is that the greyhound’s name is a description of the breed itself: “gre” or “gradus” from the Latin meaning “first rank among dogs” and “hundr” meaning “hunter” or from the old English “hund” meaning “hound.”
History of the Breed
Some of the earliest ancient texts — even the Bible — actually mention greyhounds as a companion to man. It’s been estimated by experts that the breed is about 4,000 years old because of evidence discovered in ancient Greece, Egypt, and Persia. Mummified greyhound remains have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs under the belief that they would accompany their owners into the afterlife. Greyhounds became so highly-regarded by royalty that their images can be seen in paintings of royal courts.
Greyhounds even have a prominent role in Homer’s The Odyssey, written circa 800 BCE, when Oddyseus returns home but isn’t recognized by anyone except Argus, his faithful greyhound. Even some depictions of the hunting goddess Diana show her with dogs that look very similar to greyhounds.
In the Middle Ages, greyhounds were members of royal courts, mainly for hunting purposes, and were so beloved by royalty that it actually became a capital crime to kill a greyhound — more value was placed on the life of a greyhound than on human life at that time! Eventually no one but nobles were allowed to own greyhounds, and even noblemen needed permission from the king.
The Temperament of a Greyhound
There is a myth that greyhounds can be aggressive and high-strung, but they’re definitely not. Greyhounds are actually very good-natured, quite calm and love nothing more than human attention. Although Spanish explorers used them to intimidate natives, it was their size that was intimidating, not their nature. Greyhounds are very attentive and don’t miss a thing, but they’re not considered good guard dogs because of their non-aggressive nature. They may let you know when something’s not right, but their personalities don’t propel them into attack mode.
They Love to Run
While greyhounds are extremely fast and need to run (their speed can reach over 40 miles per hour), they have only a moderate level of endurance. So while they need either fenced-in yard space to sprint and expend their energy or a more focused type of coursing exercise, after that they’re quite content to be indoors and relax most of the day; in fact, they’re often called high-speed couch potatoes.
According to the AKC and greyhound adoption agencies, it’s an absolute must that greyhounds be kept on-leash when walking them anywhere because their natural hunt-and-chase instinct will kick in and can be dangerous to them in populated areas. Their vision can spot movement of potential prey over half a mile away, and they have no understanding of traffic dangers.
They Make Great Pets
Because of their non-aggressive nature, greyhounds are generally good with children, but like many dogs, they don’t like to be harassed or continually aggravated and certainly shouldn’t have to tolerate abuse. A greyhound is more likely to walk away from an annoying child than to bite them, but all dogs have their limits.
In homes with multiple pets, greyhounds usually get along with other dogs. Those that were raised to race have been kept in kennels with other greyhounds, so they’re used to living with other dogs. More care and time in a closely-supervised introductory period is needed for cats, which greyhounds are not familiar with.
They’re Great for the House
Greyhounds are indoor pets. Their thin, short coats and minimal amount of body fat make them better suited to be kept indoors rather than outdoors, and also requires that they wear coats when being walked in cold weather. In the house, they prefer to have soft beds and nooks of their own and also enjoy being on cushy couches.
They’re Perfect Adoption Candidates
You see racing greyhounds wearing muzzles not because they’re aggressive, but rather to prevent them from nipping at competing dogs during the excitement of a race. Adopting a greyhound from one of the many greyhound adoption agencies means you’re getting a wonderful dog that has already been socialized with both dogs and people from puppyhood. In addition, you are rescuing a dog that has either outlived their racing life because they no longer earns their owner enough money, was injured in a race, or wasn’t fast enough and therefore is no longer wanted in the racing world. By rescuing such a dog, you not only save a life, you also add a loyal, affectionate, loving companion to your home.