Italian Greyhound

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: June 25, 2009

The Italian Greyhound is very similar to the Greyhound, but much smaller. Once one of the most popular dogs during the Victoria era, the Italian Greyhound is more slender in proportion and very elegant and graceful.

Physical Characteristics

The outstandingly graceful and elegant Italian Greyhound is a slender and miniature version of a typical Greyhound. It shares the qualities of the large Greyhound, that allow it to run very fast with a double-suspension gallop. It has a rounded outline, with good rear angulation, and is slightly arched over the haunch. The dog moves with a free and high-stepping gait. The short and glossy coat, which can be found in a variety of colors, feels like satin.

Personality and Temperament

The Italian Greyhound is fond of chasing and running around. It is a very calm and sensitive dog that is reserved and sometimes timid with unknown people. Often, it is compared to a smaller version of the sighthound, as it shares many of its characteristics.

The Italian Greyhound is good with children, pets, and other dogs and is extremely dedicated to its family. However, larger dogs and very rough children can easily injure it.


Even though the Italian Greyhound hates the cold and is not suited to outdoor living, it likes daily romps outdoors. Its exercise needs are perfectly met with a nice on-leash walk or a fun-filled indoor game. It likes a sprint and stretching out in an enclosed area. It is very important to brush this dog’s teeth regularly. Minimal coat care is required for the fine, short coat, comprising primarily of occasional brushing to get rid of dead hair.


The Italian Greyhound, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, is prone to minor health conditions such as patellar luxation, leg and tail fractures, epilepsy, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), or major ones like periodontal disease. This breed is sensitive to barbiturate anesthesia and susceptible to portacaval shunt, Legg-Perthes, color dilution alopecia, cataract, and hypothyroidism on occasion. Regular knee and eye tests are advised for this breed of dog.

History and Background

Although the Italian Greyhound has existed for several centuries, the documents of its origins have been lost, thus offering no knowledge of its source or its development. There is, however, ancient art from Greece, Turkey, and other Mediterranean countries depicting dogs resembling the Italian Greyhound, which are more than two centuries old.

During the Middle Ages, miniature Greyhounds were seen all over southern Europe but Italian courtiers were especially fond of them. It was in the 1600s that the first of this breed appeared in England and became very popular among members of the nobility just as in Italy. The Italian Greyhound was one of the only two toy breeds named in a dog book in 1820.

In terms of popularity, the Italian Greyhound was most fashionable during the rule of Queen Victoria. However, the numbers of this dog reduced to a great extent and the breed had almost vanished in England in the post-World War II era. This was perhaps because of the breed’s loss in quality in an attempt to breed dogs of a tiny size, without focusing on their health. Luckily, Italian Greyhounds of high quality had been introduced to the United States in the late 19th century. These and other imported dogs were instrumental in reviving the breed throughout Europe, thus accounting for its gradual rise in popularity.

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