The origins of the IG probably date back to prehistory. In fact fossil skeletons with characteristics very similar to those of the current IG standard have been found.
Valued by noble Egyptians first, by roman patricians later followed by aristocrats, especially during the Renaissance,the breed has always been considered as a small "luxury dog", and for this reason its breeding has always been rather limited. In fact this breed is an athletic breed, which retains its hunting spirit with a remarkable sprint and speed as well as its nose for scents (a quality which is unique among sighthounds). Sober and endowed with great resistance, it is small yet exquisitely sleek.
Among its praisers were Charles I of England, who notoriously preferred IGs to the specimens of the breed which has taken the King's name, and Frederick II the Great, who owned about 80 IGs and is known for the support he gave to Italian arts (Italy certainly owes him its first experience of unification).

The preference of aristocracy is apparent in the rich iconography: from the pictures dating back to the times of the Egyptian empire, and especially to the Renaissance, when aristocrats, patrons of great artists such as Paolo Uccello,Tiepolo, Piero della Francesca, Pisanello, Giotto, loved to be portrayed dressed in their most dazzling clothes and a specimen of Italian Greyhound by their side. It was probably this preference of Italian noble families which encouraged its breeding, in the modern sense of the term, to be developed in Italy. It was similarly for this reason that when the UK Kennel Club established the first standard for the small-size sighthound in the early 1900s,the latter was attributed to Italy and defined as "Italian Greyhound". During the following decades other cynophilist associations were established all over the world, among them F.C.I. (Federation Cynologique International), of which the E.N.C.I (Italian Cynophilist National Association) is a part, and the small-size sighthound, unlike other sighthounds, kept being classified as a "toy" dog.

In the 1960s it was thought that the extreme smallness required in the late 1800s, especially by the Belle Epoque ladies, might have posed a danger to the breed's good health.
Some specimens showed signs of dwarfism, such as apple-shaped heads and an uncertain gait: the FCI decided to remove the IG from Group Nine, TOY DOGS, and transfer it to Group X, SIGHTHOUNDS.In the same period it seemed necessary to adopt a means of distinction between IGs and whippets, a newly created English sighthound breed whose characteristics were thought to possibly get confused with those of the Italian Greyhound. Thus the FCI decreed that the colour of an Italian Greyhound could only be black, grey or isabella,with white spots accepted only on the breast or the tips of the paws.
It is to be underlined that such limitations are only present in the FCI standard, but two other important federations exist in the world: the UK Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club, which have never taken such an idea into consideration.

The Italian Greyhound is a physically active dog. Its running qualities are remarkable, as well as its fitness for Coursing (simulation of a hare hunt) and its hunting capabilities, but it is unlikely to be confused with a whippet (not only because of their different dimensions) and it is undeniable that its main role has always been that of a toy dog.

There are currently no worries within the Italian Greyhound Club about an IG being confused with a whippet, even with a greater tolerance of white spots and their extension: therefore the ENCI's Technical Committee has been requested to alter the IG standard, introducing a greater tolerance for colour.