You’ve probably met a sighthound, even if you’re not sure what the term means. Sighthounds are a large group of dog breeds prized for their amazing speed and ability to spot their prey from a distance. Their narrow snouts and big, wide set eyes give them the advantage of a wide field of vision, which allows them to spot the smallest movements, even from well-camouflaged beasties.
Before the advent of the gun, and indeed after, sighthounds played a vital role as working dogs: accompanying us on hunts where their speed allowed them to chase down and kill swift prey like hares, deer and even some unfortunate birds.
If you look at old paintings depicting members of the aristocracy hunting on horseback, you’re likely to see at least one sighthound accompanying them. Hunting with sighthounds is generally called coursing, and relies on the excellent vision of the dogs rather than its ability to track by scent.
Nowadays, sighthounds are mostly kept as pets, chowing down on the best dog food, snoozing the day away and wearing jumpers to keep their skinny selves warm. However, across the world, some breeds are still regularly used to chase down prey, in racing or the sport of lure coursing (where they chase artificial prey at speed).
So, what breeds fall into the category of sighthound? Read on to see our comprehensive list of sighthound breeds...
29 sighthound breeds and what you need to know about them
The most famous and arguably most beloved of all sighthound breeds, the Greyhound is the fastest dog on the planet. While many countries have their own breed of “Greyhound”, when we think of a traditional Greyhound (the kind that is used for dog racing) it’s the English Greyhound we picture. They are loyal, loving and make great family pets!
2. Irish Wolfhound
One of the biggest dog breeds in the world, the Irish Wolfhound is known for its classical good looks and long wiry coat. Traditionally used as guardian dogs or to hunt wolves (hence the name) these gentle giants make great family pets, if you’ve got the room for them!
- Related: 10 incredible Irish Wolfhound facts
3. Scottish Deerhound
Similar in appearance to the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound is a little smaller and slimmer, although still larger than their Greyhound cousins. They were originally bred to hunt red deer (the largest type of deer found in the UK), although now they are more often found snoring on a sofa than chasing large prey.
The Saluki is one of the oldest breeds in the world, also known as the Royal Dog of Egypt and traditionally used by nomadic peoples across North Africa and Western Asia to chase down game animals. Compared to the Greyhound, Salukis are a little on the thinner side, with long coats and signature floppy ears that beg to be petted.
5. Tasy/Tazy (Kazakh Greyhound)
Similar in appearance to the Saluki, the Tasy or Tazy is a separate sighthound breed originating in Kazakhstan. Although they aren’t formally recognised by any kennel clubs, the Kazakhstan government is working to revive the breed as a matter of national importance.
6. Afghan Hound
From the same region of the world as the Saluki and Tazy, the Afghan Hound is distinguishable by their long silky coats, ending in a curly tail. They are a loyal and somewhat aloof breed with high grooming requirements, but like all sighthounds they are known to have a goofy, clownish streak that can be very entertaining.
7. Sloughi (Arabian Greyhound)
Heading southwest from Afghanistan, the Sloughi, or Arabian Greyhound, is another ancient sighthound breed. It can be found primarily in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya. Ancient Algerian art depicts a very similar looking dog with droopy ears, long snouts and the sighthound build, indicating the ancestors of the modern Sloughi roamed the area for millennia before the breed was classified.
A West African sighthound breed, the Azawakh is another ancient breed found in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Named for the Azawakh valley, this dog historically lived a nomadic life with the tribes of the Sahara. Their long legs and short, smooth coat make them similar in appearance to the greyhound, but if you look closely, you can see they are leggier and tend to have even more prominent hip and shoulder bones.
Not sure you have the space for a Greyhound? That’s ok, it comes in mini. The Whippet really is a Greyhound in miniature: generally standing between 18 and 20 inches at the shoulder, these little dogs are gentle and sometimes prone to “Whippet-y worries.” Due to their stature and slim frame, they can feel the cold, so you will often see them dressed up in snoods and jumpers to keep their ears warm.
10. Italian Greyhound
If the whippet was still too large for you, the Italian Greyhound is an even smaller model, with adults weighing up to 5kg. When compared to the Whippet, there aren’t many differences beyond size. They are similar in temperament, sometimes suffer from separation anxiety and have the signature deep chest and narrow head typical of a sighthound.
11. Levriero Meridionale
Pausing in Italy, another sighthound breed the country is known for is the (now very rare) Levriero Meridionale, an ancient breed used across the southern reaches of the country. Historically prized by noblemen, the breed was used for hunting for centuries. It bears similarities to some North African sighthound breeds and there is debate that they share a common ancestor, brought to Italy by the expansion of the Roman Empire.
12. Galgo (Spanish Greyhound)
The Spanish Greyhound or Galgo Español are a distinct breed, not closely related to the English Greyhound. They are primarily used for coursing, or hunting hares in the Spanish countryside. Unfortunately, the breed are notoriously abandoned or disposed of when they have outlived their usefulness as a hunting dog, and many rescue networks exist specifically for the breed in an attempt to rehome them.
13. Galgo Barbucho (Patagonian Greyhound)
Recognized by the Argentinian Kennel Club, the Galgo Barbucho is thought to be the result of European working breeds crossing with native dogs in Patagonia, leading to something that looks very much like an Irish Wolfhound. They are used as hunting dogs, generally as part of a pack with scent hounds and other types of sighthound, such as the Galgo Español (which is thought of as the ‘bare Greyhound’ while the Barbucho is the ‘bearded Greyhound’).
14. Silken Windhound
An American breed, the Silken Windhound was created in Texas in the 1980s, making them a remarkably young breed for the usually ancient sighthound type. They look like a miniature Borzoi, with long silken coats, standing at 18.5–23.5 in.
15. Borzoi (Russian Sighthound)
The Borzoi is the noble, long-haired sighthound breed of Russia. Traditionally used to hunt wolves, they are larger dogs with remarkably long snouts and big eyes. You can see their relation to other long-haired sighthounds like the Saluki, Afghan Hound and Kyrgyz Taigan, and it is likely that these breeds share an ancient common ancestor somewhere down the line.
16. Taigan (Kyrgyz Taighany)
Another long-haired sighthound breed, probably from a similar gene pool to the Borzoi, Saluki and Afghan hound, the Taigan is also known as the Mongolian Taiga dog and is officially considered to be from Kyrgyzstan, near the border with China.
The Xigou is a Chinese sighthound that is at least 2,500 years old and a hunting dog favored by nobles and citizens alike. There are four types of Xigou, including the Shaanxi, Hebei, Shandong and Mongolian. You can see the similarities to the Taigan, Saluki, Afghan Hound and even the Tasy/Tazy with their silken coats and long limbs.
18. Magyar Agár (Hungarian Greyhound)
Not actually a Greyhound, the Magyar Agár is its own distinct breed originating from Hungary and areas of the now dissolved Austro-Hungarian Empire. They are thicker-skinned than the English Greyhound, making them better suited to the cold temperatures of northern Europe. They also have shorter snouts and more wedge-shaped heads than an English Greyhound.
19. Chart Polski (Polish Greyhound)
A favorite hunting dog of the Polish nobility, this breed is old and separate from the English Greyhound. They are double-coated, which helps to keep them warm and they tend to have longer hair on their tail and the back of their thighs. The breed was almost wiped out post World War 2, when hunting with Greyhounds was banned in the area, but attempts to revive the breed have been successful.
20. Chortai (Eastern Greyhound)
The Chortai originates from Ukraine and Eastern Russia, with references to an Eastern Greyhound in art and literature from the area from as early as the 4th Century BC. Similar to the Polish Greyhound, the Chortai suffered from extermination around world war two, with the modern Chortai reintroduced in 1953. They are suited for the steppe regions of Ukraine and Russia and bear similarities to the Taigan in particular.
From the Indian state of Maharashtra, the Kaikadi dog was the companion of the nomadic Kikadi people.
Indigenous to the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Kanni (meaning ‘pure’) is a rare sighthound breed primarily found in 3 of the 38 districts in Tamil Nadu.
The Chippiparai was once the choice of breed for Royalty in the area. There is some debate about whether the Kanni and Chippiparai are in fact distinct breeds, with some arguing that Kanni are black and tan or sable, while Chippiparai are solid in color.
24. Rajapalayam (Indian Ghost Hound)
Also from Tamil Nadu the Rajapalayam is a jaw dropping dog to behold. Their short white coats, pink noses and golden eyes make them unique sight, and you can see where the name “ghost hound” comes from.
25. Rampur Greyhound
Native to the Rampur region of northern India, the Rampur Greyhound was beloved by the Maharajahs as a hunting dog.
26. Mudhol Hound (Caravan hound)
From the Deccan Plateau region of India, the Mudhol Hound is believed to be an ancient mix of Saluki and Tazi breeds, brought to the area by travelers braving the Khyber Pass.
Common sighthound crosses
Lurchers are generally a cross between a sighthound breed and a collie, bully breed or terrier, making a sturdy, versatile dog with some of the characteristics of a sighthound and of the breed they have been mixed with. A common example is the Bedlington Whippet - a cross between a Whippet and Bedlington terrier that creates a broken coated dog that looks remarkably like a miniature wolfhound.
28. American Staghound
Staghounds are sometimes called the “American Lurcher” - although unlike the Lurcher, are generally a mix of several sighthound breeds without the input of collie, terrier or bully. Often rough coated due to wolfhound and deerhound in their lineage, they are also generally of Borzoi and Greyhound descent.
A longdog is considered to be a cross between a greyhound and any other sighthound breed, such as Deerhounds or Salukis. The aim is to incorporate the desirable trait of the second breed, for instance: the size or broken coat of a Wolfhound or silky coat of a Borzoi.
Get the best advice, tips and top tech for your beloved Pets
Lou is an experienced writer and keen dog lover who works at PetRadar's sister site, LiveScience. When Lou isn't covering health and fitness, she's busy spending time with her family dogs or growing all kinds of veggies and flowers on her allotment.