For thousands of years, people have been selectively breeding four-footers for a whole range of different purposes. Some dogs were bred to traverse harsh lands while pulling heavy loads, others were developed to guard livestock, and there are even pups who were bred to keep our laps warm in the winter months.
But some dogs were developed to chase and capture fast-moving prey — and when we mean fast, we’re talking Fast & Furious-level speeds. We call these dogs sighthounds, and they’re represented by roughly 28 modern breeds.
We’ll explain everything you need to know about these fantastic four-footers and share some of the most popular breeds that fall into this category below!
Full disclosure: There’s no universally agreed upon definition of sighthounds, nor is there a clear list of which breeds fall under the sighthound category.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) doesn’t currently recognize sighthounds as a separate breed group. Instead, it lumps them into the hound group, alongside a litany of different hunting dogs, like bloodhounds and baying beagles.
Meanwhile, you have the United Kennel Club (UKC), which does have a dedicated sighthound group and recognizes 25 different breeds (we’ll share their entire list momentarily).
It’s confusing stuff, to say the least.
Nevertheless, sighthounds can be broadly described as pups who use sight and speed to track down prey, and the breeds that are most often labeled as sighthounds all have roughly similar histories, physical traits, and personalities.
Sighthound History: Really Old Origin Stories
While we aren’t certain which sighthound breeds were the first to bless humans with their endearing features and stellar hunting skills, what’s clear is that the entire group has a long, ancient history.
Many sighthound breeds can be traced back thousands of years ago, where they were selectively bred to help hunt fast-moving prey like gazelles and hares over long distances. Some sighthounds, like the saluki, have even been around since ancient Egyptian times (and their mummified remains are still being found today).
Nowadays, you’re more likely to find sighthounds cozying up on the couch than chasing down prey, but they still have a prominent presence in dog sports like agility and lure coursing. Some sighthounds like greyhounds have also seen much success as racing dogs.
Physical Characteristics: Size & Shape
Sure, a fair few dogs out there possess impressive running abilities, but no pup can quite compete with sighthounds. Their bodies are literally built for speed, with streamlined physiques, powerful hindquarters, and tucked-up, “aerodynamic” waist shapes.
Put simply: They’re the cheetahs of the canine realm.
Sighthounds also have long, narrow heads and wide-set eyes, both qualities that grant them a huge field of vision and allow them to detect even the smallest movements in the wilderness.
Sighthounds do look extremely skinny, and their ribs are often prominent. However, this isn’t because they’re neglected or underfeed. Instead, it’s simply because of how their bodies are built. They have protruding hip bones, a naturally low body fat percentage, and extremely fine bone structures.
Sighthounds will never have a “bulky” look when fed a proper diet, and overfeeding them can actually make them prone to issues like heatstroke and joint injuries.
Sighthound Personality and Preferences
While each sighthound breed has their own unique personality traits, you can usually expect them to be devoted, gentle, and independent-minded. They also tend to be quiet and reserved around strangers.
Despite common misconception, sighthounds don’t always have high exercise needs, though this does vary a bit by breed.
Most sighthounds only require an hour of exercise per day and would much prefer a good snooze sesh over a long hike. This is especially the case if the napping location is warm, snug, and comfy (aka your lap).
But do note that sighthounds often have strong prey drives and will be tempted to chase practically anything that moves. Socialization and training can help curb this behavior, but you’ll still need to closely monitor them around small, fast-moving animals.
The Intelligence and Trainability of Sighthounds
Most sighthounds are fairly intelligent, though like most hounds they can sometimes be headstrong. They also tend to be picky eaters and aren’t as food motivated as other breeds (looking at you, goldies).
Due to these reasons, sighthounds can be pretty difficult to train, especially for first-time owners.
However, a bit of firm love and persistence during training will set these speedy four-footers up for success. Instead of using food as a motivator, you can also reward them with games that tap into their natural prey drives, like flirt poles.
Complete Sighthound Breed List
While there’s no universally agreed upon list of sighthound breeds, we’ve compiled a list of those that are most commonly considered members of the group below.
As with all “unofficial-official” lists, we’ll probably upset a few sighthound fanatics — yep, apologies in advance — but remember that our list takes into account a whole range of different perspectives.
Nevertheless, you’re welcome to share your argument for why a particular breed shouldn’t be included in this list in the comments. We’re more than happy to lend an ear.
- Andalusian warren hound
- Afghan hound
- Canaan dog
- Carolina dog
- Chart Polski (Polish greyhound)
- Cirneco dell’Etna
- Hungarian greyhound (Magyar agár)
- Ibizan hound
- Irish wolfhound
- Italian greyhound
- Indian ghost hound
- Mudhol hound (caravan hound)
- Peruvian Inca orchid
- Pharaoh hound
- Podenco Canario
- Portuguese Podengo
- Rampur greyhound
- Rhodesian ridgeback
- Scottish deerhound
- Silken windhound
- Spanish greyhound
- Thai ridgeback
- Xoloitzcuintli (“show-low-eats-queent-lee”)
There’s also the lurcher, which is sometimes considered a sighthound. The thing is, this is not technically a purebred dog, but instead, it’s a popular mix crossed between a sighthound and working dog breed.
A fair few of these breeds, like the Rhodesian ridgeback, basenji, and Andalusian hound, use other senses to hunt too. Some also lack the typical aerodynamic body structure often associated with sighthounds.
Due to this, some sighthound aficionados don’t consider them “true” sighthounds and prefer to put them into other breed groups (like the scent hound group).
Some breeds featured above are also extremely rare and aren’t officially recognized by the UKC or AKC, among other major breed clubs.
11 of the Most Popular Sighthounds!
Yup, it’s finally time to bless your eyes with the most amazing view of all: almost a dozen gorgeous pictures of sighthounds! Of course, we’ll also keep your brain busy by delving a little into these breeds, covering their temperaments, energy levels, and physical characteristics.
Swift and agile with ears so glamorously silky they could star in a L’Oreal ad commercial, the saluki is a sighthound who can make a fantastic family companion (and wow crowds at the dog park). He’s usually gentle, dignified, and affectionate with those he forms strong bonds with, and he can adapt to any home environment and climate well.
While many sighthounds are content with being couch potatoes, this isn’t the case for this bundle of energy. He needs plenty of exercise to thrive and appreciates long hikes, runs, and active games like fetch. He’s also part-bunny. And by that, we mean he has a knack at jumping and will bestow you with many acrobatic sights… and many attempts to hop over the yard’s fence (so, make sure your backyard fence is dog proof).
The greyhound is often portrayed as a timid, trembling pup who hides from everyone and everything, but in reality, he’s a sweet-hearted and faithful companion who just appreciates a quiet, calm environment. While he can be aloof around strangers, he’s a “Velcro dog,” who’s often attached to his owner by the hip and will never turn down a good snuggle.
The greyhound has a sleek, low-maintenance coat that comes in a range of colors and he doesn’t need much exercise (despite his prevalence in racing). Training can be slightly difficult due to his independent spirit, but plenty of praise will allow him to flourish.
Made famous from the “long dog nose” meme, the borzoi is a breed that’s becoming increasingly popular and is now widely sought after all across the world. But there’s a whole lot to love about this pup beyond his hilariously long sniffer. He’s calm, gentle-spirited, and packed with plenty of brain power.
The borzoi is sometimes considered a “giant” breed, as he usually stands over 26 inches tall, but he only weighs between 60 and 105 pounds. While he can make an excellent family companion, he’s not the type to engage in roughhousing and won’t be the best playmate for young kids. He’s also the canine equivalent of a “wanderluster,” so he’ll need to be supervised and kept on a leash in open areas.
4. Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian ridgeback is a fierce sighthound initially bred in southern Africa to hunt large game like antelopes and lions. But nowadays? You’re more likely to find him hunting the pawfect spot on the couch (or chasing his favorite plush toy).
His even-tempered nature, gentleness, and unrivaled loyalty can make him a great companion for those who can meet his exercise needs, and his vigilant side means he excels as a watchdog too. Expect the Rhodesian ridgeback to reach up to 27 inches tall and weigh between 70 and 85 pounds in adulthood.
Often labeled as the feline of the canine world, the basenji is a reserved, independent-spirited, and quiet pup who rarely barks (though he will bless your ears with the odd yodel, so be warned). Just like a cat, the basenji also likes to keep himself clean, meaning your nose will likely never be plagued by doggo odors.
While the basenji is devoted to his family, he can be standoffish around strangers and will need plenty of socialization to keep his wariness at a healthy level. He’s also a master escape artist, so make sure your house is secure and Houdini-proof before taking in this gorgeous pup.
Whippets essentially look like smaller versions of greyhounds. They share the same physical characteristics, including narrow heads, long muzzles, and large oval eyes, and most only grow up to 22 inches tall and weigh between 25 and 40 pounds.
Whippers aren’t just similar to greyhounds in terms of looks though; they share similar temperaments too! Like greyhounds, you can expect whippets to be playful, calm, and affectionate. They’re also proud couch potatoes.
Just be mindful that their small statures and short coats make them super intolerant of cold temperatures, so keep them wrapped up in a warm coat during winter.
7. Irish Wolfhound
Built like a powerhouse but with a big ol’ softie heart, the Irish wolfhound is an ideal sighthound for those who can properly manage his giant size (and don’t mind him hogging the entire couch). Most Irish wolfhounds are courageous, calm, and affectionate. They’re also patient and good with kids.
Sadly, Irish wolfhounds have short lifespans — 6 to 10 years — but the time they do spend with you is sure to be treasurable and precious. These four-footers are truly the ultimate gentle giants of the doggo world.
8. Carolina Dog
The Carolina dog is a rare but much-loved pup who is known for his jackal-like looks. While he may not be drawn to cuddles as much as other sighthound breeds, he’s incredibly loyal and forms strong attachments to his owners.
He does struggle with being kept in confined areas, so he’s not a good dog for apartment life. He’ll also need plenty of opportunities to roam outdoors where he can explore his surroundings and stretch his legs.
He also has a high prey drive which can be difficult to manage even with training, so his roaming opportunities need to be in secure areas or spots where there are no wild, small animals lurking around.
9. Cirneco dell’Etna
Named after a volcano, the cirneco dell’Etna is exploding with energy and life! He’s also one of the easiest sighthound breeds to train and can make a good first-time pet for people who can meet his exercise needs.
The cirneco dell’Etna is affectionate, friendly, and loyal. He does have an inquisitive side, but you can satisfy his curiosity with puzzle toys that put his brains to good use.
The sloughi shares a similar appearance to a saluki, which isn’t much of a surprise because they likely share a common ancestor, though there are some noticeable differences. The sloughi stands slightly taller than the saluki and also has a much smoother coat with no feathering.
The sloughi is gentle and affectionate with his favorite humans, though he can be aloof around strangers. He does have a strong independent spirit, so you’ll need to set firm boundaries, but this trait does allow him to excel as a watchdog.
11. Afghan Hound
The Afghan hound is by far the most glamorous pup out there, with a red carpet-worthy silky long coat and elegant stature. But there’s more to this pup than his model-like looks! The Afghan hound is optimistic, loving, and clownish — all qualities that make him an excellent family companion.
Just note that the Afghan hound will appreciate a human playmate who can respect his occasional need for a relaxed, quiet snooze (aka his beauty sleep).
Sighthound Dog Breeds: FAQ
Got your sights set on a sighthound? Then we’ll make sure you’re fully informed about these dogs by answering some common questions and concerns pup parents have below.
And yes, we’ll also cool it with the vision puns now.
Are sighthounds good family dogs?
Sighthounds can make excellent family dogs for people who are willing to put the time, effort, and energy into meeting their care needs. They’re certainly loyal, and many sighthounds are affectionate and appreciate a good cuddle.
However, sighthounds aren’t necessarily the best fit for families with small children. While patient, they don’t always enjoy roughhousing and some, like greyhounds and whippets, can be sensitive to loud noises and sudden sounds.
What dog is referred to as a sighthound?
There isn’t a universally agreed upon definition of what a sighthound is. But broadly speaking, any dog who has been bred to hunt with sight and chase down fast-moving prey can be considered a sighthound. This includes breeds such as the saluki, greyhound, borzoi, whippet, and sloughi.
What is the temperament of a sighthound?
Each sighthound breed is going to have their own unique differences, but in general, you can expect sighthounds to be extremely loyal, independent-spirited, and reserved around strangers. Most also have moderate energy levels, though some (like salukis) are zoomies galore.
What is the “king” of sighthounds?
We don’t like the idea of calling a particular sighthound breed the “king” of others; every pup brings something lovable to the table! However, if we’re talking in terms of speed, then the fastest sighthound in the world is the greyhound. He can reach impressive speeds of up to 45 miles per hour!
And if you’re talking in terms of elegance? Then the Afghan hound definitely holds the top spot with his royal-like, flowing coat.
Are sighthounds aggressive?
Sighthounds are rarely aggressive toward humans and are extremely loving and loyal pups. However, they do have high prey drives and need to be supervised around small animals, especially fast-moving animals like hares.
Are sighthounds easy to train?
Sighthounds are intelligent, but they aren’t super easy to train because they’re often independent-minded and aren’t heavily motivated by food.
However, a firm, consistent training approach, having patience, and providing plenty of praise will allow these pups to thrive and pick up advanced commands. Just be warned that they probably won’t be at your every beck and call.
Sighthounds are captivating pups with superb vision and speed to match. While they were originally bred for hunting, they are now popular family companions known for their devotion, loyalty, and free-spirited natures.
Are you the proud owner of a sighthound? What’s your speedy four-footer like? Let us know in the comments down below and feel free to share any other thoughts or questions you have about these fascinating pups!