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Bred initially in vast open land, Sighthound breeds pursue prey over long distances by sight rather than scent. Relying on their keen peripheral vision and astounding athleticism, they spot movement and go after their quarry in hot pursuit.

Although many dogs chase game, sighthounds are unique hunters. They have thin, wiry bodies, breakneck speed, and endurance. A flexible back, long rear legs, a large heart, and efficient lungs enable these hounds to provide food for their owners. Some work alone, while others function well in packs.

Dignified and sometimes aloof to strangers, sighthounds are sensitive, affectionate, and loyal companions to their owners. Their independent nature often presents training challenges, but with patience, determination, and a sense of humor, they participate in conformation, AKC Rally, agility, AKC Scent Work, and AKC Therapy Dog.

The American Kennel Club recognizes 16 sighthounds, also known as gazehounds. These breeds participate in AKC Lure Coursing trials, testing the sighthound’s instinct to run fast while focusing on something in motion.

Sighthounds demonstrate their coursing skills by following a plastic bag attached to a lure moving slightly above the ground and around a course in an open field. The lure mimics a speeding rabbit during an unpredictable chase. Tests are non-competitive with a pass-or-fail outcome, while trials are competitive. Sighthounds compete in five levels of Lure Coursing: Junior Courser, Qualified Courser, Senior Courser, Master Courser, and Field Champion.

Afghan Hound

Hound Group First and Best of Breed: GCHB CH Pahlavi Marilyn Merlot, Afghan Hound; 2017 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.
©American Kennel Club and HOTdog
Hound Group First and Best of Breed: GCHB CH Pahlavi Marilyn Merlot, Afghan Hound; 2017 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.

One of the world’s oldest breeds, the Afghan Hound’s exact origin is unknown, but it comes from the vast areas known today as Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Prized by tribal chieftains and aristocrats in Asia’s kingdoms, the Afghan’s thick, silky, and flowing coat protected it from the harsh climate. Tall and elegant with an independent, dignified, and affectionate nature, the breed’s popularity in the U.S. soared in the early 1930s.


Azawakh running in the grass.

The leanest of the sighthounds, the leggy Azawakh may look delicate, but this sturdy hound ran down gazelle and guarded livestock for more than a thousand years. Kept by nomadic tribes, the Azawakh received its name from the Azawakh Valley in the south Sahara and Sahel zone. Sensitive and emotional, aloof and reserved with strangers, Azawakhs are affectionate and bond with their owners.


Basenji standing in the grass.
©Grigory Bruev -

Known as Africa’s “Barkless Dog,” the Basenji wails, chortles, and yodels. Brought up the Nile from interior Africa as gifts for the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, the Basenji used sight and sound to hunt. Small and graceful, this hound leaps to scout prey vertically and needs a fenced yard. When exercising outdoors, keeping this fast runner on a leash is best. Fastidious with catlike behavior, the Basenji grooms itself like a cat.


Borzoi standing in profile outdoors.
jagodka -

Large and elegant with a flowing coat and a curvy silhouette, the aristocratic Borzoi were once prized by Russian royalty. The hounds originated in 17th-century Russia from Arabian Greyhounds and a thick-coated Russian breed. Bred by the Russian aristocracy for centuries to hunt in packs for fox, boar, hare, and wolves, the Borzoi was once known as the Russian Wolfhound.

Cirneco dell’Etna

Cirneco dell'Etna stacked in a field outdoors.
©Ricant Images -

An ancient coursing hound and the only native breed of Sicily for over 2,500 years, the Cirneco dell’Etna is amazingly swift when hunting small animals. Its short, sleek coat in shades of tan and chestnut is easily maintained. Loyal, sweet-natured, and gentle, the Cirneco is affectionate and playful with its owners. Less aloof than other sighthounds, the Cirneco’s prey drive is equally strong.


Greyhound at the AKC National Championship.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

Independent, gentle, and sweet-tempered, the Greyhound is possibly the oldest type of hunting dog. It pursues large game, from stag to boar and hare. The Greyhound’s ancestors are depicted in 5,000-year-old Egyptian tomb paintings. This large hound is the fastest dog breed, and it can run up to 40 miles an hour. Around the house, it’s content on the couch, but it must be kept on a leash outdoors or in a safe fenced yard.

Ibizan Hound

Best of Breed and Best Bred By in Breed/Variety: GCHS CH Abbaio Dream With Your Eyes Open SC, Ibizan Hound; 2017 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.
Photo by HOTdog

The Ibizan Hound is an elegant sighthound probably developed from the Pharaoh Hound and bred to course rabbits in Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands, off Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Phoenician traders brought Egyptian hounds to Ibiza about 3,000 years ago to hunt rabbits for food. The energetic Ibizan is a fantastic sprinter and jumper who can quickly clear a 5-foot fence. This gentle, affectionate, and adaptable breed has two coat types—short and wire.

Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound standing in a field.
©Nadine Haase -

At nearly 3 feet high at the shoulder and weighing 180 pounds, with females somewhat smaller, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of all the AKC breeds. The Irish Wolfhound’s demeanor is calm, serene, dignified, and an amiable companion. But when it comes to galloping after a wolf, it is fearless. Developed to hunt wolves who were overrunning Ireland’s countryside, the Irish Wolfhound descends from the large dogs of Britain bred to Middle Eastern coursing hounds.

Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound playing in the yard.
©Alexander -

Gentle, devoted, and sensitive, the Italian Greyhound thrives on human companionship. Slender, sleek, and elegant, the Italian Greyhound was popular in Italy in the 1600s and the favored pets of the nobility and European royalty. With an instinct to run down game, this high-stepping sweet breed is equally comfortable as a lapdog.

Pharaoh Hound

©Mary Bloom

When the Pharaoh Hound is happy or excited, its nose and ears turn a deep red, resembling blushing. Phoenician traders brought these Egyptian hounds to Malta 2,500 years ago. This sleek coursing hound is aerodynamic and a speedy, agile runner over rocky terrain. As a home companion, the Pharaoh Hound is friendly, smart, and eager to please.

Portuguese Podengo Pequeno

Portuguese Podengo Pequeno walking in the grass.
©Sally Wallis -

The smallest of the sighthounds at 8 to 12 inches and 9 to 13 pounds, the rustic-looking Portuguese Podengo Pequeno is an ancient breed brought to Portugal in the 10th or 11th century. Alone or in packs, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno chased rabbits from their dens into the craggy Iberian countryside. With endurance, speed, and agility, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno has the stamina to hunt for hours. Playful and alert with its owners, this breed loves participating in outdoor sports but enjoys spending time with its owner.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback standing in profile in a field.
©Sabayuma -

With a hallmark ridge or stripe of backward-growing hair on its back, the Rhodesian Ridgeback claim is tracking and baying at lions in Southern Africa. Refraining from moving in for a kill, the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s strong prey drive assisted big-game hunters but outwitted the predators. A large, fast, and powerful athlete, this independent hound is loyal and affectionate to its family.


Saluki standing on a hill in the desert.
Natalia Fedosova/Shutterstock

Named after the Arabian city of Saluk, the Saluki is among the oldest dog breeds, dating back to 7000 B.C. The coursing and hawking hound of kings, the Saluki, was known as the Persian Greyhound. This breed has two coat varieties — feathered and smooth, and several colors and patterns — white, cream, fawn, golden, red, grizzle (white mixed with black or red), and tan, tricolor (white, black and tan), and black and tan. Dignified, elegant, and gentle, the Saluki is slim and leggy and enjoys home companionship.

Scottish Deerhound

Owner-Handled Group First and Owner-Handled Best of Breed: GCH CH Kininvie D'Lux JC CGC (Vinnie), Scottish Deerhound; National Owner-Handled Series Finals lineup at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

The Royal Dog of Scotland, the Scottish Deerhound, is a large and regal coursing hound. Among the tallest of dog breeds, the Scottish Deerhound stands an impressive 30 to 32 inches for males and 28 inches and up for females. Bred to hunt the giant red deer, the Scottish Deerhound may descend from the Greyhound, the Irish Wolfhound, and ancient Celtic sighthounds. Courageous but dignified and gentle, the Scottish Deerhound is friendly with family.


Sloughi standing in a field.
ALEN POPOV/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Nicknamed the ‘Arabian Greyhound,’ the Sloughi is an ancient breed from the northern African countries of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya. Working alongside Berber tribes, Sloughis guarded and hunted hares, foxes, jackals, gazelles, and wild pigs in rough desert terrain. Calm, alert, and quiet as house dogs, these active sighthounds need daily outdoor exercise. Sloughis are highly intelligent but reserved around strangers and bond closely with their owners.


Best of Breed, Hound Group First, and Best in Show: GCHP CH Pinnacle Kentucky Bourbon (Bourbon), Whippet, handled by Cheslie Pickett Smithey; Best in Show lineup at the 2020 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.
David Woo/American Kennel Club

It’s no wonder that the Whippet is a popular breed. Playful, affectionate, and calm, this lightning-fast sighthound is grace personified. Once the Whippet has something to chase, nothing gets in the way. Resembling the look of a smaller Greyhound, the Whippet’s ancestors may include Italian Greyhounds, terriers, or possibly Pharaoh Hounds. The breed originated in northwest England in the 1700s and was primarily used for racing rather than hunting.

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