We were introduced to greyhounds by some folks who were promoting adoption at the local renaissance faire, and we fell in love. It was a couple more years until we felt we were ready to adopt, but once we did, we never looked back. Since then, those same folks at the faire are now our close friends, and we go with them to renaissance faires and other events to promote the adoption of these wonderful, gentle hounds. We now have four of these noble hounds, and our life is much the better for it.
Most people know greyhounds as "those racing dogs". They assume greyhounds are hyper, aggressive, extremely active, and need lots of exercise. Fortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth. Adult greyhounds are calm, placid creatures who only need a daily walk for exercise. They are gentle and tolerant, and are very happy just to be with people. Most greyhounds will get along with small animals, including cats. I've even seen them sleeping with bunnies! Greyhounds require little special care, they are clean, and do not shed very much, since they have no undercoat and a very short outer coat. They tend to sleep most of the day, on whatever soft surface they are allowed on. Thus, they have gained one of their nick-names, the "45 mile per hour couch potato." A greyhound must be kept on a leash whenever they are not in a fenced or walled environment. The instinct to chase has been honed over thousands of years, and is very strong. A greyhound on the chase will not notice cars or other hazards, and injuries are very common in greyhounds who get free. The greyhound can reach 30+ miles per hour in three strides, and 40+ miles per hour in six. A typical racing greyhound completes a standard 550 yard course in 30-32 seconds from a standing start.
The greyhound has existed for several millennia, and is one of the oldest recognized breeds. They were used as hunting dogs, and in some places they still are. Throughout early history, greyhounds were extremely valuable, and in many places, ownership was restricted to the nobility. They have always been valued as companions along with their hunting abilities. While known for hunting rabbits, greyhounds were actually used for hunting gazelle, deer, elk, wolves, bear and boar. In some southwestern areas of the United States, ranchers use them for hunting coyotes.
The racing of greyhounds began just like any other sport, no doubt with a couple of owners betting on whose hound could catch an animal first. When the game populations were threatened from these informal coursing events, Queen Elizabeth the First of England commissioned the Duke of Norfolk to codify rules for coursing. This is the first example of organized greyhound racing, and is the reason greyhound racing is known as "The Sport of Queens."
In the United States, the desire to eliminate the killing of lure animals eventually led to the creation of artificial lures and thus oval-track racing. Later developments led to the creation of artificial lure-coursing in open fields, duplicating the effect of coursing after live hares, though this remains primarily an amateur sport. Oval track racing went on to become a major gambling industry.