Greyhounds are tall, lean and muscular dogs built for hunting and speed. They have a height average of 24-28 inches. Males weigh between 65 and 70 pounds, while females weigh between 60 and 65 pounds. Some greyhounds can weigh up to 100 pounds or more depending on muscle mass, and some can be as tall as 30 inches at the shoulder. They have short, smooth coats and can be any color.
The greyhound has very old roots in a history that dates back centuries ago in Egypt. Tomb carvings depicting the dogs were discovered in ancient Egypt and originated from around 2900 B.C. At times the dogs were bred only by royalty, and they were avid hunters in England (rabbit is their quintessential antagonist). They appeared in the United States with Spanish settlers in the 1500s, and greyhounds were among the first recorded dogs to attend the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. They became recognized by the AKC in 1885.
With the invention of the mechanical hare in the early 20th century, greyhounds were used in races at a track to chase after the fake prey. This was originally designed to stop the killing of rabbits, and a century later we have seen many changes in this “sport.”
Amid lower profits, huge financial losses and the urging of animal rights activists to end the racing, only 22 of 49 tracks remain today. Greyhounds retire from racing and some have difficulty finding a home (sadly, the unlucky ones never make it that far). Greyhounds that have been used for racing usually have an ear tattoo for identification.
Greyhounds have a deep history in racing, but recent efforts to remove them from the sport have returned them to a companion animal and show dog.
Hounds that love to hunt game are independent by nature, and the greyhound is no exception. They don’t take commands well without positive and patient reinforcement, but they can be trained. They are loyal, lovable, affectionate pets that prefer the company of humans and dogs alike. They do well with children for the most part, but they have a lower tolerance than most breeds. A household with children younger than 8 is not recommended for a greyhound, although exceptions are possible.
Greyhounds have a tendency to grab any food in sight, whether it be on a table or kitchen counter, so use gates to contain this area or train your pet to avoid this behavior. Many greyhound owners will tell you that their dogs are couch potatoes and love to snuggle more than other dogs (and they have an affinity for long naps on soft sofas and beds). They do not perform well with crating for several hours at a time and may experience separation anxiety. Barriers or baby gates are recommended to contain the dog to a specific area that is not too small. Bathrooms are not acceptable as a containment or crating option for greyhounds and should be avoided.
Greyhounds enjoy exercise more than they need it. They are lean and muscular, so they should not allowed to become inactive, but a short daily walk or run around the yard a few times per day is sufficient. If you are venturing farther away from home, keep your dog on a leash. Greyhounds have a tendency to run — and they’re fast. Really fast.
Greyhounds are sensitive to extreme temperatures and cannot live outdoors. An old friend of mine ran a greyhound rescue, and most of the dogs she took in (sometimes as many as 20) were old or sick and could not be exposed to extreme temperature changes. When Hurricane Katrina arrived in Louisiana, she had too many dogs to make an evacuation feasible. The storm caused days and weeks of power outages, and the heat in the South can be unbearable at times. We delivered generators and as many window air conditioner units as we could while the power was still out, but unfortunately some of the dogs did not survive the heat. Please keep climate control in mind if you plan to acquire a greyhound.
The coat of a greyhound consists of a single, thin layer that is short and smooth. As with most animals, some shedding is expected. Weekly brushing is recommended, as well as regular nail clippings and cleaning of the ears. Bathing can be as little as once every six months; greyhounds have very little oil in their skin and very little odor. If you do need or decide to bathe your dog, make sure the temperature is warm — not cold or hot. Again, the greyhound is sensitive to temperatures and this includes water temperatures.
Use a gentle conditioning shampoo made only for dogs and rinse thoroughly. Any remaining shampoo residue can greatly irritate the skin. Make sure to dry the dog completely so it is not subjected to chills.
Common Health Problems
Health problems are possible with any pet, and below is a short listing of those that are common in greyhounds:
- Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is the leading cause of death. Limping should be taken seriously and include a vet trip.
- Hypothyroidism is caused by a lower level of thyroid hormone and can be treated with medication. Normal levels for this breed can vary by vet opinion, and additional tests may be necessary. Learn more about thyroid problems in dogs.
- Kidney disease is common with the breed, but they also have a creatinine level that is slightly higher than other breeds. If your vet diagnoses your dog only based on an elevated creatinine level, get a second opinion.
- Corns appear like calluses on the paw pads and are often misdiagnosed as arthritis because of the pain involved. Special canine boots are available, as well as minor surgery to remove the corns.
- Pannus occurs when the cornea is inflamed. Treatment usually involves eye drops for the life of the pet; without it the dog might experience blindness.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) can appear to come on suddenly as a stroke, blindness, blood clot or as a result of another condition. The systolic reading is higher than other breeds and considered normal up to 150 mmHg, and regular screening is recommended.
Is the Greyhound the Right Dog for You?
These dogs are tall, lean and full of spunk. They have an extremely strong prey instinct for small animals, especially rabbits, and this should be taken into consideration when considering one for a pet. They have a tendency to be less than tolerant with younger children but are not aggressive dogs. They need daily exercise or access to a yard, so they are not ideal for apartments unless you can commit to an outing once or twice a day. They are loyal, affectionate dogs that love the company of their owners and can have some pretty comical personalities. If this sounds like a match to you, please consider adopting a retired racing greyhound or one from a rescue group.
- The greyhound is the fastest breed of dog.
- General George A. Custer was an avid fan of the breed.
- The earliest evidence of the greyhound was found in a tomb in the Valley of the Nile in Egypt.
- The name is derived from “Graius,” meaning “Grecian” owing to their prominence of the color gray.
- Eighteen greyhounds were in attendance at the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1877.
- George Washington was almost always accompanied by his greyhound named Azor.
- GREY2KUSA works to end dog racing and has a list of adoption groups by state.
- Medical Idiosyncrasies [PDF] report on greyhounds by a veterinarian.
Photos: liza31337 (top), aturkus/Flickr
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