Did you know – Greyhounds in History

“A Greyhound should be headed like a snake and necked like a drake, footed like a cat, tailed like a rat, backed like beam, sided like a bream.”   Dame Juliana Berners “The properties of a Good Grehounde”   The Book of St. Albans 1486

  • The earliest purebred dogs were of the Greyhound type – long legs, long narrow head, deep chest and ability to hunt by sight rather than scent.   
  • The first Greys were seen in what is now southwest Turkey as early as 6000 BC.  
  • A burial urn depicting a Grey dated 4000 BC was found in what is now Iran.
  • The Egyptian god Anubis was half man-half beast, and many surmise that the beast was either a jackal or a Grey.  

Historical figures who kept Greys: 

  • Egyptian pharaohs Tutankhamen, Amenhotep II, Thutmose III and Queen Hatshepsut.  
  • Cleopatra was also known to be very fond of her Greys. 
  • In Greek mythology, Hecate (goddess of wealth) and Pollux (protector of the hunt)  were depicted with Greys
  • Alexander the Great kept a Grey named Peritas. 
  • General George Custer (who coursed his 14 Greys the day before his defeat at Little Big Horn). 

Greys in Art & Literature

  • Diana (Roman goddess of the hunt) gave her best friend Procris a Grey named Lelaps. Lelaps chasing a hound (before being turned into stone) is often depicted in Roman art.
  • In The Odyssey, Homer told the tale of the Grey Argus, who recognized Odysseus when he returned home. 
  • Greys are the only dog breed mentioned in the Bible – Proverbs 30:29 – 31 There are three things which are majestic in pace, Yes, four which are stately in walk: A lion, which is mighty among beasts and does not turn away from any; A greyhound; A male goat also, And a king whose troops are with him.” 
  • Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales, wrote that Greys were as “swift as fowls in flight.”
  • Shakespeare also wrote of Greys in Henry V – “I see you stand as Greyhounds in the slips…”
  • Ucellos’ painting “Hunt in the Forest” shows dozens of Greys helping hunters. 

From Cynthia Branigan’s book Adopting the Racing Greyhound (2nd ed) 1992

For more on the history of the Greyhound – see Cynthia Branigan’s book  The Reign of the Greyhound: A Popular History of the Oldest Family of Dogs.