Greyhound History & Interesting Facts

 Greyhounds are the oldest purebred dog, dating to the time of the Pharaohs.  The first records of greyhound type dogs appear about 8,000 years ago.  In ancient Egypt, greyhounds were revered as gods, and only royalty were allowed to own them.

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All sight hounds that we know today (dogs that hunt by sight rather than scent) descended from the ancient greyhound.

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The origin of the name “greyhound” is lost in antiquity, but it almost certainly does not refer to the color of the dog.  Grey colored greyhounds are rare, and are not referred to as grey, but as “blue”.

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

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Greyhounds appear in both Greek and Roman mythology.  Alexander the Great’s favorite dog was a greyhound.  In Homer’s Odyssey, the only one who recognized Odysseus after his 20-year absence was his faithful greyhound, Argus.

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Throughout history, greyhounds have been prized and revered.  During the Dark Ages, a time of disease and famine, greyhounds were saved from extinction by priests who bred them for noblemen.  Until around 1700, owning a greyhound was the exclusive right of the nobility.   

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Greyhounds became the first European dog in the New World when they accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second expedition, which set sail from Spain in September 1493.

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Both Chaucer and Shakespeare immortalized greyhounds in literature.  In the 14th Century in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, the greyhound was the first breed of dog that Chaucer wrote about.  Shakespeare mentions greyhounds in Henry V.

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Frederick the Great of Prussia asked in his will to be buried with his beloved greyhounds.  The graves remain to this day.

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During the Renaissance, greyhounds were a favorite of royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I of England.

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General George Custer coursed his pack of 14 greyhounds the night before the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

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Every greyhound alive today can trace its lineage back to one dog, King Cob, whelped in England in 1839.

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In 1912, Owen Patrick Smith developed and patented a mechanical lure in North America that would run around an oval track, and the sport of greyhound racing was born.  In 1923 the Miami Kennel Club in Hialeah, FL became the first greyhound race track to use this system.

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Greyhounds are by far the fastest breed of dog.  They can reach speeds in excess of 40 MPH for short distances.

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Florida is the leading state for greyhound racing with 13 tracks.   Most greyhounds available for adoption throughout the United States and Canada were raised or raced in Florida. 

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Greyhounds are so revered as pets that there are more adoption organizations for greyhounds than for any other individual breed of dog.  Since the early 1990’s when greyhounds first became widely available for adoption, many thousands of greyhounds have been adopted as pets after their racing days are over.

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For interesting reading on the history of greyhounds:

 

 “The Reign of the Greyhound” by Cynthia Branigan.  This book is available at your local book seller or through Amazon.com.

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