A brown greyhound dog running through a field.

Most people know greyhounds as long, lean, running machines. This impression is entirely true: they have been clocked at over 40 miles per hour and are considered the fastest dog breed. What you may not realize is that these speedy sprinters don’t need to be constantly running — they would love to snuggle with you on the couch, too.

An Ancient and Regal History

Greyhounds are one of the oldest dog breeds. They are graceful and elegant, which may be why they’ve been popular subjects for artists throughout time. They have been depicted in ancient Greek and Egyptian art and have been associated with pharaohs, English royalty and a U.S. president. Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States, brought his 2-year-old greyhound Grim to the White House with him. It’s reported that Grim liked to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” with First Lady Lucy Hayes.

Recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1885, greyhounds are part of the hound group. A similar breed is the Italian greyhound, which is a toy version of the greyhound. Like their bigger counterparts, Italian greyhounds have a natural chase instinct, but they are also affectionate and love to cuddle.

Bred for The Chase

A greyhound’s lean body is built for speed, which is probably why they were used to chase prey. Unlike other hunting breeds like basset hounds and beagles, scenthounds that can track prey, greyhounds are sighthounds bred to hunt by sight and outrun their prey.

Today there are two types of greyhounds in the U.S.: racing and show greyhounds. Most pet greyhounds are retired racing greyhounds. Greyhound racing tracks were first built in the U.S. in the 1920s when the mechanical lure was invented. The money wagered on dog races peaked in 1991 at $3.5 billion, according to Racing Commission International and has since significantly declined due to less interest from bettors and dog racing bans. According the Grey2K USA, a nonprofit entity that advocates banning greyhound racing and promotes the rescue and adoption of greyhounds, West Virginia is the only state with active, legal dog racing tracks (two active tracks).

Not Your Average Rescue Dog

Adopting a retired racing greyhound is a little different than adopting another breed of dog. They have probably never lived in a home, and it’s likely that the only dogs they have been around are other greyhounds. This means that they will need to learn to socialize with other dogs in a neutral space and be introduced to common household objects like vacuums, windows and hardwood floors. The good news is that because racing greyhounds tend to be crated and on strict schedules, they are usually easy to potty train.

Greyhounds will always have the instinct to chase, so they should be kept on a leash unless they’re in an enclosed area — which will be needed so that they can do some zoomies. Other than a burst of speed in a secure area, a short walk once or twice a day will generally be enough exercise for them. Even though they were athletes, they don’t typically need performance food, but check with your veterinarian about which food is best for them.

Greyhounds are calm, gentle, sweet-natured and very affectionate. They’re also not big barkers and have a quiet demeanor which makes them perfect for apartment living.

A cartoon greyhound with his tongue out next to display text ‘greyhound quick facts’.

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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.