Quotations From Literature About Greyhounds


Argus and Odysseus
(Homer, The Odyssey Book XVII)

As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised
his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Ulysses had
bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of
him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when
they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his
master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow
dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come
and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of
fleas. As soon as he saw Ulysses standing there, he dropped his ears
and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When
Ulysses saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear
from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:

"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap:
his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he
only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept
merely for show?"

"This hound," answered Eumaeus, "belonged to him who has died in a
far country. If he were what he was when Ulysses left for Troy, he
would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in
the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its
tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead
and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their
work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Jove takes
half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him."

As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the cloister where the
suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.

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Actaeon and Artemis
Ovid, Metamorphosis

After depicting the transformation of Actaeon into a stag, Ovid wrote:

As he thus ponders, he behind him spies
His op'ning hounds, and now he hears their cries:
A gen'rous pack, or to maintain the chace,
Or snuff the vapour from the scented grass.
He bounded off with fear, and swiftly ran
O'er craggy mountains, and the flow'ry plain;
Through brakes and thickets forc'd his way, and flew
Through many a ring, where once he did pursue.
In vain he oft endeavour'd to proclaim
His new misfortune, and to tell his name;
Nor voice nor words the brutal tongue supplies;
From shouting men, and horns, and dogs he flies,
Deafen'd and stunn'd with their promiscuous cries.
When now the fleetest of the pack, that prest
Close at his heels, and sprung before the rest,
Had fasten'd on him, straight another pair,
Hung on his wounded haunch, and held him there,
'Till all the pack came up, and ev'ry hound
Tore the sad huntsman grov'ling on the ground,
Who now appear'd but one continu'd wound.
With dropping tears his bitter fate he moans,
And fills the mountain with his dying groans.
His servants with a piteous look he spies,
And turns about his supplicating eyes.
His servants, ignorant of what had chanc'd,
With eager haste and joyful shouts advanc'd,
And call'd their lord Actaeon to the game.
He shook his head in answer to the name;
He heard, but wish'd he had indeed been gone,
Or only to have stood a looker-on.
But to his grief he finds himself too near,
And feels his rav'nous dogs with fury tear
Their wretched master panting in a deer.

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Lelaps and Procris
Ovid, Metamorphosis

But with herself she kindly did confer,
What gifts the Goddess had bestow'd on her;
The fleetest grey-hound, with this lovely dart,
And I of both have wonders to impart.
Near Thebes a savage beast, of race unknown,
Laid waste the field, and bore the vineyards down;
The swains fled from him, and with one consent
Our Grecian youth to chase the monster went;
More swift than light'ning he the toils surpast,
And in his course spears, men, and trees o'er-cast.
We slipt our dogs, and last my Lelaps too,
When none of all the mortal race wou'd do:
He long before was struggling from my hands,
And, e're we cou'd unloose him, broke his bands.
That minute where he was, we cou'd not find,
And only saw the dust he left behind.
I climb'd a neighb'ring hill to view the chase,
While in the plain they held an equal race;
The savage now seems caught, and now by force
To quit himself, nor holds the same strait course;
But running counter, from the foe withdraws,
And with short turning cheats his gaping jaws:
Which he retrieves, and still so closely prest,
You'd fear at ev'ry stretch he were possess'd;
Yet for the gripe his fangs in vain prepare;
The game shoots from him, and he chops the air.
To cast my jav'lin then I took my stand;
But as the thongs were fitting to my hand,
While to the valley I o'er-look'd the wood,
Before my eyes two marble statues stood;
That, as pursu'd appearing at full stretch,
This barking after, and at point to catch:
Some God their course did with this wonder grace,
That neither might be conquer'd in the chase.

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Ovid on Greyhound Coursing

As when the impatient greyhound slipped from far,
Bounds o'er the glade to course the fearful hare,
She in her speed does all her safety lay.
And he with double speed pursues the prey,
O'erruns her at the sitting turns, but licks
His chops in vain; and blows upon the flix,
She escapes, and for the neighboring covert strives,
And gaining shelter, doubts if she yet lives.

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The Ideal Greyhound from Edmund de Langley's Mayster of Game, AD 1370.

The Greihound should have a long hede and somedele grete, ymaked in the manner of a luce; a good large mouth and good sessours, the one again the other, so that the nether jaws passe not them above, ne that thei above passe not him neither.
The neck should be grete and long, and bowed as a swanne's neck.
Her shuldres as a roebuck; the for leggs streght and gret ynow, and nought to hind legges; the feet straught and round as a catte, and great cleas; the boones and the joynetes of the cheyne grete and hard as the chyne of an hert; the thighs great and squarred as an hare; the houghs steight, and not crompyng as of an oxe.
A catte's tayle, making a ring at eend, but not to hie.
Of all manere of Greihondes there byn both good and evel; Natheless the best hewe is rede falow, with a black moselle.

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Dr. Caius on the Greyhound

From notes to the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, from a Dr. Caius (1570), as quoted in Gazehounds: The Search for the Truth:

Of the dog, called the greyhound; in Latin, Leporarius [literally, "hare-hunter"]. Here is another kind of dog which, for his incredible swiftness, is call Leporarius, a greyhound; because the principal service of them dependeth and consisteth in starting and hunting the hare: which dogs likewise are embued with no less strength than lightness in maintenance of game, in serving the chase, in taking the buck, the hare, the doe, the fox, and other beasts of semblable kind ordained for the game of hunting. But more or less, each one according to the measure and proportion of their desire; and as might and hability of their bodies will permit and suffer. For it is a spare and bare kind of dog (of flesh, but not of bone); some are of a greater sort and some lesser; some are smooth skinned and some are curled. The bigger therefore are appointed to hunt the bigger beasts, and the smaller serve to hunt the smaller accordingly.

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