The Greyhound, one of the most famous between all hunting dogs, is also one of the oldest canine breeds, even mentioned by King David referring to it as one of the four creatures with graceful movements. -Proverbs, chapter 30 (verse 29-31), in which the second animal, zarzir, is not clearly identified, but many commentators explain that is “a breed of dog that’s slim and very fast used in hunting”. Rabbin David Kimchi writes in his Sefer ha Shorashim, under heading Zarzir: there are people that state that is the hunting dog, called “levrer” (greyhound) in provencal. Rabbin Yosef Kimchi says in regards of Proverbs: “Is the dog that hunts hares”.
The derivation of it’s name it’s been object of heated disputes and many theories have been made over the years, but the most reliable is that everyone of these dogs were grey; following the same logic it can be said that “grey” possibly refers at the prey’s color, so the hound hunts the grey, the hare. It can be stated that since the greyhound is possibly part of the Canis Graecus, and it comes from Greece, the name derives from the latin word “gradus”, which means “the first”, among the dogs. Others state that it’s a derivation of Greek-Hound, thinking that the Greek were the first people to use them for racing.
Metamorphoses of Ovid, Book III, verse 161, talks about this breed in reference to the dogs that escort Aphrodite.
In any case, it is thought that this dog had its origin, like the other Greyhounds, in the Middle East and that, with its various forms, was used by the nomad tribes for hunting, alongside with hawks.
During the Roman Empire, hundreds of these dogs reached Northern Europe and stopped permanently among the Celtic people, quickly adapting to the new climate.
When the Empire fell, thousands of dogs were transferred in the southern regions of the continent, where they quickly affirmed themselves as great favorites, even though in no other country like England these dogs were greatly admired and appreciated for their perfect harmony.
There are references to them in the kingdom of Mercia, and King Canute the Great, in 1014, enstablished the “Forest Laws”, in which specific areas were identified so that the nobility had the possibility to go hunting with their Greyhounds, while it was forbidden to have one for the common folk.
From the Red Book of the Exchequer (Liber Rubeus de Scaccario), we know that Henry II paid the wolves hunters twenty pieces of coin at day, which included the maintenance of the horses and that of eight Greyhounds.
Every king of England, including John Lackland, have been very passionate about Greyhounds, and managed to have large groups of these dogs.
Edward III of England was a great admirer of this breed, and wanted sixty pairs of them at his side when he was at war with France.