What Are Sighthound Dogs

What Are Sighthound Dogs

Appearance

These dogs specialize in chasing prey, keeping it in sight, and overpowering it by their speed and agility. They must be able to detect motion quickly, so they have must sharp sight. Sighthounds must be able to capture fast, agile prey such as deer and hare, so they have a very flexible back and long legs for a long stride, a deep chest to support an unusually large heart, efficient lungs for both anaerobic and aerobic sprints, and a lean, wiry body to keep their weight at a minimum.

The average sighthound has a light, lean head, which is dolichocephalic in proportion. This shape can create the illusion that their heads are longer than usual. Wolves and other wild dogs are dolichocephalic or mesaticephalic, but some domesticated dogs have become brachycephalic (short-headed) due to selective breeding by humans over the course of 12,000 years. Dolichocephalic breeds have a broader field of vision but smaller overlap between the eyes and therefore possibly poorer depth perception in some of their field of view than brachycephalic breeds; most, if not all, dog breeds have less visual acuity than their antecedent the wolf.

There is no science-based evidence to confirm the popular belief that sighthounds have a higher visual acuity than other types of dogs. However, there is increasing evidence that dolichocephalic breeds, thanks to a higher number of retinal ganglion cells in their “visual streak”, retain more heightened sensitivity than other breeds to objects and rapid movement in the horizontal field of vision.

History

Sighthounds such as the saluki/sloughi type have existed for at least 5,000 years, with the earliest presumed sighthound remains appearing in the excavations of Sumer approximately 7000–6000 BC. The earliest description of a sighthound in European recorded history comes from Arrian’s Cynegeticus, of the 2nd century AD. Although today most sighthounds are kept primarily as domestic pets, they have been bred for thousands of years to detect movement, chase, capture, and kill prey by speed. They thrive on physical activity. Some have mellow personalities, others are watchful or even hostile towards strangers, but the instinct to chase running animals remains strong.

Apart from coursing, open-field coursing, and hunting, various dog sports are practiced with purebred sighthounds, and sometimes with Lurchers and Longdogs. Such sports include racing, lure coursing, and other events.

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