Sighthounds have always attracted notable owners. Here we take a look at some of the great Sighthound owners and their dogs.

Royalty

Sighthounds of various breeds have long been favourites of Royalty, not least because of their superb hunting skills. In 1210 the future King John of England sent an Irish hound to Llewellyn, Prince of Wales as a gift. King John of Poland was an avid collector, by all accounts. In fact, so popular did Irish wolfhounds become as a status symbol during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that their export from Ireland was banned by Declaration in 1652 for fear of their extinction from their country of origin. Llewellyn the Great, Prince of Wales, Henry VII King of England, Queen Elizabeth I of England and Elisabeth, Empress of Austria all owned Wolfhounds. Wolfhounds were not the only Royal breed however.

Richard II and the Royal Greyhound

Richard II had a well-known and beloved greyhound called Mathe, who is pictured below.

Henry IV’s Saluki

Henry IV had what is thought to be a Saluki in this famous portrait, painted in 1514 by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Salukis, thought to be the oldest breed in existence, returned with the Crusaders from the Middle East as proof of their expeditions. The scallop shell was the badge of the pilgrim, and can be seen on the dog’s collar. There are records of Salukis in carvings from the Sumerian Empire dating back as far as 7000-6000 BC. It was also a royal dog during the Egyptian civilisation, when Pharaohs would have their favourite dogs mummified.

Military & Politics

John F Kennedy and Wolf

John F Kennedy had a huge menagerie of pets, from a rabbit called Zsa Zsa to a pony called Macaroni. But his favourite pets were certainly his dogs. The Kennedys owned a large number of dogs, as can be seen in this family portrait. He would certainly have needed cheap dog insurance to cover the vet bills. John F was slightly allergic to fur, but was not remotely deterred from dog ownership. His Sighthound of choice was the Irish Wolfhound – imaginatively named ‘Wolf’. John F Kennedy was the first President to insist that his dogs come to greet him from the presidential helicopter when he returned to the White House from trips.

General George Custer

General Custer was a great lover of Sighthounds. He owned an English Greyhound, called Byron, but the majority of his dogs were Scottish Staghounds, with which he hunted frequently. Unfortunately he managed to shoot his favourite dog, Lee, on one hunting expedition, when he was riding at full tilt after a buffalo and attempting to shoot it at the same time. Custis Lee, his horse, held steady but the General describes the terrible following moments:

“I drew my pistol, intending to use both hands in controlling the horse, when, just as my hand was raised to the reins, my finger accidentally and in the excitement of the moment, pressed the trigger and discharged the weapon, the ball entering Lee’s neck near the top of his head and penetrating his brain. Both horse and buffalo had been at full speed. The shot produced instant death.”

You can read more about Custer’s extraordinary adventures with his dogs here.

Image : Custer with Wolfhounds

Celebrity

Rudolph Valentino and Centaur Pendragon

Somewhat grandly named Centaur Pendragon was the adored companion of Rudolph Valentino, and he appeared in many photos, and even on stage. Here is an early photo of the devoted pair. Centaur used to guard Valentino’s dozens of suitcases when he travelled.

Picasso, Kasbec and Kabul and Sauterelle

Many people only know of Picasso’s beloved Dachshund, Lump. But he also owned three Afghan hounds during his lifetime. His first was Kasbec, the second was Kabul and his last one was Sauterelle. Strangely, none of them appeared in his paintings.

Picasso with Kasbec, photographed by Man Ray in 1935

Picasso with Kabul, photographed by David Douglas Duncan, 1959

Lucien Freud

The great artist Lucien Freud, who died recently, was a whippet owner. He had several dogs, which he adored and often included in his portraits.

Choice of whippet paintings

Freud, Double Portrait

Weaver’s IG

Sigourney Weaver is a great Italian Greyhound fan, but took her love of her own, Petals, to extremes in 2003 when she held a wedding ceremony for her and their neighbour’s dog Jimmy, from whom they intended to breed. Her daughter, clearly a traditionalist, suggested that the two dogs should marry before having babies, and Sigourney got behind the idea. The bride wore a faux Vera Wang gown, complete with veil and pearl accessories. The union was successful and Petals produced three puppies. Rumours circulated that Jimmy and Petals now no longer talk, prompting speculation about a divorce, but so far they are just gossip. Only in Hollywood…

For more examples of famous people with sighthounds, read below those that were added in the comments by our readers:

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