Centuries of careful and selective breeding have yielded one of the most incredible breed of dogs, the Greyhound. Many people are familiar with the streamlined body and the incredible athletic skills of the Greyhound. These marvelous features do not appear to have changed much since the ancient times. You will even find references to the Greyhound or Greyhound-liked dogs in art work, pottery pieces, and literature and even inside the royal tombs of the Egyptian Pyramids. What is the exact origin of the Greyhound breed? No-one is really sure of this. There is a line of thought that this breed originated from Africa, ancient Greece, the Middle East or even Turkey. However, it is widely known that the Greyhound breed has a bloodline that literally goes back thousands of years making it the oldest bloodline for dogs. Indeed the oldest pedigree held by the Kennel Club is that of a Greyhound.
In Egypt, the ancestors of modern Greyhounds were used in hunting and kept as companions. Many Egyptians considered the birth of a such a hound second in importance only to the birth of a son.
When the pet hound died, the entire family would go into mourning.
The favourite hounds of the upper class were mummified and buried with their owners. The walls of Egyptian tombs (pictured left) often were decorated with images of their hounds. An Egyptian tomb painting from 2200 BC portrays dogs that looks very much like the modern Greyhound. Among pharaohs known to own Greyhound-type dogs are Tutankhamen, Amenhotep II, Thutmose III, Queen Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra VII (of Antony and Cleopatra fame).
(Cleopatra pictured below)
The Egyptian god Anubis, either a jackal or a hound-type dog, is frequently displayed on murals in the tombs of the Pharaohs. Some depictions of it look much like the modern Pharaoh Hound, a close relation of the Greyhound.
The only breed of dog mentioned by name in the Bible is the Greyhound (Proverbs 30:29-31, King James Version):
There be three things which do well, yea,
Which are comely in going;
A lion, which is strongest among beasts and
Turneth not away from any;
A he-goat also
In fact, Greyhounds have a bloodline that runs all the way back to approximately 4,000 years. Greyhounds have been selectively and carefully bred throughout the years for their speed characteristic. The Greyhound is part of the sight hound breed which accounts for the Greyhound’s ability to see approximately half a mile away! Sight hound breeds are known for their uncanny, natural instinct to give chase. The Greyhound is known to travel as fast as 45 miles per hour in just three simple strides forward. The combination of the sight, incredible speed and instinct to give chase is the reason for the Greyhound’s popularity to be used specifically for hunting. Many people are under the misconception that the name Greyhound would mean a grey coloured dog. The closest colour among the breed is the blue or steel colours. However, these are not common at all in the Greyhound breed. One popular belief is that the name Greyhound actually came from the term gazehound that actually means sight hound. Other beliefs of the origin of the term Greyhound focus around various meanings or translations for the word Greyhound or for specific characteristics for the breed. For example, the Greek words Graius, gracillius mean slender or sleek which is a respected feature of the Greyhound breed. Another example is the British words, grech or greg which simply means dog, combined with hundr which translate to hunter.
Prior to the Middle Ages, it appeared as though these swift hounds lost their place among the great halls of the privileged, especially when many famines swept the lands. Yet the resilient breed
over time once again endeared themselves to royalty, and again became features in their courts.
Moreover, the nobles became so enamored of their phenomenal hunting dogs that it was a capital offense to kill a Greyhound. Human life at times was valued less than the life of one such dog. Before long, commoners were forbidden from owning these dogs, and it was only the noble who had permission from the king to own and breed Greyhounds.
As the middle ages gave way to the age of enlightenment, the status of the Greyhound did not significantly shift. Although they were no longer valued above human life, they still were considered one of the premier status symbols that a man of means could aspire to. This explains their presence in many of the portraits commissioned by the wealthy and notable clientele of the famous painters of the age.
Before long the hunt was no longer considered a worthwhile endeavour and the man of means became the man of business. While balancing ledgers and overseeing factories, the highly bred sporting dogs were put to use in the arenas of sports, where their agility once again became a highly prized asset. What may have originally been little more than a friendly competition amongst business rivals soon turned into a full-fledged gaming venture; dog racing soon rivalled horse racing in popularity.
Images below are of the most famous coursing meeting the Waterloo Cup.
The Waterloo Cup was a coursing event organised by the National Coursing Club. The three-day event was run annually at Great Altcar in Lancashire, England from 1836 to 2005 and it used to attract tens of thousands of spectators to watch and gamble on the coursing matches. It was founded by The 2nd Earl of Sefton and, originally, was supported by his patronage.
Fleck of hare fur from the last Waterloo Cup meet, February, 2005.
It was the biggest annual hare coursing event in the United Kingdom and was often referred to by its supporters as the blue riband event of the coursing year. A hare coursing event of identical name was held in Australia from 1868 to 1985, at which point it became a lure coursing event. Run as a knock-out tournament between sixty four coursing Greyhounds from Great Britain and Ireland, supporters described it as the ultimate test of a Greyhound but opponents of hare coursing, such as the League Against Cruel Sports, saw it as a celebration of cruelty. The Hunting Act 2004, which came into force just after the 2005 cup, made hare coursing events illegal in England and Wales, and the Waterloo Cup has not taken place since.