The English Greyhound is one of the most famous breeds in the world, prized for its immense agility and great speed. There are various theories about the meaning of the breed's name, from simply denoting its original colouring to it being derived from "Greek Hound", "Grehund" or "Gazehound" and other terms. It should be noted that this breed is not 7000 years old, as some sources claim, even if it is considered to be the oldest pure breed of dog. Although sighthounds have existed since ancient times in Egypt, Greece, Asia and numerous other places worldwide, the English breed was developed in the 18th century. Greyhound-type dogs were originally introduced to Britain by the Celtic tribes from the Balkans over 2000 years ago and were valued and protected by the nobility since the 11th century, but the modern breed bearing the Greyhound name was actually created in the 1700's by Lord Orford, who crossed common working greyhounds with Irish and English Lurchers, imported Italian Greyhounds and old British bulldogges. By combining the speed and agility of Italian dogs, the intelligence and trainability of Lurchers and the courage and drive of bulldogges, Lord Orford succeeded in establishing a superb working breed, faster than all other hunting dogs and much more powerful than most other sighthounds.
Capable of reaching speeds of 45 miles per hour, posessing great intelligence and an athlete's physique, the English Greyhound has traditionally been bred for hunting duties and expected to be able to outrun its prey and get along with other dogs in the pack. Very popular with both the aristocracy and common hunters for centuries, there have been a few types within the breed over the years, reflecting certain requirements and preferences of different fanciers. To this day, there are three main Greyhound varieties, separated by size, temperament and appearance. The Show strain is tall, gentle and lightly-built, prized for its elegance and beauty. Greyhounds belonging to the working Coursing type are shorter, heavier and much more driven and resilient. The popular Racing variety is the lightest and fastest one, bred for speed and agility. As a pet, this breed is loyal, loving and playful, but it requires a fair ammount of excercise and training. Early socialization is important to help control the Greyhound's natural tendency to chase small animals. This is a healthy and long-lived dog, a good choice for a family companion, although the Racing and Coursing varieties can be too much work for inexperienced owners. The Show variety is much calmer and easier to handle than the working types, but any Greyhound can be an agreable pet if bred well, trained properly and excercised on a regular basis.
Regardless of type, the English Greyhound is a large, long-necked and deep-chested breed, with a muscular body and long sturdy legs. The back is arched, the head is elongated and the tail is thin, long and slightly curled. A few ear-types are accepted, from bulldogge-like "rosebud" ears to those that are carried high, fully pricked, folded back or semi-erect.
The coat is short, smooth and flat, coming in a variety of colourings. Contrary to its name, the most common colour for the Greyhound is actually brindled fawn, courtesy of its bulldogge ancestry. Grey-coloured dogs do exist, but aren't as commonly encountered as the red, tan, fawn, blue, white, black, brindle and bicoloured examples. The average height is around 28 inches at the withers, but taller, as well as smaller specimens can be found, depending on the type.