Originally bred as hunting dogs, greyhounds are affectionately known today as both the “Ferrari of the dog world” and “40-mph couch potatoes”. Their elegant appearance and gentle temperament make them popular family pets, with their mix of playfulness and laziness making them fun companions to have around.
- Height: up to 76 cm (at the shoulder)
- Temperament: gentle, loving, ideal family pet
- Maintenance: low to medium
- Lifespan: 9 to 11 years
The exact origin of the greyhound remains up for debate. Some experts suggest that the dogs depicted in ancient Egyptian artefacts dating back some 4000 years are greyhound-like in appearance, but most agree that the greyhound as it’s known today originated in Europe.
In England during the Middle Ages, greyhounds were used for hare coursing andgraced the halls of noblemen and royalty. Only the wealthy could own these revered hunting dogs, and only with the king’s permission. Owning a greyhound was forbidden among commoners, and the killing of one was punishable by death.
In the 18th century, during the Age of Enlightenment, greyhounds remained highlyprized status symbols for the wealthy, appearing in many commissioned portraits. Hunting gave way to racing as the Industrial Age began, leading to the advent of greyhound racing and a sport enjoyed by working classes as well as the rich and the titled by the early 1900s.
Characteristically, greyhounds have a calm, sociable temperament, and could be accused of being downright lazy when indoors. Intelligent, sensitive, and affectionate, they bond strongly with their own people. They rarely bark, but separation anxiety can lead to howling if left alone for even short periods of time.
When outdoors, greyhounds are energetic and playful, possessing tremendous stamina and endurance. They generally enjoy the company of people, including children, and other dogs, butthey can be shy of strangers.
Aggressive behaviour is rare, with most greyhounds preferring to keep their distance until introduced to new faces and moving away from annoyances (such as small children) rather than reacting.
In the right hands, greyhounds are reasonably easy to train. They can learn most commands and will obey them most of the time, however, it must be remembered that greyhounds are sighthounds. If they set their eyes on a prey, they may not be able to resist the urge to give chase and all commands will be ignored.
The same instinct to chase anything that moves can pose an issue in homes with cats and other small pets. With careful introduction, greyhounds can be trained to live in harmony with the family cat (and remove it from the chase radar) but it’s an issue that needs to be considered from day one. Small children are never prey, but an energetic greyhound might easily knock them over.
Greyhounds can be trained to walk well on a lead, but the opportunity to really stretch their legs and run at full speed once or twice each week is needed to keep them both physically and mentally happy.
Greyhounds are generally a healthy breed, and daily exercise combined with good quality nutrition will keep them that way. Health issues that may present include:
Interesting Greyhound Facts
- Greyhounds are the world’s fastest dog breed, able to reach speeds of up to 43 mph (70 kilometres per hour) within 30 metres.
- Racing greyhounds can reach top speed within six strides of leaving the box, travelling at around 20 metres per second.
- A greyhound’s speed is created by a double-suspension gallop in which the body contracts and extends in mid-air
- A greyhound named Primley Sceptre was awarded Best in Show at the first Crufts event in 1928.
- Greyhounds feature in the coat of arms of Henry VIII and Charles V of France.
- Prince Albert’s greyhound Eos travelled with him to England before he married Queen Victoria. Eos became a much-loved companion to their children.
- The greyhound is the only breed of dog to be identified by name in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version).
- In the animated TV seriesThe Simpsons, the Simpson family have a pet greyhound named Santa’s Little Helper.
- In Greek and Roman mythology, Diana the huntress and goddess of wild animals is often depicted with greyhounds by her side.