The American Kennel Club (AKC) judges each breed of dog based on a written standard. You can review the AKC written standard for greyhounds below.
Ears – Small and fine in texture, thrown back and folded, except when excited, when they are semi-pricked.
Eyes – Dark, bright, intelligent, indicating spirit.
Neck – Long, muscular, without throatiness, slightly arched, and widening gradually into the shoulder.
Shoulders – Placed as obliquely as possible, muscular without being loaded.
Forelegs – Perfectly straight, set well into the shoulder, neither turned in or out, pasterns strong.
Chest -Deep, and as wide as is consistent with speed, Fairly well sprung ribs.
Back – Muscular and broad.
Loins – Good depth of muscle, well-arched, well cut up in the flanks.
Hindquarters – Long, very muscular and powerful, wide and well let down, well-bent stifles. Hocks well bent and rather close to the ground, wide but straight fore and aft.
Feet – Hard and close, rather more hare than cat feet, well knuckled up with good strong claws.
Tail – Long, fine and tapering with a slight upward curve.
Coat – Short, smooth and firm in texture.
Color – Immaterial
Weight – Dogs, 65 to 70 pounds: Bitches, 60 to 65 pounds
If you are like me when you read this, it sounds very similar to what you see in a National Greyhound Association (NGA) greyhound. First, what is the difference between the AKC and NGA? Both are registering bodies; however, the NGA is special as they only register greyhounds. All American racing greyhounds are registered with the NGA. The NGA doesn’t have a written breed standard so to speak; rather, NGA greyhounds are bred to a performance standard, meaning they are judged on their ability to excel in running sports. When we look at the AKC written standard for the breed, the NGA greyhound fits the description in that standard. So why do we find ourselves disagreeing on the breed standard again and again? The answer is rather complicated. I think that show breeders thought that breeding a greyhound with exaggerated structural features was sexy and the dog would be able to compete in the group and best in show ring at dog shows. They succeeded. There is no functional purpose or advantage for the exaggerated changes we see in most greyhounds that compete in the show ring.
Actually, dogs that are exaggerated are not good for our breed and here is why. These dogs are not functional in that they are deficient in athletic ability. They are able to participate in running sports but unable to compete on the same level with coursing-bred greyhounds or racing greyhounds. If you read into the written standard above you will understand all these qualities are desirable because they improve the greyhound’s speediness and athleticism. By exaggerating the structural features called for in the written standard we are taking the functionality and the most important part of the greyhound away.
I have listened and read comments about show greyhounds and see things such as “isn’t she beautiful” or “she’s living art”. I appreciate these opinions but I want to know if they have ever seen a greyhound running after a lure or quarry. Have they ever seen true poetry in motion?
I am not sure that I will ever feel that a hound standing in a ring is more lovely than a hound doing what they were bred to do for centuries. I will never see how loping in a ring can be more beautiful than raw power on the coursing field or sand being flung all over the track by a hound that can scoot.
I understand that dog shows are a lot of fun to a lot of people. I wish we would see more functional dogs at these shows. I proudly support the breeders that are promoting functional hounds and I hope that in the future at Greyhound specialties you will not see a dog win breed in the ring that is not able to compete in the field but instead a Greyhound that can win in the ring and on the lure coursing field.
As stewards of our breed we must advocate for functionality. Our focus should not be on what can win the group and best in show ring but what can make a hare turn and break track records. We simply must focus on the raw power of our breed; after all, it’s why they are still with us.