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The ultimate running dog, the greyhound is built for speed. Its long legs and arched back enable it to contract and stretch maximally while executing the double-suspension gallop. It has 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 types of greyhounds are available: AKC (show) and NGA (racing). Retired NGA greyhounds are smaller, sturdier and faster than show dogs and may be more inclined to chase small animals.
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 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.
AKC RANKING 131
FAMILY sighthound, Southern (sighthound)
AREA OF ORIGIN Great Britain
DATE OF ORIGIN ancient times
ORIGINAL FUNCTION coursing hares
TODAY'S FUNCTION racing, lure coursing, open-field coursing
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 27-30 Weight: 65-70
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 27-30 Weight: 60-65
OTHER NAME none
Energy level Low energy
Exercise needs Medium
Playfullness Moderately playful
Affection level Moderately affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly
Friendliness toward other pets Shy
Friendliness toward strangers Friendly
Ease of training Moderately easy to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Not very protective
Grooming needs Low maintenance
Cold tolerance Low tolerance
Heat tolerance Low tolerance
The greyhound needs daily exercise, but it is a sprinter, not an endurance runner. Its needs can thus be met with a chance to run, or by a longer walk on leash. It loves to run and chase outdoors, and can easily run into danger at great speed unless exercised in a safe area. It is not generally amenable to living outdoors. 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: none
Minor concerns: esophageal achalasia, gastric torsion, osteosarcoma
Occasionally seen: none
Suggested tests: none
Life span: 10 13 years
Note: Racing injuries especially toe, hock and muscle injuries are common in retired NGA dogs. Both NGA and AKC greyhounds are sensitive to anesthesia and are prone to lacerations and tail-tip injuries.
One of the first types of dogs selectively bred by humans was the sighthound, a dog that could run after and catch game by outrunning it. 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 the time of the Saxons, greyhounds were well-established in Britain and were valued both by 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 400 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, where 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 proved so popular that dogs were bred specifically for short bursts of speed, ultimately resulting in the fastest breed of dog. At the same time, greyhounds entered the show ring. 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 registers many thousands of greyhounds annually; however, recently retired racers from NGA stock have become popular as pets.