Italian Greyhound – History Information

Italian Greyhound head


Italian Greyhound’s Origin

The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the family of gazehounds (dogs that hunt by sight). The breed is an old one and is believed to have originated more than 2,000 years ago in the countries known today as Greece and Turkey.

This belief is based on the depiction of miniature greyhounds in the early decorative arts of these countries and the archaeological discovery of small greyhound skeletons.


Early History of the Italian Greyhound Breed

Due to the antiquity of the breed, there is no documented evidence whether the Italian Greyhound was bred to be a small game hunter or a companion. Most likely it was a combination of both roles, as a small greyhound-type dog is found in ancient decorative art hunting scenes and family portraits.

Sometime between 200 BC and 200 AD, the Romans brought the sighthounds of the Middle East and Greece into their homes, and the beginnings of the small Greyhounds of Italy were born.

Evidence of miniature sighthounds can be found in the ruins of Pompeii from 79 AD. By the Middle Ages, the breed had become distributed throughout Southern Europe and was later a favorite of the Italians in the 16th century, usually owned by the nobility.


The Renaissance Period

The Renaissance period produced paintings and sculptures of the Italian Greyhound breed in a recognizable form. It is due to their popularity in Italy that the breed became known as the “Italian Greyhound.

One of the first descriptions is given by an Italian nobleman named Francesco Birago in 1626 in his Treatise of Hunting, in which he writes of the Greyhound of Italy as being around 17 to 19 inches tall. Their form and function as companions and hunters is detailed in these writings.


The Victorian Era

The breed spread throughout Europe into England in the 17th century. England has had a great influence on the breed. In the 1800’s Victorian era, the craze for small Toy dogs and breeding for smaller and smaller dogs became a fashionable pastime.

The English considered the Italian Greyhound a companion pet and the breed was not used for hunting, despite their ability to hunt in their native country.


Italian Greyhound Clubs

The British Italian Greyhound Club was founded in 1900 and a written Breed Standard was created using Stonehenge’s writings. The Italian Greyhound Club of America was founded in 1954.

Italian Greyhound History
Italian Greyhound History – Photo Credit: AKC

The Italian Greyhound is not a bred-down version of the Greyhound. Rather, they share common ancestors. There is no evidence of other breeds being used to create the Italian Greyhound. The breed’s small size is a result of selective breeding.

Today, the Italian Greyhound, affectionately called the IG, is a talented, multi-purpose dog. It is not uncommon to see the IG participating in all types of performance events, from dock diving to lure coursing to agility, and then going home to be a loving family companion.

Italian Greyhound dog lying on the field of flowers



Are you looking for an Italian Greyhound puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.


Want to help rescue and re-home an Italian Greyhound dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.


Italian Greyhound Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the playful Italian Greyhound dog breed with articles and information in our Italian Greyhound Dog Breed Magazine.


Italian Greyhound Breed Magazine - Showsight


  • Lilian Barber was born in Germany and left that country under duress in 1939 with her parents, and with only what they could wear and carry, just ahead of the Holocaust. The family spent a year in the London slums before being able to enter the United States in 1940. At some point during her early years, Lilian became consumed by an almost insane desire for the companionship of a dog, but due to the family’s strained living conditions, she was not able to have one until she grew up and had a life of her own. She acquired her first Italian Greyhound in 1966. Lilian has lived with from one to 18 IGs at any given time ever since, and she has bred nearly 100 AKC champions under the La Scala kennel name, most of these Lilian showed and finished herself after being part of the dog fancy had helped her to shake off her shyness and tendency to be clumsy at any kind of sport. Lilian was approved in 1989 to judge Italian Greyhounds and has judged Specialties in Italy and Australia as well as in the United States, including the National Specialty in 2003 & 2010. She was invited to judge in Japan in 2013. Lilian has written four books about the IG and one about her life with and without dogs titled, My Mother Never Taught Me Songs. Lilian has been the IG Breed Columnist for the AKC Gazette since 1977 as well as a writer of a regular column in The Italian Greyhound Magazine. She has served on the Judges’ Education Committee for the Italian Greyhound Club of America, was one of the creators of the Illustrated Standard for the IG, and is a past President of the IGCA. Most of all, Lilian says that she is completely smitten with this breed and could not imagine ever again living without at least one or two of them.

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