Italian Greyhound breed: the smallest and most sensitive representative of the greyhounds

László Enikő

2024. June 18 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

This special dog breed is very versatile. In the past, it was one of the favorite lapdogs of noble families, but this small greyhound is also an excellent hunting dog: it chases small game at lightning speed. Besides being extremely fast, lively, and active, it loves to spend most of its day napping on the couch.


The Italian Greyhound is one of the most beloved and smallest representatives of the greyhounds. It has a kind, affectionate, and truly charming personality, making it an ideal family dog. It gets along well with children and other dogs, is suitable for dog sports, and feels comfortable in an apartment with the proper exercise. It’s easy to fall in love with this breed, but it’s important to remember that it is a particularly sensitive pet that requires the companionship of its owner.


Greyhounds have a history dating back thousands of years, with smaller greyhounds already present among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, which were likely the ancestors of the Italian Greyhound. They were depicted on vases and bowls, and archaeologists have discovered 2000-year-old small greyhound skeletons in Greece and Turkey.

The breed likely arrived in Italy in the early 5th century BC. The popularity of the Italian Greyhound peaked during the Renaissance when it became a favorite lapdog of nobles and royal families. Although this small greyhound was originally a hunting dog. It probably hunted small game, such as rodents, and could run at speeds of up to 60 km/h for short distances. Although its hunting instinct remains to this day, the breed has been more of a lapdog than a hunting dog for centuries. Italian Greyhounds have been depicted in numerous paintings with their noble owners. Notable enthusiasts of the breed included Mary Stuart, Danish Princess Anna Sophia, King Charles I of England, King Frederick II of Prussia, and Queen Victoria. An African king named Lobengula once traded 200 cattle for a single Italian Greyhound.

Breed standard

The body of the Italian Greyhound can be drawn in a square, resembling a miniature version of the English Greyhound. Its appearance exudes delicacy and elegance, combined with graceful movement. Its muzzle and skull are of equal length, with a less pronounced stop. The skull is flat, with smooth and tight skin. The nose is dark, preferably black. It has a scissor bite. The muzzle is pointed, with fine lips that adhere to the jaw. Its eyes are large and expressive, with dark irises. Its small ears are set high, with fine cartilage, folding back onto themselves. When the dog is attentive, the lower part of the ear stands up while the upper part stands out horizontally to the side.

Neck is as long as the head, lightly arched, and tapers forward when viewed from the side. The body length is less than or equal to the height at the withers. Back is straight, the chest is narrow, and the abdomen is tucked up. The tail is set low, fine even at the base, and tapers towards the end. Limbs have fine bone structure, with oval front paws and less so the hind paws. Coat is short and fine, and the color is solid black, isabella fawn, or slate gray, with white markings on the chest and paws. The weight is a maximum of 5 kg, and the height at the withers is 32-38 cm. The expected lifespan is about 13-15 years.


Although it indeed appears fragile with its small size and thin legs, it is a typical greyhound that either goes all out or is completely exhausted. In the former case, it no longer appears to be a delicate flower, and this small dog can run at speeds of up to 60 km/h over short distances. It is an intelligent, clever, and playful dog, and it is worth taking advantage of these traits through dog sports or obedience training. It is extremely affectionate and attached to its family. Some individuals may be more reserved in the presence of strangers, while others quickly make friends with anyone. It is important for the Italian Greyhound to be exposed to many stimuli from a young age to prevent it from becoming a fearful adult dog later on.

Ideal environment

The Italian Greyhound feels comfortable both in an apartment and in a house with a yard. However, it is important to mention that it is a particularly sensitive pet. Outdoor living is not recommended at all, as it is a dog that easily gets cold and is incredibly affectionate, requiring attention and the presence of its owner. It gets along well with other dogs and likes children. However, it is important that children treat it respectfully and gently, as it is very sensitive and its bones can easily break. Therefore, it is most ideal for families with older children.

When kept in an apartment, care must be taken to meet its exercise needs. But if this is ensured, it can spend almost half the day resting on the couch. It can also be a great companion for dog sports and is obedient, but it can only be trained with positive reinforcement due to its sensitive nature.


This breed does not require much grooming from its owner. It sheds minimally, but its coat only needs to be wiped occasionally to keep it shiny. Bathing is necessary only if it gets very dirty. Its nails should be trimmed if they grow too long. Regular attention should be given to keeping its ears and eyes clean.

Common health problems

According to a survey published in 2009, the Italian Greyhound has the lowest incidence of hip dysplasia among 157 dog breeds. However, the breed can be prone to patellar luxation and conditions such as hypothyroidism and Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. Progressive retinal atrophy can also develop, and individuals may be sensitive to certain anesthetic drugs. For the Italian Greyhound, care must be taken where it steps and what it jumps off from, as its bones are thin, and an incautious moment can result in a broken limb.

Do you like hunting dogs? Click here to get to know the Hungarian Vizsla. Gracefulness and incredible agility characterize this breed too!

(Literature: János Szinák – István Veress: A világ kutyái I. David Alderton: Kutyák. Joan Palmer: A Practical Guide to Selecting a Small Dog. Dr. Pál Sárkány: Nemzetközi Kutyaenciklopédia. Dr. Klára Király: Versek, legendák és bölcsességek Kutyabarátoknak. Paul McGreevy: Dogs)

children Greyhounds hunting hunting dog Italian Greyhound lapdog small dog

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