Greyhound: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Greyhound dog standing indoors in profile

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

The greyhound is a large-size hound dog breed from Egypt known for its muscular long legs, narrow, streamlined body, and short, smooth coat. The dog's narrow head, long neck, and deep chest are also recognizable aspects of this breed. These physical characteristics make the greyhound the fastest breed in the world, with the ability to race at speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour.

Breed Overview

  • GROUP: Hound
  • HEIGHT: Male 28 to 30 inches, female 27 to 28 inches
  • WEIGHT: 60 to 80 pounds
  • COAT: Short and smooth
  • COAT COLOR: Black, blue, fawn, red, white, and various shades of brindle, or a combination of any of these colors
  • LIFE SPAN: 10 to 13 years
  • TEMPERAMENT: Even-tempered, intelligent, affectionate, athletic, quiet, gentle
  • HYPOALLERGENIC: No
  • ORIGIN: Egypt

Characteristics of the Greyhound

Greyhounds can make excellent companions for all kinds of people and even though these dogs are large, many do well with children. They are extremely affectionate with their families and may prefer not to be left alone. The dogs are rarely aggressive and respond well to strangers. Greyhounds are sensitive, requiring patience and understanding. It's best for these dogs to live in a peaceful household and be spoken to with kindness.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Greyhound

Archaeological evidence of greyhound-like dogs dates back 8,000 years to the Middle East, making it one of the most ancient dog breeds. Much preferred by the ancient Egyptians, greyhounds were likely also owned by Romans and Greeks. By the ninth century, the breed could be found throughout Europe, and Spanish explorers brought them to the Americas in the 1500s.

Greyhounds were classically used for their hunting prowess and coursing. In addition, the greyhound is the first breed of dog mentioned in English literature over the centuries and was specifically mentioned in many of William Shakespeare's plays. Greyhounds also held a place in the hearts of English nobility, including King James 1 and Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, who owned a famous greyhound named Eos that happily appeared in many court portraits. The modern greyhound derives from dogs bred in England during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The greyhound was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885. Shortly after, modern greyhound racing started in the 1920s in both the United States and England. The breed is typically not used for hunting in more modern times, and live game coursing and racing greyhounds is now illegal in many places. Even England's once-revered Waterloo Cup coursing meet is no longer in existence thanks to the Hunting Act of 2004 deeming it an act of cruelty.

The breed has experienced a surge in popularity in the U.S. since racing the dogs has stopped in many states and rescue organizations have begun to place retired racing greyhounds for adoption.

Greyhounds being judged at the Morris & Essex Dog show
Greyhounds being judged at the Morris & Essex Dog show Getty Images / Alfred Eisenstaedt / The LIFE Picture Collection
Coursing greyhound
February 1923: At the Waterloo Cup held at Altcar, near Liverpool. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

Greyhound Care

Greyhounds need a bit different care than other types of large dogs. You'll have to honor the greyhound's need for short stints of exercise rather than long hauls. Maintaining its coat is never a problem since it's short and smooth. Training will be your biggest challenge since this breed has a highly sensitive nature and will need help adapting to its new environment.

Exercise

Contrary to popular belief, greyhounds are not usually hyperactive or overly energetic. Though excellent athletes, they can also be couch potatoes most of the day, and do very well living in apartments. They love to run, but a moderate amount of daily exercise, about an hour a day, including a 30-minute walk, should be enough to keep a greyhound motivated and fit.

Don't allow a greyhound off-leash, however, as they are prey-driven and will bolt away after small animals. It's best to have a fenced-in area where they can run around. When exercising your greyhound, remember that while they can tolerate hot weather, they will get chilled in cold weather because they lack body fat. You may need to provide a sweater for your pup in the winter while going on a walk.

Grooming

The greyhound's short, smooth coat needs little grooming. The breed sheds at a low to moderate rate, so an occasional once-over with a soft brush or grooming mitt should be sufficient. The typical greyhound only needs occasional bathing. Trim their nails regularly, keeping them short to prevent slipping on slick floors. Look in its ears at least weekly for wax buildup and irritation. It is also good to pay attention to dental hygiene and brush your dog's teeth two to three times per week.

Training

Both proper training and socialization are very important for greyhounds. Fortunately, most can learn and adjust well. Cats and other small animals may provoke their predatory instinct until they learn the animal is a family member.

It helps to know when caring for a greyhound, that a rescued racing dog has had a very different life from the average companion dog. When a dog is not racing, it spends a lot of time in kennels and has usually never seen the inside of a typical home. The dog may be leash-trained but has typically not been exposed to things like stairs and glass doors, so it will need a bit of extra training.

Greyhound portrait
The Spruce / Kevin Norris
Black and white greyhound dog lying on gray couch

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Closeup of a Greyhound's fur
The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: This condition causes the tendency to produce gas and bloat, which can lead to stomach torsion and a medical emergency.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This inheritable condition leads to lameness and arthritis.
  • Osteosarcoma: One of the first signs of this aggressive bone cancer is lameness. It can be treated with amputation and chemotherapy.
  • Hypothyroidism: This thyroid condition can be treated with medication.
  • Sensitivity to Anesthesia: Greyhounds need less anesthesia than other dogs of the same size and the regular dose can be deadly. They metabolize barbiturates slowly.
  • Sensitivity to Insecticides: Greyhounds are sensitive to pyrethrin-based flea collars and sprays, requiring alternative products.
greyhounds as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Male greyhounds need 2.5 to 4 cups of dry food per day, and females need 1.5 to 3 cups. Divide this into two meals—because they are prone to bloat, they are at risk of stomach torsion if they gulp their food or eat too much at once. It is common for them to gain 5 pounds after they retire from racing, but you should monitor your pet's weight to ensure it doesn't gain more than that. If your dog is putting on too much weight, discuss the proper diet with your veterinarian and get recommendations for feeding schedules, amounts, types of dog food, and exercise.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Greyhound

Though greyhounds can sometimes be obtained from a breeder as puppies, the majority of available dogs are retired racers. Adopting a retired racer is a wonderful thing to do. If you would like to share your life with this unique dog breed, take the time to do your research first. Talk to your veterinarian, other greyhound owners, greyhound rescue groups, and reputable breeders to learn more. If you do go through a breeder, expect to pay between $1,500 to $2,500 for a purebred puppy.

The most likely place to adopt a greyhound is from a breed-specific rescue group. Luckily, there are many resources where you can find a retired greyhound, such as:

The National Greyhound Association also offers a list of endorsed regional greyhound rescue groups on its website.

Greyhound Overview

Pros
  • Do not shed much or require a significant amount of grooming

  • Not in need of a lot of exercise, though they get spurts of energy once in a while

  • Docile dogs that are polite and sweet

Cons
  • Don't make good watchdogs, despite their large size

  • Fast runners, so can't be let off a leash

  • Can't spend a significant amount of time outside in cold weather because of temperature sensitivity

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Greyhounds are terrific dogs. If you’re interested in these dogs, take a look at some similar breeds to compare the pros and cons.

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.

FAQ
  • What is the difference between a greyhound and a Spanish galgo?

    The greyhound is often confused with the Spanish galgo. The Spanish galgo translated means Spanish greyhound. These hounds are very much like greyhounds in all facets of their personality, but they are smaller dogs, developed in Spain, and bred for hunting versus racing.

  • When does a greyhound typically retire from racing?

    Retirement usually begins between the ages of 2 and 5, depending on the dog. After this, the transition to companion life may take a few weeks. In some ways, it is almost like a second puppyhood. With a gentle and patient demeanor, you can help your Greyhound with this stage. Some retired racer adoption groups will have their dogs spend some time in foster homes to help acclimate them to the new lifestyle.

  • Why are there so many displaced greyhound dogs?

    Most states in the U.S. have banned greyhound racing, so there are thousands of greyhounds up for adoption. The most recent and largest influx of retired greyhounds came from Florida when the state shut down its many dog racing tracks.