Here at Pet Adoption Website, ‘sighthounds’ such as greyhounds are one of the most common dogs we have available for adoption. There are common misconceptions about sighthounds, so we caught up with Colette from Homeless Animal Rescue Team, Ireland to find out from the expert, and explain why they make great pets.
Hi Colette, why do you think we have so many Greyhounds available for adoption?
Greyhounds are sighthounds bred to be used in racing and also coursing (chasing rabbits/hares in a field, usually for gambling) but the ex-racers can get an injury or retire quite young, and the ex-coursers can be given up for a few reasons. Although on the decline, Greyhound racing and coursing is still popular enough in Ireland that lots of Greyhounds need to be rehomed.
Could you explain what is meant by ‘sighthound’?
A sighthound is a type of dog that relies primarily on sight, as opposed to smell, which includes Greyhounds, Whippets, Salukis, and Irish Wolfhounds. They tend to be very lean and fast dogs! They are often referred to as 60mph couch potatoes!
Do you see any differences between the Greyhounds that need rehomed from racing as opposed to coursing?
Yes! Coursing greyhounds tend to be slightly larger and more robust, and then there are differences due to their circumstances. Ex-racing greyhounds can be retired aged 3-5 or they could get a wee foot injury when younger – they’ll still be healthy and fast but just not fast enough to be racers! Ex-coursers usually don’t come in with any pre-existing injury as they are more robust; they are a bit bigger and heavier and could come in at any age – the owner may not think the dog is very good or they simply might not want the cost of looking after it until the start of the next coursing season.
What about Lurchers?
Lurcher isn’t actually a breed of dog, it’s a crossbreed resulting from a mating between a Greyhound, or another sighthound, and a different type of dog. The sighthound could be quite far back in the dog’s ancestry and it will still be considered a Lurcher. In the olden days only Noblemen were allowed pure bred sighthounds as they were afraid of others hunting on their lands. The commoners started cross breeding Greyhounds with other breeds with more stamina like Collies or Terriers, so they could have hunting companions that could stay out with them for hours – Greyhounds sprint fast over a short distance but get tired very quickly. That’s why most lurchers have been traditionally bred with Collies or Terriers.
And what’s the difference between a Greyhound and a Whippet?
A Greyhound is a breed of sighthound that has been bred for hunting and racing. They are known for their lean and athletic build, and their ability to run at high speeds for short distances. A Whippet looks very similar to a greyhound but is much smaller (Italian Greyhounds are half the size again!). Also in there to confuse you is a Saluki, which looks similar to a Greyhound but with silky hair, often very noticeable on the ears!
Surely then these guys need loads of exercise if they are good runners?
This is a common misconception! Greyhounds are generally very lazy and low maintenance pets – the opposite to what most people would guess! They typically need only a moderate amount of exercise and they can be happy with a walk or two a day and a good, safe place to run around such as a good size garden. Here are two of my 60mph couch potatoes :)
If they are bred for hunting, are they safe around children?
Greyhounds make great pets for families with children as they have gentle and friendly personalities and an easy going nature – they don’t get confused between rabbits and children! They are also very patient and tolerant of children that are too young to always be gentle with them - and they are traditionally raised in homes with children so have been bred to be good with them to some extent. But like most rescues, due to their size and due to the fact the personality of any adoptive adult dog can’t be guaranteed, we prefer to rehome adult greyhounds to homes without very young children, but it very much depends on the individual dog and the home.
What about other pets in the home? Greyhounds are social animals and can generally get along well with other pets, including cats and other dogs. They do have a prey instinct so we generally don’t rehome to homes with animals such as rabbits or hamsters etc. I have a few Greyhounds/Lurchers at home and it's my cat that rules the roost! Here's a pic of my Lola, isn't she pretty? She's about 3/4 Greyhound so is a Lurcher, but looks like a Greyhound.
Do they need to be muzzled?
In Northern Ireland Greyhounds are required to wear a muzzle when exercised or led in a street or other public place – and not more than 2 per person. In the South no muzzle is required but they must be on a strong leash in public with no more than 4 per person. Their strong prey drive means that if they see a small furry such as a squirrel, rabbit, cat, or toy dog running they will want to give chase – which could put them on a road, or put the small furry in danger.
[More information – Control of Greyhounds Act (NI), Control of Dogs Act 1986 (Irl)]
Why do they make good pets?
They are very loving and affectionate and are known for their gentle and friendly personalities. They are also very healthy and not prone to many inherited health problems like many other breeds. They are also low maintenance and Greyhounds, in particular, require little to no grooming and shed minimally. They are often raised around children in order to introduce the children to the traditions of hunting with them, so they are often used to kids from a young age. The only thing to be careful of is to not sneak up on a sighthound when they are sleeping as they can get a fright if woken suddenly and could then scare a child.
Are you jealous how good they look in jumpers?
I have to say I've seen Greyhounds looking more fashionable than many people! It isn’t just because they look fabulous in jumpers though, they have very little fat so they really feel the cold.
You can see the ‘HART’ dogs available for adoption at: https://www.petadoptionwebsite.com/charity/hart-homeless-animal-rescue-team
Or by searching by breed here.