The Italian Greyhound, also known as the IG, is a relatively ancient breed, and depending on the authority, dates anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 years back. It is not known whether they were bred for hunting game or for companionship, but it was probably a combination of both.
There is some evidence that this breed was present in Greece and Turkey about 4,000 years ago based on early decorative art found during archeological digs. Mummified remains have also been discovered in the tombs of Egypt, and there are some hieroglyphs depicting hunting dogs similar in size to the IGs.
Italian Greyhounds were also quite popular in Italy, even before the name of the country was established. Remains have been found in the volcanic ashes of the doomed city of Pompei, as well as other relics that gave evidence that the IG was the only pet dog breed for centuries. They were also noted in Emperor Nero’s court during the first century AD.
The IGs became popular again in Italy during the 16thcentury where miniature dogs were in great demand. They were popular during the Renaissance and were portrayed in works of art by noted artists as Gerard David, Vittore Capaccio, Van de Weyden, Han Memling, Filippo Lippi, and Paolo Veronese.
During the 17thCentury the IG was introduced into the England and reached its height of popularity during the reign of Queen Victoria.
During this time period attempts were made to breed even smaller and finer IGs using other smaller breeds as the toy terrier. The results were disastrous, leading to IGs with odd shaped, pointed heads with prick ears. Fortunately this was realized as a failure and the breed was revived.
The IG was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1886 with a bitch named Lilly.The first American kennel was Aira Vana, established in 1892. After World War I the breed was in danger of extinction in England, resulting in the importing of American IGs to re-establish the species.
The Italian Greyhound Club of America (ICGA) was established in 1951, with the first specialty show commencing in 1954. The rest, as they say, is history.
Through its history the IG has been popular with royalty from the time of the Pharohs of Egypt to Emperor Nero and beyond. Noted fanciers include Frederick the Great of Russia, Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots), Catherine the Great of Russia, Queen Anne of Denmark, and Emperor Maximillian of Austria.