About the Breed: Greyhound

greyhound running in field of dandelions

Constantly topping the charts for the fastest dog breeds, Greyhounds can reach impressive speeds. They are the quickest dog breed in the world by a good margin, and most recognize the breed by this trait.

Its world-renowned speed isn’t the breed’s only quality, however. They can be as laid-back as they are energetic – to the point of laziness. Despite their natural drive to run endlessly after prey, Greyhounds unexpectedly make calm-mannered, well-behaved pets that get along with other dogs and pets in the family.

There is a lot more to Greyhounds than their speed and relaxed nature alone. In this article, we’ll detail the breed’s characteristics, study its origins, and answer commonly asked questions.

Greyhound breed characteristics and statistics

  • The fastest dog breed in the world is none other than the Greyhound. They are excellent sprinters that reach up to 45 miles per hour.

  • Greyhounds have an athletic body, with males standing at 28 to 30 inches tall and females 26 to 28 inches, and a lean figure with an average weight of 60 to 90 pounds.

  • While their bodies enable great speed, it also gives them a peculiar trait. Due to their muscular structure and tall legs, most Greyhounds have difficulties sitting down. They prefer standing or lying down on something comfortable rather than sitting.
    • The readiness to cover short distances unexpectedly comes with a calm personality that is perfectly fine with sleeping all day long.

    • Greyhounds are among the least aggressive dog breeds, and generally get along with strangers and other pets and dogs in the family. However, their drive to chase small things might lure them into going after cats or toy breeds. Their prey drive must be kept in check.

    • Greyhounds are one of the healthiest dog breeds with no hereditary health problems. There are only minor health issues to watch out for, such as osteosarcoma, esophageal achalasia, and gastric torsion.
    greyhound running in field of dandelions

    History of the Greyhound

    Greyhounds are one of the oldest purebred domesticated dogs. The history of the breed dates back to Ancient Egypt, where they were considered an important part of the family. The death of a Greyhound was mourned to the same extent as a human. The families stopped eating, shaved their heads, wailed, and mummified and buried their Greyhounds with their owners. The breed also has a place in Greek and Roman mythology and is the only dog breed that is mentioned in the Bible, including the King James version in Proverbs 30:29-31.

    The naming of the breed is believed to come from ‘grighund.’ The hund is the Old English antecedent to hound, but what the ‘grig’ means is unknown. Many historians and linguists argue that it means fair, pointing out that Greyhound originally meant ‘fair dog’. Indeed, Greyhounds were an asset to both the commoners and the elite. Commoners utilized the Greyhounds for hunting, and the elite for the sport of chase.

    In the Middle Ages, the breed became almost extinct due to famine. Priests provided protection to the handful of Greyhounds that remained and bred them for the nobility. Later, laws went into effect that only nobility could own and maintain Greyhounds – laws which lasted for nearly 400 years. Even after the ruling was changed, Greyhounds remained exclusive to the elite.

    When agriculture ramped up and alternative food sources became available, there was less of a requirement for chasing game. This shifted the breed’s focus to races, where the speed and agility of the Greyhound made it the perfect fit. Soon after, many Greyhounds were specifically bred for speed to win races. The Greyhound was first recognized by the AKC in 1885, and races were introduced into the United States in the 1920s.

    Current uses of the Greyhound

    While Greyhound racing was very popular throughout the years, it saw a significant decrease since the 1990s and is now primarily active in only Arkansas and West Virginia. Greyhound racing in the world is mostly losing popularity, with only a handful of countries having multiple active race tracks. The countries with a sizable Greyhound racing following are the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. Several nonprofit organizations and rescues specialize in helping retired Greyhounds find new homes. Many Greyhounds retired from the races get easily adjusted to a new way of life and make well-behaved pets that are easy to train.

    The calm, laid-back nature of the breed and the relatively low maintenance needs make it the perfect pet for many individuals and families. Although they are a relatively large dog breed, Greyhounds are just as gentle and polite as they are fast. They go well with children and other pets in the family, fitting right in. 

    Greyhounds can adapt to pretty much any household. However, they thrive in large spaces where they can use their inherent ability to run. They need open spaces to sprint, and love snuggling on the couch with their owners after a long day. They are quiet, intelligent, loyal, shed only slightly, and are overall good-natured dogs.

    These traits make Greyhounds wonderful pets. Whether it is a pup retired from racing or from a breeder, they are excellent pets that are very docile and easy-going.

    greyhounds racing at track

    Frequently Asked Questions about the Greyhound

    You can adopt a Greyhound through nonprofits that specialize in placing retired Greyhounds in homes. There are several rescues and nonprofits, like the National Greyhound Adoption Program and The Greyhound Project. To make the transition easier, you can get guidance from the countless guides and books published on adopting a retired racing Greyhound.

    The Greyhound is the fastest dog breed in the world at running speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. They can sustain their top speed for 270 to 300 yards, making the breed an excellent sprinter that runs exceptionally fast. It is also capable of maintaining its speed for long durations. Greyhounds excel at dog sports like Fast CAT.

    Greyhounds are as good at jumping as they are at running. In fact, Feather, a female Greyhound, holds the Guinness World Record for the highest jump by a dog at 6 feet 3.47 inches. This record aside, it isn’t uncommon for a Greyhound to effortlessly jump over a five feet fence with their tall, athletic body.

    Greyhounds typically live between 12 and 15 years. The Greyhound isn’t a breed prone to developing deadly illnesses, and are generally healthy dogs. They live a happy, long life, provided with regular vet visits, a good diet, and adequate daily exercise.

    It would come to mind that Greyhounds need a lot of exercise, considering how fast they can run. Surprisingly, they are very calm and laid-back dogs that don’t require that much exercise. Daily walks of half an hour to an hour are enough to keep a Greyhound healthy. Greyhounds love the outdoors and chasing after things. 

    This article was originally published on December 18, 2014, and was updated on November 26, 2022.