The Greyhound is a large dog with a unique, slim build. Known for its speed, it can reach a velocity of up to 45 miles per hour. Despite this overabundance of energy, the Greyhound still makes an excellent pet that is calm and gentle while indoors.
The Greyhound's arched back and long legs allow it to stretch and contract with minimum effort, making it one of the fastest animals on land. While running, the dog's tail actually acts like a brake and rudder.
There are two strains of the Greyhound: AKC and NGA. The American Kennel Club (or AKC) type is often much taller and narrower than the National Greyhound Association (or NGA) type. They also have longer necks and legs, deeper chests, and their backs are more arched. NGA Greyhounds, on the other hand, have bunched up, less aesthetic muscles, but are faster than their counterparts.
Both types have smooth, short coats which come in various colors, including, black, blue, white, red, and liver, but NGA Greyhounds have thicker, less sleek coats and are more likely to develop patches of hair loss around the thigh or leg area.
Though the Greyhound has an independent temperament, it is always eager to please. Referred to as "the world's fastest couch potato," this breed is very sensitive, timid and can be reserved around strangers. Indoors, the dog is very placid, quiet, and well-mannered, but while outdoors, it will chase anything small that moves. The Greyhound will also generally behave well with other pets and dogs it has grown up with.
Regular exercise in the form of an occasional run and a long walk on leash is good for the Greyhound. It loves to chase and run at great speeds outdoors, so it should be only let out in safe, open areas. The breed also requires warm and soft bedding and does not like living outdoors. It is easy to maintain its coat -- just an occasional brushing to get rid of dead hair.
The Greyhound, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years, is not prone to any major health problems. However, some of the minor ailments that can affect the breed include osteosarcoma, esophageal achalasia, and gastric torsion. Both the AKC and NGA Greyhounds cannot tolerate barbiturate anesthesia and are susceptible to tail-tip injuries and lacerations, while retired NGA Greyhounds are prone to racing injuries like muscle, toe, and hock injuries.
Greyhound-like dogs were first depicted in Greek, Egyptian, and Roman times. During the period of the Saxons, the Greyhound was a popular and established breed in Britain. Both the nobility and the common people greatly esteemed the dog. The first prototypical Greyhound was a sighthound that could run and catch game at a very fast pace. The word Greyhound might have originated from the Old English grighund -- "Hund" the antecedent of the modern "hound" -- or from the Latin gradus, meaning high grade.
In 1014 A.D., the Forest Laws prohibited everyone except the nobility from rearing Greyhounds near royal forests. Such laws continued for another 400 years. But even after the laws were abolished, the breed remained of the nobles, as the Greyhound's running ability was not useful to agrarian commoners. The Greyhound would eventually become valuable for hare-chasing and in the 1800s, the sport became a popular leisure activity of the upper class.
American immigrants introduced greyhounds to the New World, where the dogs raced well on open plains. Coursing, a racing sport of dogs which follow by sight, was first done in closed parks. By 1926, racing was done almost exclusively on tracks, making Greyhounds so popular that they were bred mainly for speedy chasing. Greyhounds, however, also became beautiful entrants in dog shows and in 1885, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Soon, the Greyhound was divided into racing or show types.
Racing types are associated with the National Greyhound Association (NGA), while show types are associated with the AKC. NGA types are far more popular than AKC types because of the sport of coursing, registering thousands of NGA Greyhounds a week. Regardless of the type -- whether a retired NGA racer or an AKC type -- Greyhounds make for great family pets today.