Sighthounds — The Perfect Pet?
Sighthounds, a sub group of the hound category, were bred to hunt. But are there downsides to owning one of these slender beauties? Are sighthounds the perfect pet? We take a look at life with a sighthound.
In Australia, dogs are categorised into seven groups, one of these is the hound. Hounds were bred specifically to help humankind track and hunt using their keen senses of smell or vision. These two senses are what further categorise hounds, giving us scent hounds and sighthounds.
As the name implies, scent hounds have an acute sense of smell. It is a thousand times more powerful than ours, and they can follow that scent for up to an astounding 200km.
Sighthounds, however, rely on their remarkable sense if sight.
There are many breeds that come under the sighthound classification. The most popular are the Irish wolfhound, basenji, Afghan hound, saluki, whippet and of course the greyhound.
These supermodels of the dog world are known for their lean, long structure. While they may appear almost undernourished, their slight forms and low body fat are why they are so fast; the greyhound’s light, aerodynamic build allows them to reach speeds in excess of 70km/hr.
When it comes to eyesight, sighthounds reign supreme. Their eye placement accounts for their 270º field of vision — impressive compared to our mere 180º. Not only can they detect objects behind them, but when the sun goes down, they come into their own. Sighthounds possess tapetum lucidum, present in the eyes of nocturnal animals, allowing them to see in low light.
So we know how amazing this sub group of dog is. Whether sighthounds are the perfect pet for you is another question.
Is a Sighthound Right for Me?
It is reasonable to assume that sighthounds would need a lot of exercise, bringing to mind visions of running awkwardly at break-neck speed at the back end of a lead. But this is apparently not the case. According to Greyhound Rescue, an organisation that specialises in rehoming greyhounds in Sydney, NSW, greyhounds make perfect apartment pets, happy to nap and laze while you’re at work. They need a walk, like most dogs, but they also love to cuddle up and enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon on the sofa with you.
Popular Sighthound Breeds
The saluki looks much like a greyhound embellished with long feathery ears and tail. These slender beauties from the Middle East are quiet, intelligent and known to be independent, so they may not care for the rewards of training. They are more suited to a roomier home with a backyard.
Basenjis are quiet, independent dogs. Their larynx is different to other dogs, so rather than bark, they make a sound like a howl. Bred as a hunting dog in central Africa, the most appealing and charming behaviour of this curly tail breed is that basenjis self groom, much like a cat. That’s a huge bonus for those who prefer an odourless pooch.
The Irish wolfhound has that distinct wiry coat, essential for the chilly winters of Ireland. They are calm and loyal, and quite sensitive. These gentle giants do have a shorter life span, and they require grooming to keep their course trusses in check. And you’ll need deep pockets — Irish wolfhound puppies from a reputable breeder can sell for upwards of $5,000.
The whippet — the greyhound mini-me — shares many of the same characteristics; quiet, calm, cuddly, happy to laze about. But they may struggle with being alone, so this needs to be a consideration if you are out all day. Both whippets and greyhounds have thin skin, making them vulnerable to nasty cuts. Bear this in mind and check your home and yard for potential hazards.
The Final Word
Sighthounds need early socialisation, lest they become too timid when it comes to social doggy interactions. They are naturally quarry driven, and will give chase to smaller animals on the run. Your commands will fall on deaf ears, such is the intense focus of the sighthound. They are generally quiet — not the best if you want a guard dog. But this characteristic is bliss for those after a quiet companion. They love to cuddle up with you, are happy to laze, and they are loyal. For these reasons, sighthounds get our tick of approval.