Information about the Greyhound
The Greyhound is a breed of sighthound that has been primarily bred for coursing game and racing, and the breed has also recently seen a resurgence in its popularity as a pedigree show dog and family pet. It is a gentle and intelligent breed. A combination of long, powerful legs, deep chest, flexible spine, and slim build allows it to reach average race speeds in excess of 18 metres per second (59 feet per second) or 63 kilometres per hour (39 mph). At maximum acceleration, a greyhound reaches a full speed of 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) within 30 metres or six strides from the boxes, traveling at almost 20 metres per second for the first 250 metres of a race. The only other animal that can accelerate faster over a short distance is the cheetah, which can reach speeds of 109 kilometres per hour (68 mph) over 3-4 strides from a standing start.
Males are usually 71 to 76 centimetres (28 to 30 in) tall at the withers and weigh around 27 to 40 kilograms (60 to 88 lb). Females tend to be smaller with shoulder heights ranging from 68 to 71 centimetres (27 to 28 in) and weights from less than 27 to 34 kilograms (60 to 75 lb). 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.
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.
The Greyhound is not an aggressive dog, as some may believe due to muzzles worn during racing. Muzzles are worn to prevent injuries resulting from dogs nipping one another during or immediately after a race, when the ‘hare’ has disappeared out of sight and the dogs are no longer racing but still excited. The thin skin of the Greyhound can tear easily from a small nick from teeth, so even a minor skirmish can result in stitches and time out from racing. Greyhounds with a high prey drive occasionally wear muzzles outside the racetrack; owners aware that their Greyhound has a high tendency to chase small prey will protect the prey by applying the muzzle.
Contrary to popular belief, adult Greyhounds do not need extended periods of daily exercise, as they are bred for sprinting rather than endurance. Greyhound puppies that have not been taught how to utilize their energy, however, can be hyperactive and destructive if not given an outlet, and they require more experienced handlers.
Greyhound owners and adoption groups consider Greyhounds to be wonderful pets.
Greyhounds are quiet, gentle, and loyal to owners. They are very loving creatures, and they enjoy the company of their humans and other dogs. Whether a Greyhound enjoys the company of other small animals or cats depends on the individual dog’s personality. Greyhounds will typically chase small animals; those lacking a high ‘prey drive’ will be able to coexist happily with toy dog breeds and/or cats. At least one owner has described his Greyhound (a retired racing dog) as a “45 mile per hour couch potato”.
Greyhounds live most happily as pets in quiet environments. They do well in families with children as long as the children are taught to treat the dog properly and with politeness and appropriate respect. Greyhounds have a sensitive nature, and gentle commands work best as training methods.
They are pack-oriented dogs, which means that they will quickly adopt humans into their pack as alpha. Greyhounds occasionally develop separation anxiety when re-housed or when their owners have to leave them alone for a period of time. The addition of a second Greyhound often solves this problem.
Occasionally, a greyhound may bark, however greyhounds are generally not barkers, which is beneficial in suburban environments, and they are usually as friendly to strangers as they are with their own family.
A very common misconception regarding Greyhounds is that they are hyperactive. In retired racing Greyhounds, this is usually not the case. Greyhounds can live comfortably as apartment dogs, as they do not require much space and sleep close to 18 hours per day. In fact, due to their calm temperament, Greyhounds can make better “apartment dogs” than smaller, more active breeds.
At some race tracks, 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. Crate training a retired greyhound in a home is therefore generally extremely easy.
Many Greyhound adoption groups recommend that owners keep their Greyhounds on a leash whenever outdoors, except in fully enclosed areas. This is due to their prey-drive, their speed, and the assertion that Greyhounds have no road sense. However a good run at least once a week is important especially for younger greyhounds and suitable areas can usually be found. Due to their size and strength, adoption groups recommend that fences be between 4 and 6 feet, to prevent them from jumping out.
Two online databases are available to search for all past and present registered purebred Greyhounds: Greyhound-Data.com and Rosnet2000.com Dogs can be searched by their Bertillon number, race name, or other attributes. Data includes photos, race statistics, and pedigree.
The original primary use of Greyhounds, both in the British Isles and on the Continent of Europe, was in the coursing of deer. Later, they specialized in competition hare coursing. Some Greyhounds today are still used for coursing, although artificial lure sports like lure coursing and racing are far more common and popular.
However, many breeders of racing Greyhound argue that coursing is still 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 prominence in the line. Many of the leading sprinters over 300 yards to 550 yards have bloodlines traceable back through Irish sires within a few generations that won events such as the Irish Coursing Derby or the Irish Cup. The majority of pure-bred Greyhounds are whelped in Ireland. Researching via Greyhound data websites will note coursing champions within a few generations in the pedigree of track racing champions.
Until the early twentieth century, Greyhounds were principally bred and trained for hunting and coursing. During the 1920s, modern Greyhound racing was introduced into the United States and England (Belle Vue Stadium, Manchester, July 1926), as well as Northern Ireland (Celtic Park (Belfast), April 1927) and the Republic of Ireland (Shelbourne Park, Dublin). 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.
Historically the Greyhound has since its first appearance as a hunting type and breed, enjoyed a specific degree of fame and definition in Western literature heraldry and art, as the most elegant or noble companion and hunter of the canine world. In modern times, the professional racing industry with its large numbers of track bred Greyhounds, as well as the international adoption programs aimed at rescuing and re-homing dogs surplus to the industry, have redefined the breed in their almost mutually dependent pursuit of its welfare, as a sporting dog that will supply friendly companionship in its retirement. Outside the racing industry and coursing community, the Kennel Clubs’ registered breed still enjoys a modest following as a show dog and pet. There is an emerging pattern visible in recent years (2009-2010), of a significant decline in track betting and multiple track closures in the US, which will have consequences for the origin of future companion Greyhounds, and the re-homing of current ex-racers.
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 Greyhound’s unique physiology and anatomy, a veterinarian who understands the issues relevant to the breed is generally needed when the dogs need treatment, particularly when anesthesia 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 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.
Greyhounds also 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. Conversely, Greyhounds have lower levels of platelets than other breeds. Veterinary blood services often use Greyhounds as universal blood donors.
Greyhounds do not have undercoats and thus are less likely to trigger dog allergies in humans (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; because of this, they must be housed inside.
The breed’s origin is romantically reputed to be connected to Ancient Egypt, where depictions of smooth-coated sighthound types have been found which are typical of saluki (Persian greyhound) or sloughi (tombs at Beni Hassan c. 2000 BC). However, analyses of DNA reported in 2004 suggest that the Greyhound is not closely related to these 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 peoples of the northern area now known as Scotland were believed to have had large hounds similar to that of the deerhound before the 6th century BC.