Greyhound Facts and Trivia

The Origins of the Greyhound

Although showing striking similarities to the sighthounds of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome no one can say for certain that these dogs where the forerunners of the modern greyhound.

In ancient Egypt the Pharaohs kept dogs closely resembling greyhounds as both pets and hunters.

Many Egyptians regarded the birth of a hound second only in importance to the birth of a son, so much so that if a pet hound died it would provoke a period of mourning. Some favourite hounds were enen mummified and buried with their upper-class owners. Tombs were frequently decorated with murals containing images of hounds.

Images of hound like dogs decorate a funerary vase from an area which is now Iran and is estimated to be over 6000 years old.

The Arabs also held the greyhound in high esteem, the only breed of dog allowed to share their tents and ride atop their camels.

When the Greek Empire came to prominence around 500B.C. decorative art portrayed dogs with deep chests, long legs, arched loin, pointed muzzle, and smooth coat typical of the greyhound.

They appear in Greek Mythology as companions of Hecate, Hades, Pollux and Artemis the goddess of the hunt.

The goddess Artemis bathing in a forest pool, was so outraged when a young man out walking his greyhounds accidentally came across her. She turned him into a stag which was in turn hunted down by the greyhounds and torn to pieces.

Greyhounds even appeared in Greek literature when Homer describes how the greyhound Argus recognised his master Odysseus, as he returned home in disguise after twenty years of wandering,

The greyhound is the only breed of dog that is mentioned in the Bible
(Proverbs 30:29-31 King James Version)

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 greyhound;
A he-goat also

In the famine of the Middle Ages the greyhound nearly became extinct, the breed being saved by the clergy who breed them for the nobility.

King Howel of Wales in the tenth century made killing a greyhound punishable by death.

In 1014 King Canute established the forest laws. Only the nobility could hunt with hounds and any commoner found owning a greyhound would be severely punished and the dogs toes would be mutilated to prevent it from being used to hunt.

In 1066 William the Conqueror introduced more stringent forest laws, which led to commoners hunting illegally with dogs whose colouring made them harder to spot.

English literature embraces the greyhound.

Chaucer’s 14th century Canterbury Tales report the monk in his tales spent vast sums of money on his greyhounds.

Shakespeare also mentions the greyhound in a number of his plays.

Edmund de Langley’s, Mayster of Game AD 1370 describes the ideal greyhound in a book he later presented to King Henry V of England, regarded as a great fan of greyhounds.

In 1776 the Earl of Norfolk opened the first coursing club open to the public at Swaffam in Norfolk, it during this period the first breeders started to keep records of their dogs pedigrees.

The 19th century saw the first dog advertised for stud for a fee.

The Waterloo Cup was first held on the Estate of Earl Sefton in 1837 and was considered the ultimate test in coursing.

Prominent owners of greyhounds throughout the ages have included, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, General George Custer, President Rutherford B. Hayes, Bo Derek, and one even stepped ashore with Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks at Botany Bay in 1770.