Greyhounds are well-famed as being racing dogs. The popularity of greyhound racing, however, has dwindled in the past decades, where now there are only around 20 licensed stadiums in the UK.
In the 1940s, there were over 77 registered stadiums. The drop in popularity stems mainly from the fact that races now take place during the day, but many now also believe the sport to be cruel.
When greyhounds retire from the profession, often at around 3 or 4 years old, many are adopted through charities such as the Greyhound Trust, which are affiliated with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).
Every year, approximately 8,000 greyhounds retire from racing
Despite the sport of greyhound racing not being as popular as it once was, this is still an extraordinary number of dogs. Most of these will be put up for adoption and are able to be rehomed.
If you’re considering adopting a greyhound, there are a few things to know first.
- The greyhound is actually one of the oldest dog breeds in history
They have been traced back over 4,000 years in cave drawings, and are the only breed to be mentioned in the Bible.
- All are thoroughbred
A pure greyhound will have a full lineage of greyhounds, for generations. Most greyhounds who retire from racing and are kept by the original owners will be bred.
- They are a very large breed
With Italian greyhounds, whippets and Saluki’s all common sights at the dog park, it can actually come as a surprise how large purebred greyhounds are. Males are usually between 71-76cm and females 69-71cm.
- Their coats are very varied
A greyhound can come as black, white, red, blue, fawn, fallow, brindle or any of these colours with white.
- They can live for 15 years
Most will retire between the ages of 3-5 if they were racing dogs. Some retire earlier due to injury or simply because they don’t have a passion for racing. But they can actually still have many years of happiness in a home.
- Greyhounds don’t require much care
Two small 20 minute walks every day will suffice – they are built for speed, not stamina. Therefore, they’re not really for anyone who goes on long weekend rambles. They don’t moult much though, so only need light grooming.
- They are an overall healthy breed
Generally, they are a healthy breed with no underlying health issues. Their main health concern is injuries from racing.
Many could believe that a greyhound is quite an active, bouncy dog due to its racing past. However, this isn’t necessarily true.
Most greyhounds are incredibly docile, friendly and loyal. They make great pets for all kinds of situations, generally being good around children, the elderly and other dogs. Basic training may be required around certain other pets and children, however, as they won’t be used to home environments and being around fuss and attention all day.
Even ‘child-friendly’ breeds shouldn’t be left with children unattended
They are low maintenance, often happy to have two short walks per day and then spend the rest of the time sleeping on the sofa. This makes them ideal for new dog owners and suitable for non-experienced owners too. Many people who have one greyhound will then be bonded with the breed for life.
On rare occasions, greyhounds can struggle to adapt to home environments straight away as they are used to kennels. Many greyhounds will have spent prolonged time alone, so can be overwhelmed in a home, especially if it is a busy or active house. You may need to take things slowly, not crowd the dog and allow it space to retreat if it wants to sleep.
Do I have to muzzle a greyhound?
Many will have to be muzzled on walks when you first adopt them, but this is just due to their history as racing dogs. They are sighthounds, and it is in their nature to chase small animals. Some greyhounds can also be reactive to other dogs, particularly very small or very large breeds.
Greyhounds can wear a large, plastic basket muzzle that is long enough for their snout. This still allows them to breathe. Most will be used to these from their days on the tracks.
Once you get to know their temperament and know they can stay calm around smaller animals and other dogs, most can be muzzle-free.
Some charities recommend that all greyhounds are kept in muzzles in small spaces or when off the lead around possible wildlife. A lot of greyhounds actually associate muzzles with pleasurable walks, so this isn’t a worry at all.
A reliable recall should be present before letting a greyhound off the lead.
Which collar do I need for a greyhound?
Greyhounds need a special collar, due to their long thinner necks. They can either wear a greyhound collar, which is thicker or a martingale or slip collar which will tighten if they pull or try to back out of their collar (without hurting them).
Can a greyhound live with a cat?
All sighthounds have natural hunting instincts. This is not necessarily anything to do with their racing past, but it is thought racing encourages it.
They can be trained to live with small animals quite happily. However, never take for granted they will be fine together and certainly don’t risk the pairing without thorough training and introduction.
Many dedicated rehoming charities carry out ‘cat tests’ with the dogs who are up for adoption. They will be able to give you more information on whether the pairing will be appropriate. Some greyhounds may need to be an only pet, though.
Is greyhound racing cruel?
Many believe the simple act of racing any animal, whether it be greyhounds or horses, is cruel.
Greyhounds are kept in kennels by their trainers, before being transported to the racing track. It can be argued this is no life for a dog. Every year, injuries and fatalities occur on the tracks.
Once the career of a greyhound is over, they also need to look for homes. Many dedicated charities now exist, and greyhounds are passed directly to the charities for responsible rehoming. But this does mean there are thousands of dogs available for adoption every year, which puts added pressure on charities.
Thankfully, they are becoming a popular breed with ordinary homes though, so most are rehomed and they don’t face the same struggles as some other breeds.