History of the Greyhound

Being an ancient breed, Greyhounds have a long and rich tapestry of their history.  Below are some articles that explore the breed, and their contribution to the history of Man for the last 3,000 years.  We hope you enjoy reading about the provenance of Greyhounds.


 

Basic Breed Characteristics


For thousands of years greyhounds have been bred to hunt by outrunning their prey. They were not intended to be solitary hunters, but to work with other dogs. Switching from hunting to racing has kept this aspect of their personality very much alive. The fastest breed of dog, greyhounds can reach a top speed of 45 miles per hour, and can average more than 30 miles per hour for distances up to one mile. Selective breeding has given the greyhound an athlete's body with the grace of a dancer. At the same time, the need to anticipate the evasive maneuvers of their prey has endowed the Greyhound with a high degree of intelligence.

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The Bible & Greyhounds

 

The only breed of dog mentioned by name in the Bible is the greyhound (Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version):

There be three things which do well, yea,
Which are comely in going;
A lion, which is strongest among beasts and
Turneth not away from any;
A greyhound;
A he-goat also.

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Middle Ages

Greyhounds nearly became extinct during times of famine in the Middle Ages. They were saved by clergymen who protected them and bred them for the nobility. From this point on, they came to be considered the dogs of the aristocracy. In the tenth century, King Howel of Wales made killing a greyhound punishable by death. King Canute of England established the Forest Laws in 1014, reserving large areas of the country for hunting by the nobility. Only such persons could own greyhounds; any "meane person" (commoner) caught owning a greyhound would be severely punished and the dog's toes "lawed" (mutilated) to prevent it from hunting. The value of a Greyhound exceeded that of a serf, and the punishment for causing death of a Greyhound was equivalent to the punishment for murder. In 1066 William the Conqueror introduced even more stringent forest laws. Commoners who hunted with greyhounds in defiance of these laws favored dogs whose coloring made them harder to spot: black, red, fawn, and brindle. Nobles by contrast favored white and spotted dogs who could be spotted and recovered more easily if lost in the forest. It became common among the English aristocracy to say, "You could tell a gentleman by his horses and his greyhounds." Old paintings and tapestries of hunting feasts often include greyhounds.

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Eighteenth Century

The English Earl of Orford created the first coursing club open to the public in 1776 at Swaffham in Norfolk. At this same time, horse racing went public as well, and both sports became very popular with the public. Orford crossbred greyhounds with several other breeds, including the bulldog, in pursuit of greyhounds with greater stamina. Despite legends to the contrary, his efforts were unsuccessful and there is no evidence that the bloodlines of these crosses survived. Later attempts to cross greyhounds with Afghans also proved ineffective. One of the most famous greyhounds of this century is Snowball, who won four cups and over thirty matches in his coursing career. In the eighteenth century breeders began to keep proper pedigrees of their dogs.

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