About Greyhounds : History and Frequently Asked Questions

• About greyhounds  •  Frequently asked questions

Greyhound History

hound engraving

•  The greyhound is one of the oldest recorded breeds in existence. It is considered to be the ancestral stock of some of our domestic dog breeds. It originated in the southern Arabia peninsula and was introduced to Britain by the Romans.
Classified as a sight hound it is easily recognised by its generally slender form with smooth hair, a large chest and narrow loins, a gracefully elongated neck with a small head, and large firm muscles adapted for high speed sprint chasing.
There is now a wide variety of colours from white through fawn, blue (a lovely sleek greyish really) to black and various dappled mixtures, and the spectacular brindles.
The domesticated greyhound, even after a racing career, usually has a very placid temperament which with its loving, patient, and loyal character makes it a wonderful pet - and friend and companion.

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About Greyhounds

bludotA racing greyhound usually starts its career at 18 months or so and can go on until it is 5 years old. Not all greyhounds are suited to racing; perhaps because of a lack of speed or interest(!). Injury causing an early end to racing is often not a problem when the dog is adopted as a pet.


bludotGreyhounds are gentle and sensitive animals and although quite large (but you soon get used to that) are usually quiet around the house, often snoozing, and so can take up less space than a smaller but active breed.

bludotMost greyhounds come straight from a racing kennel and have never been in a home with people - so everything is new and unexpected, and sometimes bewildering. They are not likely to have experienced television, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, fires, and even staircases.
However they are very adaptable, usually quite laid back and with calm, consistent, and kind handling will quickly get used to your way of doing things. We think that they learn to tell the time very early on; they will gently remind you if dinner is delayed!

Adopting a greyhound can be like eating potato crisps - one is hardly enough!


bludot It is a MYTH that greyhounds need incredibly long walks. They are quite happy with two 20 minute walks daily (but don't skimp!). Greyhounds love to run and it is pure pleasure to see a greyhound running free for no other reason that it wants to do just that. But you shouldn't let your dog off a lead unless you are in an enclosed space and there are no other animals in sight.

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Greyhounds - Frequently Asked Questions

  What are greyhounds, lurchers, whippets, sight hounds, long dogs . . .?

Greyhounds A very old breed of hunting dog. Probably originally fawn/brown in colour. The modern English greyhound additional colours of white/black, 'blue', and brindle probably arise from earlier cross breeding.
• Spanish greyhounds are 'galgos' and of a slightly different makeup.
• The 'Italian greyhound' is a miniature version of a classic greyhound, even smaller than a whippet in some cases.
A greyhound is a type of sight hound, and a long dog.

Lurchers A lurcher is a cross breed from a sight hound and any other breed.

Whippets Recorded in the 16th century the breed resembles a miniature greyhound, often with a more delicate temperament although much used for coursing and racing in earlier times. Its origins are obscure.

Sight hounds Any classic hunting dog which relies on seeing its quarry rather than scenting it out.

Long dogs Any hunting dog which is a large and 'long' dog; with intimations of slenderness rather than bulk. Includes greyhounds, Pharaoh hounds, Salukis, Afghans, most lurchers.

  What does 'greyhound' mean?

Nobody is quite sure. It certainly does not refer to the colour (the word is spelt the same in England as in the United States, unlike the colour 'grey'/'gray'). The word may come from 'Greek hound', or 'gre hound' (hound of a high rank), or 'grach hund' (hunting dog). Or it may have some entirely different derivation.

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  I'm interested in adopting a greyhound. What do I do?

If you are new to greyhounds then please read through this FAQ page to see the kind of questions often asked by prospective adopters.

•  - then see how we like to do things.

• - then contact one of our members who will answer any other questions that you might have and then the ball starts rolling - if you want it to.
Ask your contact about their dog(s) - but remember that situations vary and what might be normal in one home may not apply to others.

  What is the temperament of the greyhound?

The vast majority of greyhounds are affectionate and comfort-loving, the '40mph couch potato' label is not far wrong for some aspects of a greyhound!
A 1996 survey decided that greyhounds were the least aggressive dogs out of 50 breeds.
Regrettably their docile temperament can be aid to their abuse by inconsiderate owners.

  What sort of pets do greyhounds make?

Many dogs have a 'go on throw it, I'll fetch the stick' attitude. Greyhounds aren't like that; if you throw a stick then a common attitude they have is "you threw it, you fetch it!" or " what did you do that for?" (though it is great fun watching them playing with a ball).
Despite their size and speed, they are essentially 'companion' dogs, and a contented greyhound may well be silent much of the day, sometimes resting, sometimes looking at you with a calm (and calming) wisdom.
But of course there are roguish (in the nicest sense) characters about . . .!
A greyhound rapidly becomes a valued and strong bonded member of the family.

  Do greyhounds need a lot of exercise?

No, not an enormous amount - but you must be prepared to give them some exercise.
We suggest two 20 minute walks a day as a minimum-ish target for a healthy dog.
A greyhound's day typically involves a lot of snoozing in between walks.

Sally's day is summarised in a separate window.

However all greyhounds love to run, either on a walk or round the garden.
It is a wonderful sight to see a greyhound run at top speed just because it wants to without anyone making it do so. - but only ever in a secure field!
Some greyhounds will enjoy long walks and take all the exercise that you want to give them.
In usual circumstances keep the dog on a lead (not a retractable lead, see equipment below) unless it is in a safe and secure contained area.
Always take 'poo bags' out with you. It is fundamental considerate common sense to clean up after your dog in a public place.

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  Are greyhounds expensive? How much will one cost, initially and to keep?

You are not expected to pay initially hundreds or thousands of pounds as you would if they were entering racing. Once they have retired from racing the trainer normally has no room to keep them, and since they are then costing money without any return they are keen to part with them.

Our rehoming charity has continuing expenses although the workers are all unpaid volunteers, so you will be asked for a donation towards our costs.
Depending on the type of food that you give your dog it could cost 20-30/month to feed it.
See health matters next below.

It is immediately obvious when you consider the initial costs, the cost of equipment (see below), and the ongoing cost of feeding, insurance (highly recommended), and routine vets bills (vaccination, worming) that homing a greyhound (or any dog) is not something to be entered into lightly.
Please don't take on this financial responsibility if you cannot afford it or both you and the dog will suffer.
If you are a normal humane and kind person you should have no problem with the other responsibilities involved in giving the dog(s) a considerate, loving and secure home. The greyhound won't pay you rent and board, nor send you a birthday card but it will show you an enormous amount of affection and companionship!

  What equipment do I need for my greyhound?

Feeding bowl; preferably off the floor, at dog's shoulder height.

Water bowl; a constant supply of fresh cold water is essential.

Traditionally greyhound collars are relatively normal and narrow at the buckle ends and wide in the middle.
This is because their heads are relatively narrow and their throats are delicate so that a sudden lunge or pull on the lead could damage their necks. The wide area opposite the buckle spreads the load so that harm is less likely.
The collar should have an identity disc attached. Don't have the dog's name or your address on it, just a contact telephone number.

House collar : harrycollar.gif Some owners only fit an 'outside' collar when taking the dog out. Not having a stiff collar on in the house is more comfortable for the dog. A softer and narrower fabric house collar is worn at all times (also with an identity disc as well as the going-out collar above) so that it can be (gently) held and restrained in the house if necessary, has an identity feature should it escape from the house for any reason - and, importantly if you have different colour collars for different dogs of identical hair colouring, you can tell which is which in a hurry, inside or outside.

Consider having your dog 'identichipped' . A passive tiny coded receiver-transmitter is injected under the skin at the back of the neck.
Interrogation by a complementary instrument gives a code which can be used to identify the dog and its owner. The procedure is quick (2 seconds?) and painless unless the dog is a wimp. (Harry, who could wimp for England, yelped; Polly and Meg gazed out of the window). Cost varies, 15+, look for the special offers at the vet surgery and dog sanctuary open days.

Lead/leash for walking : Most ex-racing greyhounds will walk on the lead very well since it formed part of their kennel routine. Even though they will usually walk calmly beside you the leash should be strong enough to hold them should they lunge suddenly (seeing a cat often does it). The length is whatever is comfortable to let the dog be about a dog's length away from you to allow for gentle inquisitiveness on its part. A length of 1.2 metres (4 feet) is a guide. Some leads (and these are recommended) have a comfortable handle that allows a compactly folded poo bag to be stored in it.

Important : The retractable type of lead on a spring wound reel is not at all suitable for a greyhound.
You should not let the dog be able to be a long way from you on a lead.
A sudden lunge or check could tension the lead to an extent that could injure the dog's neck.

Coat : Greyhounds are easily chilled because they have thin skin and sparse hair. They should have a warm and waterproof coat for walking out in inclement weather. We can supply coats or you could make your own if you are that way inclined.

Sleep spot : Many greyhounds commandeer favour a chair or sofa on which to doze during the day. Others prefer to rest on the floor. There should be at least one spot where they can retire to away from the rest of the household should they want to do so.
Quite often it seems that they have more than one dozing/sleeping spot and it is fortunate for them (yes, they are being parasitic!) if you can provide a soft and comfy base on which they can rest elsewhere. An old duvet is commonly employed.

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  When, how, and with what do I feed my greyhound?

A common regime is two meals a day - breakfast or lunch, and 'supper/dinner'. But don't overfeed. Greyhounds should retain their 'taper' and not become long cylinders on long legs!

Ensure that a bowl of fresh cold water is always available. Don't restrict water to save on 'accidents' in the initial house-training phase.

The long legs of a greyhound sometimes makes it uncomfortable for it to eat from a bowl on the floor. If you want to be really kind to your dog arrange for its feeding bowl to be at (dog) shoulder height. There are bowl+stand units you can buy if you wish or you can construct your own arrangement.

Feed a basic all-in-one mix appropriate to the age and state of the dog. To avoid upset tummies be conservative until the dog has settled in with you and then most greyhounds will appreciate a little something extra, savoury, added to the mix to make it more interesting. Some dogs relish tinned tuna (in sunflower oil!), chicken, cheese, corned beef, fried liver (usually only one of these at a time) and don't turn their noses up at ham trimmings, meat-heavy sauces, and smoked salmon. Greyhound Harry will clean out the yoghourt pots and polish off apple/pear cores and other fruit (including home grown figs if not watched) after lunch, regarding it as his right.
Be aware that some foods are poisonous to dogs, including chocolate (theobromine content), grapes/raisins, and onions. 'Dog chocolate' contains carob not cocoa and is OK. Several garden plants can be harmful if ingested by dogs. See an introductory article from the British Veterinary Association about these problems.
Ask your GPTR contact how they feed their dogs.

  What about health matters - and health insurance?

Greyhounds have thin skin, often with sparse fine hair, and with little underlying fat.
Consequently it is relatively easy for them to suffer cuts and abrasions in appropriate situations - beware of brambles, stubble, and barbed wire in fields.

First Aid Kit : You should have a (home made) first-aid kit of wipes, antiseptic/cleansing solutions, dressings, and suitable bandages (a veterinary nurse can advise you on suitable types that will hold on a dog's fur without adhesives- the simple open weave style is no use at all on a dog!)

A considerate owner will always ensure that an injured dog receives treatment - and is taken to the vet promptly if necessary.

Professional vet fees can be quite high and we strongly recommend that you consider taking out some form of pet health insurance to cover accidental injury and major ill-health. Make sure that you look at several offers and read the small print!
Expect to pay about 10+/month for a reasonably comprehensive plan.
Most insurances do not cover dental treatment so it is important that you look after your dog's teeth. Teeth cleaning time can be quite fun!

  How long do greyhounds live?

A healthy dog can live up to 15 years.

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  Are greyhounds really that trustworthy? I see some being walked, and they are muzzled.

A registered trainer has to muzzle his or her dogs when they are being walked, this is by law.
Greyhounds are used to being muzzled and it is advisable to use one when you first take your greyhound for a walk if you don't know how it will react to other dogs and animals. In many cases muzzles are rarely necessary on rehomed dogs once they have settled down.

  Can greyhounds ever be trusted with small animals?

Since they are sight hounds most healthy greyhounds never completely lose the urge to chase. What they are prepared to chase varies - commonly any wild animal or bird -and cats!
It can be a problem to find a dog who is happy with cats although we have more than a few instances where greyhounds live side by side with cats quite comfortably.
The rehomer will want to be sure that there aren't any problems in this area.

  How about greyhounds and children?

Very nervous or sensitive greyhounds, like any other shy rescue dogs, may be best homed with a family with older children, or with adults only. No dog of any breed likes being teased or mishandled.
Children should be made aware that greyhounds are sensitive creatures and they should treat them with respect and kindness. Perhaps the question should be 'Can you trust children with greyhounds?'
Some greyhounds are naturally boisterous and will be comfortable with a more noisy family.
The rehomer will take into account the nature of the dog/home environment and will only be offering suitable dogs.

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  If I adopt a greyhound will it settle in straight away?

It may do, or you may have an adjustment period, when you get used to the dog, and it gets used to you.
It may be unused to a home, or even to so much attention, so be prepared to let familiarity develop slowly.
Be patient, and give the dog some space, and always make sure it has a place where it can be alone if it wants. Do not force it or threaten it to do anything. Do not drag it up or down stairs as it is learning about staircases. Most dogs will soon get used to your regime and it usually doesn't take long for a strong affectionate bond to form between the two of you.
If you adopt from us we will try and help with any problems you may encounter. Thankfully serious problems are extremely rare.
Not all rescue greyhounds will rehome successfully; this is just the same as with any breed of dog. There are a variety of reasons - but unfortunately the most common one is that the new owners are not prepared for the responsibility!

One piece of behaviour that is quite common with a newly rehomed greyhound, is that the dog will quite happily relax while the humans are sitting down, but will then immediately stand up every time anyone moves - especially if there is a move to a door.
This is because greyhounds have spent a lot of time by themselves and have come to associate human activity with something about to happen (exercise, or a trip to the greyhound stadium).
After a few days, the new arrival will get used to the new regime.

  Where should I let my greyhound sleep?

Many greyhounds bond so strongly with their owners that they may be unhappy about sleeping apart from them.
If you have not had a dog before it may seem odd to have a dog sleeping in your bedroom but we daresay that the dog will get you used to it!
Depending on your feelings and the sizes of you, the dog, and the bed you may end up with the dog sleeping on your bed with you - can be helpful on a cold night!

Give the dog its own soft sleeping material for snoozing on in the day time. Some dogs prefer to be on the floor, others will claim chairs or sofas. Having a greyhound is not like having a china dog on the mantelpiece!