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Greyhounds (or greyhound-like dogs) are one of the oldest known breeds of dogs, with preserved hounds being found in Egyptian tombs. According to 'Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies', Greyhounds evolved as long as 8,000 years ago. Their body is bred for long, lean limbs, flexible spine, and an aerodynamic profile.

In period, Greyhounds were used as sighthounds for hunting rabbits and other small game, and also for sport as coursers. For centuries, only royalty were allowed to own Greyhounds.

Guinefort and the Cult of the Greyhound

Back in the eleventh century, there was a duke in France who left his faithful Greyhound Guinefort to watch over his young child. When the duke returned, he found the nursery covered in blood, the cradle tuned over, and the baby missing, but Guinefort remained. The duke assumed that Guinefort had killed the missing baby, so he drew his sword and killed the dog.

Just as Guinefort made his last dying cry, the duke heard a wail and found the baby safe beneath the cradle and the body of a poisonous serpent nearby. Guinefort had attacked the snake and protected the infant from harm. When the duke realized his error, he buried his faithful dog in a well.

Guinefort was made a national martyr in France and a saint. The well in which St. Guinefort is buried is thought to hold healing powers for sick infants. The feast day of St. Guinefort is celebrated on August 22.

Over several centuries, the legend of Guinefort gave rise to a cult. The Catholic Church was not amused and viewed the cult as a sacrelige. Sporadic inquisitions were heald for hundreds of years to eradicate the "cult of the Greyhound."

From 'Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies', Lee Livingood, (C) 2000 Hungry Minds, Inc.