Greyhounds originated in the middle east perhaps as long as 8,000 years ago. Paintings of greyhound type dogs can be found in the pyramids. They were treated with reverence by ancient Egyptions and highly regarded by other cultures in the Middle East.
Where the greyhound got its name is unknown. It could derived from the Saxon words Gech or Greg, meaning - Greek - because they thought the breed originated in Greece. The word could also have come from the centuries when only aristocrats (Great people) were allowed to own greyhounds. It may also have been derived from the term gazehound - a dog that hunts by sight. The name has nothing to do with the greyhound's color. Gray is a rare color for a greyhound.
Most greyhounds today can trace their bloodlines directly back to greyhounds bred in England in the early 1800's.
Greyhounds arrived in America with Christopher Columbus. They became very popular later as the midwest was settled to keep the jack rabbit population under control. Greyhounds were also used then and are still bred in some areas, to hunt and kill coyotes.
Greyhound racing as we know it developed in the early 1900s. It is regulated by the National Greyhound Association. Only 7 states have operational tracks - AZ, TX, AR, IA, AL, WV, and FL. Most of the tracks are in Florida and that is where we get the majority of our dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are greyhounds high energy? No. They are very calm and lazy and are known as 45mph couch potatoes. Although they are athletes; they are sprinters, so tire very quickly with only a small amount of exercise.
Do you need a large yard to have a greyhound? No. See the above answer. One dog magazine recently rated greyhounds as one of the best apartment dogs because of their calm, quiet nature.
Where do you get greyhounds from? Most of our greyhounds come from race tracks in Florida but some come from Alabama, Arkansas and West Virginia tracks. We work with a few owners and trainers that we know well. They call us when they have greyhounds ready to retire and have the dogs delivered to us or we arrange for volunteers to transport the dogs. The trainers provide us valuable information about each greyhound's behavior and personality before they arrive. We also get some retired brood and stud dogs from greyhound breeding farms.
Are all racing greyhounds abused? No. Racing greyhounds are very valuable. The average greyhound has more than $3,000 invested into it in breeding fees, care and training before it starts its racing career. Because of the value of these dogs, owners look for trainers that will take good care of their dogs so that they will run well. Most trainers work with racers because they enjoy working with dogs. Trainers only make money when the dogs place 1st through 4th. First place and eighth place are usually separated by a second or less. Any injury or abuse would slow the dog down and the trainer would make nothing. Trainers do everything they can to avoid injury. The trainers we get our greyhounds from treat dogs in their care like the elite athletes they are. Most have greyhound pets of their own.
Are greyhounds forced to race? No. Most greyhounds LOVE to run and chase more than anything. Once you own a greyhound you will see that when they are scared or nervous they turn into statues so it is difficult to force them to do anything. We get a few greyhounds that never make it to the race track because they show no interest in racing. If they don't want to run they are retired. It would be impossible for anyone to force a greyhound to race. Only the ones that are exceptionally focused and keen on the lure will win. Even others that are quite keen but just not quite as fast often aren't even able to place. A greyhound whose heart wasn't in it would never be fast enough to win money. Greyhounds were bred for thousands of years to hunt and chase just like herding breeds were bred for herding and other breeds were bred for specific jobs. It is in their blood and it is what they want to do more than anything else.
What do they chase when racing? The lure they chase is a stuffed animal made of fake fur. Depending on the track they look like a large rabbit or a bone.
Do racing greyhounds wear muzzles because they are vicious? No. Racers that show any aggression towards other racers during a race are banned from the track. Muzzles help determine the winner in photo finishes. Greyhounds have very fragile thin skin and race with their mouths open. A bump with a tooth at 40+ mph could injure a greyhound so they help prevent injuries too. Kennel muzzles (different than the racing muzzles) are used because of the number of dogs in one small area at the track. Any time you have 70 dogs that may or may not know each other in one room you are bound to have disagreements. With their thin skin even rough play can leave a gash.
I have a greyhound that is afraid of everything, was it abused? Probably not. Genetic shyness runs in some lines of greyhounds and can also be the result of poor socialization as puppies in that critical first three months of life. Although most greyhounds are very social because of the handling they got as puppies and as adults, a few don't get that. Puppies need to be socialized to all types of people - Males, females, children, different ethnicities, men with beards and ball caps - etc during the first critical 3 month socialization period. Guide Dog organizations recommending introducing puppies to 100 different people in that time period so they are very comfortable working around everyone. They also need to be introduced to new sights and sounds - things like riding in vehicles, buildings, different flooring, stairs, cats, small dogs, city traffic etc. Anything the dog will experience in its adult life. Anything the puppy is not exposed to in this first 3 months of life can make it uncomfortable the rest of its life. We all know that wild animals must be handled by humans as babies or they will remain wild their entire lives; puppies aren't any different. Even though most greyhounds do get the necessarly handling by people and are very loving and social, they usually aren't exposed to slick surfaces, stairs, and don't know what cats or other breeds of dogs are and still need work in those areas. It is pretty easy to tell if a dog has been abused, a dog that has been abused may be afraid of men and sticks for instance (the things that hurt him). A dog that is genetically shy or not properly socialized is likely to be terrified of the man, the stick, going thru doorways, riding in cars, children, trashcans, planes overhead, or anything it wasn't exposed to as a puppy (things that obviously could never have caused it any harm).
Can I adopt/buy a greyhound puppy? Only a little over 100 AKC show greyhounds are bred each year, so buying a puppy from a non race breeder can be difficult. Most greyhounds were bred to be racers and are not available for sale to the public. We occasionally get young pups that were the result of an accidental breeding or ones that had an injury early in life that would prevent them from racing. We also get a few that flunk out of racing training when they are just over a year old. Greyhound puppies are very hyper and best left to the experienced dog owner. They require a large fenced yard and an owner that is willing to supervise at all times and committed to drain their endless energy every day with hours of play and exercise. Greyhound puppies are much different than they are as calm, laid back, lazy adults.
What is a greyhound's early life like? Greyhounds have a unique upbringing. They often get to stay with their mothers for longer than most pups. They are usually born on a farm in a breeding kennel and moved with their mother and littemates to an outdoor run when they are old enough. They will eventually be weaned but often the mother is allowed to stay with the pups as long as she wants to. We know some mothers that have chosen to stay with their pups for 9 months. The litter usually stays together all their lives. They have access to long dog runs that are often 50 to 100 yards long. This encourages them to race each other up and down all day and builds strong bones and muscle necessary for racing. At around a year the pups will be sent together to race training. They will learn to walk on leash, be crate trained, learn to wear their racing jackets and muzzles, practice chasing a lure and breaking from the starting box. At 15 to 18 months the litter is sent to the race track, often together. Greyhounds are very pack oriented because of living with their littermates and their mother for most of their lives. Most have good dog body language skills and play well with other greyhounds because of this upbringing.
What is their racing life like? They live in large crates in indoor, climate controlled kennels. There are around 70 dogs in each kennel. There are many of these kennels at each track. The males are in the bottom crates and the smaller females that are easier to boost up are in crates above the males. They have a sandy fenced pen where the dogs are turned out together for potty breaks. The girls and boys go out separately. Each dog only races once every 3 to 5 days. The races are usually 5/16th of a mile and take about 30 seconds but there are some races that are slightly longer. Most racers are fed a combination of raw meat, kibble and vitamin supplements. Racers usually retire sometime between 2 and 5 years old, depending on their ability to win races. The best racers may be used for breeding.
Are most greyhounds still euthanized when retired? No. There are only race tracks in 7 states now and lots of greyhound adoption groups in every state and even in Canada. Because racing has so many levels, even if a racer isn't that fast it can still be competitive at its level. Young greyhounds start in schooling races then go into maiden races (for dogs that have never won a race). When they win a maiden race they go up into D level races, When they win a D race they move up into C races and so on up until they reach the A or at some tracks AA - the top level. Not every dog is fast enough to compete in the A races but these levels allow even slower dogs to have a race career running against other slower dogs. Just because a dog isn't the fastest dog at the race track doesn't mean it will be retired. Some D and C dogs have very long racing careers.This allows tracks to have 100s of dogs running at one time and makes all the races they have in a day exciting.
There are different levels of tracks too. Some are very high level tracks that pay a lot. Dogs need to be very fast to compete at these tracks. If a dog doesn't do well at a fast track it may be moved to a mid level track that pays a bit less with competition that isn't as stiff. A dog that wasn't top notch may even end up being an A racer at a lower end track. Some greyhounds wind up at several tracks over their race career while their racing owners find a place that they can be competitive. When each dog has over $3000 invested in it before it even starts racing, its owner works very hard to find a place for it to race where it can be competitive. If the dog really doesn't have the speed or drive to be successful at any track at any level they are finally retired.
In the early years we had many calls to take retired dogs and had to turn owners and trainers away every week because we didn't have room in our foster homes for all of the dogs they wanted us to take. Things have sure changed now our adoption group regularily has to wait to get the dogs we want, we are almost always limited on how many females we can take because there aren't enough to go around to all the adoption groups that want them. Adopters tend to want the littler dogs which are females and there aren't enough of them to go around right now. Certain colors are also very hard to get - one of our folks waited 5 years to get a gray greyhound. Now we are the ones calling trainers and tracks asking for a female or a certain color or personality of dog only to be told that we will have to wait for more to retire. Most of the trainers we work with adopt out 100 percent of their greyhounds. Many tracks are at 100 percent placement and have programs where they pay haulers to drive the dogs up to adoption groups in Canada and states like ours with no racing. At this point there is no reason for euthanazia and it rarely happens. We occasionally hear that greyhounds will be euthanized at some track somewhere but when we check into it it is always just an internet rumor. The dogs are safe and available for our group to take or have already been spoken for by other groups. There are a few that are euthanized due to serious injuries or illness but that is done on a vets instruction when there is no choice. Adoption groups take broken leg racers, injured puppies, and dogs with seizures and other problems that keep them from racing.
Is it true that greyhounds can't sit? No. While a sit is not a natural position for most greyhounds and can be difficult to teach, greyhounds can sit if they are taught how. Some greyhounds have obedience titles to prove it. Greyhounds all sit as small puppies but as they grow it becomes less comfortable for them and most stop doing it. That is why most greyhounds you see in photos are standing or laying down.
Are greyhounds trained not to sit at the track? No. Greyhounds that have never been to a race track have the same difficulty with the position. It just isn't as comfortable for them as the average dog because of the way they are built.
Are greyhounds easy to train? Yes and no. Most are very intelligent and will learn things that are important to them, like when dinner time is, very quickly. They may even figure out how to open the cupboard and the food container and feed themselves. Most potty train in a few days. Greyhounds were not bred to look to people for guidence when they work, however, like a retriever or a herding dog. They were bred to hunt and chase and not be distracted by the people watching. They are also very lazy and seem to have a "what's in it for me?" attitude which can make obedience training more challenging. They CAN do it and there are greyhounds with advanced obedience titles. You just have to be a fun and interesting trainer to keep their attention and keep lessons short so they don't get tired and bored.
Are greyhounds good with children? Yes! Most greyhounds are good with WELL BEHAVED children. LIke any dog, they may growl to let you know they don't like something or as a warning. Like all dogs they may bite if injured or provoked. Research done by Dr. James Serpell, indicates that Greyhounds are the least aggressive breed of dog. The Greyhound scored 1.08 on the doggie aggression index. This was the lowest score given out of the 33 breeds studied. A very good resource for learning to handle potential problems between dogs and children is the book "Childproofing your Dog" by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson.
Why are so many greyhounds I see available on adoption group websites say they need a home with no children if most are good with children? For many reasons. We automatically list as dog as no small kids if a dog as had any grumpiness over space or food or has ever been growly and snappy - even if that behavior is not aimed at children or even humans at all. If a dog has had a bad experience with a child (it happens much too frequently) and is afraid of or just chooses to avoid kids we will also say it needs a home without small kids. A few greyhounds that are very shy just don't handle the noise and movement of children well so we feel those also do better in a home without kids. If a dog gets too excitable with stuffed toys and may accidentally hurt a child trying to get a toy or even is just big and excitable and might accidentally knock small children down we give them a "no small kids" rating. Dogs that get the no small kids rating take months longer to adopt out so they tend to accumulate in our foster system while the dogs that are good with everything are adopted almost as soon as they arrive. Some adoption groups refuse to adopt dogs to homes with any small kids at all. This is for the dog's protection. Dog bites are usually the result of inappropriate behavior by unsupervised children. Although greyhounds generally choose not to bite, they are still animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. Our group does place greyhounds in homes with small children that we feel are well behaved. Some groups believe that the risk to the dog of being hurt by a child accidentally is quite high and if the dog ever retaliates there is the additional risk that he will be euthanised.
Are greyhounds good watch or guard dogs? No! See answer above. Most greyhounds are not usually barkers, not aggressive, and spend too much of their day sleeping to keep watch. They are large dogs and just seeing one would probably give a burglar reason to choose another house though. If you have another breed of dog in your home that barks at people your greyhound is more likely to learn to bark too but some never do.
Greyhounds are awfully big, do they make good indoor dogs? Yes. Greyhounds don't have much fur or body fat to protect them from the elements so MUST be indoor dogs. They have short fur, are naturally clean and have no doggy odor so they make wonderful indoor dogs. They just won't be happy outside by themselves because they are very devoted to their families.
More Greyhound Trivia:
- Greyhounds don’t have much of a doggy odor so rarely need baths.
- Greyhounds are the fastest breed of dog reaching speeds close to 45 mph.
- Greyhounds have a very short, single layer coat so shed less than most breeds. Some greyhounds are fuzzier and shed more than others though.
- Greyhounds hearts are larger than the hearts of other dogs and they have a thicker left wall. Vets that aren’t familiar with greyhounds may be concerned about their “enlarged heart”. Greyhounds have very healthy hearts though and rarely die of heart issues.
- Greyhounds have more red blood cells than other breeds and many have a universal blood type which make them excellent blood donors.
- Racing greyhounds receive tattoos in both ears as puppies. They can be identified by these tattoos by a phone call to the National Greyhound Association.
- Greyhounds rarely get hip displasia that is common in other large breeds.
- Because of their gentle, calm disposition most greyhounds make excellent therapy dogs.