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Greyhound Dog Breed

History Of Greyhounds: Part 2

 

To quickly recap on these forest laws of the year 1014: The laws were created so that freemen of the lands could not use their Greyhound dogs to hunt game for food, because it was only the nobles and the rich that could acquire fresh kill for their feasts. The sheer speed and training ability of these dogs were immense, and so they were great hunters for man. Under this law, no slave or serf were legally allowed to own a Greyhound.

As tough as it is to imagine, the law required that all Greyhound dogs owned by freemen of the royal forests were to have either three of their toes chopped off or get the ligament in their legs severed. This would prevent the dogs from chasing and bringing back game to the commoners, which was considered only the right of the nobles.

Eventually, after several centuries, this law was repealed. Even so, the Greyhound dog breed still held its place as dogs of nobility. But with the growth of agriculture and domestic animals used for food, needing the Greyhound to hunt game and gather meat was needed by the people less and less.

Since hunting for prey was outdated at the time, Greyhounds became the target of great sportsmanship in racing by both the nobles and the commoners. This was known as "coursing". A coursing enthusiast, Elizabeth I created rules where the Greyhound dogs could be fairly judged for the new sport coined the "sport of queens". In fact, the first coursing sport was formed in the year 1776. It was during the 1800's that the upper-class considered coursing one of their favorite pastimes.

The sport attracted many contributors, including a man named Lord Orford, whom in the late 1700's set his goals on improving the Greyhound by mixing them with other breeds of dog. Being a devoted fan of coursing himself, the goal was to create faster and more agile dogs from the practice of cross breeding. Of course he was not always successful. At one point he bred a Greyhound with a Bulldog, which back in those days looked like today's Pit Bull.

Needless to say this mix breed did not fair well on the course and caused ridicule from Lord Orford's competitors. Because of this contempt he worked hard at breeding mixed breeds with Greyhounds for seven entire generations. And then, ultimately shocking his competitors, Lord Orford used what he considered his best crossbreed and won every course he sported. It was his hybrid "Czarina" which could not be beat. It can be said that every current day Greyhounds may very well stem from this mix of Bulldog and Greyhound of the past.

Speaking of today's Greyhound, America was introduced to the dog breed when the Spanish brought them during their expeditions in the early 1500s. When the European explorers would travel cross country, it was quite common to be accompanied by a Greyhound dog for the entire trip.

The Greyhound breed really became a massive dog population when the settlers started to set up home and farm in the Midwest. Crops that were grown became overrun by jackrabbits and the best solution at the time was to bring Greyhounds from Europe as 'vermin control'.

And naturally, the speed and agility of the Greyhound brought about the sport of coursing here in American as well. A popular pastime for the settlers was to watch the coursing of jackrabbits, coyotes, and other animals by the fast Greyhounds. Did you know that General Custer owned a large amount of them, as well as Teddy Roosevelt being an avid hunter alongside his Greyhound dogs?

Back to the History Of The Greyhound Part 1

Back to the Greyhound page

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