The Kritikos Lagonikos (Cretan Hound) (Greek:Kρητικός Λαγωνικός) is a hunting dog breed from the island of Crete, in Greece. It is considered to be one of the oldest hunting breeds in Europe, with a history that goes back to 4,000 years ago. This is a multi-talented dog that comes directly from Crete. It has excellent scent, speed, agility, durability, that make it an exceptional hare hunter. Cretan Hounds also have guarding instincts as well as pastoral instincts.
A primitive hunting breed, its existence on the Greek island of Crete is documented in writing and artifacts for at least 3500 years. It was extensively cultivated and used by the Minoan civilization which, at its peak, dominated over most part of the Aegean, the Cyclades islands and eastern Peloponesus. A tracking and coursing hound, it was always used in chasing and catching hare and wild rabbits on the harsh terrains of its native island. The classic authors praised the Cretan hounds (Kressai Kynes) as the best hare-hunters known to man and in ancient times they were exported to the Greek colonies and other countries in Europe, reaching as far as Spain and the British islands, to mix and improve the local hounds. The dogs have many such peculiar traits and they are evidently a truly ancient species, probably the oldest dog breed in Europe. It is possible that their ancestors came from Africa but they were subsequently adapted to this unique habitat of Crete, an island remote enough to host other unique species of animals also, such as a unique sub-species of wild goat, lynx and others. Isolated there for millennia, these dogs were formed by function to perform a particular and challenging task and they remained pure and unchanged to this day. Due to a long history of struggle against outside enemies, the Cretan people are a freedom-loving race, proud, independent, somewhat suspicious and even stubborn. They do not like to give their dogs to outsiders and even to this day the best specimens are kept hidden from the public eye. Breeding practices are ruthless and the limited means of the past taught the locals to neuter all but the best males and destroy the dogs that were lacking in the hunt. This resulted in a particularly strong and healthy breed, but also one very small in numbers. For years they were kept secret and even now they rarely leave Crete, apart from on the rare occasions they take part in International dog shows held in Athens, where visitors have the opportunity to meet a true living legend.