Updated date:

A Guide to Sighthound Breeds

Author:

Ben has a life-long fascination with animals. Whether they crawl, run, fly, swim or slither, his interest in them never ceases.

sighthound-breeds-explored

What Is a Sighthound?

Sighthounds primarily hunt by sight. They also utilize their speed for chasing down prey.

Requirements

  • Able to detect motion at a distance.
  • Exceptional speed maintained over a considerable distance.
  • A long stride and a flexible back, enabling them to cover ground efficiently.
  • Lithe-bodied.
  • Good anaerobic and aerobic ability.
  • Able to hunt independently by sight.

Unique Traits

Sighthounds don’t retrieve fallen game; instead, they chase, catch and kill or hold onto their prey until the handler catches up.

When hunting, the sighthound commits to the task whole-heartedly; they will not be distracted by anything (or anyone) around them. This is sometimes frustrating to those who share life with one of them as a pet—try calling your sighthound back to heel when he or she is in the zone.

Sighthound Breeds Explored in This Article

Afghan Hound

Azawakh

Borzoi

Chippiparai

Chortaj

Galgo Espanol (Spanush galgo)

Greyhound

Irish Wolfhound

Italian Greyhound

Kanni

Magyar Agar (Hungarian Greyhound)

Mudhol Hound

Polish Greyhound

Rajapalayam (Indian Ghosthound)

Rampur Greyhound

Saluki

Scottish Deerhound

Silken Windhound

Sloughi

Taigan

Whippet

sighthound-breeds-explored

Highly Adapted Hunting Dogs

As these breeds suggest, sight is key to the success of this canine hunter. The majority of other dog breeds don’t have particularly keen eyesight, relying instead on their sense of smell.

Sighthounds, however, have adapted over countless generations to possess a unique ability to detect motion at eye level over a great distance. And it is motion, rather than simply seeing a still object. So much so that if their potential prey was to remain perfectly still, they might evade capture.

They all share a common trait: They are sleek and thin yet muscular, and have a pointed head and long slender legs, presenting an air of elegance. This distinctive Sighthound shape signals that they are built for speed.

When kept as a pet, they require surprisingly little exercise, usually happy with a walk of around an hour a day. Sighthounds generally fit well into family life, although there are a couple of exceptions.

Afghan Hound

Country of origin:

  • Highly prized as a working dog in Afghanistan.
  • Related to the Saluki breed, differences occurred due to the terrain and the different ways local tribes utilized them.

Build characteristics:

  • This medium-bodied dog has a deep chest and well-sprung ribs.
  • The neck is long and robust.
  • Its head is long and narrow tapering towards the nose.
  • Eyes are almond-shaped and slant upwards.
  • The feet are large.
  • The tail is long, with a ring curl at the end.
  • The coat is long and fine, except on the muzzle.

Unique traits:

  • A breed initially used for hunting, although these days, it is only seen as lure-coursing or as a family pet.
  • A dog bred to withstand the cold mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

The Afghan hound is a dignified-looking canine that possesses intelligence.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Azawakh

Country of origin:

  • A rare sighthound with its roots in West Africa.
  • The Azawakh travelled with desert nomads acting as both guardians and hunters.

Build characteristics:

  • A short, flat back.
  • Long-legged.
  • Almond eyed.
  • The coat is very short, with little to no presence on the belly.

Unique traits:

  • An intelligent and loyal breed. Not suited to being kept outdoors as away from its “naturally warm habitat,” it tends to dislike cold and rain and is not physically best-suited to such conditions.
  • Thin-skinned.
  • Unusually for a sighthound, the Azawakh will bark.

Tend to be predatory when around other domestic pets such as cats or small dogs.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Borzoi

Country of origin:

  • An ancient Russian breed initially used for hunting fox and hare. During the early 1800s, the Borzoi had its breeding adapted to be capable of hunting for wolves.

Build characteristics:

  • A large sighthound. With similar features to Afghan and Saluki breeds.
  • The Borzoi has a long head with a narrow skull and muzzle.
  • Eyes are dark.
  • A long and lean neck.
  • The body is medium-length with arched loins.
  • The chest is deep but narrow.
  • The tail is long.
  • The coat is long, wavy, or curled. However, it is short on the head, ears, and front legs. It is glossy to the touch.

Unique traits:

  • Often considered to be self-composed and aloof.
  • The soft undercoat tends to thicken during winter, shedding when hot weather returns.

The Borzoi is an athletic dog that is independent and sensitive.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Chippiparai

Country of origin:

  • The Chippiparai dog is extremely rare and is native to Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
  • Traditionally they are used for hunting small game.
  • Historically they were kept by Royalty.
  • Not yet gained official recognition as a standardized breed.

Build characteristics:

  • A compact and streamlined body.
  • Broad-chested.
  • The head is slightly domed yet long.
  • The eyes are dark, and the ears are small.
  • Legs are long and straight, and the tail is thin.

Unique traits:

  • Thought to be genetically linked to the Saluki and Sloughi.
  • They are known for being fierce hunters.
  • Unusually for sighthounds, they will retrieve their prey and return it to their masters.

They are a scarce breed, rarely encountered away from their country of origin.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Chortaj (Hortaya borzaya)

Country of origin:

  • A rare sighthound (reputed to be only 3,000 dogs in existence) developed from within the Eurasian Steppes.
  • Traditionally a working dog used to hunt for food.
  • Not internationally recognized.

Build characteristics:

  • The head is long and wedge-shaped.
  • The ears are narrow and short.
  • Eyes are dark and large.
  • A long and thin neck.
  • Deep-chested.
  • A long, thin tail that has a curled end.
  • The coat is short and dense.

Unique traits:

  • The Chortaj possesses excellent stamina and endurance.
  • A strong and large canine.
  • They are required to have a gentle bite (so as not to damage furs).

Thought to be friendly and happy to be with people.

The Chortaj dog is also known as the Hortaya Borzaya, and Chortai.

The Chortaj dog is also known as the Hortaya Borzaya, and Chortai.

Galgo Español (Spanish Galgo)

Country of origin:

  • A breed thought to have given rise to the English greyhound.
  • Some consider the Galgo Español to be a descendant of Egyptian dogs introduced around 3,000 years ago. Others think the breed originated from Roman Iberia some 2,000 years ago.

Build characteristics:

  • A narrow head with almond-shaped eyes.
  • Quite large rose ears.
  • The body is slender and elongated.
  • Both smooth and rough coats are permissible.
  • “Cat-like” paws.

Unique traits:

  • Higher in the rear than in front (unusually for a greyhound type).
  • They are used to course rabbits and hares.
  • Often considered too laid back to be overly protective.

Greyhound

Country of origin:

  • The Greyhound, believed to have been introduced to England by the Celts, was historically used by mounted hunters and commonly seen today on greyhound tracks.

Build characteristics:

  • A dog with a long head and broad skull.
  • The eyes are dark, and the ears are small.
  • The neck is long and muscular.
  • The body is deep-chested and long.
  • The loins are slightly arched.
  • Legs are long and strongly boned.
  • The tail is long.
  • The coat is fine and short.

Unique traits:

A surprisingly gentle and affectionate breed.

Irish Wolfhound

Country of origin:

  • Hounds of this type were introduced into Greece by the Celts. The Irish Wolfhound was highly regarded in Ireland during the twelfth to the sixteenth century.
  • A breed that became scarce following the eradication of wolves, coupled with the export of many dogs. So much so that in 1652, their export was prohibited by law.
  • Originally the Irish Wolfhound not only hunted wolves but stags, bears, and Irish Elk.

Build characteristics:

  • The head is long, without being too broad.
  • Eyes are dark, and ears are small and rose-like.
  • A long-bodied dog, the chest is deep and broad. The loins are arched.
  • The legs are long and well-boned.
  • The feet are large and round.
  • The tail is long.
  • The coat is rough, shaggy, and hard to the touch.

Unique traits:

  • Despite its strength, the Irish Wolfhound is a friendly and obedient dog.
sighthound-breeds-explored

Italian Greyhound (Piccolo levriero)

Country of origin:

  • Long popular with European nobility from the 12th century, these small sighthounds were first introduced into the United Kingdom in the early 1800s.

Build characteristics:

  • The smallest of the sighthounds, standing 32 to 38 cm.
  • Fine-boned and dainty.
  • Deep-chested with a tucked-up abdomen.
  • The head is narrow, and the ears are set high on the head.
  • The coat is short and finely textured.

Unique traits:

  • The Italian greyhound has an elegant, high-stepping action.
  • Chatty and vocal.

A dog that fits well within a family environment being playful and attentive.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Kanni

Country of origin:

A rare indigenous canine from Southern India.

Build characteristics:

  • Medium-sized.
  • Tucked-up abdomen.
  • Straight head with strong jaws.
  • Golden eyes.
  • Black nose.
  • A semi-curved tail.

Unique traits:

Renowned for its loyalty, the Kanni is also a ferocious defender of its territory.

Magyar Agar (Hungarian Greyhound)

Country of origin:

  • The Magyar Agar dog was initially introduced as a hunting hound into Hungary by the nomadic Magyars during their invasion in the ninth century.
  • During the 1900s, serious efforts were undertaken to introduce Greyhound blood into the breed. The objective being to obtain a faster and more graceful dog for hare hunting.

Build characteristics:

  • A long head with a broad skull.
  • Eyes are dark, and ears are small.
  • The neck is both strong and long.
  • The back is medium-length and straight.
  • Deep-chested.
  • Legs are long and strongly-boned.
  • A long tail.
  • The coat is short and dense.

Unique traits:

  • Well-known for being a calm and affectionate dog.

Mudhol Hound

Country of origin:

  • A rare breed of dog originating in India. Also known as a Caravan Hound, Maratha Hound, Kathewar Dog, and Pashmi Hound. A canine was first introduced into India from Arabia and thought to be a descendant of the Saluki breed.

Build characteristics:

  • An elongated skull
  • A tapering muzzle.
  • Large oval eyes
  • Long-necked.
  • Legs are long and strong.
  • A whip-tail.

Unique traits:

  • Fiercely loyal.
  • It is reputed to have a fragile temperament.
  • The Mudhol hound has a high prey drive.

Perhaps not best suited to being a family pet.

Polish Greyhound

Country of origin:

  • Polish greyhounds-type dogs go as far back as the 13th century. They were heavily used for hunting birds, even attracting the favor of Polish nobility.
  • Unfortunately, the Polish Greyhound breed suffered due to introducing a law that banned hunting with greyhounds.
  • This breed almost disappeared as a consequence, but since the 1970s, the Polish greyhound was resurrected.

Build characteristics:

  • A medium-sized canine.
  • The neck is long and muscular, carrying the head high.
  • Eyes are large and almond-shaped.
  • Hip bones are wide apart.
  • The coat is short and smooth.
  • A long brushtail.

Unique traits:

  • When trotting, the dog’s hind legs move closer together. An action called “lacing.”
  • This canine has strong protective instincts and a high prey drive.
  • Capable of withstanding harsh conditions.
sighthound-breeds-explored

Rajapalayam (Indian Ghosthound)

Country of origin:

  • A dog breed from the Southern regions of India.
  • Originally a hunter of wild boar and a guardian dog.
  • Historically utilized as war dogs.

Build characteristics:

  • Muscular and long-limbed.
  • The head is elongated.
  • The coat is short and smooth.
  • Eyes are dark brown.
  • The tail is long and has a slight curl.
  • Typically, they are white with pink noses and pale skin.

Unique traits:

  • Commonly thought to be aggressive with strangers and other animals.
  • Contrary to most other sighthounds, they are capable of being trained to hunt by scent.
  • Highly protective tendencies.
  • More heavily boned than most sighthounds, but speedy never-the-less.
sighthound-breeds-explored

Rampur Greyhound

Country of origin:

  • Extremely rare. The Rampur has origins in the Northern region of India.
  • Thought to be descended from early Afghan hounds, bred with English Greyhounds, with a lineage that goes back several hundred years, before being a favorite of local Mararajahs.
  • They were used as hunters of wild boar and jackals.

Build characteristics:

  • Their frame is broader and more robustly built than the English greyhound.
  • The head is broad but long.
  • Eyes range from yellow to amber in color.
  • A deep but narrow chest.
  • Long-tapering tail.

Unique traits:

  • This dog is utilized today for its coursing ability.
  • The Rampur is much admired for its speed and strength.
sighthound-breeds-explored

Saluki

Country of origin:

  • Commonly considered to be from Persia.
  • Similiarities with the Afghan Hound (to which it is related), variations being due to the terrain in which they lived, and differences in how local tribes used them.

Build characteristics:

  • This long-bodied dog has a straight back and a deep chest.
  • The neck is long.
  • Its head is long and narrow and tapers towards the nose.
  • Eyes are large and dark in color.
  • Feet are quite lengthy.
  • A long tail.
  • The Saluki’s coat soft and glossy.

Unique traits:

  • A skilled hunter. Tackling game of all types ranging from hares to Jackals and Gazelle.
sighthound-breeds-explored

Scottish Deerhound

Country of origin:

  • Originally bred to hunt red deer.
  • Closely related to the Irish Wolfhound.

Build characteristics:

  • A large breed of sighthound.
  • The face is long.
  • The coat is ragged and harsh to the touch but ideal for fending off cold and damp environments.
  • While looking similar to the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound has a more slenderly built frame.

Unique traits:

  • They are known for having a laid-back attitude.

This dignified-looking sighthound fits well within a family environment. Considered to be sweet-natured and far removed from territorial.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Silken Windhound

Country of origin:

  • An American breed that has only recently gained official recognition.
  • The Silken Windhound is the result of combining bloodlines from Borzoi and Lurcher dogs.

Build characteristics:

  • Small to medium-sized.
  • The head is long and wedge-shaped.
  • Eyes are large and dark.
  • The neck is long, slender, and arched.
  • Legs are straight but strong.
  • Coats are silky.

Unique traits:

  • An affectionate and playful dog.

Sloughi

Country of origin:

  • The Sloughi originates from the Asiatic steppes. Only recently recognized as being Moroccan.
  • Following the invasion of North Africa by Arabs, these dogs spread throughout the Northern Sahara.

Build characteristics:

  • Flat-skulled with a long wedge-shaped head.
  • Large dark eyes.
  • Triangular ears that are pendulous.
  • The chest is narrow but deep.
  • Legs are long and lean.
  • Oval-shaped feet.
  • The coat is smooth and fine.

Unique traits:

  • The Sloughi is a good watchdog that is loyal to its master.

Taigan

Country of origin:

  • Closely related to the Tazy and Afghan hound
  • A heritage entwined with the indigenous people of Kyrgyzstan.

Build characteristics:

  • A slender breed.
  • The head is narrow and long.

Unique traits:

  • Well known for their stamina when hunting at altitude.
  • Able to hunt by scent when required
  • Will retrieve game when required to do so.

The Taigan is a strong-willed, independent, intelligent and active dog.

sighthound-breeds-explored

Whippet

Country of origin:

  • There is continuing debate as to the roots of this breed.
  • Initially, they were used by miners in England in rabbit-catching matches. The whippet is still used in racing today.

Build characteristics:

  • A long skull and muzzle.
  • Thin rose ears.
  • The neck is long and well-muscled.
  • Fairly long-bodied, with a deep chest.
  • Arched loins.
  • The legs are strong and long.
  • Short feet.
  • Long-tailed.
  • The coat is short, fine, and dense.

Unique traits:

  • An affectionate and courageous dog.
sighthound-breeds-explored

Great Hunters and Pets

Sighthounds are exceptional dogs with exceptional skills. These incredible dogs excel in speed coupled with stamina, often operating in hot arid conditions. Yet, some have proved adaptable to colder climates.

While they are canines with a highly tuned prey drive, many of these breeds fit comfortably into family households, becoming gentle and valued members of their homes.

References

  • “Breed Group Designations”. United Kennel Club. Retrieved 2021, March 5. https://www.ukcdogs.com/breed-groups
  • “Creating The Working Dog: The History Of The Sighthound”. (2013, April 9). K9 Magazine. https://www.k9magazine.com/history-of-the-sighthound/
  • Flaim, D. (2019, October 4). “The Skinny on Sighthounds”. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/the-skinny-on-sighthounds/
  • Forever Hound Trust. https://foreverhoundstrust.org/meet-the-hounds/sighthound-info/

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Related Articles