One of the oldest breeds in history, the greyhound has long been prized for its athleticism. This sleek and muscular dog excels on the hunt, but a well-rounded personality also makes it the ideal companion and family breed.
- High Level of Wanderlust
- Friendly with family, strangers, and other dogs
- Not compatible with small pets
- Intelligent and easily trained
- A relatively healthy and robust breed
The History of the Greyhound
Thought to have originated in North Africa and the Middle East, the Greyhound is a prominent breed throughout history. Featuring in the historical records of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, the Greyhound is also the only specific dog breed noted in the Bible.
It wasn’t until the Dark Ages that this sporty pup made its way to Europe where it was prized for being a skilled hunter. So renowned was this breeds hunting prowess, in fact, that Royal Game Reserves forbade anyone living in a ten-mile radius of the Royal forests from owning one!
The Greyhound’s popularity only grew when Britons took to racing or coursing the breed for entertainment. The refinement of coursing skills also proved to be particularly beneficial when colonists and explorers took the breed to the America’s. Here the dogs were used to chase off coyotes as well as protect crops against rodents and other nuisance critters.
In 1885, the AKC recognized the Greyhound breed and 11 years later, the National Coursing Association in the United States was founded. Still routinely used in coursing and racing, there are many animal rights activists who argue against these sports as cruel exploitation. This is not only because many of the dogs are forced to run to exhaustion, but also because dogs that are unsuccessful or too old to continue are often abandoned or euthanized.
Appearance and Vital Stats
The Greyhound is a member of the “Hound Group”. A grouping reserved for dogs whose ancestry lies in hunting and trailing.
A svelte, short-haired dog, the Greyhound is a hardy breed with an independent streak and a simultaneous desire for companionship. Although relatively high energy, the greyhound can be quite lazy and prone to gaining weight if allowed to do so.
The Greyhound breed is divided into two subsections – the racing Greyhound and the show Greyhound.
The racing Greyhound is built and bred for athleticism and stands between 25 and 29” tall. Male racing Greyhounds tend to weight between 65 and 85 lbs. and females between 50 and 65 lbs.
The show Greyhound, bred more for appearance than athleticism, is a larger dog and stands between 26 and 30” tall. The weight range for show Greyhounds is in the same range as the racing Greyhound, however, show dogs tend to be on the heavier end of the scale.
The average lifespan of this slim and hearty breed is between 12 and 15 years. It should be noted, however, that the lifestyle of a Greyhound can impact this lifespan greatly. For example, dogs that are raced under extreme circumstances will rarely live a maximum lifespan. Instead, these dogs often succumb to the wear and tear of extreme athleticism and must be anesthetized to avoid a life of pain.
The Greyhound has a short and smooth coat that has a firm texture to it. The length and depth of this coat can often lead to Greyhound “shivering” as a result of poor insulation. This is why many Greyhounds can be seen wearing jackets, snoods, sweaters, and other garments.
There are 15 standard coat colors of the Greyhound. These include black, black brindle, blue fawn, red, red brindle, white, white and black, white and black brindle, white and blue, white and blue brindle, white and blue fawn, white and red, and white and red brindle.
There are 4 standard markings for the Greyhound coat – a black mask, solid, parti-color, and ticked.
The Greyhound’s tail is quite long and thin and it tapers at the end while curving upward slightly.
The Greyhound has very fine and small ears that are kept folded and back on the head most of the time. If something draws the dog’s attention, however, the ears may partially perk up.
The Greyhound is an exceptionally intelligent dog breed that takes well to training with a gentle and positive approach. Highly sensitive, this is a dog that should never be approached with negative reinforcement techniques.
Despite being fast learners and intelligent dogs, the Greyhound has an inbred need to run and a high prey drive. The combination of these two things means that this is a dog that should never be trusted off leash regardless of their training.
A somewhat playful breed, the Greyhound’s behavior is dictated by their energy level, prey drive, and desire to be social with others.
If play centers around natural instincts, for example, like chasing a lure, the Greyhound will play to the point of exhaustion. If play focuses on something less appealing to their nature, interactive puzzle toys, for example, their attention span and desire will be dampened.
The Greyhound can adapt to life in an apartment, however, they must receive adequate exercise in order to remain happy and healthy.
Without necessary exercise, though, the Greyhound does not make a good apartment pet. Their desire to run may result in very unhappy downstairs neighbors as the dog tears around the apartment. Additionally, although the Greyhound is not known for being a barker, any dog without outlets for their energy can become a barker in a plea for affection or interaction.
Compatibility with Children and Pets
The Greyhound is a sociable dog that generally does well with other dogs with the right introduction. It is important to socialize the Greyhound from a young age, however, to ensure friendly dog-dog interaction in the future.
The Greyhound is also a great family dog with a love for the companionship of family members. Very patient with younger children, but also mouthy dogs, care should be taken to always monitor toddlers with the Greyhound.
When it comes to other animals or pets, the Greyhound has difficulty overcoming their natural instinct to hunt. Due to this high prey drive, the Greyhound should not be brought into a home with small pets like rabbits, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs and even cats.
The Greyhound may eat anywhere from 1 ½ cups to 4 cups of food a day depending on their age, size, and activity level. This food should be divided in to two meals, one in the morning and one at night. Additionally, dogs that take part in competitive sports require higher quality and higher calorie foods to replenish their energy levels and ensure healthy muscles.
The build of the Greyhound does make them particularly susceptible to obesity, however. Obesity in dogs with such slender frames can contribute to serious health effects, so food and exercise for the Greyhound should be monitored carefully.
The short soft coat of the Greyhound sheds frequently, so regular brushing with a boars hair brush will keep shedding to a minimum.
The outer ears should be cleaned once or twice a month or weekly if necessary and nails should always be kept trimmed to prevent curling under or breaking.
One of the most important parts of Greyhound grooming is dental health. Greyhounds have small and narrow jaws which can lead to crowding of teeth and increased tooth decay. To maintain dental health, teeth should be brushed daily or a minimum of three times a week. Annual professional cleanings can also be exceptionally beneficial.
Exercise is an important part of the Greyhound’s routine. Without regular exercise, the breed is likely to become destructive and depressed.
The relatively high energy level of the Greyhound can be sated with multiple daily walks as well as regular high-intensity activity like daycare or controlled luring. While these dogs can get by with walking alone, they are likely to become unhappy and difficult to handle without an outlet for their need for speed!
Known for being a rather hardy breed, a well-bred Greyhound will suffer relatively few health concerns during their life. Poor breeding or poor lifestyle can, however, lead to a variety of health conditions.
Sensitivity to Anesthesia
In addition to some other breeds, sighthounds like the Greyhound are prone to anesthesia sensitivity. This is thought to be a result of the low body fat percentage of this athletic breed. Whatever the reason, however, it is crucial to take a Greyhound to a veterinarian who has experience with sighthound breeds and is aware of their sensitivities.
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that is more often seen in the larger more heavily built breeds. Treatment of osteosarcoma varies depending on location, severity, age, and health of the individual dog. Most often this cancer attacks the limbs and the most aggressive form of treatment includes amputation.
Hypothyroidism is another disease commonly seen in Greyhounds. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is unable to manufacture enough necessary thyroid hormone. This can lead to brittle hair, obesity, low energy, hair loss, and darkening or thickening of the skin. Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be treated with supplementary thyroid hormone medications.
Many breeds with a barrel-shaped or deep chest are increasingly likely to develop bloating or gastric torsion. This happens when air fills the stomach and causes it to twist. The bloating and pain associated with gastric torsion are just the tip of the iceberg because, without immediate veterinary surgical intervention, dogs will die. There are many theories as to why bloating occurs, but it can be caused by gulping food or eating immediately following or preceding exercise.
Similar in facial appearance and body shape, the biggest difference between the Greyhound and the Italian Greyhound is their size! The Italian Greyhound is a miniature version of the larger scale Greyhound measuring in at between 13 and 15” tall! The Italian Greyhound is also a much lighter breed weighing between 7 and 14 lbs. As a smaller dog, the “Iggy” is also better suited to homes with small animals but not with small children.
One of the dogs most frequently confused with the Greyhound, the Whippet is similar in appearance, but not size. Standing between 19 and 22” tall and weighing between 20 and 40 lbs, the Whippet has a smaller frame overall and a less pronounced “tummy tuck”. The Whippet also has a slightly longer life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years compared to the 10 to 13 years of the Greyhound.
The similar slender body shape of the Saluki causes it to frequently be confused with the Greyhound. To the trained eye, however, these two breeds are less likely to be confused due to the long silky coat of the Saluki. Of the two, the Saluki is the smaller breed standing between 23 and 28” and weighing between 35 and 65 lbs. The Saluki also has a slightly longer life expectancy of between 12 and 14 years.
More similar in appearance to the Saluki than the Greyhound, the Borzoi is still confused with the Greyhound by many dog novices. One of the largest differences between the two breeds, however, is that the Borzoi has a longer and more pronounced muzzle as well as a long and silky coat. Although similar in height, the Borzoi is a heavier breed than the Greyhound weighing between 75 and 105 lbs.