The Anatomy of Greyhounds: Why Are They So Fast?

Greyhound Anatomy

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either looking to adopt a Greyhound or already own one.

You must already know their temperament, eating habits and appearance by now. You must also be aware that they are one of the fastest dog breeds in the world.

With an ability to run 70-75 KM/Hour, Greyhounds are notorious racers.

Greyhound racing is an organized and competitive sport. Greyhound owners train their dogs for local and national racing tournaments throughout the year.

Why do Greyhounds run so fast? Is it due to their long, lean legs or some other factor?

Continue reading to understand the role of a Greyhound’s anatomy in making this dog breed so fast.

History of Greyhounds

People are not wrong when they say that Greyhounds were bred to run fast. The Greeks used Greyhounds for hunting and racing. They were also the first ones to organize Greyhound racing.

However, a special breed of Greyhound called Greek Harehound was used back then.

Greyhounds also have a long history as hunting dogs. They used to hunt deer, foxes, and rabbits—one of the reasons that they became so prevalent for coursing.

Coursing is a type of racing sport where dogs chase after animals, often chickens.

Their speed and agility have always been an awe for many spectators for centuries.

How Fast Are Greyhounds?

Before proceeding with the why, we must know how fast the Greyhounds are. Are they faster than the cheetahs or a racehorse? Most people compare the speed of a Greyhound to that of a cheetah.

Many researchers have tried putting Greyhounds and captive cheetahs against each other. The basis for this theory lies in their body movements. They both gallop when running.

According to research, the cheetah outran the Greyhound by 32 kilometers per hour. However, researchers found incredible similarities in their running style and noted that Greyhounds are the only dog breed that can even come close to beating a cheetah in a race.

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Anatomy of A Greyhound

Greyhounds have been selectively bred for many years to be the best runners. Their long faces, muscular but lean bodies, and narrow waists set them apart from other dog breeds.

Other than this, they also have long and flexible spines and thin but powerful legs which give them more flexibility while running.

Greyhounds also have thick and slender necks which give them an aerodynamic shape, contributing to their speed.

However, this slender neck is quick to get out of standard collars, which often worries the dog owners. For such naughty puppies, the martingale collars for Greyhounds help keep them secure without applying pressure on their necks.

Let’s read more about the unique physical characteristics of a Greyhound’s anatomy that make them fast runners:

Unique Anatomical Features of Greyhounds


Greyhounds have a long face which is also its distinguishing feature. Animal experts refer to this face shape as Dolichocephalic. A prominent feature of such a skull is its big nasal cavity.

These cavities help in taking deeper breaths during running or working out. One of the positive traits of this skull in Greyhounds is that it does not cause any health concerns.


One of the reasons Greyhounds are so fast is that they are light in weight. But that is not the only thing. Their body has an aerodynamic shape; they have small heads, a muscular body with a narrow waist, and long thin legs.

In easier words, it looks like it was specially made to reach the highest speed.


Greyhounds have a high count of red blood cells in their body. It means their body can efficiently transport oxygen from one body part to another. It is one of the reasons is that they can run for long distances without going out of breath.

On the other hand, they have a lower count of white blood cells. These characteristic features of their blood work make them preferable blood donors among all dog breeds.

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If you look into the anatomic features of the hearts of several breeds, you will know that Greyhounds have relatively bigger ones.

Their heart is even bigger than a human’s heart. But you may ask, what does the size of the heart have to do with the speed?

Let me explain: A bigger heart can beat faster and harder. If someone has a small heart that pumps quickly, it gets tired easily, and the body gets tired, too.


One of the unique features is their lung capacity. Large lungs allow them to store more oxygen when racing.

It helps to maintain the speed for longer durations. It is also one of the reasons that they go out of breath that easily.


At first glance, you may notice they have thin paws, but look closer, and you will see how long and strong they are. Their paw shape is unique and helps provide acceleration during the race.

If you observe a Greyhound during a race from a side angle, it almost resembles a kangaroo. Their legs are so long that the front legs can easily go behind their hind legs. These long legs are central to their fast speed.

Low Body Fat and High Muscle Mass

Another thing you notice at first glance is how muscular their body is. Sadly, this feature is because of selective breeding practices. They also have high levels of Creatinine in their body.

High Creatinine helps to keep the body lean and develop a muscular body.

They have less than 2% body fat, which makes them the leanest dog breeds. The Greyhounds have strong muscles that contract powerfully and quickly contributing to their ability to run fast.

However, do not confuse them with German Shepherd Greyhounds that look different.

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Greyhounds have the perfect tail length that helps the dogs when they race. It helps to keep balance when the muscles contract.

The tail also allows them to arch their back whenever they want to slow down or increase their speed.


Greyhounds have small organs (apart from the heart), which is one of the reasons for their slim structure. Their body naturally has a smaller stomach to maintain the low fat.

They also have smaller meal portions. On the contrary, their metabolizable energy requirement is higher than other dog breeds.

Grey Hound Racing

Greyhound racing is a popular sport. Previously, there were two types of Greyhound racing; track and coursing. Coursing has been banned in most countries after appeals from animal welfare societies.

According to RSPCA, Greyhound coursing is a sport that puts the lives of Greyhounds in danger. Injuries due to racing in this pet breed are widespread.

One study suggests that around 2000 Greyhounds die from injuries from Greyhound racing. Sadly, these results cover just three years between 2018 and 2021.

People import Greyhounds for racing, and those who do so keep their dogs in poor condition. Such racing dogs have inadequate food and are not well taken care of.

Therefore, those involved in organized Greyhound sports are closely monitored by the relevant authorities.

Final Thoughts

It is for a fact that we now know that Greyhounds are one of the fastest breeds in the world.

Their style of running has been compared to the fastest animal on land, the cheetah. This unique ability of the Greyhounds to be fast is all because of their physical attributes.

It seems as if nature especially designed their body for racing and selective breeding contributed to it further. They have slender bodies and tiny skulls.

The internal organs are specially equipped so that they can race for longer duration without taking breaks.

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