If you’ve ever had to chase after a dog that’s escaped its leash in the park, you’ll have an idea of how fast they can run. But how does this translate into miles per hour, and how does that compare with humans? To put it in perspective, the fastest recorded speed by none other than Usain Bolt was 27.8 mph over a distance of 100 metres. But even the slowest of our fastest six below can easily beat that – and over more sustained distances too!
But why are dogs so fast? The majority in our top six list were bred as sighthounds: to catch or retrieve prey through sight and speed, rather than determinedly tracking it down by scent. Breeds in this category typically have deep chests, to hold a heart that’s larger than the average-sized dog and highly efficient lungs to keep the blood pumping and the oxygen flowing. Their long legs and flexible back assist by elongating their stride while they’re in motion, and they tend to be lean and wiry, so they aren’t hampered by excess weight. Read on to find out more.
While statistics and commentators disagree when it comes to the lower positions on our list of fastest dog breeds, there is absolutely no disputing the top slot. The Greyhound peaks at a staggering 45 mph. A sighthound, the breed has its origins in Europe. Often now used for Greyhound racing rather than hunting, this dog becomes a popular pet once its working life is done.
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You might think owning such a dog would be exhausting as it would need far more exercise than the average pooch. In fact, though, these canines are built for short bursts of speed rather than endurance and it’s estimated that they sleep around 18 hours a day, putting them on a par with cats. They’re generally placid, docile creatures, but deny them that all-important sprint session and they may take out their excess energy on your furniture!
- Top Speed: 45 mph
- Height: 27”-30”
- Weight: 60-70 lbs
- Life Expectancy: 10-13 years
Another sighthound on our list, the beautiful Saluki with its slender, long face and drop ears is related to the Greyhound and originates from the Middle East. Also known as the Persian Greyhound or Tazi, this is thought to be one of the oldest breeds in the world. Their delicate looking frame and long, slim legs hide the huge strength and stamina they have for pursuing and retrieving their prey over long distances.
They’re graceful, aloof and love their creature comforts, almost like the dog world’s equivalent of the supermodel. This means they can need more nurturing than other breeds: they require socialization throughout their lives and they pick up on stress in the home environment very easily.
- Top Speed: 42 mph
- Height: 23”-28”
- Weight: 40-65 lbs
- Life Expectancy: 10-17 years
The Afghan originated in regions of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. As a sighthound, its primary purpose was hunting, killing and retrieving its quarry. Many were brought to England in the 1800s from India by army officers returning home after their tours of duty. The Afghan’s delightful, silky long hair enabled it to cope with the freezing conditions in the mountains of the region.
Despite their noble appearance, many Afghans love to clown around and they are extremely loyal to the right owner. They can be high maintenance when it comes to grooming, though; and plenty of effort is required to keep those long, flowing locks free from mats and tangles.
- Top Speed: 40 mph
- Height: 25”-27”
- Weight: 50-60 lbs
- Life Expectancy: 12-18 years
Jack Russell Terrier
This is the smallest dog on our list, but don’t let that fool you – it has the power in its little legs to reach an impressive 38 mph! The breed originated in England around two centuries ago, when fox hunting was a major pastime. Its small size was a significant factor: owners wanted a dog that could follow foxes down into holes in the ground and chase them out.
This feisty little breed has huge determination and courage. It’s also highly intelligent and energetic, so if you own one, you’ll need to offer it plenty of stimulation and exercise to avoid boredom. Unlike many of the larger, more specialist breeds, the Jack Russell suffers from very few genetic health conditions, so they should cost you less in vets’ bills too.
- Top Speed: 38 mph
- Height: 10”-12”
- Weight: 9-15 lbs
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
The Dalmatian, as its name suggests, comes from the historical region of Dalmatia, part of modern day Croatia. Traditionally bred as a carriage dog, these noble creatures were employed to trot alongside wealthy individuals’ coaches to deter and protect them from thieves. The American Kennel Club classes them as a utility dog, in other words, bred for a purpose that’s not still valid today.
It’s certainly a distinctive breed, with its black splodges on a white background, and of course has been made famous the world over by the Disney film. As a pet, it’s loving and faithful, though can be reserved around strangers. As well as speed, it also has great stamina – after all, people travelled long distances by carriage before cars were invented! If you’re a runner or a hiker, then, the Dalmatian will make a great companion dog.
- Top Speed: 37 mph
- Height: 19”-24”
- Weight: 45-70 lbs
- Life Expectancy: 11-13 years
Also known as the Russian Wolfhound, the Borzoi is again classified as a sighthound and is of a similar shape and build to the Greyhound. The name ‘borzoi’ originates from an archaic Russian word for fast, and it is! They were originally bred for hunting and bringing down wolves and have been known to meet tops speeds of 36 mph. Despite being a relatively large dog, they are lean and very much built for the chase.
In temperament, they do have a tendency to take themselves quite seriously and will often hold themselves aloof from vigorous play sessions. But let them catch sight of a squirrel or a cat and they’ll be off before you know it!
- Top Speed: 36 mph
- Height: 26”-34”
- Weight: 60-105 lbs
- Life Expectancy: 9-14 years