Retired racing greyhounds make wonderful pets.
Have you ever.gone to the dog track and seen only a long, lean running machine attired in a racing jacket and a muzzle? You may have surmised that they must wear that muzzle to sheathe those teeth. You may also think that racing greyhounds need to run all day to expel all that energy and to calm down even a little.
Actually, racing greyhounds wear muzzles as a state requirement - this aids in the ability to determine the winner in a close race - sometimes a photo finish race. And all that energy you see at the races - that's because they are about to do what they were bred for -- a quick sprint around the race track. Unlike most sporting dogs, who were bred to be able to run all day, greyhounds are capable of expending enormous amounts of energy in a few minutes. But after the race, it's back to the business of kennel life: a drink of water, a turn in the exercise pen, and a two or three-day rest in the kennel before running again.
History of Greyhounds
Greyhounds belong to a family of dogs known as "sighthounds" - so called
because they hunt with their eyes rather than with their noses. In fact, greyhounds can
see a moving object up to a half-mile away! They are one of the oldest, if not the oldest,
breed known to man. Their image is found on the walls of tombs of Egyptian royalty. Their
name in Britain seems to stem from the Saxon word "Greu" which means
"running dog". For centuries commoners were not allowed to own this
breed of dog in order to prevent the poaching of game and thus spoiling the "sport" for the wealthier class. Indeed, prior to the signing of the Magna Carta, destruction of a greyhound was considered a serious crime!
Breeding Characteristics of Greyhounds
From their very beginning greyhounds have been bred to outrun their
prey. Traditionally they were walked on a lead until game was sighted - then they were
released. From that moment on, they pitted their speed and intelligence against that of
their quarries'. The necessity of making their own hunting decisions has made them self
reliant and quick witted. Subsequently, the prestige of owning the fastest running dog led
'gentlemen' to race their dogs against each other (often with a substantial bet on the
outcome). If, in the context of a race, a dog interfered in any way with another
dog it was put down immediately. Centuries of this type of selective destruction of aggression and
subsequent breeding has created a very peaceful dog.
Disposition of Greyhounds
While some may think that the retired racer is not a good choice for
the family dog, the greyhound's long history says otherwise. They possess a calm and gentle nature,
are easily walked on a leash and do well in small houses - needing only their own
special, soft spot upon which to sleep and rest. A walk once a day and an opportunity to
run off leash once or twice a week in an enclosed (fenced) ball field or park are all that
is necessary in terms of exercising a retired racer. But please remember they should also be given the
opportunity to relieve themselves 4-5 times a day.
You will not find a more loyal and devoted companion anywhere. They may perform as watch - but not guard - dogs, though stories abound of owners protected by their retired racers. Clearly enough cannot be said about the power of loyalty and love!
Greyhounds at the Track
So, the next time you find yourself at a dog track watching the
weighing in of the dogs for a scheduled race - remember what you have read here. Look
beyond the muzzle! Take note of the wagging tails! Focus on to the dogs' obvious desire to
please! Occasionally you may even notice someone having difficulty putting on a muzzle
- why you ask? - because the dog insists on kissing the closest human! When you watch them take that first turn, realize you are watching an athlete, weighing an average of 65 pounds, running eight
abreast, running at 40+ miles an hour! Enjoy the grace of a running greyhound, and
think about giving them a life after racing!
Greyhounds From Racing to Retirement
If you find you are intrigued by retired racing greyhounds and would
like to have more information about adopting one, you are in luck. Buffalo Greyhound Adoption, Inc. will be more than happy to
answer any questions you might have concerning these elegant dogs and assist you in any
way they can. BGA offers adoption services as well as the opportunity to meet other greyhound owners through a variety of events throughout the year.