What is a Whippet?

Origins

A Whippet is a short-haired, medium-sized sighthound–a group of dogs including the Greyhound, Borzoi, Scottish Deerhound, Saluki, Afghan, and others that were bred to hunt by sight and course game in open areas at high speeds. The Whippet is a relatively modern breed that originated in northern England, where farmers and laborers crossed Greyhounds and various other smaller breeds, mostly terriers, for sporting games like rabbit coursing. These smaller hounds had the advantages of being quick and easier and cheaper to keep than the larger Greyhounds.

During the industrial revolution, people moved to cities and towns and brought their small coursing hounds with them. Owners began racing them against each other behind pubs and on cinder tracks. As racing, with the need for speed, supplanted rabbit coursing, the template of the modern Whippet took shape. Although professional dog racing uses Greyhounds, Whippets are the only dog breed that was originally bred for racing and is a true blue-collar breed.

Appearance

Whippets look very much like small Greyhounds. In the United States, the standard for Whippets states that males should be between 19 and 22 tall inches at the shoulders and females between 18 and 21 inches, with a half-inch leeway on each side of the range. Weight typically ranges from 25 to 45 pounds. Because color is considered “immaterial” in judging Whippets, they come in the widest variety of colors and markings of any breed. At one time, there were both short-haired and wire-haired varieties, but the short-haired was more popular and due to selective breeding, the wire-haired gene no longer exists.

Temperament

Whippets typically have two speeds - on and off. As intense as they are while chasing real or artificial game, they can be just as mellow at home – true couch potatoes like their Greyhound cousins. In fact, trying to keep them off the couch or other furniture is a losing proposition, even with lots of dog beds around. Because the working classes who created them couldn’t afford kennels to house their dogs, Whippets lived in the house and so are very biddable. They are typically very attached to their owners and have what is affectionately called Excessive Greeting Disorder – whether you’re gone ten minutes or ten hours, your reception will be the same.

Their size, few grooming needs, and biddability make them excellent companions for many. The biggest drawback in owning a Whippet, or any sighthound, is the need to keep them securely fenced at home and leashed when out. No amount of recall or obedience training can guarantee that a Whippet won’t take off after a squirrel, cat, or other furry creature when sighted, even if that means darting into traffic.

Besides their traditional sports of racing and coursing, Whippets can participate in and often excel at most dog-related activities, including flyball, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, dock diving, weight-pulling and being therapy dogs.

Whippet cartoon

For more information about the whippet, check out these sites:

Standards