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Greyhounds are known for racing, but they're an ancient breed with records dating back 8,000 years. Today, this breed is known for being gentle, graceful, and intelligent. Greyhounds are a popular family pet because they're clean, quiet, and loving.
Even though they're a racing and hunting breed, greyhounds are laid back. They prefer to sprint, so they'll release their energy in short spurts, making them easy to care for. You may be able to find greyhounds retired from the racing world in shelters, or you can adopt one from a reputable breeder.
Wondering if a greyhound is right for you? Keep reading to learn more about this unique breed.
- History & Origin Of Greyhounds
- Physical Attributes Of Greyhounds
- Behavioral Characteristics Of Greyhound Dogs
- Greyhound Care & Health
- Greyhound: FAQs
- Final Notes
History & Origin Of Greyhounds
The greyhound dog is an ancient breed, with images of them dating back to 3000 BCE in an Egyptian tomb.1 They're also the fastest breed and can reach up to 45 miles per hour. Greyhounds weren't seen solely as pets in ancient times. Instead, their ancestors were considered gods, and they became a symbol of royalty.2
Greyhounds also appear in Greek and Roman mythology, and during the Dark Ages, they were saved by priests who bred them for noblemen.2 Many of your favorite historical figures — such as Queen Elizabeth I — owned greyhound dogs. Then, during the Renaissance, coursing races with dogs chasing rabbits became a popular pastime.3
During the 19th century, dogs became available to breed for a fee, and King Cob, a greyhound, was the first successful public stud dog. As such, the greyhound breed population grew in Britain during this time.
Greyhounds were later imported to North America from Ireland and England to hunt jackrabbits on midwestern farms and became popular in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.3 It didn't take long for America to start racing them. Additionally, greyhounds were used as scouts to help spot Native Americans since they could keep up with horses, and General George Custer had a pack of 22 racing greyhounds.3
Racing remained popular throughout the 20th century, but the greyhound breed population declined in the 1960s, with many tracks closing decades after. However, the popularity of greyhound racing hasn't decreased, with many racing competitions still happening today.
Physical Attributes Of Greyhounds
Male greyhound dogs are 28 to 30 inches tall, with females slightly shorter. They can weigh anywhere from 60 to 70 pounds, so they're not technically a large or medium-sized dog breed and instead fall somewhere in between. Greyhounds have a life expectancy of 10 to 13 years.4
Greyhounds have long legs, narrow heads, long necks, and deep chests with slim tails.1 Their short, smooth coat ranges from black to blue, red, fawn, and white.3 Their bodies are graceful yet muscular, and they're known for being quite thin, although they should have a healthy layer of fat covering them.
Behavioral Characteristics Of Greyhound Dogs
Greyhounds make good family pets. However, their behavior largely depends on how they're raised. Many greyhounds are affectionate with family and good with children and other dogs.4 Bred for hunting and racing, they're a smart breed but less eager to please than other types of dogs. The greyhound temperament is known to be sweet and fun-loving but independent.1 Therefore, it's essential to invest in obedience training as soon as possible because they can be slow to follow commands, especially retired greyhounds who are used to thinking for themselves while participating in coursing games.
Additionally, they have relatively high energy levels, so they require enough exercise daily to prevent destructive behavior from boredom or anxiety.4 Still, they're sprinters, so they don't require hours of activity every day. Instead, they prefer to run in short stretches at full speed.1
This breed is highly adaptable and can acclimate to changes in routine, but you should still ensure they have daily habits to help them know what to expect from their day. Luckily, they don't require much mental stimulation, but they're not happy just lounging on the couch all day.1 Instead, you should aim to provide your greyhound with mentally stimulating activities like treat-dispensing toys or nose work.
While they were once bred for hunting, they're not very vigilant or protective but fall in the middle of the spectrum for barking.1 Therefore, they won't bark at everything like some breeds, but they may bark at strangers approaching your home to alert you of their presence.
Greyhounds may be considered a large breed, but they still make some of the best apartment dogs if you can provide them with enough mental and physical exercise. Since they're sprinters, they're less active than many breeds. However, you should take them to a park where you can unleash them and let them run full speed to help them burn some excess energy. Additionally, retired greyhounds are usually around two to four years old, so you can adopt an already-trained adult dog.
With all these things in mind, every greyhound is different. While there are some general behavioral characteristics, the behavior of individual greyhounds varies and depends on their upbringing.
Greyhound Care & Health
Greyhounds are a strong and healthy breed, but they're prone to certain health issues, including neuropathy and gastric torsion. However, if you adopt a retired greyhound, you can rest assured they're free from any hereditary health conditions. In addition, if you adopt a greyhound puppy from a rescue or breeder, you can learn about their health history to ensure you know what to expect.
Some common health problems for greyhounds include the following:
- Bloat: Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat, is a medical condition that causes the stomach to fill with air and pressure. This pressure can prevent blood flow to the legs and abdomen, potentially causing the stomach to flip. When the blood can't return to the heart, the pancreas produces toxic hormones, leading to death. While the cause of bloat is unknown, you can talk to your vet about how to reduce the potential of bloat in your greyhound.
- Bone cancer: Bone cancer commonly affects large breeds like greyhounds. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of cancer that affects the bones and gradually eats away at bone tissue.5 Dogs with this type of cancer can have damaged bones that break easily, swelling, or sudden lameness.5
- Arthritis and hip problems: Many greyhounds have arthritis, especially as they age, due to athletic wear and tear from racing, training, and living in crates.6 Unfortunately, many dogs are good at hiding their pain, so pet parents might not realize their dogs have arthritis until the symptoms worsen. Symptoms of arthritis in dogs range from swelling to lameness and stiffness. However, several treatment options are available to make your dog more comfortable.
- Hair loss: Hair loss is another common health issue in greyhounds. They often suffer from bald thigh syndrome (BTS), which causes pattern baldness across the thighs. Unfortunately, the cause is unknown.7 Luckily, this alopecia is an aesthetic issue and doesn't affect a dog's health.
In addition to being aware of the various potential health issues of greyhounds, you can ensure your dog's health by keeping them a healthy weight and providing them with a balanced diet. Greyhounds should eat high-quality food appropriate for their age.4 For example, if your greyhound is an adult, it should eat food formulated for adults to ensure they get the right balance of nutrients.
How much your greyhound needs to eat largely depends on their activity level. Since greyhounds are sprinters, they spend much of their time lying around instead of running in the yard or engaging in play. However, some dogs are more energetic than others. The more active your dog is, the more they need to eat. You can consult your vet for feeding guidelines based on age, health, and lifestyle.
Greyhounds don't need a job like other hunting or working breeds. Instead, they're happy lounging between bursts of exercise. Most greyhounds only need a long walk around the block to satisfy their exercise requirement, but you should consider taking your greyhound somewhere with open space to let them run at full speed. That said, since greyhounds have a strong prey drive, it's best to let them run in a fenced area to prevent them from getting distracted and running after an animal.4
Greyhounds are smart, but that doesn't mean they're easily trainable. Some pet parents would even call them stubborn. Training this breed is challenging because the greyhound temperament is independent. Greyhound racing requires them to think independently; there are no human handlers to tell them what to do during a race.4 Therefore, your greyhound might prefer to make their own decisions rather than listen to commands.
In addition to obedience training, greyhounds require socialization when they're young. They should learn to behave around children and other animals to prevent potentially dangerous situations. Socialization will also help them feel more confident in new situations.
While training a greyhound can be challenging and time-consuming, grooming them is simple. Greyhounds have a smooth, short coat that doesn't need to be brushed often.4 Additionally, they'll need regular baths and nail trimmings.
Do greyhound dogs make good pets?
Greyhounds make great pets because they're good-natured, smart, calm, and gentle. But, of course, whether your greyhound would make a good pet depends on their training and upbringing. These dogs are laid back, so you won't have to worry about entertaining them constantly, making them easy to care for as long as you give them some time in the yard to run at full speed.
How much does a greyhound cost?
Greyhounds are purebred dogs, which means they're more expensive than other breeds. If you purchase a dog from a breeder, they can cost a few thousand dollars. However, you can find retired greyhounds at your local pet shelter or rescue for a much cheaper adoption fee.
Are greyhounds apartment dogs?
Greyhounds are generally relaxed as long as they get enough exercise, so they're good apartment dogs. That said, a greyhound's size might prevent you from getting one if you live in an apartment. They're large, so it depends on your available space.
In addition, since your pet won't have access to a backyard while living in an apartment, it's crucial to develop a walk or potty schedule that allows them to burn off excess energy and relieve themselves.
Greyhounds are a popular ancient breed many love for their unique appearance and gentle, loving nature. Since they're laid back, they make great family pets and dogs for first-time owners. However, they can be challenging to train, so setting aside enough time every day to work with them is crucial.Aside from training, caring for a greyhound is fairly easy since they're smart and have short fur that doesn't require too much grooming. However, they can be prone to health issues. Try Dutch pet telemedicine today for advice on how to care for a greyhound.
"Greyhound." Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 Jan. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/animal/greyhound-dog.
Jayde, Charlie. "The History of the Greyhound: Then to Now." The History of the Greyhound: Then to Now | Greyhounds As Pets, https://gapsa.org.au/blog/the-history-of-the-greyhound-then-to-now/.
"History of Greyhounds." FastFriends, https://www.fastfriends.org/history-of-greyhounds.
Paulenoff, Simon. "Greyhound Dog Breed Information." American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/greyhound/.
“Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma).” GAP, 2 Dec. 2020, https://gap.grv.org.au/osteosarcoma-bone-cancer-greyhounds/.
"Arthritis." Greyhound Gang, https://www.greyhoundgang.org/learn/health/arthritis/.
Brunner, Magdalena A T, et al. “Bald Thigh Syndrome in Sighthounds-Revisiting the Cause of a Well-Known Disease.” PloS One, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Feb. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6386255/.