13 Fast Facts About Greyhounds
These speedy dogs are loyal, loving, and surprisingly low-key. Read on for more facts about the regal greyhound.
1. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS HAD THEM.
Greyhounds have been around for roughly 3500 years and are believed to have mingled with the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Persians. One greyhound even makes an appearance in The Odyssey: Odysseus’ greyhound Argos is the only one to recognize him when he returns home in disguise.
2. RABBITS HAD TO LOOK OUT.
A sport that began in Ancient Greece (and eventually moved to England), hunters and their greyhounds participated in “coursing” events, in which dogs would rely on sight, rather than scent, to chase down prey such as rabbits. (The opportunity for the owners to show off their dogs' athleticism was considered more important than the actual hunting.) Coursing eventually led to dog racing and, in 1912, the invention of the mechanical rabbit.
3. THEY’RE FAST.
Thanks to their lean bodies and long, powerful legs, greyhounds can reach speeds up to 45 mph, and it only takes three strides for them to reach 30 mph. (For context, the fastest speed for a racehorse is 43 miles per hour.)
Because greyhounds are so thin, it takes less energy for them to rocket themselves forward. If you watch them in action, you’ll notice that the dogs pick up all four feet at two points when they run: Once when their legs are fully extended and a second time when their legs are tucked under their bodies. As a result, the dogs appear to almost glide through the air. This four-time gait is called a double suspension gallop.
4. THEY CAN SEE WHAT’S BEHIND THEM.
Greyhounds, like other sighthounds, have thin heads with widely spread eyes. This unusual eye placement gives the dog 270 degree vision, meaning they can see some of the back of their head. In comparison, humans can only see 180 degrees, with very little peripheral vision.
5. THEY SEEM TO HAVE NO CLUE HOW BIG THEY ARE.
Greyhounds do not belong in the toy class, but they certainly act like it. These medium-sized dogs have no problem climbing into your lap and asking to be picked up.
6. DID WE MENTION THEY'RE LEAN?
Despite standing at 27 to 30 inches tall, these lanky dogs usually only weigh about 60 to 70 pounds on average. In comparison, the stocky Bernese mountain dog generally grows to be just 28 inches tall but easily breaks 100 pounds on average.
7. THEY HAVE TROUBLE SITTING.
Greyhounds can sit, but they don’t enjoy it. Thanks to their very tight muscles, the dogs have trouble sitting like other breeds—it’s rare for their rumps to actually touch the floor when they hunker down. Most greyhounds opt for standing or lying on something comfortable instead.
8. SWIMMING IS HARD TOO.
Similar to humans, every greyhound is different when it comes to their aquatic abilities. Some owners have watched their dogs paddle expertly, while others have seen their pups sink like rocks. Dogs like Labradors and poodles have an inherit knack for swimming, but greyhounds need a little more coaxing. If you really want your canine to jump in the water with you, you can always get them swimming lessons.
9. THE GREYHOUND BUS COMPANY HAD A REAL GREYHOUND AS ITS MASCOT.
In 1957, the Greyhound Corporation decided that they wanted to rebrand their bus company as a high-class transportation option. They chose a three-month-old greyhound puppy to be the new, well-bred face of the company. She was dubbed Lady Greyhound, though her real name was a decidedly less elegant Steverino. As her pedigree dictated, she wore a rhinestone collar and tiara.
She made her first appearance in a commercial that aired on The Steve Allen Show. The same year, the Dog Welfare Guild named her “Queen of National Dog Week” saying she was “the canine most exemplifying dogdom.” The graceful dog even opened a bus terminal in Detroit by eating a ribbon made from dog biscuits.
10. THEY MAKE AN APPEARANCE IN THE BIBLE.
Dogs are mentioned in the Bible 14 times, but the greyhound is the only breed with its own shout out:
There be three things which go well, yea,
Which are comely in going;
A lion, which is strongest among beasts and
Turneth not away from any;
A he-goat also. (Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version)
11. THEY’RE COUCH POTATOES.
You may think of greyhounds as energetic and athletic, but they have a lazy side as well. Animal Planet lovingly refers to this breed as "the world's fastest couch potato” thanks to their calm and quiet indoor personas. That being said, dogs take their cues from their owners, so whatever lifestyle you lead, your dog is sure to mirror.
12. ROYALTY LOVED THEM.
Greyhounds were beloved for their elegance and made frequent appearances in the royal courts. King Henry VIII was a huge fan of coursing and had a collection of greyhounds on hand; the dog is still a symbol of the House of York to this day. Queen Elizabeth I was also fond of coursing and greyhounds, and even enacted “The Law of the Lease,” meaning that the prey had a head start, in order to make the game more interesting.
13. YOU CAN SAVE A RETIRED GREYHOUND.
When racing greyhounds are ready to retire, they need good families to take care of them. There are a number of organizations that help place the canine athletes into supportive homes. Greyhounds are clean, quiet, and gentle pets, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. Do the necessary research to find out if a greyhound is the right pet for you.