The Best Sighthound Dog Breeds

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Sighthound Dog BreedsEveryone knows that there are many breeds of dogs all over the world, but did you know that sighthounds are among the fastest dogs on the planet? According to the American Kennel Club, these dogs are part of the hound group and use their sharp eyesight to track and hunt their prey. In this article, we discuss the many different types of dogs that fall under sighthound dog breeds so you can make an informed decision on which canine may be the best fit for your home. 

What are Sighthounds?

You may have already met a sighthound before you even got to understand what this term means; these breeds of dogs are prized for their visual acuity and ability to run at amazing speeds. They are easily discernable through their wide-set eyes and narrow snouts which give them a great field of vision. Because of their specific build, they’re able to spot the smallest movements over great distances, even if their target is well-camouflaged. 

A sighthound is a type of dog that primarily hunts by sight while utilizing their strong vision and long legs to go on a high-speed chase whenever needed to catch small animals. Before guns became commonplace, sighthounds played an important role as working dogs. They would accompany their human hunters to chase after smaller animals such as birds and hares, and even larger animals such as deer. 

This is different from the way scent hounds hunt which depends on the scent trail left by their prey; without one, their hunt may not be successful. If you see old paintings that depict aristocracy as they hunt on horseback, you’ll likely see a sighthound assisting their hunt. This activity is referred to as coursing and relies on the keen vision of their dogs rather than its ability to sniff out prey. 

Sighthound Traits 

Dogs within the sighthound group are known to share the following characteristics: 

  • Long snouts
  • Flexible backs
  • Small head
  • Long necks
  • Aerodynamic bodies
  • Motion detection from a distance
  • Maintains a stable top speed over long distances
  • Efficiently covers ground
  • Highly independent dogs

Sighthounds aren’t used to retrieve prey but are instead trained to chase and catch their prey, holding them immobile until their handler is able to catch up. During hunts, the sighthound will fully commit to the task at hand, and won’t be distracted by anyone or anything around them. This can be frustrating for people who live with these dogs since calling them back to heel can be impossible when they get in the zone. 

Best Sighthound Dog Breeds

Below are just a few of the best sighthounds in the dog world; while some will be more at home as great family pets, others will have a strong prey drive that makes them ideal for hunting small game.  

Irish Wolfhound

Irish WolfhoundThe Irish Wolfhound is believed to have existed at the same time as ancient Greeks and was highly regarded in Ireland from the 12th to the 16th century. These dogs are known to have a strong head that’s not too broad, small ears with a rose-like appearance, along with dark eyes. This long-bodied dog has a deep chest that’s also broad while its loins are arched; it has big-boned legs that stretch to its round and large feet. 

Irish Wolfhounds come with rough and shaggy long coats that are hard to the touch, leading to a similarly-textured tail. Originally bred to hunt wolves, as well as Irish elk, bears, and stags, this bread became scarce and risked extinction after the export of many Wolfhounds. After the eradication of wolves around their native area made their numbers dwindle even further, these dogs were prohibited from being exported by 1652. 

Afghan Hound

Afghan HoundRelated to the Saluki, the Afghan Hound is a prized working dog around Afghanistan and has been utilized by the nomadic tribes throughout the country. These dignified-looking canines come with plenty of intelligence and are capable of forming a strong bond with their chosen human. This medium-sized dog comes with well-sprung ribs, a deep chest, and a long yet robust neck. 

It also has a narrow head that’s tapered as it comes up to the tip of the nose while its almond-shaped eyes are slanted upwards. Its fine and long coat allows it to withstand the cold weather and rough terrain of the Afghanistan mountains. They have long tails that end in a curl, and while they were first used to hunt small prey, you’re more likely to see them as couch potatoes inside a family home. 

Scottish Deerhound

Scottish DeerhoundA close relative of the Irish Wolfhound, these dogs were originally developed to hunt red deer and hail from Scotland, hence their name. This large dog has a long face and a harsh and ragged coat that helps to stay warm in damp and cold weather. They have lean bodies that look similar to their Irish counterparts but are more slenderly built and are among the tallest dog breeds in the world. 

While they may not look like typical domestic dogs, they’re known for their sweet nature and gentle temperament. Be sure to take a step back to appreciate just how big these canines are; standing up to 32 inches at the shoulder, and weighing as much as 110 pounds, these giants are surprisingly laid back. These gorgeous dogs are available in many colors but dog lovers will prefer their dark, gray-blue coats. 

Italian Greyhound

Italian GreyhoundBecause of its petite frame, the Italian Greyhound is among the smallest sighthounds around, standing at just 32 to 38cm. Due to their lightweight frame and fine bones, they’re also among the fastest dogs on the planet and their specific build supports this. They have deep chests with tucked-in abdomens, narrow heads with high-set ears, and short coats that are finely textured, making them the perfect candidate for dog racing. 

Thanks to their capabilities, they have long been popular with the nobility around Europe since the 12th century and were introduced to dog lovers in the United Kingdom during the 1800s. Because they’re low-maintenance dogs, they will fit in well with a busy family who may not have a lot of time to care for their hair but they can be vocal and chatty, so they’re not great inside apartment settings where a quiet environment is needed. Even so, they are playful and affectionate dogs that will love their family when they’re not on the race tracks.  

Sloughi

SloughiAlso known as the Arabian Greyhound, the Sloughi is a lean hound that can swiftly hunt all kinds of game such as jackals, foxes, hares, and gazelles throughout the deserts of North Africa. This sighthound is known for being gentle with loved ones yet aloof with strangers — it’s an ancient breed that was once the favorite breed of Egyptian nobles. Their flat skulls feature a wedge-shaped head, large, dark eyes, and triangular ears that are connected to a deep but narrow chest. 

They come with long and lean legs that lead to their oval-shaped feet — their short, white coat is finely textured and come in other shades such as fawn, light sand, and mahogany. These dogs can come with or without brindling, and without too many white markings. The Sloughi breed can make for great pets and good watchdogs who will always be loyal to their master.

Saluki

SalukiKnown as the royal dog of Egypt, the Saluki is often considered to hail from Persia and is among the oldest dog breeds in existence. These slim, yet rugged dogs were used as hunting hounds by kings for thousands of years, where they proved to be agile and swift canines that love a good chase. Today, this distinct breed enjoys long naps while spending time with its favorite humans, and is still beloved for its graceful and delicate appearance. 

They’re known to be loyal, independent, dignified, and gentle; despite their lithe and petite frame, they are strong and balanced, with males standing between 23 to 28 inches tall. Salukis come in a wide range of patterns and colors, and their big oval eyes express their warmth and intelligence. While they are highly adaptable and can live in all kinds of environments, owning one of these dogs will come with challenges, and will be better off with experienced owners. 

Russian Wolfhound

Russian WolfhoundKnown as Borzoi in its native Russia, these dogs were initially bred to hunt hares and foxes; during the 1800s, their breeding was adapted to allow them to hunt for wolves. These aristocratic dogs are impressively gorgeous, and in full stride, they embody grace, strength, and swiftness, flying across fields at speeds between 35 to 40 miles per hour. However, they are huge dogs that stand at 28 inches by the shoulders and weigh between 75 to 105 pounds, so they may not be the best choice for homes with small children. 

They’re known to be catlike since they’re quiet and stubborn; they will need patient and consistent training, but they’re nevertheless affectionate family dogs. Because the sight of any kind of small animal will trigger their instinct to chase, a fenced-in yard is a must, or you may find yourself always chasing after them. These pups are aloof with strangers but are self-composed, and their soft undercoat will shed during hot days, so have a brush handy for this. 

Mudhol Hound

Mudhol HoundThis rare dog breed comes from India and is known by many other names, including the Maratha Hound, Caravan Hound, Pashmi Hound, and Kathewar Dog. The Mudhol Hound was first introduced to India from Arabia and is thought to be the descendant of the Saluki dog. These dogs are known for their distinct appearance which includes a tapering muzzle, elongated skull, long necks, oval eyes, and strong and long legs. 

While they’re known to be fiercely loyal to their owners, they also have a fragile temperament so a more experienced pet parent will be best for these canines. Moreover, they have a high prey drive which may not make them an ideal companion for homes with small kids and other small pets. This breed isn’t recognized by major kennel clubs yet but they are the first dogs from India to be used for military service and are expected to play a vital role in border protection and surveillance.  

Azawakh

AzawakhAnother rare sighthound, the Azawakh has roots in West Africa where it traveled with desert nomads, serving as their hunters and guardians. They have a short and fine coat that comes in a combination of colors such as clear sand, red, brindle, black, blue, brown, and parti-color. These dogs may also come with various markings around their legs and the tip of their tail — in the United States, they excel as companion dogs, guardians, and lure coursers. 

This ancient hound dog has such a lean body that you can see its bone structure and musculature under its skin; many appreciate its smooth contours, aerodynamic head, and deep chest which mark its status as a sighthound. While they may look elegant, these dogs are durable and tough hunters who can chase gazelles across the scorching heat of the Sahara desert. As such, this loyal and intelligent breed won’t like the cold weather and will be at home somewhere warm under the sun.   

Magyar Agar 

Magyar AgarAlso known as the Hungarian Greyhound, these canines were first introduced as hunters by the Magyars when they invaded during the 9th century. During the 1900s, a serious effort was made to introduce Greyhound genes into these dogs to try and obtain a faster and more efficient dog to hunt hares. As a result, these dogs have broad and long heads, small ears, strong necks, deep chests, and robust bones. 

This breed is known to be docile and affectionate; they’re unlikely to become snippy or bite people but they still come with a stronger guardian instinct compared to other sighthounds. These intelligent dogs are faithful, easy to train, and friendly with other dogs and children. They’re highly adaptable and will comfortably live in big homes or smaller apartments as long as they get enough exercise and plenty of human companionship and affection. 

Polish Greyhound

Polish GreyhoundThe Polish Greyhound goes as far back as the 13th century when they were used by Polish nobility to hunt birds. However, their numbers dwindled when a law was introduced that banned their use for hunting. Luckily, they were able to bounce back during the 1970s when a group of dedicated breeders sought to revive them and eventually established a studbook in 1981; by 1989, these dogs were accepted into the Fédération Cynologique Internationale registry.  

Today, this medium-sized dog is known for its distinctive look, sporting a long and muscular neck, large, almond-shaped eyes, wide hip bones, and a smooth and short coat. They’re known to have a high prey drive and are territorial so they may be more suitable with experienced owners. However, they’re also protective and affectionate with their humans but will be reserved when around new people.  

Galgo Español

Galgo EspañolThe Spanish Galgo is known as the breed that gave rise to the English Greyhound, and some consider them to be descendants of dogs that roamed ancient Egypt around 3,000 years ago. They have a similar nature to Greyhounds; they’re gentle, quiet, calm, and laid back, happy to spend hours on the couch with their humans. Over 90% of these dogs are considered to be cat-friendly and will also get along with other dogs, as well as small children. 

Despite being used to hunt for rabbits and hares, these dogs have a calm temperament that lets them safely play with children without the risk of getting knocked over or jumped on, unlike more excitable breeds. Because they tend to be shy and reserved, it’s important to give them socialization at a young age. By doing this, you can ensure that they grow up comfortable with new people, places, and animals. 

Cirneco dell’Etna

Cirneco Dell'etnaThis sleek and lean canine is known as an ancient coursing hound that hails from the region of Sicily; as an athletic hunter, it can run with quick bursts of energy. As faithful house dogs, they are known to be low-maintenance and mild-mannered companions who are cherished for their gentle and loyal nature. Growing no more than 20 inches, they resemble the Pharoh Hound and are referred to as a smaller cousin. 

Their beautiful coats range from light to dark tan and chestnut, while their large, upright ears giveaway an alert expression which is also reflected in their eyes. These long-legged Sicilians are successful sighthounds but are also sweet and independent. That said, they’re also more amiable and will be easier to train compared to other sighthounds — it’s these features that have led them to become well-loved dogs even in today’s world.  

Pharaoh Hound

Pharaoh HoundReferred to as the “Blushing Dog” of Malta, this ancient dog is both rugged and elegant as it sprints around a course or while it chases down prey over the roughest terrains. Quick to pick up on a scent and tenacious on the trail, these affectionate and friendly hounds can also settle down nicely inside a loving home. They possess an aerodynamic and sleek body that allows them to go on high-speed chases even on rocky areas. 

Among some of their more distinguishable traits are their tight, rich tan coats with matching leather noses, their sharp ears, and their alluring amber eyes. Because they have the unique ability to smile when they’re excited or happy, they give out a “blushing” look, hence their name. Native to the Middle East, these beautiful dogs are believed to have descended from hounds during the Bronze Age who were just as swift and elegant.      

Basenji

BasenjiKnown as the ‘Barkless Dog,’ the Basenji is a sweet-faced and compact hunter that comes with poise and intelligence, making for beguiling and unique pets for owners who can give them enough exercise and challenging training sessions. These small dogs stand at just 17 inches at the shoulder and are easily recognized through their glistening coat, curled tails, and wrinkled foreheads. Their expressive eyes convey a wide range of subtle, human-like emotions, which is why they are loved by their humans. 

When they run, they exhibit a fast and impressive trot, which mimics the smooth and long strides of a small racehorse. While these dogs don’t bark, they do make a weird sound that is said to be half a yodel and half a chortle. These dogs are very clean and will groom themselves much like a cat — these dogs originally come from Central Africa and are rarely found outside their native country since they only come into heat once a year. 

Conclusion

As you can see, sighthounds are wonderful dogs with exceptional skills, excelling in chases, and running swiftly with plenty of stamina, delivering results no matter their target. Often running around hot areas, they have become highly adapted to live in harsh conditions or in comfortable homes where they can keep the family safe and protected. While some may come with a high prey drive, they can be gentle and loving members of the family and will fit right into your home.

 

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