Essentially a slender miniature greyhound, the Italian greyhound is exceptionally elegant and graceful. It embodies the same qualities that enable the full-sized greyhound to run at top speed using the double-suspension gallop: a curvaceous outline with a slight arch over the loin and good rear angulation. Its gait is high-stepping and free. The coat is short and glossy, like satin.

A sighthound in a small package, the Italian greyhound shares its larger relatives’ characteristics. It loves to run and chase. It is extremely gentle and sensitive. Reserved, often timid, with strangers, it is devoted to its family and is good with children, and other dogs and pets. However, it can be easily injured by boisterous children and larger dogs.

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The Italian greyhound has been around for many centuries, but exactly how and when this miniaturized greyhound was developed has been lost in time. Evidence of dogs resembling the Italian greyhound can be found in art dating nearly 2,000 years ago from Turkey, Greece and other areas around the Mediterranean.

By the Middle Ages, miniaturized greyhounds could be found throughout southern Europe, but they found special favor with Italian courtiers.

The breed came to England in the 17th century, quickly becoming as popular with nobility there as they had been in their Italian homeland. In 1820, the Italian greyhound was one of only two toy breeds mentioned in a book about dogs. The Italian greyhound continued to find favor, reaching its peak during the reign of Queen Victoria.

After that time, its numbers declined, however, and the breed dwindled to such an extent that it almost disappeared in England after World War II. One possible reason for its decline was a degradation in quality, because dogs were bred for tiny size, often without regard to soundness and health.

Fortunately, Italian greyhounds had come to America in the late 1800s, and even though their numbers were small, these dogs were of high quality. They, along with other imports, helped revive the breed in Europe. Since then, the Italian greyhound has risen gradually in popularity and is now enjoying a second renaissance.

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The Italian greyhound likes a daily romp outdoors, but it hates the cold. Its exercise needs are best met with a good walk on leash or even a rollicking game indoors. It also likes to stretch out and sprint in a fenced area. This breed cannot live outdoors. Care of the fine short hair is minimal, consisting only of occasional brushing to remove dead hair. Regular brushing of the teeth is important in this breed.

  • Major concerns: peridontal disease
  • Minor concerns: epilepsy, leg fractures, patellar luxation, PRA
  • Occasionally seen: none
  • Suggested tests: knee, eye
  • Life span: 12 – 15 years
  • Note: The breed is susceptible to leg and tail fractures. It shares the sighthound sensitivity to anesthesia and barbituates.


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