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Greyhounds are one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and appear in art and literature throughout history. In ancient Egypt, Greyhounds were mummified and buried along with their owners, and tombs were often decorated with Greyhound figures. A hieroglyph of a dog very much resembling the modern breeds Greyhound, Saluki, and Sloughi can be found in the writings of ancient Egypt. Alexander the Great had a Greyhound named Peritas.
The Greyhound is mentioned in the Old Testament (Proverbs 30:29-31), Homer (Odyssey, where the only one to recognize Odysseus upon his return was his Greyhound, Argus), Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales), and Shakespeare (Henry V and Merry Wives of Windsor). Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were often portrayed with Greyhounds.
Running up to 45 miles per hour, greyhounds once crossed the hot sands of Egypt. Ancient gods, like Diana and Artemis, had greyhounds as their companions of choice. Ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek nobility, as well, treats greyhounds as honored family members. In the Middle Ages, priests saved greyhounds from extinction and again the nobility claimed them as an exclusive right. Shakespeare and Chaucer immortalized them in their literature. Thousands of years ago, the royal dog sat by the king and queen. Today, in spite of their proud past, they are threatened by an uncertain future.
As Clarke, in The Greyhound states: But, ancient as the Greyhound is, it would be stretching the truth to claim that the Arabian hounds depicted on the ancestral tombs of ancient Egyptians were identical to the Greyhounds we know today. In their conformation, in their grace and pace, in the poetry of their motion, yes -- but not in the style of coat they wore! [...] In fact, there is reason to believe that the Arabian Greyhound may well have resembled a Saluki -- but for all, still a dog of the Greyhound family.
There are many differing explanations for the origin of the term Greyhound. One writer suggests that the original Greyhound stock was mostly grey in color. Another says the term derives from the Old English "grei," meaning "dog," and "hundr," meaning "hunter." Another explanation is that it is derived from "gre" or "gradus," meaning "first rank among dogs." Finally, it has been suggested that the term derives from Greekhound, since the hound reached England through the Greeks. Greyhounds have long been associated with royalty. In fact, from the 11th to the 14th century, English law decreed that no "mean person" was allowed to keep a Greyhound. Penalty for breaking this law was death!