Facts and Fun

What is a Whippet? 

The Whippet is a member of the Hound Group and more specifically one of a number of breeds that fall into the group of dogs classified as sighthounds.  These are hounds that hunt their prey mostly by sight; their bodies are lean and powerful, with deep chests for plenty of heart and lung room, longer limbs, a flexible, slightly arched spine and keen eyes along with tremendous speed.  This conformation enables them to use a "double suspension" gallop when they run.  Most other dogs run like a horse; at full speed there is one period, when the feet are all contracted under the body, that all four feet are suspended off the ground.  In the double suspension gallop, a second suspended phase occurs when the feet are fully extended in front of and behind the dog.  It is this double suspension gallop that gives sighthounds such tremendous speed.

Sighthounds are adapted for finding prey in open regions and once it is located, it can be overtaken by speed and endurance.  Sighthounds have historically been found in regions where there is open countryside - North Africa, Arab countries, Afghanistan, Russia, Ireland and Scotland.  However, the Whippet is a more recent member of this group of dogs and was developed by the miners and millhands of Northern England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  The Whippet became known as "the poor man's greyhound" and they were often used for poaching and rabbit coursing to fill the supper pot.

In its early days, the Whippet was known by many different names, one of which was 'Snap Dog', supposedly given because, when running along a track or when meeting a strange dog, Whippets had a tendency to snap at one another.  Another explanation given for this name - competitions were held and bets were made on which dog could 'snap up' the most rabbits.  They were also known as 'Rag Dogs' - a name given to them when rural workers moved to industrial centers  and brought with them the sports involving their dogs.  Those who had enjoyed betting on enclosed coursing found that rabbits weren't necessary; the dogs would chase a waving rag and betting on rag dog races became a passion among the coal miners of Northern Britain.  A good running dog brought a great deal of pride to family and the dog would be treated as well or better than any other family member.  In the region's chilly climate, the dogs were also valued as bedwarmers.  It is said that the name Whippet may have been based on the word 'whip' conveying the breed's sharp characteristics and speed.

Is A Whippet For You?

It is an accepted fact - Whippets are NOT for everyone!  They can be frustratingly independent, aloof and have a tendency to run away (they turn off their hearing aids when they are out of your reach).  They are not disobedient - they just can't be trusted and they can't be trusted because they are too fast and can find themselves someplace dangerous (like the middle of a road) before they even realize how they got there.  Add to that; the most comfortable chair in the house is 'theirs', counter-surfing (did you put that steak far enough back? Probably not) and definitely add to that list -'thief', (shoes, pens, remote controls, etc).  They are not for people who want a protection dog, a swimming companion or an exclusively outdoor dog. If you live in a polar climate or if you don't believe in leashes - Whippets are NOT for you.

But, if you want a companion that is intelligent, sensible, endearing and graceful looking - then a Whippet IS for you.  They like nothing better than to rest snuggled beside or on their owner's lap.  They tend to follow their owner from room to room, waiting patiently (or not) outside a closed door for their special person to come back out.  They stare poignantly into that person's eyes, giving their heart completely.

Whippets are as gentle in action as they are in appearance.  They are patient with children and kind with each other, but this makes them vulnerable to mishandling by unsupervised children and injury by unfriendly dogs.  They are playful but not relentlessly so, unless it is a game they enjoy - Frisbee is a favorite of many and of course 'catch me if you can' is a definite favorite of most, but that is because they NEVER lose.

Whippets are not noisy dogs and seldom bark without reason.  Most will announce an uninvited dog or other visitor in the yard but their propensity to greet all strangers with a wagging tail or at worst, a look of annoyance for waking them, makes them worthless as protection dogs.  The Whippet's most dangerous weapon is its tail and those who have been hit by a whippet tail wagging happily at top speed or shaking off that nasty rain water that landed on them, have their own assumptions about the origin of the Whippet's name.  A tail whipping can leave welts on human legs and clear coffee tables (and in some cases, break that tail).

The Whippet spends most of its day sleeping (storing up energy for its explosive bursts of speed).  Therefore, they do need a chance to burn off that energy every day, so a very long walk or the chance to run in a safe, fenced area, is required.  Since their body is built on the coiled spring design, they are amoung the world's best fence jumpers (and the best thing to chase is always on the other side of the fence) so make the fence tall.  The Whippet propels its body at enormous speed and once in a while, it crashes.  Usually, it rolls a few times and keeps on running - sometimes it breaks something.

The Whippet has thin skin and is prone to lacerations.  It has very little body fat and can become easily chilled.  Like other sighthounds, this low body fat produces an anesthesia sensitivity and this MUST be discussed with your Veterinarian before any surgery.  All this said, the Whippet is usually extremely healthy, with very few to no health issues and they usually live 12 to 14 years with 16 years not being unusual, so do not go into being owned by a Whippet on a whim.


Fun 'Stuff'

All whippets (actually any purebred, registered dog entered in a championship show in any country) is judged by a breed standard that describes the 'perfect' dog of that breed.  On another page, on this site, you will be able to find the actual Breed Club standard for the whippet.  This is just a fun, tongue-in-cheek
look at the wonderful whippet.  I found it on the internet years ago and as near as I can figure out, it was written by Jenna Coleman of Windridge Whippets.  If I am wrong about the author of this, please accept my apologies.

The "New" Whippet Standard

General Appearance:  An animal of extreme grace, unless running anywhere near something expensive.  The general appearance of a whippet is that of a raised bump underneath the sheets and covers of your freshly made bed.

Eyes:  The eyes are the most important feature of the breed.  They can be any colour, though Whippets prefer to have dark eyes, as these are more useful for conning their servants out of the best food and softest bedding.  However, Whippets can manipulate their servants in many other ways.

Nose:  Cold, wet, long and shocking when it unexpectedly makes contact with the Whippet's servant's bare thigh.

Feet and Legs:  Sharp, long and unbendable.  Really good Whippet feet and legs can drive an adult man off the bed, or render him unable to breathe, with all four of the Whippet's feet pressing into his stomach.  A well-bred whippet also will impale armpits, eyes, mouths and other sensitive areas with his feet, while sleeping in his servants's bed.

Body:  The Whippet's body is generally either blurry in motion, or flat on it's side.  It is acceptable for the Whippet to rest on his back, with his feet straight in the air - remember the legs are not to bend and allow any room or comfort for the human.

Teeth:  The Whippet has very special teeth and cannot eat regular food.  If you wouldn't eat it, neither will the Whippet.

Ears:  Ideally, these resemble those of a bat when the Whippet goes for car rides and the window is open.  Whippets are deaf at all times, except their scheduled dinner time.

Movement:  Little as possible.

Colour:  Whatever colour your bedspread is, so will be the lump curled up underneath of it.

Temperament:  Whimsical, stubborn, manipulative, lazy and all together wonderful.

Disqualifications:  Failure to disobey at least twice a day, sigh loudly with disgust at least three times a day, and to take up more room in the bed than two people, shall disqualify.