Italian Greyhound – General Description
The Italian Greyhound is a small breed of dog of the sight hound type, sometimes called an “I.G.”, or “Iggy” for short.
Classification and Standards
- FCI Group 10 Section 3 #200
- AKC Toy
- ANKC Group 1 (Toys)
- CKC Group 5 – Toys
- KC (UK) Toy
- NZKC Toy
- UKC Companion Breeds
Character & Temperament
The Italian Greyhound makes a good companion dog and enjoys the company of people. However, the breed’s slim build and short coat make them somewhat fragile, and injury can result from rough or careless play with children under the age of 12.
The breed is often best with the elderly or a couple without any children for it prefers a quiet household. It also is equally at home in the city or the country, although they tend to do best in spacious areas. They are fast, agile and athletic. Like any dog, daily exercise is a must for a happier, well-adjusted pet. Italian greyhounds love to run. The young dog is often particularly active, and this high level of activity may lead them to attempt ill-advised feats of athleticism that can result in injury. Due to their size, and in some lineages poor bone density, they are prone to broken legs which can be expensive to repair.
Italian Greyhounds make reasonably good watchdogs, as they bark at unfamiliar sounds. They may also bark at passers-by and other animals. However, they should not be considered “true” guard dogs as they are often aloof with strangers and easily spooked to run.
As gazehounds, Italian Greyhounds instinctively hunt by sight and have an extremely high predator drive. Owners of Italian Greyhounds typically keep their dogs leashed at all times when not in an enclosed area to avoid the risk of even a well-behaved pet breaking away at high speed after a small animal. Like most sight hounds, the Italian Greyhound’s slender skulls are near the same width of the dog’s neck, and the use of a “martingale” style collar is advised for walking Italian Greyhounds, it tightens up when pulled while remaining comfortable slack when the dog is walking politely. This prevents the dog backing out and escaping. Breakaway collars are advised for identification, because this active and acrobatic breed could easily injure themselves when put in a collar they cannot escape from, possible neck injuries and strangling.
The name of the breed is a reference to the breed’s popularity in Renaissance Italy. Mummified dogs very similar to the Italian Greyhound (or small Greyhounds) have been found in Egypt, and pictorials of small Greyhounds have been found in Pompeii, and they were probably the only accepted companion-dog there. Dogs similar to Italian Greyhounds are recorded as having been seen around Emperor Nero’s court in Rome in the first century AD.
Although the small dogs are mainly companionship dogs they have in fact been used for hunting rats or mice, often in combination with hunting falcons.
The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the family of gazehounds (dogs that hunt by sight). The breed is an old one and is believed to have originated more than 4,000 years ago in the countries now known as Greece and Turkey. This belief is based on the depiction of miniature greyhounds in the early decorative arts of these countries and on the archaeological discovery of small greyhound skeletons. By the Middle Ages, the breed had become distributed throughout Southern Europe and was later a favorite of the Italians of the sixteenth century, among whom miniature dogs were in great demand. Sadly, though, ‘designer’ breeders tried, and failed, to make the breed even smaller by crossbreeding it with other breeds of dogs. This only led to mutations with deformed skulls, bulging eyes and dental problems. The original Italian Greyhound had almost disappeared when groups of breeders got together and managed to return the breed to normal. From this period onward the history of the breed can be fairly well traced as it spread through Europe, arriving in England in the seventeenth century.
Size & Appearance
The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the sighthounds, typically weighing about 8 to 18 lb (3.6 to 8.2 kg) and standing about 13 to 15 inches (33 to 38 cm) tall at the withers. Though they are in the “toy” group based on their weight, they are larger than other dogs in the category due to their slender bodies, so owners must be careful when sizing clothing or accommodations.
The Italian Greyhound’s chest is deep, with a tucked up abdomen, long slender legs and a long neck that tapers down to a small head. The face is long and pointed, like a full sized greyhound. Overall, they look like “miniature” Greyhounds, 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 function of selective breeding. Their gait is distinctive and should be high stepping and free, rather like that of a horse. They are able to run at top speed with a double suspension gallop, and can achieve a top speed of up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h).
The color of the coat is a subject of much discussion. For The Kennel Club (UK), the American Kennel Club, and the Australian National Kennel Council, party colored Italian Greyhounds are accepted, while the Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard for international shows allows white only on the chest and feet.
The modern Italian Greyhound’s appearance is a result of breeders throughout Europe, particularly Austrian, German, Italian, French and British breeders, making great contributions to the forming of this breed. The Italian Greyhound should resemble a small Greyhound, or rather a Sloughi, though they are in appearance more elegant and graceful.
Health & Maintenance
The Italian Greyhound has a median lifespan of 13.5 in a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey. A 1993 US breed club survey gives an average lifespan of 9 years but more than a quarter of the dogs had “accidents” recorded as cause of death.
Health problems that can be found in the breed:
- Legg-Perthes disease (degeneration of the hip)
- Patellar Luxation (slipped stifles)
- von Willebrand disease (vWD) (Bleeding disorder)
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
- Color dilution alopecia (hair loss in dilute pigmented dogs, i.e.: blues, blue fawns, etc.)
- Leg Breaks (most common under the age of 2)
- Vitreous degeneration
- Liver shunts
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
- Periodontal disease, gum recession, early tooth loss, bad tooth enamel
- Hypothyroidism, Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (Hashimoto’s disease)
Responsible breeders will routinely check their dogs for the onset of various inherited disorders, these commonly include (but are not limited to): CERF examinations on eyes, OFA patellar examinations, OFA thyroid function panels, von Willebrand’s factor, OFA hip and Legg-Perthes disease x-rays, and others.In research by the Ortheopedic Foundation for Animals, the Italian Greyhound was found to be the least affected by hip dysplasia out of 157 breeds. Tests were conducted on 169 individual Italian Greyhounds, of which none were found to have hip dysplasia and 59.2% scored excellent on their hip evaluations.
The teeth of an Italian Greyhound should be brushed daily. Their scissor-bite and thin jaw bones make them susceptible to periodontal disease, which can be avoided with good dental care. Daily brushing has been shown to be very beneficial as well as regular dental cleanings from the vet.
Dogs of this breed have an extremely short and almost odorless coat that requires little more than an occasional bath, but a wipe-down with a damp cloth is recommended after walks as seeds, burrs and floating dust in the air can get into the coat and irritate the skin. This breed sheds little to no hair.
Work and Activities
Some Italian Greyhounds enjoy dog agility. The breed’s lithe body and its love of action provide potential to do well at this sport, although not many Italian Greyhounds participate, and their natural inclination is for straight-out racing rather than for working tightly as a team with a handler on a technical course.
Lure coursing is another activity well-fitted to the Italian Greyhound, and they seem to enjoy it tremendously. Although the Italian Greyhound is a very fast dog, it is not as well suited to racing as its larger cousin. Regardless, many Italian Greyhounds participate in amateur straight-track and oval-track racing.
In Movies, TV, & Print
The grace of the breed has prompted several artists to include the dogs in paintings, among others Velázquez, Pisanello and Giotto.
The breed has been popular with royalty throughout, among the best known royal aficionados were Mary Stuart, Queen Anne, Queen Victoria, Catherine The Great, Frederick the Great and the Norwegian Queen Maud.
Italian Greyhounds in popular culture
- Nelly from the film Good Boy! is an Italian Greyhound played by “Motif” and “Imp”.
- The American rock band Shellac named their fourth album Excellent Italian Greyhound in reference to drummer Todd Trainer’s pet Italian Greyhound, Uffizi.
- The 3.5 Edition of the Player’s Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons features a sketch of an Italian Greyhound under its description for “handle animal.”
- Vienna Teng wrote a song titled “Stray Italian Greyhound” that was inspired by Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC keynote address.
- youtube.com star Jenna Marbles features her Italian Greyhound, “Kermit,” in her weekly videos.
- Barber, Lillian S., The New Complete Italian Greyhound, p.5 (1993, Italian Greyhound Productions) ISBN 0-9611986-2-1
- American Kennel Club – Italian Greyhound Did You Know? – http://www.akc.org/breeds/italian_greyhound/did_you_know.cfm
- American Kennel Club – Italian Greyhound History – http://www.akc.org/breeds/italian_greyhound/history.cfm
- IG in a double suspension gallop (video) – http://www.akc.org/videos/breeds/italian_greyhound.swf
- Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard – http://www.fci.be/uploaded_files/200GB98_en.doc
- “Breed Longevity Data”. – http://users.pullman.com/lostriver/breeddata.htm
- “Study Citations”. – http://users.pullman.com/lostriver/citations.htm
- “Hip Dysplasia Statistics: Hip Dysplasia by Breed”. Ortheopedic Foundation for Animals. Archived from the original on 2010-02-10. – http://web.archive.org/web/20100210185346/http://www.offa.org/hipstatbreed.html
- Stonehenge (1866). The Dogs of the British Islands. Horace Cox, London. p. 138.
- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0326900/fullcredits#cast Internet Movie Database: Good Boy! Full cast and crew.
- [Dungeons & dragons hardcover publications]. Renton, Wash: Wizards of the Coast. 2000. ISBN 0-7869-2886-7.
- christina (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Just chaos (originally posted to Flickr as Italian Greyhound) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Jim or Katie McClarty (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Image is released by its author into the [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Nick Richards (http://www.nedrichards.com Nick Richards)[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons
- tanakawho (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- W. E. Mason – Dogs of all Nations [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- This image is released into the [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Stonehenge (John Henry Walsh) (The Dog in Health and Disease) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Italian Greyhound (Piccolo Levriero Italiano)
FCI-Standard N°200 / 05.01.2011/EN
TRANSLATION: Mrs. Peggy Davis. Revised by ENCI and Renée Sporre-Willes / Original version : (FR).
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE OFFICIAL VALID STANDARD: 13.10.2010.
- Group 10 Sighthounds.
- Section 3 Short-haired sighthounds.
Without working trial.
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY:
The little Italian Greyhound descends from small-sized sighthounds which already existed in ancient Egypt at the court of the Pharaohs. Passing through Laconie (Greece), where numerous representations on vases and bowls confirm this, the breed arrived in Italy at the outset of the 5th century BC. Its greatest development occurred during the era of the Renaissance at the court of the nobles. It is not rare to find the Italian Greyhound represented in the paintings of the greatest Italian and foreign masters
Of slender appearance, its body fits into a square. Although of a small size, it fully characterizes a miniature sighthound; the prototype of refinement and elegance. May be considered as a model of grace and distinction.
Its length is equal to or only just inferior to the height at the withers. Length of skull is equal to half the length of the head. Length of head can reach 40% of the height at the withers.
BEHAVIOR AND TEMPERAMENT:
Lively, affectionate, docile.
Of elongated shape and narrow.
Skull: Flat with the superior axes of the skull and muzzle parallel. Length of the skull is equal to half the length of the head, which has slightly rounded sides. Lower orbital region well chiselled. Muscles of the head must not show any heavy appearance. Marked eyebrow bones. Not prominent occiput. Only slightly marked median depression.
Stop: Frontal nasal depression only very slightly marked.
Nose: Of a dark color, preferably black with well opened nostrils.
Lips: Thin and tight, with edges of lips very darkly pigmented.
Jaws / Teeth: Jaws elongated with well aligned incisors crown shape, strong in relation to size of dog. Teeth sound and complete, set square to the jaws; scissor bite.
Eyes: Large, roundish, and expressive, sub-frontally positioned, neither deep-set nor protruding. Iris of dark color, eye-rims pigmented.
Ears: Set very high, small, with fine cartilage, folded in itself and carried well back on the nape and upper part of the neck. When the dog is attentive, the base of the ear is erected and the lobe tends to stand out laterally on the horizontal, position commonly known as “flying ears” or “propeller ears”.
The nape is slightly arched and broken at its base towards the withers. The throat line is slightly convex. Neck length equal to that of the head. Shaped like a truncated cone, well muscled. Skin lean without dewlap.
Its length is equal to, or barely inferior to the height at the withers.
Topline: Straight profile with slightly arched dorsal-lumbar region. The lumbar curve merging harmoniously into the line of the rump.
Withers: Quite well defined with closely placed top of shoulders.
Back: Straight, well muscled.
Croup: Very sloping, wide and muscled.
Chest: Narrow, solid but elegantly modeled with slight spring of ribs. Deep, let down to the elbows.
Underline and belly: The rather short sternal arch is accentuated and rises without abruptness to the belly.
Low set, fine even at base, tapering progressively to its tip. It is carried low and straight in its first half, the 2nd half curved. Stretched it should reach the top of the hock. Covered with short hair.
General appearance: On the whole straight and vertical with lean muscles.
Shoulder: Very slightly sloping with well developed, long lean and salient muscles.
Upper arm: With a very open scapular-humeral angle parallel to the median plane of the body. The upper arm is slightly longer than the shoulder-blade.
Elbow: Neither out nor tied-in at elbows.
Forearm: Straight. Refined bone structure, flat and lean; in perfect vertical position as much from the front as in profile. Well evident furrow from the carpus to the elbow. Length from ground to elbow, just slightly more than the length from elbow to the withers.
Metacarpus (Pastern): Dry. Seen in profile it is slightly bent.
Forefeet: Of almost oval shape, small, with arched and closely knit toes. Not voluminous pads, pigmented. Nails black or dark according to coat color or that of the feet, where white is tolerated.
General appearance: Well angulated. Seen from behind on the whole straight and parallel.
Thigh: Long, lean, not voluminous, with very distinct muscles.
Lower thigh: Very sloping, with refined bone structure and well apparent groove in leg muscle. They are a little longer than upper thighs.
Metatarsus (Rear pastern): Seen from behind, must be parallel.
Hindfeet: Less oval than the forefeet, with arched and closely knit toes; not voluminous pads and nails pigmented like forefeet.
GAIT / MOVEMENT:
Springy, harmonious, slightly raised trot, covering the ground. This means that the front legs must be moved forward with good reach and with slightly lifted and bent pasterns. Gallop fast with sharp spring.
Fine and tight on all parts of the body except for the elbows where it is slightly less tight.
The hair is short, silky and fine all over the body without the slightest trace of fringes.
Self-colored in black, grey, and isabella (pale yellowish/beige) in all possible shades. White is tolerated only on the chest and feet.
SIZE AND WEIGHT:
Height at the withers: Males and females from 32 to 38 cms.
Weight: Males and females: maximum 5 kgs.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
- Continuous ambling.
- Hackney movement.
- Movement close to the ground with short steps.
- Aggressive or overly shy.
- Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified.
- Accentuated convergence or divergence of the facial-cranial axes.
- Nose totally or half de-pigmented.
- Nasal bridge concave or convex.
- Overshot or undershot bite.
- Wall eye; total de-pigmentation of eye-rims.
- Tail carried over the back; anury or short tail, whether congenital or artificial.
- Multicolored coat; white except in chest and feet as mentioned above.
- Size below 32 cms or over 38 cms, as well in males as in females.
ELIMINATING FAULTS: (Excluded from breeding)
- Overshot bite.
- Chryptorchidism; unilateral
N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
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