A cheetah may be the fastest land animal in terms of 0-60mph (less than three seconds), but if you were to pit one against a greyhound over a seven-mile race, the hound would win. Greyhounds have both speed and endurance, able to maintain a steady gallop of 35mph. There is something wonderful about watching any dog running at full stretch, whether it’s a speedy sighthound or a floppy spaniel, and the ones that are blessed with extraordinary pace are exhilarating to behold. Speed is low on the list of most dog owner’s priorities, but the fastest dog breeds do have a certain allure. And if you’re after a canine partner for hiking, running or biking, then running ability is a definite plus.
Like a thoroughbred or a quarter horse, certain breeds are built for speed. Typically, these are dogs originally bred to hunt or chase, and the sighthounds – which run with their head up and their eyes fixed on the prize, rather than nose to the ground – are fastest of all. Again, like the thoroughbred, their aerodynamic body shape shouts out speed. Fast dogs are slimly built, lightweight, with long well-angled hindlegs. They typically have deep chests to allow for lung and heart room, minimal body fat to weigh them down and well-defined muscles.
7 of the fastest dog breeds
Top speed: 45mph
No prizes for guessing the fastest dog on the planet. The greyhound has been bred to race since the 18th century. Not only is its stamina superior to that of the cheetah, but it can reach its top speed in about six strides.
Top speed: 42mph
A very similar build to the greyhound, this ancient Egyptian sighthound breed is likewise a speed merchant of the canine world. Accepted as the second-fastest dog breed, but it’s much of a muchness, and a speedy Saluki could give a greyhound a run for their money.
Top speed: 42mph
Sometimes nicknamed the Arabian Greyhound, the elegant Sloughi originated in North Africa and is a lean, swift coursing sighthound much like its greyhound cousins and is similarly rapid. They are slightly larger than the Saluki and also differ in that the Saluki sometimes has light, silky feathering on the ears, tail and legs, while the Sloughi is always smooth-coated.
Top speed: 42mph
Another tall, graceful sighthound with a top speed of over 40mph, the only factor slowing this hound down is its glamorous flowing locks. Their long legs and aerodynamic body still give them exceptional pace despite the inevitable wind resistance, and when they let off steam be prepared for blur of silky fur.
Top speed: 40mph
The Vizsla was bred for hunting, pointing and retrieving – and are used to working closely with humans (hence their nickname Velcro Vizslas). Their muscular build gives them a scorching turn of foot and superb athleticism. They also have exceptional stamina. Unlike the greyhound types, who are quite lazy by nature, a Vizsla typically likes to be on the go all day long.
Top speed: 37mph
The only non-sighthound among this group of fastest dog breeds, though its build is muscular and athletic, if not quite as lean as the sighthounds. The Dalmatian is the original carriage dog – it used to run alongside carriages and riders to protect them from the threat of the highwayman. They therefore have speed and endurance (as well as the protective instinct), and were able to keep up with horses for long spells without difficulty.
Top speed: 35mph
Even the name sounds fast. Although the whippet is smaller than its fellow sighthounds, the body of this British dog breed is perfectly formed for speed, being lightweight, with its speedy inverted S-shape silhouette and long legs. They can turn on the proverbial sixpence and are renowned for their “zoomies” – before sleeping for the rest of the day.
And the award for the fastest small dog breed goes to…
Top speed: 30mph
While they can’t quite count on the A-list of speedsters, a word on the Jack Russell, everyone’s favourite yard dog. Although the Jack Russell’s short legs don’t lend themselves to natural aerodynamics, they have remarkable explosive speed for their size, and are often referred to as the fastest small breed. And being a Jack Russell, they probably think they’re quite the match for a greyhound. In fact, they can run as fast as 30mph, possibly faster, but over short distances in a maxed-out sprint.
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