The Italian Greyhound is a breed of dog which is the smallest of the sight hounds, dogs that hunt by sight rather than scent.

During the middle ages the breed became popular throughout Southern Europe, particularly in Italy where miniature dogs were in great demand. Unfortunately ‘designer’ breeders tried and failed to make the breed even smaller by crossbreeding it with other dogs, this resulted in mutations, with deformed skulls, bulging eyes and dental problems. The original Italian Greyhound had almost disappeared, until groups of breeders got together and managed to return the breed to normal. After that the history of the Italian Greyhound can be fairly well traced, as it spread across Europe, arriving in England early in the 1700s

The breed became popular amongst royalty, with Queen Anne, Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria and Frederick the great, as well as appearing in paintings by Pisanello, Giotto and Velazquez.

A healthy Italian Greyhound should weigh between 3.5 to 7 kg and will usually stand 13 to 15 inches, they are classed in the toy dog category in the U.K and the U. S but are classed as sight hounds by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).

Though many Italian Greyhound owners dispute the use of the term ‘miniature greyhound’ in reference to the breed itself, by definition of the American Kennel club they are true genetic greyhounds, with a bloodline extending back over 2000 years. Their current small stature is a result of selective breeding, their gait is distinctive, and should be high-stepping and free, rather than like that of a horse. They have a double suspension gallop and are able to run at high speeds, being able to reach a top speed of 25 miles per hour.

Like the standard greyhound, they have a deep chest with a tucked up abdomen, long slender legs and a long neck that tapers down to a small head. Recognised coat colours in the U. K include, black, blue (grey), fawn and red, the U. K Kennel club accepts all colours except brindle, for the American Kennel club and the Australian Kennel council multi coloured Italian Greyhounds are acceptable. .

The Italian Greyhound is a loyal and loving dog which makes it the perfect companion, but care must be taken when playing with children, due to its size and slim build it is quite fragile and easily injured. They are an energetic dog, fast and agile, they love to run, though due in some cases to poor lineages, they can be prone to broken legs. Because they are sight hounds, Italian Greyhounds hunt by sight and have a high predatory instinct

Their extremely short, almost odorless coat means they require little grooming, a bath every 4 to 6 weeks is considered adequate, the Italian Greyhound sheds very little hair.

Like a lot of dogs breeds the Italian Greyhound can suffer from cataracts and other eye problems. Their scissor bite and thin jaw bone can lead to dental problems if their teeth are not properly cared for. Among the other health problems found in the breed are, epilepsy, Patellar luxation and liver shunts. The breed as a relatively short lifespan of 9 to 10 years.

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michael simpson

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