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Encyclopedia Of Rural Sports, By Delabere P Blaine 1840
(Scottish, Irish, English Greyhounds)


(IWT Editor - The author Delabere P Blaine first produced this publication in 1840 but he determined to keep his work up to date, so several later versions were produced. This one was the final edition published in 1870. Blaine stated it was a revised edition with corrections. So readers might like to read this version and the later 1870 version. The later 1870 version included some illustrations not available in the 1840 version, those illustrations are included here)

The early history of the greyhound has been supposed by many to point at Greece as the country in which he originated: some others, and as we think with greater probability of being right, make him of Celtic origin ; indeed, in his latter state of important and striking improvement, we consider him as wholly Celtic. The very designation of this dog has occasioned almost as much research, and certainly quite as much disputation, as his origin, which gives occasion to the translator of Arrian to say, "The term greyhound has confounded English etymologists as much as that of vertagus has puzzled Latin commentators. It is variously spelt by our old English writers, as grehounde by Juliana Berncrs, "a grehoundc sholde be heeded lyke a snake;" grtihounde by Chaucer, "greihoundes he hadde as swift as foul of flight." Lord Berners writes grayhounde; Junius, graihound; Gesner, grewhownd; Harrington, grewnd. The terms grew hound, grevrnd, graihound, grayhound. Cants Graeus, and Grains, all indicate a supposed connection with Greece. Grew is often used for Greek by Douglas and Lindsay." (P. 294, 295.) Nevertheless this able commentator cannot believe the genuine Celtic hound to have been known to ancient Greece, which opinion, we think, is in great measure confirmed by the silence of Xenophon on the subject, who wrote so expressly on venation generally. Our annotator at the same time observes, that he would rather seek the origin of the English name in the predominant colour of the dog, Greg, gravy, gravy, grei, caesius, leucophieus, canus, A. S. grag; which last, says Junius, might be referred "Ad colore m Grace is ocr error-epcJeftop(gruinam) dictum; proptereaquod Threiciam grucm simuletvel imitetur,utloquitur Ovidus,"&c. (F. Junii Etymolog. Anglican, p. 296.); that is, to the colour called by the Greeks ytpdvuov, or crane-like, on account of its resemblance to that of the Thracian crane.

The greihounde of King Cranthlynth's dayes," says Holinshed, "was not fetched so far as out of Grecia, but rather bred in Scotland. The translator of Arrian does not, however, believe that either the English, Scotch, or Irish greyhounds are indigenous to Great Britain, but rather that " All our insular sorts originally sprang from the Celtic vertagus: the probability of which is supported by the history of the distribution to the Celts themselves, and the name under which the dogs were sent by Flavian to his brother Symmachus at Home. May we not therefore conclude, the Irish and Scotch greyhounds to have been primarily derived from the Celtic stock, accompanying these emigrants of Celtic Europe to Ireland, and thence to Scotland; in one or other of which territories they received the name of Canes Scotici, from the Scottish emigrants of Celtica who accompanied them? and may not the English greyhound, improved in speed by careful management and judicious breeding, as his master increased in civilisation and became more reclaimed, be derived, through such intermediate links, from the same parent source?

The coarser varieties of the North, and of the sister isle, are rarely seen in South Britain; and though at first closely connected with the Celt, and amongst his earliest descendants, are now considered farther removed from the genuine type of Celtica, the &v4prpayos KtW of the Greek manual in consequence of commixture with the Canes beUicosi and sagaces." As far as our humble attainments enable us to judge of the matter, we consider this opinion of the origin, and this view of the descent of the greyhound to be equally borne out by history and by analogical facts. The view here taken is certainly in perfect accordance with history; it also harmonises with the processes of nature in her dissemination of animals, and her fitting them for geographical distribution, by affording them such plasticity of organisation find change of qualities, as shall give them, by culture and close domestication, all the appearances and all the advantages of perfect indigenat.

To the strict etymologist, however, the derivation of a name is often of much moment; we therefore once more revert to our former source for a more critical inquiry into the origin of the term greyhound. Minstuei warmly advocates its derivation from the Anglo-Saxon grig-hound, Cams leporarius. It is less surprising that Dr. Johnson also, from a confined knowledge of the northern dialects, and a lamentable ignorance of natural history, sanctions this derivation; and that Lye likewise, in his edition of Junius, should thus remark on the same subject: "A Saxonis habent greighound," and that he should further mystify it by adding, "quod island is grey est canis." We are surprised also that so respectable a writer as Strutt, who, though treating on the early field sports of the Britons, should manifest so complete an ignorance of the natural history of his native island, as to derive "the true greyhound from this dog, which in early times was principally used in hunting the badger, then called the grey. Shades of Jupiter, Czarina, Claret, Snowball, and Major, rise and tear out the absurd and slanderous assertion! We could more readily yield to the opinion of the learned Dr. Catius, in his work De Canibus Britannica, on account of its laudatory tendency: " A gre quoque grehund apud nostros invenit nomen: quod praecipui gradus inter canis: gre enim apud nostros gradum denotat." (The greyhound with us derives his name from gre, because he holds the chief rank among dogs, gre with us denoting rank.} Hence it is that we find Osbaldeston, a sporting author of respectability, supposing that " It was the degree of superiority in this over all other dogs which, by suffering a curtailment, left him a grey-hound."

Our attempts, however, thus far tend rather to prove what is not, than what is the root of this name; and we fear that, with the exception of the probabilities offered by the erudite translator of Arrian, we have little to add that is more conclusive. We cannot, however, do full justice to our subject, of the real descent of the greyhound and his designation, without noticing whatever bears on the subject, which leads us to mention a petite tome on coursing, considered as the production of Sir William Clayton, a gentleman well known as a sportsman, and equally so as an accomplished scholar. Neither can we refrain from regret that, as he did enter the portals of this subject, he did not pursue his investigations, but contented himself with leaving the matter nearly as he found it: however, candour obliges us to own that it is probable he pursued the wisest course when he left off, with observing, that from whence the greyhound race derived its immediate origin may be still a doubt The baronet however quotes Buffon, " who having," as he observes, "entered so deeply into natural history, and illumined many of its darkest shades, is of opinion that the modern greyhound is derived from what he terms the ' matin,' but in its descent becomes finer, more slender, and more delicate in shape and skin, from climate, care, and attention to a mixture only with its own species. Fawn-colour he considers as the natural predominant tint of the greyhound; and he thinks those which arc white, black, grey, or of any other colours, owe them to a mixture with the matin' or the dane, and those with long hair to one with the spaniel.


(IW editor note, Buffon's claim that the greyhounds origin is the Matin has been discredited by multiple writers. In fact, most of the breeds that Buffon wrote about he had never personally seen. He relied upon reports from people who had visited a country and described the dogs they saw, he then had illustrations made up based on these descriptions. So,Buffon's work is not held in high regard and is not really a trustworthy/accurate source. His "naturalist" findings on canine origins merely amount to an opinion, usually devoid of fact.)

Though this observation of Buffon's," continues the baronet, " is qualified with the 'pevtrc,' or ' perhaps' the rough haired greyhound is generally stigmatised by the sportsman as a species of mongrel, and undoubtedly has not often that perfect symmetry, which makes the high-bred greyhound so beautiful." This is certainly true of the greyhound of the present day; but if the matter had been somewhat farther looked into, it would be seen that the early Scottish greyhounds, from which source our own are derived, were all wire-haired.

The importance of the real origin of the greyhound, whatever others may think, is great to the zealous courser; we cannot therefore, in our own opinion, do justice either to the dog himself, or to those his admirers, nor indeed to all those interested in the origin of this elegant animal, without collating from every respectable source whatever tends to throw light on it. Mr. Scrope, in his Art of Deer Stalking, has introduced some observations on the origin of the greyhound very relevant to our purpose: "Of the greyhound," he observes, " although it is a dog which has been longest in use in this country for the purposes of the chase, it is remarkable he should be that which is least known to the present generation of naturalists and sportsmen." He continues " From modern writers we learn nothing further than that such a race of dogs at one time existed in Ireland, that they were of a gigantic size, and that they are now extinct. One great obstacle in the way of investigating the history of this dog has arisen from the different appellations given to it, according to the fancy of the natives in different parts of the country, of Irish wolf-dog, Irish greyhound. Highland deerhound, and Scotch greyhound." Mr. Scrope also alludes to the strong greyhounds known in Ireland, Scotland, and England, as early as the third century, as being consimilar with vertraha, which, he observes, seems to correspond with the Irish and Scotch greyhounds of our days.

The same ingenious author considers it likewise probable that the large dogs known to have been sent to Rome from Ireland in iron cages in the fourth century, were of this kind also; but as we know that the British mastiff was a regular article of export from Britain to Rome in those times, we think that the truth of this opinion admits of some doubt.

The antiquity of the Irish and Scottish greyhound, but more particularly the latter, we consider admits of no doubt, and we gladly accept the information of this intelligent writer, who says that, " Amongst the oldest Scotch authorities are some sculptured stones in the churchyard of Meigle, a village of Perthshire. These stones represent in relief the figures of several dogs, which bear so strong a resemblance to the Highland deerhound as to leave no doubt that they are intended to represent this species. The date of this sculpture is considered by antiquaries, and in particular by Chalmers, to have been previous to the introduction of Christianity, and as early at least as the ninth century." But we would refer the reader for much other interesting matter connected with this subject to the work of this gentleman, whose opinions on the origin of the greyhound, we cannot but feel gratified, are so much in unison with our own; and that the progressive improvement of this dog from the Celtic vertraha, through the grades of Irish and Scotch strong greyhound to the elegant courser or long dog, seen in its highest form at our great coursing meetings, so closely tallies with our own conclusions formed and stated several years ago.

The true Cants Leporarius, or greyhound, we must remember, under all the surmisings on this somewhat occult subject, was not cultivated until after the time of the elder Xenophon. We therefore consider it as proved, that however dogs derived from the celeres might have been used in ancient Greece, &c. under the names of deerhound. wolfhound, &c. that the true greyhound type of dog was not cultivated as a distinct breed in Greece, at least until after the period stated. It is true, authorities of no mean note, both sacred and profane, appear to have encouraged a belief in a more early existence of the vrrtagut. Among the former Solomon is quoted, who in his Proverbs (ch. xxx. v. 30.) is thought to allude distinctly to the greyhound " as one of the three things which go well," the lion and the he-goat making up the trio. The marginal notes to the English version rendering this term greyhound by the expressive figure of "girt in the loins," or accintus lumbis, would certainly give a colouring to such a conclusion. But when we reflect that hunting with dogs is no where alluded to in the sacred page, we must incline to the opinion of the learned Bochart, in his Prafat. ad Lictorem, and that of the ingenious annotator already quoted, that the horse was much more probably the subject referred to.

The direct origin of the Canis Leporarius, or greyhound of our times, may it, or may it not receive illustration from the eastern varieties? They themselves follow the climatic influence, without doubt, like the horses of the same localities, which are smaller in size, finer in coat, and more swift than the native breeds of northern countries. The Italian greyhound must also owe much of his diminished bulk to the influence of climate, though some of it may be attributed to the judicious selection of parents, and to in-and-in breeding, which, whatever it does in others, in the greyhound appears to diminish the progeny. Scotland, on the contrary, it more northerly locality, has been long celebrated for its greyhounds which are known to be large and wiry coated. These are probably types of the early Celtic greyhounds, which, yielding to the influences of a colder climate than that they came from, became coated with a thick and wiry hair. In Ireland, as being milder in its climate, the frame expanded rather more in bulk, and the coat, although not altogether smooth, yet was less crisped and wiry. In both localities, there being at that time boars, wolves, and even bears, powerful dogs were required. In England, these wild beasts were more early exterminated; and, consequently, the same type of dog was not kept up here, but, on the contrary, by culture was made finer in coat, and of greater tenuity in form. The subject, it must be owned, is beset with difficulties; the dark ages destroyed every link in the chain of written, and even of traditionary, knowledge; intestine wars and universal fanaticism prevented the spread of either. Impressed with a consideration of our confined limits, we feel that we have extended our observations beyond their due bounds

The early English Greyhound. We have already presented what we consider the type of the early greyhound, brought into Britain by the Celts Distribution, however, gradually effected changes both in his form and covering. In Scotland and Ireland his bony form and rough coat marked him; in England also he was seen as a large, bony, gaunt animal, less rough certainly, but with a coat of coarse texture (Ar. 279.). He was, at those times, employed in coursing the largest animals, as boars, bears, wolves, &c. as long as the country afforded them. When these disappeared, and there was less required from his strength, but more from his quickness of motion, as already hinted at, he was bred somewhat finer, and was then much employed in fox coursing, in those days a very favourite diversion. As the hare in its turn likewise became a prominent object of pursuit, the figure of the greyhound assumed even a somewhat more attenuated appearance that his speed might be increased; but the system of hunting at force being not yet wholly abolished, he still remained a strong bony animal, as represented in our cut. We have already stated that the introduction of the greyhound into Britain appears to have been brought about by the Scots themselves, a Celtic tribe, which, having emigrated into Ireland about the third century, eventually extended themselves over the western islands, and finally possessed themselves of the land of the Gael or Gaul. This being premised, it remains for us further to remark, that the author to whom we owe so much, in his continuation of the subject from this point, notices the distinctions made, the descriptions given, and the opinions formed by naturalists, of the greyhound type of our own islands; and has further employed himself in endeavouring to trace, in a satisfactory manner, its connection with Gallia Celtica. The greyhound of Great Britain, it is very notorious is branched out into sub-varieties, which are named aocording to their localities, as the English, Scotch, and Irish greyhounds; none of which, as we have heretofore noticed, does the authority we allude to believe to be originally native to Great Britain. The intimate connection between these several varieties of the greyhound we have long ago advocated; we cannot, therefore, see our own opinion coincide with that of this authority without gratification, particularly since we have felt ourselves called on, in the cause of truth, to differ from several, but particularly from one very respectable writer on the subject.

As the extirpation of the bear, the boar, and the wolf, which followed the increase of the inhabitants of our island, became consummated, the stag took the place of them, and long remained the favourite object of the courser; and during this period, as may be supposed, the culture of the greyhound would be so directed as to unite in his person accelerated speed, but leaving as much height and strength as would enable him as well to pull down and retain his prey as to overtake it. When deer became less plentiful, the fox was the animal substituted for coursing j and the sport of fox coursing became very popular, and was entirely pursued with the strong wire-haired greyhounds of that period, descended from the stock of Scotia, and not yet reclaimed to that attenuation of form and fineness of coat which marks the modern long dogs of the acknowledged true English greyhound. On the remote as well as the more immediate origin of the greyhound, we have essayed our best endeavours for the reader's information. Arrian, it is evident, is our principal guide in tracing his early history, as his erudite translator and commentator conducts us in our view of his after progress until the present time. Nor can it fail to strike the attentive reader, amidst all the difficulties which surround this subject, and the conflicting opinions which have been offered on it, we see none so rational as this of our literary courser, according as it does with the few historic gleams which have penetrated the darkness of the barbarous ages. Further, if to what has there been stated there be added the probabilities of intermixture with those whose figure has yielded to the effects of the increased temperature of the east and to its arid soil, we shall, in all probability, long look for a more likely solution of the difficulties which have surrounded the origin of this highly prized hound.

Mr. Thacker appears to lay much stress on the originality of the greyhound, from the invariable fineness of his coat, and the length and tapering proportions of his tail, which he appears to consider as peculiar characteristics of this breed, which definitely separate this dog from (as we think his primogenitors) the Scotch and Irish greyhounds. But a smooth coat and a fine tail are not necessary to constitute the true Canis Leporarius; locality, on the contrary, is one of these agencies which, without the aid of man, alters the outer coverings, and varies the contour of the frame. The smooth coat of the greyhound cannot be perpetuated in northern climates, unless the dog himself is kept stoved in artificial heat, and it is done with difficulty even then. In the Levant, also, long coated greyhounds are common; but these varieties, bending to the agency of an increased temperature, are furnished with hair, not strong, nor crisped and curled like the northern spaniels and the Highland greyhound, but, on the contrary, of a soft and silky texture. In Laconia, also, Mr. Hobhouse informs us that he frequently met with these long haired greyhounds, and, if we recollect rightly, they were said to be excellent hare killers, and true to their sport. In Persia and Arabia a still more singular variety of the greyhound is not uncommon; in these the body is smooth and the coat very fine, but the ears, legs, and tail, on the contrary, are fringed with long but very fine soft hair, which hangs after the manner of that of our setters .

Some years ago two of these elegant animals were sent to us for our inspection; but in them the silken tresses of ears, arms, and tail, were much longer than in our figure. The dogs sent to us were symmetrically formed, and in height about the usual standard of our own greyhound breed, but somewhat stouter; since which time other specimens have been sent to the Zoological Gardens. Major Keppel also, as he informs us in his travels, met with greyhounds between Bussorah and Bagdad, somewhat smaller than our own, which had both their ears and tail covered with long silky hair. We have in these dogs a proof, that neither the length nor the texture of the coat affords any determinate criterion, either of the purity or the degeneracy of the breed in the greyhound. In the Levant the agencies of climate beget a long and fine coat. In Scotland climateric influences produce a coat less lengthened but more crisp and wiry.

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Encyclopedia Of Rural Sports, By Delabere P Blaine 1870

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