Meet the Breed
The Shape of Perfection: These elegant, spring-loaded hounds bound by day and cuddle by night.
Kim Campbell Thornton
One of the works of art that comes from ancient Greece and Italy is the smallest of the sighthounds: the Italian Greyhound. Although classified as a toy breed, the IG -- or Iggy, as it's often nicknamed -- is pure hound when it comes to swiftness and hunting ability. It's not surprising that the Greeks and Romans had a fondness for this little speedster, portrayed on pottery and in statuary that dates back from 2,000 years. It's sometimes suggested, perhaps in jest, that the Roman sign that reads "Cave Canem" (beware of the dog) was meant to warn visitors not to step on the dogs.
Throughout the centuries, the Italian Greyhound remained popular, found in medieval and Renaissance courts as a companion to great lords and ladies. The Medici family of Florence was known for keeping them, and the dogs were favorites of Charles I of England. Artists found the IG, with its fluid lines and elegant proportions, a worthy subject. Look for the breed in the paintings of Giotto, Memling, Bosch and Reynolds, and see if you don't recognize the same dog we know today.
It's not known when Italian Greyhounds first came to the United States, but President John Tyler, in office from 1841 to 1845, purchased one named Le Beau for his wife, Julia, so they date back at least 160 years. It would be fair to speculate that more arrived during the late 19th-century era of the robber barons, when rich Americans brought back all kinds of works of art, including dogs, from their European tours. The first Italian Greyhound registered with the American Kennel Club was Lilly, in 1886, just two years after the AKC was founded. The Italian Greyhound Club of America wasn't founded until 1954.
Today the Italian Greyhound ranks 67th among the 167 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC, a testament to the breed's attractions: its small size, loving heart and beautiful appearance.
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