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 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.
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
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