Italian Greyhound History And Origins

As elegant and graceful small dogs, Italian Greyhound history is rich and dates back thousands of years. From ancient civilizations to modern times, these charming canines have captivated the hearts of many.

Also known as “Iggies,” they are a small breed of sighthounds with a unique combination of speed, elegance, and affection. Despite their name, they are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region and not specifically in Italy.

This article will delve into the history of Italian Greyhounds, their journey through different civilizations, their development as a breed, and their current role as cherished companion dogs.

Origins and History

Ancient Egypt

Italian Greyhound history and origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where depictions of small Greyhound-like dogs resembling the modern breed were found in the tombs of pharaohs. These dogs were highly regarded and often mummified, indicating their importance and reverence in Egyptian society.

Ancient Rome

Italian Greyhounds gained significant popularity during the reign of the Roman Empire. They were favored by noble families and aristocrats who kept them as cherished pets.

These dogs were depicted in frescoes, sculptures, and mosaics, showcasing their role as status symbols and companions to the affluent.

Influence on European Royalty

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, European royalty highly sought Italian Greyhounds. They were favored by noblewomen, including Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria, and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Their small size, elegance, and regal appearance made them the perfect lapdogs and fashion accessories among the upper class.

cute iggy wearing sweater
Cute Iggy in a sweater

Breed Development and Standardization

Development in Italy

While Italian Greyhounds gained popularity across Europe, their development as a distinct breed took place primarily in Italy. Breeders in Italy focused on refining the breed’s characteristics, including their slim build, slender legs, and sleek coat.

They aimed to create a dog that possessed both grace and agility.

Recognition by Kennel Clubs

In the late 19th Century, kennel clubs recognized the Italian Greyhound as a distinct breed. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1886, followed by the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom.

This recognition solidified their status as a breed and facilitated their further development through careful breeding programs.

Breed Standard and Characteristics

The Italian Greyhound is known for its slender and delicate frame. They stand about 13-15 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 6-10 pounds.

Their short, glossy coats can come in various colors, including solid, spotted, or brindle. Italian Greyhounds are renowned for their graceful movement, keen eyesight, and gentle disposition.

Renaissance and Modern Era

Popularity and Art Depictions

The Italian Renaissance witnessed a surge in Italian Greyhound popularity. These dogs were often featured in artwork, including paintings by renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli.

Their presence in these masterpieces further solidified their association with luxury and refinement.

Decline during World Wars

Unfortunately, the two World Wars caused a decline in Italian Greyhound populations across Europe. Many breeding programs were disrupted, and dogs were lost due to the turbulent times.

The breed faced a challenging period, with their survival hanging in the balance.

black italian greyhound eating

20th Century Resurgence

After World War II, dedicated breeders worked diligently to revive the Iggy breed. Their efforts paid off, and the breed experienced a resurgence in popularity.

The numbers increased with careful breeding and conservation efforts, allowing Italian Greyhounds to regain their place as beloved companions.

Italian Greyhounds as Companion Dogs

Temperament and Personality

Italian Greyhounds are known for their affectionate nature and loyalty to their human companions. They thrive on human interaction and enjoy being a part of a loving family.

While they may be reserved around strangers, they usually warm up quickly and can become quite playful.

Ideal Living Conditions

Italian Greyhounds adapt well to various living situations, including apartments and houses with small yards. Despite their athletic build, they don’t require extensive exercise like larger breeds.

Regular walks and playtime are usually sufficient to keep them happy and healthy.

Interaction with Children and Other Pets

Italian Greyhounds generally get along well with children and can form strong bonds with them. However, due to their delicate frame, it’s important to supervise interactions to prevent accidental injuries.

Italian Greyhounds can coexist harmoniously with other dogs and pets with proper socialization.

Italian Greyhounds in Popular Culture

Appearance in Literature and Poetry

Italian Greyhounds have captured the imagination of writers and poets throughout history. They have been featured in literary works by renowned authors such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe.

These depictions often emphasize the breed’s elegance, sensitivity, and loyal companionship.

Film and Television Appearances

Italian Greyhounds have appeared in popular films and television shows, further increasing their visibility and popularity. Their unique appearance and graceful movements have attracted filmmakers, leading to memorable roles in productions such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Modern Family.”

Celebrity Owners and Influencers

Iggies have found favor among celebrities and social media influencers. Numerous well-known figures, including actors, models, and musicians, have welcomed Italian Greyhounds into their lives and showcased them on their platforms.

This exposure has introduced the breed to wider audiences and increased its desirability.

A modern notable celebrity Iggy is Seth Meyer’s Frisbee.

small iggy fribee
Henlo there!

Health and Care

Common Health Issues and Genetic Predispositions

Like many purebred dogs, Italian Greyhounds are prone to specific health issues. These may include dental problems, allergies, patellar luxation, and progressive retinal atrophy.

Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and proper dental care, are essential for maintaining their health and well-being.

Nutritional Requirements and Feeding Recommendations

Italian Greyhounds have specific dietary requirements due to their small size and unique metabolism. High-quality dog food appropriate for their age, size, and activity level should be provided.

It’s essential to monitor their weight and avoid overfeeding to prevent obesity, which can lead to various health complications.

Grooming and Maintenance

Italian Greyhounds have a short and smooth coat that requires minimal grooming. Regular brushing and bathing using Iggy-specific shampoos helps keep their coat in good condition and reduces shedding.

Additionally, their nails should be trimmed regularly, their teeth brushed to maintain oral health, and their ears checked and cleaned to prevent infections.

Community and Organizations

Breed Clubs and Associations

Italian Greyhounds have dedicated breed clubs and associations worldwide that promote the breed, provide resources for owners, and organize events and competitions. These organizations offer community and support for Italian Greyhound enthusiasts, including opportunities to socialize with other owners and showcase their dogs’ skills.

Events and Competitions

Italian Greyhounds participate in various events and competitions, such as conformation shows, agility trials, and lure coursing. These events allow owners to showcase the breed’s capabilities and provide opportunities for the dogs to engage in activities that cater to their natural instincts.

Online Communities

The internet has brought together Italian Greyhound owners and enthusiasts worldwide. Online communities, forums, and social media groups offer platforms for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and connecting with fellow Italian Greyhound lovers.

These resources provide owners with knowledge and support at all stages of their journey.

are italian greyhounds smart
It’s a wonder-fur world!


Italian Greyhound history is one that is fascinating and spans centuries. From their origins in ancient civilizations to their present-day role as beloved companions, these elegant dogs have left an indelible mark on human society.

Their distinctive features, gentle temperament, and enduring charm captivate dog lovers worldwide. Whether as faithful companions, show dogs, or simply sources of inspiration in art and culture, Italian Greyhounds hold a special place in the hearts of many.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Italian Greyhounds suitable for apartments?

Iggies can adapt well to apartment living as long as they receive regular exercise and mental stimulation. Their small size and moderate exercise requirements make them suitable for urban environments.

Do Italian Greyhounds get along with other dogs?

With proper socialization, Italian Greyhounds can coexist peacefully with other dogs. Early socialization and positive interactions are crucial in developing good relationships with other canines.

Are Italian Greyhounds good with children?

Iggies can be good with children, but interactions should always be supervised due to their delicate structure. Teaching children to handle them gently and respectfully is essential to prevent accidental injuries.

How often should I groom an Italian Greyhound?

Italian Greyhounds have a short coat that requires minimal grooming. Regular brushing and occasional baths are sufficient to keep their coat clean and healthy.

What is the average lifespan of an Italian Greyhound?

Italian Greyhounds have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Providing them with proper care, nutrition, regular veterinary check-ups, and a loving environment can contribute to their longevity.

Victoria Richards

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