by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 3, 2009)
There has been much difference of opinion regarding the origin of the name "Greyhound." The dog was held in high esteem in Greece and some early writers thought that the name came from the word Graius (Grecian). Others thought that the name indicated rank in the race. Other authorities felt that the name was derived from the Latin gradus (degree) because the Greyhound was outstanding among dogs in swiftness.
Some contended that the word "grey" was a corruption of the word "great," as the dog was associated in early England with "great" people, or people of high degree. Under Number thirty-one of the Laws of Canute, enacted in 1016, "No mean person may keepe any greyhounds, but freemen may keepe greyhounds (greihounds), so that their knees be cut before the verderors of the forest, and without cutting of their knees also, if he does abide ten miles from the bounds of the forest."
Another conjecture was to the effect that the term may have been a graduation of "gazehound," by which hounds which followed by sight were called at one time, into "grazehound" and thence into "Greyhound." It is very probable, however that the term applied to the prevailing color of the breed.
No one knows just how old the Greyhound is, nor from whence he originated. Dogs of the Greyhound type are to be seen wherever the earliest records of dogs are found. They appear on the Tombs of Egypt and on Assyrian monuments. The Tomb of Amten, in the Valley of the Nile, contains carvings which show dogs of the Greyhound type in three different scenes. This tomb is said to be of the 4th Dynasty, dating between 3,500 and 4,000 B.C. There are many other instances of ancient carvings of Greyhound-type-dogs, either Greyhounds very similar to those of today or dogs of Saluki appearance, both quite similar. Undoubtedly the Greyhound has altered least of any of the very early breeds, his appearance having shown but little change through the ages. The grace and beauty of these dogs have long made them favorites with the artists of many eras. The story of Lelaps, the Greyhound of mythology, is well known.
At least three varieties of Greyhound have been in existence for many, many years. These are the wire-haired, somewhat rough-coated, found mainly in East Russia and Tartary; the silky-haired of Natalia, Persia, and Ancient Egypt; the rough-haired Deerhound and the smooth-haired Greyhound.
It was in the early days and in areas of wide open country where it was impossible for the hunter to approach close to his game that the Greyhound made his greatest contribution to man. His exceedingly keen eyesight and his great speed allowed him to locate and run down his quarry, either killing it outright or bringing it to bay for the arrival of his master.
Wherever the Greyhound went with his master, he excited much interest and attention and was in great demand. When it no longer became necessary to depend on wild game for food, the sport of coursing came into being, and, from that sport, racing, as we know it today. There are a number of kennels in this country that breed for bench show contenders, but, despite the dog's great beauty and his aristocratic background, comparatively few are kept as companions.
The male Greyhound usually weighs between 65 to seventy pounds, the female weighing between sixty to 65 pounds. The Greyhound has a variety of combinations in coloring: white, liver, black, red and grayish blue.
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