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History Of The Italian Greyhound


Hounds similar to Italian Greyhounds are believed to have originated in Egypt around 3,000BC. Mummified remains have been excavated from the tombs of the Pharaoh's in the Valley of Kings at Luxor. It is believed that the Romans brought the hounds to the Mediterranean around 600 BC. Archaeologists have discovered art works and carvings from this period and bones of the small hounds. 

In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and obliterated the ancient Roman resort town of Pompeii. In the lava flow the remains of a petite hound were discovered. It is thought that the Latin inscription "Cave Ganem" or Beware of the Dog, which was found on houses of that period, was not a warning but a reminder not to step on the miniature hound. In 48 BC Queen Cleopatra presented Julius Caesar with Italian Greyhound puppies after he had conquered Egypt. 

The Middle Ages saw the Italian Greyhound in Southern Europe. Because of its popularity in Italy it became known as the Italian Greyhound and reached its height of popularity in the 1th Century. The hounds appeared in European royal houses and became a decoration of aristocratic salons. Often seen with their titled owners including; Mary Queen of Scots 1542-87, Princess Anne of Denmark 1574-1619, Charles 1 1600-49, Queen Victoria 1819-1901 and Frederick the Great of Prussia 1712-86 whose Italian Greyhound accompanied him in his military campaigns. Catherine the Great of Russia 1729-96 had her favourite Italian Greyhound "Zemira" buried in Peterhof Park and a porcelain figurine of the hound kept in the Grand Hall of the Peterhof Palace. 

Italian Greyhounds can be seen in the paintings of Ambrogio Giotto 1267-1337, Rogier Van der Weyden 1399-1464, Hans Memling 1440-94, Hieronymus Bosch 1450-1516, Gerard David 1460-1523, Vittore Carpaccio 1472-1526, Sir AnthonyVan Dyck 1599-1641, Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-92, William Blake 1757-1827. Pierre Jukes Mene 1810-77 made several bronze sculptures of Italian Greyhounds. The artist Theodor Karner 1884-1966 who worked for Rosenthal of Germany created some beautifully detailed figures of Italian Greyhounds in porcelain. 

Hounds are dogs that were originally bred to hunt and the Italian Greyhound has a strong instinct to chase and hunt. The breed is the smallest of the family of sighthounds or gazehounds (dogs that hunt by sight). It is thought that they were originally bred to hunt small game as well as being a companion hound. Its larger cousin the Whippet is a relatively new breed that originated in England in the 19th Century. 

Italian Greyhounds were first shown in England at the Birmingham Dog Show in 1860. In Australia at the Sydney Royal Show in 1868. The American Kennel Club registered the first Italian Greyhound in 1886. 

In St Petersburg, Russia there is now an annual holiday held on the 27 July in honour of the Russian Empress Catherine's Italian Greyhound "Zemira". It's held in the grounds of the Grand Cascade, one of the main fountains of the Russian Versailles. A contest is held to find the most beautiful hound, which is presented with an award in the Throne Room of the Grand Peterhof Palace. 

The Italian Greyhound is known in Germany as the ltalianisches "Windspiel" or Toy of the Wind. In Italy it's a Piccolo Levriero Italiano and in Sweden an ltaliensk vinthund.

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