A little bit of Greyhound History
The Greyhound has been around since biblical times. That is not me exaggerating; v.King James/proverbs 30:32. They more commonly referenced as far back as the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
It is believed that these elegant looking hounds were so revered that only royalty were allowed to own them. Some were mummified along with their owners to be preserved for all time and remain companions in the afterlife.
This aristocratic status has very much followed the greyhound through the years. Giving them a long history of prestige, nobility and admiration.
Age and Weight
Greyhounds are typically fit and healthy dogs, holding one of the longest lifespans amongst the larger breeds. On the whole large dogs have shorter lifespans than their smaller cousins. The average life span of a greyhound is 12-15 years, but we have seen some reach the grand ages of 18. Sandy of Nagold, Germany, 19. Myka of Edmund, US. Geenie of Florida, US, celebrated a very special 20th birthday.
They can grow to heights of 75cm (30inches), measured to the point between the middle of the shoulder blades, and can weigh in at 40kgs (88lbs), males being larger than the females. This weight is all muscle. They possess very little body fat, especially if raced. They do tend to put on a little weight when retired, and new owners should be careful not to over feed them.
With very recognisable physical characteristics, greyhounds have a sleek, athletic build with graceful long necks which are often wider than their small, long-nosed heads. Their lean, contoured body is constructed for high-speed pursuit, with a muscular chest, powerful hind legs and a flexible spine. These impressive physical attributes, coupled with a unique gait - double suspension gallop - allows them to sprint up to speeds of 45mph. Only beaten by the Cheetah to claim the title of the world's fastest land animal.
All animals that gallop are at some point completely airborne. However, the double suspension gallop means that the animal is airborne at both extension; when legs are extended and also collection; when the limbs come together. There are few animals in the world that can do this, greyhounds being named alongside cheetahs and coyotes.
Interestingly, the greyhound possesses a significantly higher red blood cell count than all other dog breeds, allowing them to carry oxygen to the muscles faster and a larger heart to pump the blood. These two anatomical enhancements give them the ability to reach such impressive speeds in a short time; reaching 40mph within 30 meters. That's fast!
In all sighthound breeds, the total field of vision is 270 degrees. This amplified range of sight means that they are able to see small movements over a greater landscape. It is one of the largest ranges held within predatory species.
If you think about prey animals, rabbits, sheep and the like, their eyes are on the side of their heads giving them the widest peripheral possible to see predators coming from almost all angles.
Predatory animals, on the other hand, think lion or wolf, have eyes positioned closer together on the front of their heads, giving a greater sense of depth perception; something needed to hone in on prey, chase and pounce accurately. Fascinatingly, a greyhound, with its narrow head means their eyes are set quite lateral, giving them the best of both worlds.
Studies have been made into the positioning of animals eyes and their corresponding social standing. I think it fair to say that with the greyhound's impressive eye placement and range of vision they will continue to remain towards the top of the pecking order.
Coats and Skin
Greyhounds have a short coat, with over 30 recorded varieties of colour, including white, blonde, fawn, red, blue, brindle, combinations of these colours and of course grey! The most common colour amongst the breed is black or black and white. This fine, light covering of fur, which is non-existent on their underbelly, is to not only to increase the speed of the greyhound but also allow it to cool quickly.
Greyhounds body temperatures can rise to 42C or 107F when in full sprint, this is dangerously high and they need to expel that heat quickly. Many veterinarians advise that if their body temperature reaches 108C or 109C, and remains at this temperature for an extended period of time, their organs will begin to fail with fatal consequences.
Don't be fooled into thinking that a short coat equals no shedding. These hounds can shed fur with the best of them! During the summer months of our third adoption year, Tipps was leaving a rug of hair wherever he went. When we first took him home his coat was in poor condition; scarce and balding in patches. It was wiry and extremely thin.
Over those first two years, his coat improved immensely, becoming soft, smooth and very thick. We couldn't believe the volume of fur that he was shedding, it didn't seem possible for all the hair to come from his body but it did, and it kept on coming until the temperatures cooled again.
Sensitive to the Elements.
Having such a lack of insulation and coat means that the greyhound is sensitive to the cold. It is fair to say that if we are cold, they will certainly be cold. The skin is also more delicate. They seem to be more susceptible to irritations or allergies and can easily get sunburned due to more exposure of their skin to the elements. An excellent treatment to promote healthy skin is to add oil to their diet which can help with dermatological problems.
The skin is also paper thin and can easily be torn or ripped. When greyhounds get excited and start wagging, or probably better described as whipping, their tails it is done with such force that the fragile surface is often injured. Sections of the tail can be ripped open when caught on something sharp or the tips are snagged.
Tails or Tales
There seems to be some speculation as to whether a greyhounds tail benefits their running ability. The tail is thin and wiry, and some believe it can't aid balance in the way a Cheetah's wide, long tail does. After watching my grey run around for many years, I lean towards the belief that it absolutely helps them remain in control, especially when navigating sharp turns.
The tail also seems to act as a brake, whipping back and forth, creating drag and thus slowing them down. The tail is also a form of communication amongst dogs, some argue this is its only use.
Changes through Breeding
Since the breeding of greyhounds specifically for racing over the past century, we have seen a structural change leading to two types of recognised greyhound today; the racing greyhound and the show greyhound. Racing greyhounds tend to be shorter and more muscling, whereas the Show greyhounds have long necks with a pronounced curve and their back is more arched.
In essence, all of the physical characteristics that are conjured up when you think of a greyhound are exaggerated in show greyhounds.