Italian Greyhound History

Italian Greyhound History: From Gladiators to Lapdogs – The Transformation of a Breed

The Italian Greyhound, a petite canine breed, has an extensive and captivating history. Considered to be originated in ancient Egypt, this assertion is supported by the discovery of small Greyhound-like dogs within pharaohs’ tombs, bearing a striking resemblance to the modern breed.

These cherished dogs were frequently mummified, highlighting their significance and esteem in Egyptian society. As the name implies, the Italian Greyhound also deeply connects with Italy. 

The breed likely arrived in Italy thanks to traders and merchants journeying along Mediterranean trade routes. The Italian Greyhound gained popularity in Italy as a distinguished companion dog among the aristocracy, who admired the breed’s elegance and grace.

Gradually, the breed dispersed across Europe and ultimately reached the United States. Today, the Italian Greyhound is a special breed celebrated for their affectionate and lively disposition.

Italian Greyhound Origins

The Italian Greyhound, an ancient breed with a fascinating past, can trace its origins back to ancient Egypt. 

Small Greyhound-like dogs were highly esteemed and often mummified in this society, signifying their importance and reverence. These dogs were even depicted in pharaohs’ tombs.

Considered to have originated over 2,000 years ago in present-day Greece and Turkey, this belief is supported by the early decorative arts of these countries, which feature miniature greyhounds, and the archaeological discovery of small greyhound skeletons.

While its original purpose remains unknown, the initial Italian Greyhounds likely served as small game hunters and companions. The Italian Greyhound was popular among aristocrats and frequently appeared in Renaissance paintings.

In the 16th century, the breed arrived in Italy and quickly gained popularity among the Italian nobility. The breed was refined for its elegance and grace and used to hunt rabbits and other small game.

Today, the Italian Greyhound is a famous companion dog known for its affectionate and playful nature. The American Kennel Club recognizes the breed and is a member of the Toy group.

Italian Greyhound Breeding and Development

The Italian Greyhound boasts an extensive and intriguing history. Believed to have originated in ancient Egypt, small Greyhound-like dogs were held in high esteem and frequently mummified, signifying their importance and reverence within Egyptian society.

These dogs likely made their way to Europe through traders and travelers, eventually evolving into the contemporary Italian Greyhound we recognize today.

The breeding and development of the modern Italian Greyhound commenced in the late 19th century. The breed rapidly gained popularity in Italy and was soon exported to other countries. 

In 1901, six Italian Greyhounds were showcased in Milan and Novara, followed by two in Turin in 1902 and one in Udine in 1903. The British Italian Greyhound Club was founded in 1900, and a written Breed Standard was created using Stonehenge’s writings. 

In the early 20th century, breeders in England and the United States began working to develop the Italian Greyhound further. The Italian Greyhound Club of America was founded in 1954.

Italian Greyhounds, such as rabbits and rodents, were initially bred to hunt small game. However, as the breed became more popular as a companion dog, breeders began focusing on developing their temperament and appearance. Today, Italian Greyhounds are primarily known for their affectionate and loyal nature.

Breeders of Italian Greyhounds must be careful to avoid breeding for extreme traits that can lead to health problems. For example, breeders should avoid breeding for petite sizes, which can lead to fragile bones and other health issues. 

Breeders should also carefully screen their breeding stock for genetic health issues like hip dysplasia and eye problems.

Overall, the breeding and development of the Italian Greyhound has been a fascinating journey. Today, the breed is beloved by many for its affectionate nature and unique appearance.

Italian Greyhound Appearance and Characteristics

The Italian Greyhound is a small sighthound breed known for its elegant and delicate appearance. They have a short, smooth coat in various colors, including gray, black, fawn, chocolate, tan, cream, red, sable, or a combination.

Italian Greyhounds rank as the tiniest among sighthound breeds, with a weight not exceeding 5 kg and a height ranging from 32 to 38 cm at the withers. The head is small, elongated, narrow, dark, bright, and intelligent eyes set apart. They have a deep chest, a tucked-up abdomen, long slender legs, and a long neck.

The breed is well-proportioned, with a graceful and athletic build that allows them to move quickly and in agility. Italian Greyhounds are known for their keen eyesight and gentle disposition, making them excellent companions for those who enjoy an active lifestyle.

Italian Greyhounds are affectionate, playful, brilliant dogs that thrive on human companionship. Italian Greyhounds are known for their loyalty and devotion to their owners, and they naturally desire to please. 

However, they can be sensitive and require patience and gentle training to bring out their best qualities. The Italian Greyhound is a small, elegant, athletic breed with a gentle disposition and a strong desire to please. 

They are known for their graceful movement, keen eyesight, and affectionate nature, making them excellent companions for those who enjoy an active lifestyle.

Italian Greyhound Popularity and Decline

Italian Greyhounds were first bred in Italy centuries ago, and their popularity has waxed and waned over the years. 

During the 19th century, Italian Greyhounds gained popularity in England, especially among the aristocracy. Queen Victoria was a notable admirer of the breed, and her fondness for Italian Greyhounds contributed to their increased prominence.

However, by the early 1900s, the breed’s popularity had declined in England. After World War II, Italian Greyhounds almost disappeared from the country altogether. 

Some breeders attempted to decrease the size of the already small dog, which led to a decline in the breed’s health.

Despite this decline, Italian Greyhounds continued to be popular in other parts of the world. Italian Greyhounds were brought to America in the late 1800s and have since regained some popularity. 

Today, Italian Greyhounds are recognized by the American Kennel Club and are popular among dog lovers.

Overall, the history of Italian Greyhounds is one of ups and downs. While the breed has experienced periods of great popularity, it has also faced challenges and declines. 

However, their unique appearance and charming personalities have helped them to endure and remain a beloved breed for many dog enthusiasts.

Italian Greyhound Current Status and Future

Italian Greyhounds have been steadily gaining popularity over the years, with their affectionate and playful personalities making them a favored option for families and individuals.

According to AKC, the Italian Greyhound currently ranks 63rd most popular dog breed in the United States, up from 84th in 2013.

While the breed’s popularity is on the rise, it is essential to note that Italian Greyhounds are still considered a relatively rare breed. Finding a reputable breeder can be challenging, and potential owners should be prepared to research before bringing an Italian Greyhound into their home.

The Italian Greyhound will probably keep gaining popularity in the coming years as more individuals discover the breed’s distinct traits and captivating temperament.

However, as with any breed, ensuring the Italian Greyhound’s health and well-being is a top priority is essential.

To help ensure the continued health and success of the breed, organizations such as the Italian Greyhound Club of America promote responsible breeding practices and educate the public about the breed’s needs. 

We can help ensure this beloved breed thrives for generations by working together to support the Italian Greyhound community.


Italian Greyhounds have a rich, fascinating, and extensive history, tracing back to ancient Egyptian and Roman times. 

These petite, graceful canines were greatly esteemed in these civilizations, frequently portrayed in artwork, and even mummified.

In the late 19th century, the modern Italian Greyhound as we know it today began to emerge. 

The breed was first shown in Milan and Novara in 1901, and since then, it has gained a following worldwide for its unique combination of grace, speed, and affectionate personality.

Italian Greyhounds are popular pets and companions known for their loyalty and intelligence. They are also often used in dog sports, such as agility and obedience, where their athleticism and trainability shine.

If you’re considering welcoming an Italian Greyhound into your family, conducting thorough research and locating a trustworthy breeder or rescue organization is essential.

These dogs have specific needs and require a loving, attentive owner willing to provide them with plenty of exercise, socialization, and affection. 

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