The greyhound is a very old breed, much revered by the ancient Egyptians. Along with other breeds such as the Afghan Hound, Saluki and Borzoi, they are sighthounds. That means they rely on spotting moving prey in the distance when hunting. Then, they give chase at around 35mph. So, over time, this speed and skill was utilised for sporting purposes. Now, greyhound racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the UK. There are more than 20 racetracks around the country, with each track holding 2 or 3 race meetings every week. All those races require a lot of dogs and about 10,000 of them retire from racing each year. Some stay with their owners but that still leaves a huge number of dogs looking for homes. They're usually aged around 4-5 years at retirement but some dogs retire earlier due to injury or simply because they're not very successful. As well as a number of specialist greyhound rescue organisations (easily found on an internet search), just about all dog rescue charities, large and small, will have greyhounds on their books too. Most of the racing dogs in the UK are bred in Ireland - you can tell by checking their ear tattoos, which all registered greyhounds have. Irish-bred dogs have letters tattooed in both ears while the British-bred ones only have one ear marked. In Ireland, the greyhounds often spend the first year of their life living outside, as a pack, fending for themselves and having little human contact. Then, when their racing life begins, they live in kennels. Doesn't sound like the ideal basis for a family pet.....
But, here's the thing - greyhounds are fabulous pets. They are affectionate, friendly, easy-going and they adapt well to living in a home. They are very popular as therapy dogs due to their calm temperament. They are not known to have genetic health problems but do sometimes suffer from corns which are unique to greyhounds and greyhound crosses. There can be quite a difference in size, ranging from a small bitch weighing around 25kg to a large male weighing over 40kg. They also come in a variety of colours - but for some unknown reason, black dogs seem to be the least popular for rehoming. The coat is short and easy to care for. Many people believe that ex-racing greyhounds need lots of exercise but this is simply not true. They are sprinters so enjoy a short burst of speed now and again but are equally happy on a relaxed stroll or doing absolutely nothing at all. There is also the belief that a greyhound will chase and kill all other small animals. Greyhounds often learn to live with small dogs, cats and other animals in their own "pack" but will probably still be tempted to chase wild animals or someone else's pets, but the same could be said of any breed of dog. The chasing instinct may depend on exactly how the dog has been trained and does need careful management in the early days in their new home. And it's likely the only other dogs they've met before will have been other greyhounds. They simply may not recognise other breeds as being dogs with their different shapes, sizes, coat lengths, face shapes, etc.
Due to their previous lifestyle, there are a few quirks to be aware of.
So, if you're considering which dog you want to share your home and life with, giving an ex-athlete a comfortable and happy retirement is a very rewarding experience.