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greyhound racerTry Greyhound And Leave The Lovin’ To Us!
by Marjorie Dorfman

Why are these sleek, intelligent dogs so misunderstood? Why aren’t more of them adopted into loving homes after their racing days are over? Read on for some sobering answers and a new and humorous perspective.

A boy can learn a lot from a dog; obedience, loyalty and the importance of turning around three times before lying down. – Robert Benchley

A few years ago while visiting friends in sunny Florida, I spent an evening at the dog races for the very first time in my life. Little did I know that these competitions involved a very special breed of dog. I had never met a greyhound up to that time and my exposure to them was limited to short bus trips, visiting various places and people throughout the country. Their grace, vitality and agility mesmerized me. They seemed almost godly creatures, blessed with the speed of Mercury and the beauty of Adonis. (I have been informed and not without some disappointment, that while many ancient Greeks owned them, greyhounds do not have a drop of Greek blood running through their veins.)

greyhound huntersthe rabbitGreyhounds are one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and appear throughout history in both literature and art. They are beautifully proportioned hunters, bred to outrun their prey by sight rather than scent. They were not intended to be solitary hunters but to work with their dogs. Selective breeding has rendered an athlete’s body with the grace of a dancer. Agile, sensitive and intelligent, to watch one of these creatures run is a breathtaking experience. They can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour and can run 5/16th of a mile in an average 31 seconds. More recent breeding for racing has not altered the basic characteristics of the greyhound, but has increased their general health and soundness. The end result is one of the most pleasant yet misunderstood breeds of dog. They are not widely known as being suitable as pets and unfortunately, many of these dogs are discarded after their racing days are over.

The greyhound has a long neck and head, with a barely noticeable bridge to its nose. The ears are small and usually folded back against the neck. The back is long and muscular with an arch over the loin. The deep chest and narrow waist give the breed its distinctive silhouette. (Just check out the profile of any greyhound bus in your neighborhood. You’ll see. I am right.) The legs are long and powerful and feet are small and compact, with well-knuckled toes. The tail is long and curved and its coat is short and smooth, the result of crossing greyhounds with Bulldogs in the mid 1700s. They come in an endless variety of shades and hues. (Adopt a few to go with every wardrobe in your closet!). Colors include white fawn, (tan) cream, red (rust) black, blue, (grey), and many shades of brindle and with patches of these colors on white. Greyhounds are very clean and do not require a lot of grooming. A show greyhound typically stands between 26 and 30 inches at the shoulder, and weighs 60 to 85 pounds. An average life span is 14 years.

greyhound Greyhounds are quiet and docile animals when not racing. While sometimes aloof in the presence of strangers, they are generally very affectionate to people they know and trust. They are pack-oriented dogs and will quickly adopt human masters into their "pack." Many do retain a strong "prey drive" (which is a component to their racing) and are sometimes unsuitable for houses with other small pets, such as cats or rabbits. Their sensitivity and intelligence makes them quick learners and good candidates for obedience training.

There are many differing explanations for the origin of the term greyhound. Some suggest that the original stock was exclusively grey in color, while others claim that the term derives from the Old English grei meaning dog and hundr, meaning hunter. Still others say the term comes from gre or gradus, meaning first rank among dogs. If all of this isn’t confusing enough, one last camp of scholars claim that the word derives from Greekhound, since the hound reached England via the Greeks.

First knowledge of the breed comes from the ancient Egyptians who mummified and buried their greyhounds along with their royal owners. Carvings in the tomb of Amten in the Valley of the Nile, dating back to around 2900 BC, depict dogs of unmistakable greyhound type in three separate scenes (albeit a Saluki, but distinctively similar, nonetheless). The Roman, Ovid, who lived from 43 BC to 17 AD, gave the first complete description of the breed, leaving little doubt that the dog he described was today’s greyhound. Commoners were not allowed to own the greyhound, which remained a symbol of aristocracy for a long period of time. The dogs were often traded or presented as gifts of esteem by visiting noblemen to their guests. The greyhound descends from Arab ancestors and was brought to America along with mastiffs, by the Spanish explorers in the 1500s.

Down through history some famous people, both real and imagined, have been associated with these special creatures. Alexander the Great had a greyhound named Peritas and in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus recalls that the only one to recognize him upon his return was his pet greyhound. In addition, Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were often portrayed with them. General George Custer, an American bound for glory who mistook himself for a god, always traveled with a pack of greyhounds. (It is not known if they warned him that June day in 1876 that he had gone too far, but no greyhounds were ever found among the carnage at the Little BigHorn, so they must have done something right!)

greyhoundThe greyhound’s devotion to people is legendary. Retired greyhounds, many adopted under the auspices of organizations like Project Racing Home, seem especially grateful to their owners for their new homes. They have never before experienced the love and attention a home and family can bring to them and they bask in its comfort. Project Racing Home works together with breeders, trainers and owners who have the best interest of these wonderful dogs at heart. There are hundreds of greyhound adoption agencies across the United States, Canada and The United Kingdom. Some are large and some are small. All depend on volunteers and can be easily accessed through search engines on the Internet. Check them out if you are interested and share your life with one of these wonderful dogs.

As the owner of five cats, I may never have the space to adopt one of these wonderful creatures, but we can all do our best to make others aware of their plight. Support these organizations in any way that you can. I for one will picket the Greyhound bus line which has been using the image of this beautiful breed as its logo for many years without, I am sure, any authorization or renumeration. Who do they think they are anyway? . Perhaps they will listen; perhaps not. At least the word is out. "Go Greyhound" if you want to travel safely and quickly, but try greyhound if you want a special kind of loving.

Did you know . . .

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Don't miss this excellent book on greyhounds:

Greyhounds: Complete Pet Owner's Manual

by D. Caroline Coile

Greyhounds: Complete Pet Owner's Manual

This book is a very easy read, and had the basic information that I was looking for. One thing I was in search of that I had not found was a checklist of what to have when the greyhound comes home, and Greyhounds provided that. It also has basic nutrition, basic health care, and is well-written. Good for anyone "just" interested.

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