SIGHTHOUNDS: INSIDE FRONT DUST COVER (300 words)
Do you know the difference between a long dog and a lurcher? How do lengthy nasal bones enhance a dog’s eyesight? Is a gazehound really the same as a sighthound? Cana true Whippet be purebred? Should the Italian Greyhound only be a Toy breed? Are the Saluki and the Sloughi genuinely different breeds? Is the Saluki the Persian or the Arabian sighthound? Is the Greyhound actually a Gre-hund? Should more than one breed of Borzoi have been recognised? Which is the true Russian wolfhound, the Siberian Borzoi or the Circassian one? Do the canine sprinters actually have a sporting future? Do you want the same old romantic breed fabrications or do you want a challenging forthright new approach to the world of the running dog?
David Hancock’s latest book, his tenth, discusses these queries and attempts to answer them in his usual no-holds-barred manner. This is not a manual covering nutrition, training, breeding, care and maintenance. It is a celebration of the cursorial hunting dogs, those using speed and sight to hunt for man’s cooking pot for over three millennia. Lavishly illustrated, with many of the illustrations being published for the first time, it is a book for those who care more about what dogs can do rather than what they look like. Meticulously researched, it covers the lesser known and the lost types of sighthound, including foreign ones, as well as the better-known and long-established pedigree breeds of the show ring.
When reviewing one of his previous books, the revered lurcher and longdog expert, the late Brian Plummer described it as ‘a masterpiece’.
The author is grateful to the staff at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams, Arthur Ackermann Ltd., David Messum Galleries, Richard Green & Co., The Bridgeman Art Library, the Wallace Collection, R Cox & Co., Lane Fine Art, The Kennel Club, The American Kennel Club, The National Trust and private collectors, (especially the late Mevr AH (Ploon) de Raad of Zijderveld, Holland, who gave free use of her extensive photographic archive of sporting paintings), for their gracious and generous permissions to reproduce some of the illustrations used in this book.
A number of the illustrations in this book lack pictorial quality but are included because uniquely they either contribute historically to or best exemplify the meaning of the text. Old depictions do not always lend themselves to reproduction in today’s higher quality print and publishing format. Those that are included have significance beyond their graphic limitations and I ask for the reader’s understanding over this.
Where quotes are used, they are used verbatim, despite any vagaries in spelling, irregular use of capital letters or departures from contemporary grammar. For me, it is important that their exact form, as presented by the author originally, is displayed, as this can help to capture the mood of those times.
Preface: The story of the ‘canine cursorials’; their timeless contribution to man’s
Introduction: Ancient history; early records; development of breeds; the need for the
sighthound physique; the wider use of the word ‘greyhound’; the
difference between gazehounds and sighthounds; the modern use of the
word ‘sighthound’; the sub-division of hounds; the conservation
Chapter 1: The Sighthound Culture
Moving at Speed: using their speed; performing their function; show
ring changes; energy and heat storage; measuring performance; wrong
breeding criteria; show critiques; forbidden use..
The Nature of the Canine Speedsters: their reserved nature; born to
hunt; their innate instincts; suppressed skills; latent desires; natural
behaviour; the reaction to visual stimuli; their instinctive eagerness to run.
The Sporting Sighthound: The need to run; coursing prowess; coursing
stars; winning colours; track racing; racing the sighthound breeds;
organised sport; sprinting prowess.
Chapter 2: The Native Breeds:
The Greyhound: Speed with agility; loose nomenclature hampering
research; the universal Greyhound-look; attributes described; show dogs
and track injuries; health issues; welfare concerns; importance of size;
show-track crosses; visible power; physical flaws; supreme canine athlete.
The Whippet: Small sighthounds long favoured by man; crossbred origin;
closed gene pool; field and bench influences; double-flight gait; heat
shedding; role of the liver; shoulder placement and croup slope; show
critiques; past quality; astonishing power; size debate; freak progeny;
the pursuit of the light sighthound.
The Deerhound: Artist admirers; past outcrossings; penalty of size; valued
blood; crosses utilized; Highland hounds; lightfootedness a basic
feature; soundness ahead of show ring fads; breeder quality; listed
faults; ingrained flaws; health issues; show ring failings; future
challenge for breeders.
The Irish Wolfhound: Protection of livestock from wolves; role of Celts;
differing types; past owners; Graham’s breeding plan; respecting
function; need for soundness; Indian wolfhounds; restoring appeal;
desired type; maintaining size; in-breeding dilemma; formation of new
The Hybrid Sighthounds: The lowly lurcher – humblest of hunting dogs;
a function not a breed; the ‘thevishe dog’ – essentially nondescript;
favoured blends; non-conformist owners; replicated overseas but as
Chapter 3: The Sighthound Diaspora:
The Long Dogs: Definitions; widespread use; American hounds; effective
blends; prairie hunters; ‘cold blood Greyhounds’; essential conformation;
‘horses for courses’; outback hunters; Deerhound hybrids; the Silken
Windhound of USA.
The Sighthounds of the Deserts: performance ahead of purity; role of pot-
filler; research confusion; Indian Hounds; long-distance runners; caravan
The Arabian Hounds: Exasperating trait; Bedouin advice; valued blood;
KC failure; KC arrogance; working blood needed; various types; lurchers
of the desert; tracking skill; versatile hunters; Israeli Salukis; crosses used;
show critique – appalling movement.
The African Hounds: Sloughi – same-sounding breed title; true breed;
breeding best to the best; prominent haunch bones; some use better than no
use; value of bat-ear; victim of urban sprawl; versatility prized. Azawakh –
ruthless culling; enhanced response; established in Europe; American
breeder; working type vital; hounds traded; danger of hyper-angulation;
at mercy of fad-fanciers; South African hounds.
The Mediterranean Hounds: Podengo mention; likely breeder material;
rabbit hunters; Sicily’s hound: newcomer to UK; field trials; wide
employment; Cyrenaican hound; Sicilian lurcher; testing terrain;
Portugal’s hound: warren hounds; Italian Greyhounds; Turkish
Greyhounds; Albanian Wolfhounds; Malta’s hound: Pharaoh Hound’s
unearned title; not gaining ground; ill-advised provenance; Malta’s claim;
hunting by ear; ‘primitive types’ grouping; amazing agility; where has it
all gone wrong? Ibizan Hound: lack of awareness; common ancestor;
difficult to train; superb hearing; lurcher potential; impressive Crufts
exhibit; remarkable success; the Spanish Galgo and its conservation.
The Eurasian Sighthounds: Hounds of the steppes; Eastern European
breeds; Borzoi types; admiration drawn; noble hunters; summer coursing;
steppe coursing; high altitude coursing; unspoiled hounds; unique gene
pool; unwise stance; loss of working anatomy; folly of recycling.
Himalayan hound: canine mountain aristocrat; terrain influence; racing
Afghan Hounds; versatile hunter; hunting technique; use with hawks;
Show critiques; worth saving.
Chapter 4: Sighthound Criteria:
The Anatomy of the Sighthound: Speed with endurance; unique build;
breed differences; weight significance; fitness for function; pace based
on extension; forequarter construction; neck length; keystone ‘bridge’;
most important single factor; supple firmness; arched loin; transmission
from the hocks; visible power; physical flaws; feet for function; superb
eyesight; night hunting.
Judging Sighthounds: Lack of experience unwise; need for technique;
need for ringcraft; identifying breeding material; overall soundness;
hunting requirements; sighthound anatomy; balance essential;
handicapped movement; locomotive disaster; sound angulation;
immense flexibility; under-exercised exhibits; under-muscled exhibits;
Breeding Real Sighthounds: Superb balance; no exaggeration;
angulation for exhibition; visualisation; abnormal gaiting; visualisation;
needless size; shaped by function; protective coats; fitness for function;
breed points; vital importance of real sighthounds.
Conclusion: The Future Conservation of Sighthounds:
Quality of the pursuit; humane system; maiming foxes; punishing
wildlife; importance of regulation; doing good or nothing; need for a
rethink; veterinary view; new approach by breed clubs; preserving
Points of a Good Sighthound
Glossary of Terms