This Holidays 4 Dogs breed article will take a closer look at the Whippet. Whippets are beautiful and charming dogs that can fit into many different roles and lifestyles; often being described as an ‘all purpose’ dog.
While many breed enthusiasts claim their breed is as ancient as the hills; surprisingly, the whippet’s background is vague.
In Medieval times, large and small sight hounds were common and it is thought that the whippet is derived from crosses of the smaller types of hound.
However, even in 1788, the Encyclopaedia Britannica made no mention of the whippet. Greyhounds were listed, as well the ‘naked Turkish dog’ which resembled Italian greyhounds of today. Interestingly, the Turkish dog was also mentioned in Charles Darwin’s, ‘The Origin of Species’ (1859).
The whippet type developed rapidly during the 19th Century when greyhounds were crossed with terriers; (possibly Bedlington terriers). These dogs were smaller and extremely agile, with strong abilities to catch rabbits and small game for the pot.
When these dogs weren’t working, their owners would race them in fields and village streets. The dogs chased a lure, (presumably a piece of cloth) since the races were known as ‘rag races’.
The races were extremely popular within mining communities and were an important part of local culture up until the First World War. Whippets were clever and useful enough to fill the pot, small enough to keep in domestic houses and economical to feed.
Today, the Whippet remains a versatile dog and can make very pleasing family pets. They generally have a gentle and balanced temperament and are good house dogs, but do like to be active too. They are not usually considered to be a ‘yappy’, or noisy breed.
Their coat is easy to keep and just needs a good rub down with a hound glove every few days. Because their coat is quite thin, with no under-coat, they can feel the cold, so will benefit from wearing a coat in winter months.
Whippets have a very strong desire to chase anything! This might mean a leaf blowing across the road, or other small animals – including cats. Once they have given chase, they can be difficult to stop – so this is something any would-be owner should consider before acquiring a whippet. Whippets can sometimes be a little sensitive to household chaos and won’t appreciate rough handling.
They are independent dogs and can be fairly aloof and are, therefore, not usually regarded as the most obedient dogs. That said, many whippets compete in agility, fly ball and even obedience – the Whippet Club U.K. do have an obedience section.
There are two types of whippets which prospective owners should be aware of. Some strains of whippet are from pure working, or coursing lines. Others are from show lines and some, a blend of the two. The differences between the appearance of the two whippet types is subtle, but track and coursing dogs do tend to have even finer features and sometimes larger ears carried further back on the head.
Currently there are no suggested genetic health screening tests recommended by the Kennel Club. However a Kennel Club survey in 2004, found the most common cause of death in whippets was from heart disease.
Some breeders will carry out heart monitoring and testing. Some will carry out Doppler Testing (three dimensional pictures of the heart, as well as tests for blood flow through the main arteries). Breeders are also beginning to take advantage of eye testing for whippets, even though they have not been commonly affected by diseases such as PRA.
These dogs are really captivating creatures with gentle natures, but spirited at the same time. They are very pretty dogs; with an almost sculptural beauty, admired very much by everyone they meet.