The Greyhound is a breed of dog used for companionship, coursing game and racing. It is one of the fastest land mammals; its combination of long, powerful legs, deep chests and aerodynamic build allows it to reach speeds of up to 72 km/h (45 mph).
Dogs (males) are usually 71 to 76 cm (28 to 30 inches) tall at the withers and weigh around 27 to 40 kg (60 to 90 pounds). Bitches (females) tend to be smaller with shoulder heights ranging from 68 to 71 cm (27 to 28 inches) and weights from less than 27 to 34 kg (less than 50 to 75 pounds). 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 (grey) can appear uniquely or in combination.
Gentle, quiet, and affectionate, the greyhound makes a wonderful pet. Despite its reputation for speed, this breed in not considered to be a “high-energy” dog. In fact, when indoors, it will often curl up and take a nap. The greyhound is good with children but rough-housing with the dog should be discouraged. This dog is often compatible with other family pets, including cats, except for those few with an unusually high prey instinct. A retired racer adopted as a pet is often a welcome addition to the family. If raised from puppy-hood, the greyhound should be socialized from an early age to avoid timidity. This breed is loyal, friendly, and sensitive. Overbearing training techniques are discouraged. The greyhound is not prone to excessive barking and is generally easy to housebreak. This breed is even-tempered and graceful – a loyal dog that makes an excellent companion.
The short coat of the greyhound is easily groomed and should be combed or brushed as necessary with a firm bristle brush. When bathing, use dry shampoo and only when absolutely necessary. The greyhound is considered to be an average shedder. Rubbing the coat with a chamois will result in a gleaming, healthy look. Trim the nails on a regular basis. As creatures of habit, it is best to provide the greyhound with a brisk, long walk at the same time every day. Opportunities to run free in a safe, open area are also important. This breed should have no problem living in an apartment as long as it gets enough daily exercise. It is generally not active when indoors. The greyhound is sensitive to the cold because of its thin skin, and a soft, warm bed should be provided. The greyhound can be prone to bloat and should be fed small meals two to three times a day as opposed to one large meal. This breed is sensitive to drugs, including pesticides.
Greyhounds are a 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. Greyhounds typically live 10 – 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. Since greyhounds have much less fat than other dogs, they cannot metabolize anesthesia as quickly as other breeds. 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 do 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. Veterinary blood services often use greyhounds as universal blood donors.
Popularly, the breed’s origin is believed to be traced to ancient Egypt, where a bas-relief depicting a smooth-coated Saluki (Persian Greyhound) or Sloughi was found in a tomb built in 4000 BC. Analyses of DNA reported in 2004, however, suggest that the greyhound is not closely related to these breeds, but is a close relative to herding dogs.
Historically, these sight hounds 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 England in the 5th and 6th centuries BC from Celtic mainland Europe.
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 colour, and indeed the greyhound is seen with a wide variety of coats.
According to Pokorny’s Indogermanisches Woerterbuch (p. 441-442) 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’.
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 States and introduced into United Kingdom and Ireland in 1926.