Italian Greyhounds are beautiful dogs known for their small, lithe bodies and graceful high steps. This dog is one of the oldest breeds and one that was favored by Pompeian dog owners, the Victorians, and a slew of well-known kings and queens.
While some believe this breed originated in Egypt, Turkey, or Greece, depictions of the Italian Greyhound have been identified in the volcanic ruins at Pompeii. While it is not known if this dog was simply a companion dog or a dog used for hunting, there is some speculation that the dog’s size and speed would enable it to go after small game in ancient times. If the Italian Greyhound was miniaturized from a previous breed to make it a more appealing companion dog, there is a good possibility that it was dwarfed from Grazehound stock.
Whether or not the Italian Greyhound was used for hunting, it is certain that it was a favorite companion dog by its appearance in paintings by Ward, Giotto, Pisanello, Carpaccio, Velasquez, Blake, Van Dyck, and Teniers. History tells us that the Italian Greyhound was a favorite of royals. James I, Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, Queen Anne, Charles I, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, and Queen Maude of Norway all owned Italian Greyhounds.
The Victorians adored their Italian Greyhounds and were fond of showing ideal specimens of this breed in dog shows. They required this dog not to exceed 7 pounds, and some breeders cheated by trying to introduce Toy Terrier genes into the Italian Greyhound stock. However, with the founding the of the Italian Greyhound Club in 1900 rescued the breed from contamination.
Both World Wars took their toll on the Italian Greyhound population as breeding came to a halt while the world waited for the wars to pass. Enthusiasts took care to bring the breed back to healthy numbers once breeding was possible again. Today, the dog is still a favorite companion dog—small and affectionate, this dog breed has been bringing owners joy for 2,000 years.