Racing Into the Homes and Hearts of Families
As an acclaimed racing dog, the greyhound is admittedly a very fast runner. But when you realize that the only other animal known to outpace the greyhound is a cheetah, you get a good idea of just how fast this dog really is.
While a greyhound can keep the pace alongside your car while you drive 40 plus miles per hour, this endearingly loveable breed would rather be curled up next to you on the couch. Thanks to the efforts of adoption programs, retired racing greyhounds are getting a second chance at life in the comfort of homes around the world.
There has been ongoing speculation that the greyhound has roots in Ancient Egypt, in company with other sighthounds such as the saluki; however, DNA analysis reveals that the greyhound is not related to early Egyptian breeds. One might be surprised to learn that the greyhound is, in fact, related to herding dogs.
European historical literature suggests that the greyhound’s origins connected to the “vertragus,” a dog native to ancient Greece and Rome used for hunting and guarding, one that traveled with both shepherds and soldiers throughout Europe and ended up in the Celtic mainland during the 5th and 6th centuries.
Modern-day greyhounds can officially trace their lineage through private and public registries of the United Kingdom during the 18th and 19th centuries. To this day, the majority of pure-bred greyhounds come from Ireland. Using their dog’s Bertillon number or race name, owners can trace their greyhound’s roots through two online databases: Greyhound-Data.com and Rosnet2000.com.
Bred primarily for hunting deer and hare, the greyhound was introduced to racing in the early 20th century. This exceptionally fast breed traveled to the United States, England and Ireland as a professional racing dog. The greyhound, in fact, holds the record as the fastest recorded dog in history.
International greyhound adoption programs established to rescue retired racing greyhounds have given new meaning to the lives of these dogs, placing them in homes for loving companionship.
Greyhounds are known to be gentle, sensitive and intelligent dogs that bond quickly to their human companions. Despite its intense racing background, this breed has a calm personality. In fact, these dogs are affectionately called “45-mile-an-hour couch potatoes” because they prefer to stay close to family members, often shadowing them around the house. Typically reserved toward strangers, greyhounds will usually wait for a signal from their owner that it’s okay to approach.
The breed is good with children and other dogs, but should be monitored closely while socializing with a household cat until trust is established; it is important to ensure that the greyhound—which is accustomed to chasing small animals—does not confuse the cat as prey. With daily training, a greyhound can establish a relationship with a family cat that is non-threatening.
Greyhounds that have been adopted post-racing career usually transition well from life in a kennel to the comforts of a loving home with a cozy bed and squeaky toys. Patience is key when your greyhound is learning how to climb up stairs, navigate on hardwood or tile floors and get used to bright, open windows.
Retired greyhounds are comfortable in a “pack” environment, which is why families will often adopt a pair of greyhounds rather than just one. Greyhounds are known to experience less separation anxiety with a companion dog close by.
Greyhounds are also known to be clever hoarders, collecting shiny objects like watches, remote controls, articles of clothing and other items that catch their attention, and hiding them in their crate or bed.
The greyhound has a distinctive appearance, with a deep barrel chest, a long tail and a narrow head with small, floppy ears. Its long, powerful legs are responsible for their super-fast speed (clocked at a top speed of 43 miles per hour) usually seen on a race track or in a dog park.
Despite their notably slim physique, greyhounds weigh an average of 60 to 88 pounds, putting the breed in the medium to large-breed category.
Greyhounds have a very short fur coat, which is smooth to the touch and easy to maintain. A greyhound can be one of 30 different color combinations, including blue (gray), black, brindle, fawn, red and white.
In cool climates, you may see greyhounds sporting a sweater or coat to help keep them warm.
Greyhounds are typically healthy dogs, rarely diagnosed with hereditary illness. However, some medical conditions, while generally uncommon, are known to occur in the breed. Your greyhound will not necessarily develop the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.
- Anesthesia sensitivity occurs in this breed, therefore a veterinarian with greyhound experience is recommended. Barbiturate anesthetics are not safe to use in sighthound breeds. Barbiturates and some other drugs are processed poorly by the liver of sighthounds and they have little body fat for storage of drugs. Barbiturates tend to linger longer in their system than most breeds causing difficulty recovering from anesthesia. Veterinarians are aware of sighthound intolerance to certain drugs and have safe anesthetic protocols for the breed.
- Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) is one of the most common cancers in greyhounds. It most often occurs in the leg bones, but can occur elsewhere.
- Esophageal achalasia is a disorder of the smooth layer of the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter which prevents the smooth muscle to move food down the esophagus. Symptoms can include difficulty swallowing and weight loss. While a cure is not available, treatment is possible.
- Insecticide sensitivity: Greyhounds are extremely sensitive to organophosphate insecticides, therefore flea collars and flea spray is not recommended unless it is pyrethrin-based. Products such as Advantage, Frontline, Lufenuron and Amitraz are generally safe to use for flea control. Please consult with your veterinarian before administering a flea and tick prevention product on your greyhound.
- Skin sores can develop on a greyhound’s body if he doesn’t have proper bedding on which to sleep. Due to the breed’s lean build and thin fur, a greyhound should be provided soft, durable bedding to ensure comfort and prevent painful sores from occurring.
- Stomach bloat or torsion (also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV) is very serious and often deadly condition where the stomach becomes painfully distended, either due to food, water or gas. The distended stomach then has a tendency to rotate twisting off its own blood supply and the only exit routes for the gas inside. Symptoms include heavy salivating within a couple hours after eating, heavy panting or breathing within several hours of eating or drinking an excessive amount of water, a swollen belly, dry heaving and unusual weakness. Bloat and stomach torsion is a life threatening situation. Immediate veterinary care is highly recommended should you suspect your greyhound is showing signs of bloating.