Greyhound dog breed has a long history of being used as sighthounds in many ancient cultures, including the Egyptian, Greek and Roman. These tall, athletic dogs were used for chasing the prey and running it down, a feat they performed with great efficiency thanks to their great speed as well as agility.
Their name comes from either Graius in Greek or Gradus in Latin which meant high grade, and have no relation to the dog’s color. They indeed had high grade or status in the olden days with only the nobility allowed to own them. Today, anyone can adopt a Greyhound as long as they can be kept active and healthy in body and mind with frequent opportunities for sprinting.
Dogs very similar to Greyhounds have been in existence from time immemorial, including the Saluki or Persian Greyhound. But the Greyhound dog breed of today is of European origin, descending from the Celtic hounds introduced into England and Scotland in 5th or 6th century BC.
The Greyhounds were already popular in the British Isles when the Saxons arrived. Their services as excellent hunters were utilized by the common man for sustenance, and the gentry for sport. The Forest Laws of 1014 stipulate that only members of the nobility had the right to own these dogs. They remained the prerogative of the nobles for over 400 years, even after the archaic laws were no longer valid. The lifestyles of common people had changed with the main focus moving to farming food rather than hunting for it. However, the nobility continued to enjoy their sporting activities with the Greyhounds throughout the 19th century and up to the early years of the 20th century.
As hunting as a sport became rarer, these dogs were used for racing at the tracks for entertainment. With Greyhound racing becoming a popular sport, mechanical lures were used to get the dogs to race in the tracks at their maximum capacity. Many purebred lines trace their origin to 18th and 19th century racing stock registered at the Kennel Club. With the American Kennel Club recognizing the breed in 1885, these dogs entered show circles too.
The Greyhounds of today, mainly used for professional racing, have a short-lived career that finds them retiring at 4 years of age, and being euthanized afterwards. Of late, they are increasingly getting adopted into loving families where they live out the rest of their life as gentle, well-mannered members.
Measuring 28 to 30 inches in height and weighing up to 88 pounds, Greyhounds dog breed has a lean, aerodynamic body with an elongated head. The ears are half folded, and the tail is thin and long. The thin coat comes in colors ranging from white and different shades of fawn, red, and blue, to black. The coat may have white patches and brindle patterns.
Greyhounds still retain their hunting instinct, and can run at great speed when given an opportunity. However, these dogs are very easy-going, and have a laid back attitude indoors. Rarely barking, the Greyhound dog breed prefers a quiet atmosphere. They get along well with other household pets and well-mannered children who are taught to respect their space. They are loyal to their family and moderately playful.
Greyhound puppies need handlers who can cater to their specific needs for training and exercise. They can become hyperactive and destructive without proper avenues for expending their energy.
Grooming and exercise
Grooming is quite easy considering the thin coat of the Greyhound dog breed. An occasional brushing is more than sufficient.
These dogs do not require extended periods of activity, but they do need their daily brisk walks and preferably frequent opportunities to sprint. They need large spaces far removed from vehicular traffic to run freely without risk of getting involved in accidents.
In spite of being a hunting and sporting dog, Greyhounds need to live indoors. Being skinny and thin coated, they are prone to pressure sores when allowed to lie down on hard surfaces. They should be provided with soft beds to rest and sleep in.
Common health issues of Greyhound dog breed
Being relatively purebred dogs with a long history, the Greyhound dog breed is generally free of major health concerns. Gastric torsion and esophageal achalasia are two of the potentially dangerous conditions that require immediate medical intervention. They are prone to physical injuries during high-speed racing. Incidence of osteosarcoma is high in this breed.
These dogs require veterinarians familiar with the breed as they have certain anatomical and physiological differences from other dog breeds, such as high RBC count and low platelet count. Their average life expectancy is 10-12 years but, some healthy dogs live as long as 14 years with good care.