Peterhof hosts holiday in honour of Empress Catherine II's favourite Italian greyhound

On Saturday Peterhof state museum (St. Petersburg's surroundings) will host a holiday "The Toy of the Wind", devoted to Zemira, the favourite Italian greyhound of Russian Empress Catherine II (1729-1796, ruled since 1762).

A show, based on an ancient legend about Queen Cleopatra, who presented Julius Caesar with Italian greyhounds, will be staged on the ground of the Grand Cascade, one of the main fountains of the Russian Versailles. The show will be full of pyrotechnic effects and fireworks.

After the performance, a defile and contest of Italian greyhounds will be held by the Grand Cascade. The most beautiful dog will be presented with its award in the Throne Hall of the Grand Palace.

The history of this breed dates back to ancient Egypt, where Italian greyhounds were bred by the court of pharaohs. Archaeologists discovered mummies of these little dogs in the Valley of Kings. When Julius Caesar conquered Egypt, Queen Cleopatra presented him with Italian greyhound puppies. Thus these dogs got to Rome. Then they moved to many European royal houses and became a decoration of rich aristocratic salons. In Germany the Italian greyhound is called Levrette, or a Toy of the Wind.

These little dogs were favourites of many monarchs. For instance, Prussian King Friedrich II's Italian greyhound accompanied him in his military campaigns.

The grave of the Russian Empress's favourite is situated in a nook of Peterhof's park. A porcelain figurine of the charming 'toy of the wind' is kept in the Grand Hall of the Peterhof Palace. This is already the third holiday in Zemira's honour.