The Greyhound, also known as the English Greyhound, is the ultimate canine athlete, accurately described as being "swift as a ray of light, graceful as a swallow, and wise as Solomon." They are reportedly the oldest and the fastest of all domestic dog breeds. Greyhounds have been clocked at 45 miles per hour and are reported to have cleared 30 feet in a single jump. Interestingly, they have been called by more names than any other breed. One survey revealed more than 50 different names in English literature alone, including the Graydog, Grayhund, Grewehound, Greahound, Grew, Grewnt, Greyhounde, Grifhound, Groo-und, Griezhund and many, many others. There is much debate about the origin of the modern name, "Greyhound." It is widely agreed that the name is unrelated to the color grey. Some scholars think the correct name is Grewhound – with "grew" meaning "Greek" – since the breed was so highly treasured by the ancient Greeks. Others think the correct name translates as "Badger Dog," because the word "grey" meant "badger" in the 17th century (although the lumbering badger was never a particular target of hunting with Greyhounds). Still others believe the name comes from the Saxon word "grei," which means "beautiful," while another school of thought is that it derives from the Anglo-Saxon word "grig," meaning "bitch." Some theorize that the name comes from the Latin word "gradus," which means "swiftness," or from the Old English term "grech" or "greg", meaning "dog." Finally some fanciers think that the Greyhound was so important throughout history that it was called the "Great Hound" of the nobility, and that this title was later slurred in common speech to its present name.
Centuries of being beloved companions have stamped in the sweet, tractable nature of these animals, although true to their hound origin they are a pack breed and thrive in the company of other dogs. As sighthounds, they love to run and enjoy the thrill of a good chase at high speed, especially if other dogs are involved. The Greyhound was one of the first breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, appearing in the second edition of the AKC Stud Book in1885. It is a member of the Hound Group.
The Greyhound is an ancient breed that traces back to almost every country on every continent and has throughout much of history been a symbol of aristocracy. The first evidence of Greyhounds was found in Egyptian tombs dating to approximately 2900 to 2751 B.C., well over 4,000 years ago, where carvings depict dogs of unmistakable Greyhound type. Both the Romans and the Greeks prized the Greyhound centuries later as a hunting companion capable of and willing to hunt a variety of large and small game, including deer, stag, rabbit, fox, boar and even bear. Eventually, nobility throughout Europe owned large kennels of hunting Greyhounds, keeping favorites as family pets. In 1016, England passed a law forbidding commoners from hunting with Greyhounds, a right then reserved only to royalty and nobility. Serfs could not own them at all, and freemen were required to have their dogs deliberately lamed if they lived within 10 miles of a designated royal forest. For 400 years, the rulers would dispatch "dog-mutilators" across the land to enforce this brutal law.
With the decline of enormous estates, organized fox hunts and the great forests previously reserved only for the use of royalty in Elizabethan England, the Greyhound's prey became that which was then most prevalent: the hare. The sport of "hare coursing" was popular in England for over 200 years. Fanciers of the sport organized matches where dogs were pitted against each other, and against the hare, in open fields, testing agility, speed and stamina. Greyhound racing also became popular, with the first organized race taking place near London in 1876. Wagering on the races was fierce, and sometimes the Greyhounds would sport "jockeys" in the form of live monkeys attached to their backs.
Greyhounds arrived in what was to become the United States long before 1776, accompanying their settler-owners. Throughout the 1800s, they were used to hunt wild game in the expanding American west. European coursing dogs continued to come to America in the 1800s and 1900s, and these imports became the foundation of the modern show Greyhound in this country. In 1877, the catalog of the very first Westminster Kennel Club all-breed dog show listed an entry of eighteen Greyhounds. During the 1920s, Greyhound racing became popular in America with the advent of the mechanical hare lure. Racing Greyhounds were registered separately with the National Greyhound Association. In recent times, both coursing and racing are under increasing attack. In theory, these activities – especially racing, where a mechanical lure is used – should be acceptable methods of exercising hunting dogs. However, the dogs are not always treated well, and many healthy racing Greyhounds have been killed by their owners simply because they can no longer win races. Many well-organized rescue groups are successfully dedicated to rescue and adopt out Greyhounds that are past their racing best. These dogs usually make wonderful companions with another good 8 to 10 years ahead of them.
Today, owners of Greyhounds enjoy showing in conformation, participating in coursing, agility and obedience trials and therapy work. As noted in an AKC publication: "Best of all, though, is the joy of a Greyhound's calm, sweet, and sunny presence in daily family life."
The average life expectancy of the Greyhound is between 10 and 12 years. This is comparable with the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), and most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Greyhound Dog are as follows:
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): An extremely serious medical condition where a dog's stomach becomes filled with gas that cannot escape.
Osteosarcoma: Common bone cancer in dogs, occurring usually in middle-aged to older dogs Defined simply as the inflammation of a joint
The Greyhound was developed in Ancient Egypt as a hunter of small animals. Their keen sense of sight could spot tiny animals across great distances, and their speed was unmatched by any other domesticated breed. Today, Greyhounds still maintain their quiet elegance, love to chase and can sprint faster than horses. They make excellent companion dogs as they are quiet, well mannered, independent and clean. Greyhounds are sensitive creatures and should live in a home where there is not a lot of yelling or tension. They startle easily and are sometimes shy, but proper socialization can ensure a well-adjusted Greyhound.
You don't need to be a runner yourself to raise this breed. Greyhounds should be allowed to sprint several times a week, but they are not built for endurance activities. A few sprints and a Greyhound is done for the day, happily retiring to his bed for some rest and relaxation. They are fine city dwellers, as long as they are allowed to get to a park for regular sprints. Other than that, regular walking will keep the Greyhound happy and healthy. Their size makes them unsuitable for small apartments, but they are graceful dogs who don't need excessive room to move around indoors.
Taking your Greyhound to the agility track where he can use his mind and body also provides an excellent outlet for exercise. Lure training is the ideal sprinting activity for Greyhounds. If there is a track nearby where you can take your Greyhound to chase a mechanical lure, you should absolutely take your dog for regular visits.
Greyhounds are docile animals who need to be treated gently at all times. They are never aggressive, and freeze up when another dog postures towards them – they have absolutely no fighting instinct whatsoever. Treating a Greyhound harshly can cause them psychological harm, as they are incredibly sensitive. Gentle consistency and lots of praise and treats are all you need to train a Greyhound. Though they are independent, they pick up on tasks fairly quickly. They are naturally well-behaved so training is usually quite easy, even for first time dog owners.
Housetraining a Greyhound is a crap shoot. Some take to the yard quickly, while others can struggle for months before they catch on. Patience may be required to get through this stage of development.
Early and frequent socialization is very important so that their natural tendency toward shyness does not become all out fearfulness.
Greyhounds have often been compared to cats. They are quiet, well mannered, regal and independent. But their independence can cause problems. They have been known to scale fences to get out and chase other animals, and they aren't likely to return on their own. Fences should be at least six feet high and Greyhounds should always be supervised in the yard.
Their chasing instinct is strong. Cats and small dogs an be in peril if your Greyhound's hunting instinct is as strong as his need to chase moving objects. Running should always happen in an enclosed area, and if you take your Greyhound to the dog park, make sure there are separate areas for large and small dogs.
Long and narrow, fairly wide between the ears, scarcely perceptible stop, little or no development of nasal sinuses, good length of muzzle, which should be powerful without coarseness. Teeth very strong and even in front.
Small and fine in texture, thrown back and folded, except when excited, when they are semi-pricked.
Dark, bright, intelligent, indicating spirit.
Long, muscular, without throatiness, slightly arched, and widening gradually into the shoulder.
Placed as obliquely as possible, muscular without being loaded.
Perfectly straight, set well into the shoulders, neither turned in nor out, pasterns strong.
Deep, and as wide as consistent with speed, fairly well-sprung ribs.
Muscular and broad.
Good depth of muscle, well arched, well cut up in the flanks.
Long, very muscular and powerful, wide and well let down, well-bent stifles. Hocks well bent and rather close to ground, wide but straight fore and aft.
Hard and close, rather more hare than catfeet, well knuckled up with good strong claws.
Long, fine and tapering with a slight upward curve.
Short, smooth and firm in texture.
Dogs, 65 to 70 pounds; bitches 60 to 65 pounds.
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Sources: American Kennel Club