During Egyptian times, pharaohs known to own greyhound-type dogs were Tutankhamen, Amenhotep II, Thutmose III, Queen Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra VII. Alexander the Great owned a greyhound named Peritus who rode beside him in many great battles. During one fateful battle, Peritus fought to attack an elephant and you can imagine, Peritas lost this battle. But because Alexander was so impressed with this act of bravery, he named a city after Peritas and had a statue made and erected in his dog’s honor in the city square.
During the famine of the Middle Ages, Greyhounds nearly became extinct. Clergymen saved them and bred them for nobility. King Howell of Wales set a law into place that made killing of a greyhound an offense punishable by death. In 1014, King Canute of England set a law into place that disallowed commoners from owning these regal hunting hounds. Commoners caught with these hounds were severely punished and killing a greyhound was a sentence punishable by death. Dogs in general during this era were looked down upon whereas the Greyhound was considered highly valued. In tombs during this time, Greyhounds are depicted as symbols of knighthood along with the lion to symbolize strength.
The Renaissance period brought with it many new artists and greyhounds were a frequent focus in paintings. Artists such as Veronese, Pisanello, and Uccello immortalized greyhounds in their artwork.
With the advent of the Victorian era, royalty were not the only persons allowed to own greyhounds. People moving upward in status began to enjoy the sport of coursing which involved releasing two greyhounds to chase a hare (rabbit) in a field. Many of a these coursing events were highly regarded sporting events like the Waterloo Cup. The three day event was run annually in Lancashire, England from 1836 to 2005. 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.
Greyhounds arrived in America with the Spanish explorers during the 1500s and were some of the first dogs recorded at American dog shows during the 1800’s, according the American Kennel Club (AKC). There were a few greyhounds in the Americas during colonial times. A greyhound, named Azor, kept the German born military leader, Baron Von Stueben company through a long winter at Valley Forge while the Continental Army was being trained during the Revolutionary War. Azor was reported as a very large greyhound with big paws who accompanied Von Stueben everywhere.
During the mid 1800’s greyhounds were imported from Ireland and England primarily to hunt and kill jackrabbits to protect farmers’ crops. Greyhounds became familiar sites on farms and ranches in the American Mid-West. A famous owner of greyhounds during this time was General George Custer. It is said that on the eve of the battle at Little Big Horn, General Custer sent his greyhounds into town with one of his military officers to ensure the safety of his hounds. Custer was reported as owning over 40 greyhounds. See this link to find out more about George Custer and his greyhounds
It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that greyhound racing was introduced in the Americas. Owen Patrick Smith invented the artificial rabbit lure that moved around a circular racetrack in Emeryville, California in 1926. This would be the beginning of greyhound racing in the U.S., but it really wasn’t until the early 1930’s that greyhound racing began to be noticed and the popularity began.
The greyhound is the first dog mentioned in literature. The first mention of any canine breed in literature dated back around 800 BC. In Greek literature, a book called The Odyssey told a story of a man named Odysseus who left home for 20 years. When he arrived home, the only one who recognized him was his Greyhound “Argus”, who was only a puppy when he left home.
The greyhound is the only breed of dog mentioned in the bible (King James version, Proverbs 30:29-31)
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;
And a he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up