Greyhound (Cassell’s Illustrated Book of the Dog, 1881)

Greyhound (Cassell’s Illustrated Book of the Dog, 1881)

History and Development

There is little doubt that the Greyhound is one of the very few breeds which can claim to be true. One of the oldest, it not the oldest, of sporting breeds, it has been recorded as the Gazehound, the hound which runs on the sight of its quarry. This is undoubtedly so; it has very keen eyesight, but this does not mean that the Greyhound is not well equipped to hunt and scent its quarry.

It is a theory held by some that the Greyhound family is nearly as old as civilization. There are wall-paintings in some tombs in the Valley of the Nile which portray dogs of the greyhound type but, of course, one cannot elude the possibility that the Saluki also could be the animal illustrated.

Mention of the breed occurs in the Bible, in the Book of Solomon, Chapter XXX, Verses 29-31: –

There be three things that go well, yea four that are comely in going, a lion which is strongest among beasts and turneth not from any: A greyhound, an he goat also, and a king against whom there is no rising up.

In this ancient world of the Bible, caravans of the merchants and nobles conveyed these hounds along the valleys of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and throughout ancient Iraq and Persia to the colder climate of Afghanistan, where in time, a version emerged with a heavier coat adapted to the harsher climatic conditions. The same thing occurred in Russia, but at all times the beautiful lines of its ancestors were preserved.

It is thought that the Celts brought the Greyhound to Britain. It was called the Celtic hound, and was definitely of the Greyhound type. In chronicles of the 9th century, Saxon chiefs are recorded with greyhound-type dogs, and King Edward the Confessor took much pleasure in hunting with a pack of swift hounds.

In England in the 11th and again in the 14th centuries, laws were made to the effect that only persons of Royal blood or noblemen could possess a Greyhound.

In 1486 Dame Juliana Berners wrote a description of the Greyhound: –

Headed lyke a snake, and necked lyke a drake,
Backed lyke a beam, syded lyke a bream,
Footed lyke a catte, Taylled lyke a ratte.

The Greyhound is prominent in many human activities. As a show dog it is amenable, and its showing attracts many adherents. As a competing dog in sport, and in the hunt it excels; for few of its quarry are fleet enough to escape it. During the past years, as a development of coursing, where the Greyhound was put to live quarry, there has developed a major sport in Britain, and in the United States, highly organized and well attended by aficionados – that of Greyhound racing. The animals are released from pens as an artificial hare passes by. So well are these animals used to competing in these conditions that they obviously need the mechanical “hare” only to start them off. After that they appear whole-heartedly to enjoy racing against each other. Greyhounds were not classified at the first ever dog show, at Newcastle, England, in 1859. A little later, at Islington in London, a few Greyhounds were shown, and from that time the show Greyhound was specified and bred. The “sport” of showing Greyhounds tended to die out and receded to a “stronghold” in Cornwall, England, and the animal was often known as the “Cornish Greyhound”.

The first Greyhound to attain the title of champion on the show bench was called Go Bang, to be followed by Rambling Dan and Radnor Prince. Among the bitches in these early days of showing were Bit of Courage, Helen MacGregor and Mullion Fairy – progenitors of many of our Greyhounds of today?

Greyhound: Color

Greyhounds come in several colors, ranging from black, blue, brindle and white to particolors, any color is accepted by the British Kennel Club. Up to a few years ago there was a prevalence of self-colors, to be followed by a period when particolors were favored, but today we have the above-mentioned varied range of colors in which white markings are probably in the majority.

Greyhound: Care

Looking after a Greyhound is a simple matter. A warm, dry, clean bed is necessary; for the Greyhound s coat is not one to withstand the cold and damp. Change the bed regularly to ensure the absence of parasites. Exercize does not mean running the dog for miles and miles each day; a long walk, on a leash, finishing up with a free, short gallop in a field or park. Before kennelling, give the dog a short run over with a hound glove, and a wipe down. Give it a routine examination to see that all is well physically, and a good meal, one only per day: the Greyhound carries a great deal of bone, and calcium in the diet is necessary, as are the corresponding vitamins. Meat is most essential, whether it be beef or offal. Bones also for teeth and gums.

Puppies are best reared on an assorted diet. It is better to feed whelps a little, often, than one large meal each day. Here again a large bone, one which will not splinter, is a great aid when the adult teeth are coming through; it helps to dispose of the first (milk) teeth.

Greyhound: Character

The Greyhound has a distinctive character all its own. Perhaps its long lineage has given it a certain aloofness, obvious to anyone who has observed it among other breeds. It has a distinct wariness towards strangers but to the owner it gives a love and faithfulness which is not surpassed; in fact in many ways a Greyhound, even the largest, can be really “soft”. As in all breeds there is the occasional odd one which is aggressive, and at the other extreme, extremely timid, and on occasions it has received adverse publicity for attacking other dogs, but this is true of almost all breeds, although few of them are named as is the Greyhound whenever he transgresses in this way. Racing Greyhounds, however, always wear muzzles to prevent fighting.

Greyhound: Standards

The Standard as issued by the British Kennel Club requires that the general appearance of the Greyhound should be that of a strongly-built, upstanding dog of generous proportions, muscular power and symmetrical formation. The head should be long, moderate width, flat skull, with a slight stop. The jaws should be powerful and well chiselled, with the incisor teeth of the upper jaw clipping those of the lower. The neck should be long and muscular, elegantly arched, well let into the shoulders. The shoulders should be oblique, well set back, and the forelegs should be long and straight, with bone of good substance and quality. The chest deep, with ribs deep and well sprung and carried well back. The back should be rather long, broad and square, and the loin powerful, slightly arched. The hindquarters should show the great propelling power of the Greyhound, thighs and second thighs wide and muscular, with stifles well bent and hocks well let down. Feet of moderate length, with compact, well knuckled toes and strong pads.

The tail should be long, set-on rather low, strong at the root and tapering to a point. The coat should be fine and close. The height of dogs should be 28″ to 30″, bitches 27″ to 28″. The American Kennel Club Standard specifics 65 to 70 lbs. for dogs; 60 to 65 lbs. for bitches.

The British Standard differs from the American on one small point. The latter Standard shows a preference for a “hare” foot whereas the former encourages the breeding of “feet lyke a catte”. Which is the more suitable depends on the kind of terrain; where the going is gritty and hard, the hare foot suffers less damage, where it is soft and spongy, the cat foot has the advantage.

Although movement is not mentioned in the Standards it is obvious that it is a major factor. The front legs and feet should move straight and the hind-legs should move in unison but slightly wider. A side view should show the dog appearing to “swim” along, with a smooth rhythm.

Selections from the book: “The World Encyclopedia of Dogs” (1971)