This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
The particular variety of Canes venatici grayii of which I propose to treat, and which possesses an inherent right to occupy the highest place in the group of dogs hunting by keenness of sight and fleetness of foot, is the modern British greyhound. I say British, for the time has gone by when we could speak of English, Scotch, or Irish greyhounds in any other than the past tense; and the modern greyhound, the most elegant of the canine race, the highest achievement of man's skill in manipulating the plastic nature of the dog and forming it to his special requirements, as he is stripped, in all his beauty of outline and wonderful development, not only of muscle, but of that hidden fire which gives dash, energy, and daring, stands revealed a manufactured article, the acme of perfection in beauty of outline and fitness of purpose; and, whether we see him trying conclusions on the meadows of Lurgan, the rough hillsides of Crawford John, or for the blue ribbon of the leash on the flats of Aitcar, he is still the same - the dog in whom the genius of man has so mingled the blood of all the best varieties, that no one can lay special claim to him.
He is a combination of art and nature that challenges the world, unequalled in speed, spirit, and perseverance, and in elegance and beauty of form as far removed from many of his clumsy ancestors as an English thoroughbred from a coarse dray horse.
MR. J. H. SALTER'S GREYHOUND "GLENAVON."
Sire Ingleton, by Ewesdale out of Meg - Dam Wee Avon, by Canaradzo out of Scotland Yet.
It is not my intention to attempt to trace the history of the greyhound, or to follow his development from the comparatively coarse, but more powerful dog from which he derives his origin. The very name has long been a bone of contention among etymologists; but, however interesting to the scholar, the discussion possesses few attractions for the general reader, the ingenious guessing and nice hair-splitting proving often more confusing than profitable. Not to pass the subject over in complete silence, I may observe that whilst some contend that the name Canis Groecus points to a Greek origin, others derive the name from "grey," gre or grie, supposed to be originally the prevailing colours; others, with apparently greater reason, suppose the name to have been given on account of the high rank or degree the dog held among his fellows.
The greyhound having been always kept for the chase, would naturally undergo modifications with the changes in the manner of hunting, the nature of the wild animals he was trained to hunt, and the characteristics of the country in which he was used; and having always, until very recent times, been restricted to the possession of persons of the higher ranks, he would have greater care, and his improvement be the better secured. That his possession was so restricted is shown by the forest laws of King Canute, which prohibited anyone under the degree of a gentleman from keeping a greyhound; and an old Welsh proverb says: *' You may know a gentleman by his horse, his hawk, and his greyhound."
The alteration in the game laws of modern times, coupled with the great increase of wealth and leisure, have, by giving impetus to the natural desire for field sports, characteristic of Englishmen, led to the present great and increasing popularity of coursing, and consequent diffusion of greyhounds through all classes, heightening an honourable competition, and securing a continued, if not a greater care and certainty of the dogs' still further improvement.
It is impossible to separate the greyhound from coursing, as we understand it; for, although the sport existed and was practised in a manner similar to our present system some seventeen hundred years ago, as described by Arrian in the second century, the thorough organization of the sport and the condensation of the laws governing it, are not only essentially British, but, in their present shape, quite modern, and it is the conditions of the sport that have produced the greyhound of the day, to which the words -
They are as swift as breathed stags, Aye, fleeter than the roe, are more applicable than to any of its predecessors.
If we go back to the earlier centuries of the history of our country, we find the greyhound used in pursuit of the wolf, boar, deer, etc, in conjunction with other dogs of more powerful build; still we can easily perceive that to take a share in such sports at all he must have been probably larger, certainly stronger, coarser, and more inured to hardships, whilst he would not be kept so strictly to sight hunting as the demands of the present require; still, the material out of which the present dog has been made was there, and his form and characteristics, even to minute detail, were recognised, and have been described with an accuracy which no other breed of dogs has had the advantage of, else might we be in a better position to understand the value of claims for old descent set up for so many varieties. And to these descriptions I propose to refer, to endorse, as well as to make still more clear and emphatic, the points of excellence recognised as correct by modern followers of the leash.
The whole group to which he belongs is distinguished by the elongated head, the parietal, side and upper or partition bones of the head shelving in towards each other, high proportionate stature, deep chest, arched loins, tucked-up flank, and long fine tail; and such general form as is outlined in this description is seen in perfection in the greyhound. To some it may sound contradictory to speak in one sentence of elegance and beauty of form, and in the next of a tucked-up flank; and fox-terrier and mastiff men, who want their favourites well ribbed back, with deep loin and flanks well filled, to make a form as square as a prize shorthorn, may object, but we must remember that beauty largely consists in fitness and aptitude for the uses designed and the position to be filled.