Pet of the week: The greyhound

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The Independent Online

All animal lovers will be aware of the plight of the greyhound. Although many owners of racing hounds take their responsibility towards the breed seriously, some are not so thoughtful, and will discard dogs once they are past racing age (typically about three to four). Their placid nature makes them ideal pets for a happy life in retirement.

Shaping up

The greyhound breed has been around for a long time – some sources reckon up to 4,000 years. The noble posture and unmistakable silhouette of the greyhound are thought to have provided inspiration for the dogs of the Pharoahs seen in ancient hieroglyphics.

Sight and flight

Greyhounds are "sighthounds", meaning they hunt using their eyes, not snouts. This genetic disposition is what has made them such successful hunting dogs, and though hare coursing is now banned in the UK, lure coursing, in which a fake "hare" is used, continues as a way of training pedigree dogs.

Keep on running

Long legs, a deep chest and a flexible spine allow the greyhound to fully extend its body when running, reaching speeds of up to 40mph. They burn a lot of energy in short bursts, so only need two or three 20-minute walks a day to keep them in shape.

Coats of many colours

Soft, short and smooth, the hair on a greyhound is easy to maintain and they're less likely to cause allergies. Coats come in many colours – black, white, fawn and brindle (a salt and pepper/ashy appearance) – but there is no breed standard colour.

Meek and mild

Greyhounds have a lovely temperament, are affectionate and will get on well as pets, forming strong bonds within the family and even rubbing along just fine with cats. Despite the "prey drive", which forces them to chase squirrels, they can be trained to recall.

Muzzle it?

It may look cruel, but it is advisable to muzzle greyhounds. It was traditionally done to stop them nipping each other after a race, now it's common practice. For more info, contact the Retired Greyhound Trust on 0844 8268424,