The Italian greyhound (or "IG") is one of the three main breeds of greyhound
. Italians are by far the small
est, with whippet
s being the mid-sized breed and standard greyhound
s (racing greyhounds) the largest of the three. It is believed all three were bred out of a common ancestor
more than 2,000 years ago. It is thought they originated in Greece
. They are of course sighthound
s like their larger relatives, bred to hunt visually and run down and capture game
. The breed became very popular in Italy
in the Middle Ages
, where they picked up their modern name.
While they are hunters by nature and love to run, Italians are small and docile enough to adapt to city and even apartment living with no fuss. They love attention and luxury and often become one-person or one-family dogs, being shy around strangers. For dogs of their size, they are remarkably hearty, having a much lower instance of injury or illness than their larger counterparts. They are most prone to broken legs, knee problems, and catching a chill from being outside in too much cold or not given a warm, non-drafty bed.
In appearance, they look like greyhounds in miniature. Italians are actually a bit more slender, sleeker, and more streamlined than the bigger dogs. Long faces and rosette ears, with large expressive eyes, make them appear much more alert and intelligent than most small dogs. They weigh anywhere from 7-15 pounds, with 10 being average. A deep chest, very slender stomach, broad hips, and a long, thin tail complete the breed. They come in nearly all colors, from solids (white, black, blue, brown, fawn) to patches or spots, to the brindle pattern common in greyhounds.
They have very short, sleek hair which requires very little attention. They are not yippy like many small dogs, in fact they rarely vocalize and often "sing" instead of bark. They are playful and friendly dogs, and act puppy-like long after they are mature. They need walking or outside play-time daily. Many IG's can be easily trained to course a lure and love to do so. A healthy Italian can easily live 14-16 years.
Litters are exceptionally small for dogs, with two or three pups being normal. A single puppy is not at all uncommon, and litters of five and six are very rare. Oddly enough, Italian greyhounds are generally born in ratios of two to four males for one female, so a good bitch pup with breeding potential demands an amazing price. Pet-quality Italians usually sell from three to seven hundred dollars, and show quality animals start at a thousand and go up from there very rapidly. There are, however, IG rescue programs across the country if you want one of these beautiful animals but can't afford to buy one.
Breed standards are exacting and it is generally understood that only experienced breeders will breed animals. Italians sold as pets are usually fixed or have an agreement to be fixed as part of the contract. The most common ruling-out of a dog from the gene pool is size. Because they came from larger lines many years back, it's very common for litters to throw at least one animal that's too large to breed. Brindle dogs or dogs with more than one color and white are also disqualified by show standards.
IG's were first recognized by the AKC in 1886. They are classified in category 1, Toy.