A sure bet
The noble Greyhound is the canine world’s ‘Thoroughbred racehorse’; paradoxically, he’s also a couch potato and makes a fabulous family pet. Despite the Greyhound being well-liked, it is classified by the Kennel Club (KC) as a vulnerable native breed.
Ivor Stocker, executive director of the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT), explains the ambiguous history of the Greyhound: “Some of the earliest recorded cases of man’s affection for his loyal animal friend are found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs – Tutankhamun and Cleopatra VII are known to have had Greyhounds of their own. “Greyhounds also appear in Greek mythology: Actaeon came across the goddess Artemis taking a bath by the river and she punished him by turning him into a stag. He was then hunted down by his own Greyhounds.
“During the Renaissance, Greyhounds were painted and immortalised. The Greyhound is also mentioned in the works of Shakespeare and in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”
Ivor continues: “The Greyhound was a favourite among the aristocracy, who even banned commoners from owning such dogs. The ordinary folk, nevertheless, bred dogs with greater colour variation in their coats. Brindle was a favourite as it made the dogs more difficult to spot as they hunted on the lands from which they were banned. “Greyhounds were owned only by noblemen for hunting, following a ruling by King Canute. The Greyhound’s royal connections continued through the Middle Ages, when they were popular with historical figures such as King Canute of England and King Hywel of Wales.”
Fit for purpose
According to the KC, there are notable differences between Greyhounds bred for showing, racers and hunting dogs; ‘The show animal is somewhat bigger than his racing cousin while the coursing version, which hunts the live hare as opposed to the electric, is, if anything, slightly smaller, giving him greater manoeuvrability. The racing Greyhound was developed from that which was used for coursing.’
So what is a suitable environment for a Greyhound? Ivor explains: “The Greyhound will live in town or country. They don’t need a lot of space but, like all dogs, require their own space in the home. “Greyhounds are fine with all types of people and all age groups – from the young to the elderly. And, by virtue of their easy-going nature, they have an endearing ability to get on with other animals. Most are laid-back and easy-going.” So what’s special about this breed? Ivor says: “The Greyhound is sleek, strongly built with muscular power, has remarkable stamina, endurance and speed – and is intelligent, gentle, affectionate and even-tempered.”
Height & weight: dog: 71-76cm (28-30in), weight 29-32kg (65-70lbs); bitch: 68-71cm (27-28in); weight 27-29kg (60-65lbs).
Lifespan: usually 12-14 years.
Exercise: moderate; minimum two 20-minute walks per day.
Training: easy to train, although when following a scent they may have selective hearing like any other dog. There are Greyhound obedience and agility teams. It is always important to take the correct precautions when introducing a Greyhound for the first time to any other animal. The Greyhound should be on lead and muzzled, and the meeting place should be on neutral territory. Not all Greyhounds can get on with a cat, or other small animals, and it is advisable to take care when out walking or socialising.
Grooming: Greyhounds require little grooming. Like all smooth-coated dogs, you will need to regularly brush your dog, and check the ears, eyes and mouth. Trim the nails when necessary.
Colour: black, white, red, blue, fawn, fallow, brindle or any of these colours broken with white.
Diet: Greyhounds are not big eaters. A well-balanced diet of 18-20 per cent protein is recommended, but always provide plenty of clean, fresh water.
Health: the Greyhound is in great demand as a blood donor to help all other breeds. In later life, the Greyhound can have muscle and joint problems, which may have been sustained during a dog’s racing career. Arthritis can also become a problem.
- For the Greyhound breed standard visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/28
- Expect to pay around £500-£800 for a Greyhound puppy or contact the Retired Greyhound Trust (www.retiredgreyhounds.co.uk; tel. 0844 826 8424) for retired dogs needing homes.
Did you know?
Only the cheetah tops the Greyhound for speed; one racing Greyhound was clocked at over 45mph.
The RGT only deals with ex-racing Greyhounds and asks for a donation from adopters; a figure of £100 is quite normal. The dogs’ average age is between three and four years, but it occasionally has both younger and older dogs. It is rare for the RGT to have puppies to rehome.
Greyhound Club: Mrs E Newsham (secretary), tel. 01706 524993.
Many thanks to Ivor Stocker and the Retired Greyhound Trust for their help in producing this feature. All contact details and prices were correct at time of going to press on 21 June 2010.