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Form and Function
The ultimate running dog, the Greyhound is built for speed. Long legs and an arched back enable the dog to contract and stretch maximally while executing the double-suspension gallop. Greyhounds have tremendous muscle mass and light legs, further enhancing speed. The feet are long and narrow, giving maximum leverage. The long tail serves as a rudder and brake when running at high speed. The coat is short and smooth. Two registries of Greyhounds are available: AKC (show) and NGA (racing). Retired NGA Greyhounds are smaller, sturdier, and faster than show dogs and, given their past training in racing, may be more inclined to chase small animals.
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Date of Origin
Sighthounds–dogs that could run after and catch game by outrunning it–were one of first types of dogs selectively bred by humans. The prototypical sighthound has always been the Greyhound. Greyhound-like dogs have been depicted since ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times. The name Greyhound may come from Graius, meaning Greek, or from the Latin gradus, denoting high grade. By Saxon time, Greyhounds were well established in Britain and were valued by both commoners for their ability to put food on the table and by nobility for the sport of the chase. In 1014 the Forest Laws prohibited all but nobility from keeping Greyhounds near royal forests unless they had been “lamed”; these laws remained in effect for four hundred years. Even when they were repealed, Greyhounds remained the dogs of nobility because with the growing importance of agriculture and domestic animal food sources, the running dog was not economically advantageous. Instead, Greyhounds were used for coursing hare for sport, and during the 1800s coursing became a consuming pastime of the upper class. Early American immigrants often brought Greyhounds with them to the New World. Here they proved adept at coursing on the open plains. When coursing was made available to the masses by staging it first in closed parks and then on tracks after a mechanical lure, the Greyhound’s fate was sealed. Track racing, which began in 1926, proved so popular that dogs were bred specifically for short bursts of speed, ultimately resulting in the fastest breed of dog. Greyhounds continued to compete at dog shows, which they had done since the 1870s. They were AKC recognized in 1885. The breed soon became divided into show and racing types, which were seldom interbred. In America, the Greyhound is one of the least popular breeds according to AKC registrations of show stock. The National Greyhound Association (NGA) registers many thousands of Greyhounds annually; however, recently retired racers from NGA stock have become popular as pets.
Known as “the world’s fastest couch potato,” the Greyhound is quiet, calm, and extremely well-mannered indoors. They are good with other dogs, and with other pets if raised with them. Outdoors, they may tend to chase any small thing that moves. They are reserved with strangers, very sensitive, and sometimes timid. Despite their independent nature, they are eager to please those they trust.
The Greyhound needs daily exercise, but it is a sprinter, not an endurance runner. Give this dog a chance to run in a safe location or provide longer walks on leash. The Greyhound loves to run and chase outdoors, and can easily run into danger at great speed unless exercised in a safe area. Greyhounds relish creature comforts and must have soft bedding and warmth. The coat is extremely easy to care for, needing only occasional brushing to remove dead hair.
- Major concerns: osteosarcoma
- Minor concerns: esophageal achalasia, gastric torsion
- Occasionally seen: SAS, DCM, osteogenesis imperfecta
- Suggested tests: cardiac
- Life span: 10–13 years
- Note: Racing injuries, especially toe, hock, and muscle injuries, are common in retired racing dogs. Greyhounds are sensitive to barbiturate anesthesia and are prone to lacerations and tail-tip injuries.