The Whippet, also known as the Lightening Rag Dog, the Snap Dog, the Poor Man's Racehorse and the Poor Man's Greyhound, is a medium-sized sighthound that resembles a smaller version of the Greyhound. Its name is thought to derive from the word "whappet," which refers to "a small dog that yaps [wapps]." The term "Whippet" was used during the 1600s to describe a "little cur." The modern Whippet was developed in the 19th century as a rabbit-coursing dog. It was bred for speed and has been used for sport racing for years, capable of reaching bursts of speed up to 35 miles per hour. The Whippet is the fastest domesticated animal for its size and at short distances can outrun a Greyhound. It also is a competent rat- and rabbit-hunter and makes a quiet, affectionate companion dog. As a sighthound, Whippets uniformly chase moving objects and seem impervious to any danger that the chase might entail – such as automobiles or other types of traffic. They require daily exercise in a secure environment or may become bored and destructive. The Whippet was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888, as a member of its Hound Group.
The mature male Whippet ideally stands 19 to 22 inches at the withers, with bitches being 18 to 21 inches in height. Adults typically weigh about 25 to 30 pounds. The Whippet's short coat can be any color, without preference given to any one over another under the American breed standard. This is a naturally fastidious dog that requires little grooming and is easy to care for and live with.
History & Health
Small, Greyhound-like dogs resembling Whippets have been portrayed in paintings, carvings and other artwork for centuries. There are several different theories about the Whippet's ancestry. Some historians believe that the Whippet resulted from breeding runt Greyhounds repeatedly down in size, while others think that Whippets came from crossing Greyhounds with smaller Spaniels. Another theory is that the Whippet descends from crosses between Italian Greyhounds and various terrier breeds, particularly the Manchester Terrier.
The Whippet developed in England in the 19th century and originally was bred to compete in rabbit-luring exhibitions. It quickly became a companion animal and utility dog for the working class. Miners in the north of England, and other commoners, could not afford to own the large sighthounds favored by royalty and gentry of the time. It is believed that they created their own "miniature greyhounds" to participate in the rabbit-killing contests that were then so popular, and that they called this dog the Whippet. The early form of these rabbit competitions involved turning rabbits loose in a confined space and then releasing dogs to see which one would make the quickest kill. This provided an avenue for people who were not wealthy to participate in gambling "games" with little initial investment or overhead. Eventually, this so-called "sport" was outlawed because of its cruelty. Whippet owners then turned to what became known as "rag racing," where a cloth or fur lure was pulled down a straight track or alleyway, with speedy dogs being turned loose to chase after it. Again, this was an inexpensive way for townspeople to gather and gamble on their dogs. When not competing in races, the unobtrusive and loyal Whippet was able to hunt rabbit and other small game to help feed itself and its family.
The first Whippets came to North America with English immigrants – primarily textile workers who immigrated to New England in the late 19th and early 20th century. They settled in Massachusetts and Maryland and brought their dogs and their Whippet-racing sport with them. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888. The Kennel Club (England) officially recognized the breed in 1891. Today's Whippet retains virtually all of its original characteristics. It is extremely athletic and excels at lure coursing, racing, flyball, agility, obedience and Frisbee competitions. It has been used quite effectively as a therapy and service dog and is highly successful in the conformation ring. Its elegance and good manners have endeared the Whippet to many people. Potential owners should remember that Whippets are genetically programmed to chase, jump and run. They are enormously energetic, and they have the stamina to support their high energy level. Despite their kind and gentle nature, they can be quite intense and are not as delicate or fragile as they may appear.
The average life span of the Whippet is 13 to 15 years, making it a particularly long-lived breed. Health concerns may include corneal dystrophy, cataracts, lens luxation, vitreal syneresis, progressive retinal atrophy, micropapilla, cutaneous hemangioma and a number of skin disorders. This breed has a greatly increased and adverse susceptibility to thiopentone. This drug is not recommended for use in the Whippet breed.
Temperament & Personality
Whippets are lean, muscular speed machines who have an almost split personality. At home, adult Whippets are quiet and docile animals who are quite content to curl up on the couch all day long. But when you get a Whippet out into the yard, they come alive and appear to have enough energy to power six dogs twice their size. They are sprinters, and can reach top speeds of 35 miles per hour. Whippets are excellent companions for single people, as they aren't overly needy and can be left alone during they day. Their sensitive nature can make them unhappy in large families with lots of children as chaos make Whippets anxious. They are also good dogs for empty nesters who enjoy the company of dogs, but do not like the rowdy rambunctious of some breeds.
Though they love to run and are prone to unprompted laps around the house or yard, you don't need to be a runner yourself to raise this breed. Whippets should be allowed to run several times a week, but they are not built for endurance activities. A few sprints around the yard or track and a Whippet is done for the day, happily retiring to his bed for some rest and relaxation. They are fine city dwellers, as long as they are allowed to get to a park for regular sprints. Other than that, regular walking will keep the Whippet happy and healthy. Their size and quiet natures makes them suitable for some apartments, but there should be enough room to accommodate random fits of running.
Taking your Whippet to the lure course where he can run at top speed is an excellent way to keep him in shape and meet his exercise requirements.
Whippets are sensitive, docile animals who need to be treated gently at all times. They are hardly ever aggressive, and tend to freeze up when another dog postures towards them. Treating a Whippet harshly can cause them psychological harm, as they are incredibly sensitive dogs. Gentle consistency and lots of praise and treats are all you need to train a Whippet Though they are independent, they pick up on tasks fairly quickly. They are naturally well-behaved so training is usually quite easy, even for first time dog owners.
Socialization is a big part of raising a well-adjusted Whippet. They are naturally shy, so you need to socialize them early and often to understand that new people, new situations and new noises are nothing to fear. Extreme fearfulness in dogs is very hard on both dog and owner.
Through they are gentle and quiet around the house and look like they couldn't hurt a fly, Whippets have a very strong prey instinct. This means cats, small dogs, birds, rabbits and squirrels are in peril around an unleashed Whippet. This breed is best as the only pet in the house, and when outdoors should always be leashed or in a fenced yard. This protects the other animals but also keeps your Whippet safe.
If you can not provide your Whippet with enough exercise, he will let you know by chewing anything he can get his mouth on. Whippets are not destructive chewers by nature, and if you are coming home to messes, it's simply your dog telling you he needs to run more often.
Whippets grow up to be very quiet and dignified, but as puppies they can be out of control. Exercise is especially important in the puppy years, but be prepared to live with hyperactivity for about two years until he mellows out.
A medium size sighthound giving the appearance of elegance and fitness, denoting great speed, power and balance without coarseness. A true sporting hound that covers a maximum of distance with a minimum of lost motion. Should convey an impression of beautifully balanced muscular power and strength, combined with great elegance and grace of outline. Symmetry of outline, muscular development and powerful gait are the main considerations; the dog being built for speed and work, all forms of exaggeration should be avoided.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Ideal height for dogs, 19 to 22 inches; for bitches, 18 to 21 inches, measured at the highest point of the withers. More than one-half inch above or below the stated limits will disqualify. Length from forechest to buttocks equal to or slightly greater than height at the withers. Moderate bone throughout.
Keen intelligent alert expression. Eyes large, round to oval in shape. Small and/or almond shaped eyes are undesirable and are to be faulted. Eyes to be dark brown to nearly black in color. Eye color can vary with coat color, but regardless of coat color dark eyes are always preferred. Light eyes are undesirable and yellow eyes are to be strictly penalized. Blue eye(s) or any portion of blue in the eye(s), as well as both eyes not being of the same color shall disqualify. Fully pigmented eye rims are desirable. Rose ears, small, fine in texture; in repose, thrown back and folded along neck. Fold should be maintained when at attention. Erect ears should be severely penalized. Skull long and lean, fairly wide between the ears, scarcely perceptible stop. Muzzle should be long and powerful, denoting great strength of bite, without coarseness. Lack of underjaw should be strictly penalized. Nose leather to be entirely and uniformly pigmented. Color to be black, dark blue or dark brown, both so dark so as to appear nearly black. Teeth of upper jaw should fit closely over teeth of lower jaw creating a scissors bite. Teeth should be white and strong. Undershot shall disqualify. Overshot one-quarter inch or more shall disqualify.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck long, clean and muscular, well arched with no suggestion of throatiness, widening gracefully into the top of the shoulder. A short thick neck, or a ewe neck, should be penalized. The back is broad, firm and well muscled, having length over the loin. The backline runs smoothly from the withers with a graceful natural arch, not too accentuated, beginning over the loin and carrying through over the croup; the arch is continuous without flatness. A dip behind shoulder blades, wheelback, flat back, or a steep or flat croup should be penalized. Brisket very deep, reaching as nearly as possible to the point of the elbow. Ribs well sprung but with no suggestion of barrel shape. The space between the forelegs is filled in so that there is no appearance of a hollow between them. There is a definite tuckup of the underline. The tail long and tapering, reaching to at least the inside of the hock when measured down along the hind leg. When the dog is in motion, the tail is carried low with only a gentle upward curve; tail should not be carried higher than top of back.
Shoulder blade long, well laid back, with flat muscles, allowing for moderate space between shoulder blades at peak of withers. Upper arm of equal length, placed so that the elbow falls directly under the withers.
The points of the elbows should point neither in nor out, but straight back. A steep shoulder, short upper arm, a heavily muscled or loaded shoulder, or a very narrow shoulder, all of which restrict low free movement, should be strictly penalized. Forelegs straight, giving appearance of strength and substance of bone. Pasterns strong, slightly bent and flexible. Bowed legs, tied-in elbows, legs lacking substance, legs set far under the body so as to create an exaggerated forechest, weak or upright pasterns should be strictly penalized.
Both front and rear feet must be well formed with hard, thick pads. Feet more hare than cat, but both are acceptable. Flat, splayed or soft feet without thick hard pads should be strictly penalized. Toes should be long, close and well arched. Nails strong and naturally short or of moderate length. Dewclaws may be removed.
Long and powerful. The thighs are broad and muscular, stifles well bent; muscles are long and flat and carry well down toward the hock. The hocks are well let down and close to the ground. Sickle or cow hocks should be strictly penalized.
Short, close, smooth and firm in texture. Any other coat shall be a disqualification. Old scars and injuries, the result of work or accident, should not be allowed to prejudice the dog's chance in the show ring.
Low, free moving and smooth, with reach in the forequarters and strong drive in the hindquarters. The dog has great freedom of action when viewed from the side; the forelegs move forward close to the ground to give a long, low reach; the hind legs have strong propelling power. When moving and viewed from front or rear, legs should turn neither in nor out, nor should feet cross or interfere with each other. Lack of front reach or rear drive, or a short, hackney gait with high wrist action, should be strictly penalized. Crossing in front or moving too close should be strictly penalized.
More than one-half inch above or below stated height limits.
Blue eye(s), any portion of blue in the eye(s), eyes not of the same color.
Overshot one-quarter inch or more.
Any coat other than short, close, smooth and firm in texture.
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Sources: American Kennel Club