A hound is defined as “a type of dog that assists hunters by tracking or chasing the animal being hunted”. Greyhounds are one of the oldest and most consistently bred breed of dog in the world. They belong to a group of dogs called “sighthounds” or “gazehounds” because they rely on keen eyesight, great speed and agility to hunt prey as opposed to “scent hounds” who hunt by smell and endurance.
Deer Hunt – Antonio Tempesta c.1600
There are many different breeds of sighthounds throughout the world with the most common ones in Australia (besides the greyhound) being:
- Irish Wolfhound
- Italian Greyhound
- Pharoah Hound
The breeds that mostly closely resemble the greyhound are the whippet and the Italian greyhound but only in appearance, not size.
Image sourced https://meetluigi.wordpress.com
A sighthound has a dolichocephalic skull which is a relatively long skull, the breadth of which is typically less than 75-80% of the length. Greyhounds have a wider field of vision (up to 270°) than other dog breeds with different shaped skulls which generally only range up to 250°. A human’s field of vision is only 180°. It is thought greyhounds can see up to distances of approximately one kilometre.
Sighthounds are independent dogs as the breed was taught to hunt and chase down game with little guidance from their humans, whereas other sporting dog breeds were trained to work alongside their masters. Greyhounds can go from a standing position to speeds of up to 75 kph in just a few short steps and once the dog has something in its sight it is unlikely that it will pay much attention to your requests to come back. By the time you open your mouth it will probably be out of earshot anyway and with humans only sprinting at a top speed of about 40kph, chasing after a greyhound is not an option.
For these reasons it is recommended that you only let your greyhound off-leash in a safe enclosed area. They have very little road sense and can easily run out and be hit by a car. Their fast speed combined with intense focus, means they can quickly get lost or seriously injured on objects they do not see.