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The greyhound is a breed of hunting dog that has been primarily bred for coursing game and racing, but with a recent resurgence of popularity increasingly as a pedigree show dog and family pet. It is a gentle and intelligent breed that often becomes attached to its owners. A combination of long, powerful legs, deep chest, flexible spine and slim build allow it to reach average race speed speeds of in excess of 18 meters per second (59 feet per second) or .[1573] [1574] [1575]



Males are usually tall at the withers and weigh around . Females tend to be smaller with shoulder heights ranging from and weights from less than . Greyhounds have very short hair, which is easy to maintain. There are approximately thirty recognized color forms, of which variations of white, brindle, fawn, black, red and blue (gray) can appear uniquely or in combination.


Illustration of the greyhound skeleton
The key to the speed of a greyhound can be found in its light but muscular build, largest heart, and highest percentage of fast-twitch muscle of any breed, the double suspension gallop and the extreme flexibility of the spine. "Double suspension rotary gallop" describes the fastest running gait of the greyhound in which all four feet are free from the ground in two phases, contracted and extended, during each full stride.


A male brindle greyhound
Although greyhounds are extremely fast and athletic, and despite their reputation as racing dogs, they are not high-energy dogs. In fact, a typical greyhound race lasts only 30-35 seconds. They are therefore sprinters, and although they love running short distances, they do not require extensive exercise. Most are quiet, gentle, affectionate animals. They do require enough exercise to keep them healthy both mentally and physically, with regular walks and occasional trips to the dog park. Greyhounds are referred to as "Forty-five mile per hour couch potatoes."



Until the early twentieth century, greyhounds were principally bred and trained for coursing. During the early 1920s, modern Greyhound racing was introduced into the United Statesmarker and introduced into The United Kingdommarker (Belle Vue) in 1936 and Northern Irelandmarker (Celtic Park) on April 18, 1927 and immediately followed by Shelbourne Park in Dublinmarker very soon after. The greyhound holds the record for fastest recorded dog.

Aside from professional racing, many greyhounds enjoy success on the amateur race track. Organizations like the Large Gazehound Racing Association (LGRA) and the National Oval Track Racing Association (NOTRA) provide opportunities for greyhounds and other sighthound breeds to compete in amateur racing events all over the United States


The original function of greyhounds, both in the British Isles and on the Continent of Europe was in the coursing of deer, much later they specialised as competition hare coursing dogs. Some greyhounds still fulfil their live coursing function, although artificial lure sports like lure coursing and racing are far more common and popular.

However to many purest breeders of racing greyhounds the sport of coursing is still vitally important.This is the case particularly in Ireland where many of the world’s leading breeders are based. A bloodline that has produced a champion on the live hare coursing field is often crossed with track lines in order to keep the early pace (i.e. speed over first 100 yards) that greyhounds are renowned for prominent in the line. Many of the leading sprinters over 300 yards to 550 yards will have bloodlines that can be traced back through Irish sires within a few generations that won events such as the Irish Coursing Derby or the Irish Cup.In Ireland the ICC (Irish Coursing Club) overseas about 80 live hare coursing meetings per year. Both the American Kennel Club and the American Sighthound Field Association sponsor lure coursing events in North America.

Greyhounds as pets

Greyhound owners and adoption groups generally consider greyhounds to be wonderful pets.They are pack-oriented dogs, which means that they will quickly adopt humans into their pack as alpha. They can get along well with children, dogs and other family pets. Retired racing greyhounds occasionally develop separation anxiety when re-housed or when their new owners have to leave them alone for a period of time (the addition of a second greyhound often solves this problem).
An adopted Greyhound, 5 years old
Greyhounds bark very little, which helps in suburban environments, and are usually as friendly to strangers as they are with their own family. The most common misconception concerning greyhounds is that they are hyperactive. In retired racing greyhounds it is usually the opposite. Young greyhounds that have never been taught how to utilize the energy they are bred with, can be hyperactive and destructive if not given an outlet, and require more experienced handlers. Rescued Greyhounds, however, have been taught to chase after small, furry things, and may be confused or need guidance on how to deal with small animals such as kittens, rabbits, and other small furry objects.

At the race track, greyhounds are housed in crates for upwards of 20 hours per day, and most know of no other way of life than to remain in a crate the majority of the day. Retired racers therefore make excellent pets, because crating them (even in small apartments) is usually quite easy.

Greyhound adoption groups generally require owners to keep their greyhounds on-leash at all times, except in fully enclosed areas. This is due to their prey-drive, their speed, and the assertion that greyhounds have no road sense. Due to their strength, adoption groups recommend that fences be between 4 and 6 feet, to prevent them being able to jump.

Greyhounds do shed but do not have undercoats and therefore are less likely to trigger people's dog allergies (they are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "hypoallergenic"). The lack of an undercoat, coupled with a general lack of body fat, also makes greyhounds more susceptible to extreme temperatures, and most sources recommend that greyhounds be housed inside.

Greyhounds are very sensitive to insecticides. Many vets do not recommend the use of flea collars or flea spray on greyhounds unless it is a pyrethrin-based product. Products like Advantage, Frontline, Lufenuron, and Amitraz are safe for use on greyhounds and are very effective in controlling fleas and ticks.

It is often believed that greyhounds need a large living space, however, they can thrive in small spaces. Due to their temperament, greyhounds can make better "apartment dogs" than some of the smaller hyperactive breeds .

There are currently two online databases to easily lookup or search for all past and present registered dogs: and Dogs can be searched by their Bertillon number, race name, or other attributes. Data includes photos, race statistics, and pedigree.

Health and Physiology

Greyhound running
Greyhounds are typically a healthy and long-lived breed, and hereditary illness is rare. Some greyhounds have been known to develop esophageal achalasia, bloat (gastric torsion), and osteosarcoma. Because the greyhound's lean physique makes it ill-suited to sleeping on hard surfaces, owners of companion greyhounds generally provide soft bedding; without bedding, greyhounds are prone to develop painful skin sores. The typical greyhound lifespan is 10 to 13 years.

Due to the unique physiology and anatomy of greyhounds, a veterinarian who understands the issues relevant to the breed is generally needed when the dogs need treatment, particularly when anaesthesia is required. Greyhounds cannot metabolize barbiturate-based anesthesia as other breeds can because they have lower amounts of oxidative enzymes in their livers. Greyhounds demonstrate unusual blood chemistry, which can be misread by veterinarians not familiar with the breed; this can result in an incorrect diagnosis.

Greyhounds have higher levels of red blood cells than other breeds. Since red blood cells carry oxygen to the muscles, this higher level allows the hound to move larger quantities of oxygen faster from the lungs to the muscles. Greyhounds have lower levels of platelets than other breeds. Veterinary blood services often use greyhounds as universal blood donors.


The breed's origin is romantically reputed to be connected to ancient Egyptmarker, where depictions of smooth-coated sighthound types have been found which are typical of Saluki (Persian Greyhound) or Sloughi (tombs at Beni Hassan circa 2000BC). However, analyses of DNA reported in 2004 suggest that the Greyhound is not closely related to these Oriental breeds, but is a close relative to herding dogs. Historical literature on the first sighthound in Europe (Arrian), the vertragus, the probable antecedent of the Greyhound, suggests that the origin is with the ancient Celts from Eastern Europe or Eurasia. All modern, pure-bred pedigree Greyhounds, are derived from the greyhound stock recorded and registered, firstly in the private 18th century then public 19th century studbooks, which ultimately were registered with Coursing, Racing, and Kennel Club authorities of the United Kingdom.

Historically, these sighthounds were used primarily for hunting in the open where their keen eyesight is valuable. It is believed that they (or at least similarly-named dogs) were introduced to the area now known as the United Kingdom in the 5th and 6th century BC from Celtic mainland Europe although the Picts and other hunter gatherer tribes of the Northern area (now known as Scotlandmarker) were believed to have had large hounds similar to that of the Deerhound before the 6th century BC.

The name "greyhound" is generally believed to come from the Old English grighund. "Hund" is the antecedent of the modern "hound", but the meaning of "grig" is undetermined, other than in reference to dogs in Old English and Norse. Its origin does not appear to have any common root with the modern word "grey" for color, and indeed the greyhound is seen with a wide variety of coat colors. It is known that in England during the medieval period, lords and royalty keen to own greyhounds for sport, requested they be bred to color variants that made them easier to view and identify in pursuit of their quarry. The lighter colors, patch-like markings and white appeared in the breed that was once ordinarily grey in color. The greyhound is the only dog mentioned by name in the Bible; the King James version names the Greyhound as one of the four things stately in the Proverbs. However, some more recent translations have changed this to strutting rooster, which appears to be a more correct translation of the Hebrew term זַרְזִיר (zarzir).

According to Pokorny the English name "greyhound" does not mean "gray dog/hound", but simply "fair dog". Subsequent words have been derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *g'her- 'shine, twinkle': English gray, Old High German gris 'grey, old', Old Icelandic griss 'piglet, pig', Old Icelandic gryja 'to dawn', gryjandi 'morning twilight', Old Irish grian 'sun', Old Church Slavonic zorja 'morning twilight, brightness'. The common sense of these words is 'to shine; bright'.


Cultural references to greyhounds

Greyhound Bus
The Greyhound Bus Lines bus company, in keeping with their logo which sports a racing greyhound, occasionally airs television commercials starring a talking computer-generated greyhound. The greyhound in these commercial shorts is often noted for his dry, deadpan wit. In holiday season commercials, the greyhound also sings about fare discounts, the song being set to a Christmas carol.


The greyhound is often used as a mascot by sports teams, both professional and amateur, as well as many college and high school teams.




  • Greyhound was the name of several roller coasters in the United States and Canadamarker. None of these rides operate today.

  • In Australia, racing Greyhounds are commonly known in slang terminology as "Dish Lickers" (e.g., "I just won 50 bucks at the Dish Lickers").

See also


  1. American Kennel Club - Breed Colors and Markings
  2. Snow, D.H. and Harris R.C. "Thoroughbreds and Greyhounds: Biochemical Adaptations in Creatures of Nature and of Man" Circulation, Respiration, and Metabolism Berlin: Springer Verlag 1985
  3. Snow, D.H. "The horse and dog, elite athletes - why and how?" Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 44 267 1985
  4. Curtis M Brown. Dog Locomotion and Gait Analysis. Wheat Ridge, Colorado: Hoflin 1986 ISBN 0866670610
  5. Friends of Greyhounds: Greyhound Rescue and Greyhound Adoption in South Florida FAQ. Accessed April 15, 2008
  6. - Large Gazehound Racing Association
  7. - National Oval Track Racing Association
  8. see p.246 Turbervile: A short observation ... concerning coursing
  9. Irish Greyhound Stud Book
  11. ....The majority of pure bred greyhounds are whelped in the Republic of Ireland. Also any sample check on the back breeding on the greyhound data website will show coursing champions within a few generations in the pedigree of track racing champions. Just to give a few examples 2005 Irish Oaks winner Grayslands Pixie is a grand-daughter of Lady Tico the dam of 1992 Irish Coursing Derby winner Newry Hill. 2005 Irish Derby winner He Said So, 2007 Irish Derby winner Razldazl Billy, and 2009 Irish Derby winner College Causeway all have 1983 English Derby Winner I'm Slippy in their immediate pedigree whose dam was coursing bitch Glenroe Bess. The current No. 1 United States sire of Greyhounds running between 0 and 503 meters is Dodgem By Design who is descended from coursing bitch Ballyhenry Black in the fourth generation of his back breeding. The current top sires in Ireland and the UK Top Honcho and Brett Lee have the fully coursing bred Supreme Fun (by Newdown Heather ex Top Note) in the 4th and 5th generations of their respective pedigrees.
  12. [1]
  13. NZKC - Breed Standard - Greyhound - Hound
  14. Livingood, Lee (2000). Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies, p. 19-22. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., Foster City, CA. ISBN 0764552767.
  15. Livingood, Lee (2000). Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies, p. 143-144. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., Foster City, CA. ISBN 0764552767.
  16. Branigan, Cynthia A. (1998). Adopting the Racing Greyhound, p. 17-18. Howell Book House, New York. ISBN 087605193X.
  17. Greyhound Adoption League of Texas, Inc. - About the Athletes
  18. Microsoft Word - SEGA_Foster_Manual_V7_FINAL_JUne_2006.doc
  19. FAQ
  20. Greyhound Adoption Program - Is a Greyhound right for you?
  21. How Safe is an Off-Lead Run? [Adopt a Greyhound]
  22. :: View topic - Leash Rules
  23. Greyhound Angels Adoption
  24. Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option
  25. GRV Clubs - GAP
  26. Blythe, Linda, Gannon, James, Craig, A. Morrie, and Fegan, Desmond P. (2007). Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound, p. 394. American Greyhound Council, Inc., Kansas. ISBN 0964145634.
  27. Branigan, Cynthia A. (1998). Adopting the Racing Greyhound, p. 99-101. Howell Book House, New York. ISBN 087605193X.
  28. Branigan, Cynthia A. (1998). Adopting the Racing Greyhound, p. 101-103. Howell Book House, New York. ISBN 087605193X.
  29. Coile, Caroline, Ph. D., Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds, Barron's Educational Series, 2005, p. 77.
  30. Blythe, Linda, Gannon, James, Craig, A. Morrie, and Fegan, Desmond P. (2007). Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound, p. 416. American Greyhound Council, Inc., Kansas. ISBN 0964145634.
  31. Blythe, Linda, Gannon, James, Craig, A. Morrie, and Fegan, Desmond P. (2007). Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound, p. 82. American Greyhound Council, Inc., Kansas. ISBN 0964145634.
  33. United Blood Services article about Greyhounds as blood donors.
  34. Mark Derr (May 21, 2004). " Collie or Pug? Study Finds the Genetic Code". The New York Times.
  35. Parker et al. (May 21, 2004). "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog". Science volume 304, pp. 1160–4.
  36. Proverbs 30:29–31 King James version.
  37. Pokorny, Indogermanisches Woerterbuch, pp. 441–2.

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