Whippet

If you couldn’t afford a Greyhound a century ago, then you would probably buy one of the fastest breeds on the planet — a Whippet. In England, people would call this medium size hound, “The Poor Man’s Greyhound.”

And then the breed’s popularity began to explode. Annually, in England, the breed ranks within the top 20 most popular. For good reason, they are quick, smart, and entertaining.

When they aren’t racing, they are lounging around calmly with their people. 

So what makes this elegant and fast breed such a great addition for a family?

Here is what you need to know about the Whippet.

History

With the help of mill workers in Massachusetts, dog shows, and dog sports, the Whippet is easily one of the more appealing breeds. A perennial favorite in England, the breed has become a mainstay both among families and dog competitions.

Yet they didn’t always have that luster. At first, the breed began as a hunter or vermin killer. They would chase hare in the open field as many would cherish them for their speed and endurance. Moreover, hunters and breeder began to cross terriers with Greyhounds to create a tougher more vicious breed. Indeed, there was once two style of Whippets: rough coat and today’s modern Whippet — the smooth coat. 

Hounds of this style can be found in paintings, tapestries from hundreds of years ago. Because there was so much crossing between several sighthounds, it is difficult to pinpoint when the Whippet first began to emerge. Most point to the Mid-1800’s, when the name “Whippet” began to show up in circles.

In the mid 19th century, migrants from England brought with them their dogs. Most of these migrants would settle in New England, more specifically, Massachusetts. Mill workers would use them in their every day life. Some would use them inside mills to chase away vermin. Others would use them to hunt rabbit. Finally, some saw the potential in the breed to be fine dog show competitors and racing dogs. During that times, even earlier, especially in England, if you couldn’t afford a Greyhound, your next option was the Whippet. 

This proletariat reality definitely would help jump start their popularity in both Northern American and England. For sure, the breed was an instant hit in the U.S. during the latter years of the 1800’s. In fact, the American Kennel Club would grant them recognition before their homeland of England. In 1888, the AKC gave acceptance to the breed. Come 1890, the England Kennel Club would follow.

Around the 20th century, when the Duchess of Newcastle began an official club for the breed, popularity went up once again. World War 1 was hard for all breeds, but would cause their popularity to dwindle. That would be the case until the 40’s or 50’s. With the formation of the British Whippet Racing Association in 1967, as well as the Whippet Club of America in the 1930’s, the breed would never look back.

According to the Kennel Club of England, the Whippet is the 17th most popular breed today. The American Kennel Club lists the Whippet as the 61st most popular breed. However, the Snap Dog has seen a ranking as high as 55th a few years back.

Today, the Whippet can be found course racing, competing in Best in Show competitions, and as a household companion. Because of these areas where the breed excels greatly, the Snap Dog is one of most formidable breeds around.

Size

The Whippet is a small to medium size breed. The American Kennel Club lists them as a medium dog breed. A male can stand between 19 to 22 inches, while a female should range from 18 to 21 inches.

Both male and female Whippets should weigh between 25 to 40 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

You may think that the Whippet is rambunctious and full of energy due to their propensity for running. But it may surprise you to learn that they are a rather calm breed. In fact, this medium energy breed has a tendency to be somewhat of a couch potato. Yet, don’t let that fool you, this racing dog does have bursts of energy every now and then. Moreover, this is a very playful dog, that responds well to training and smart. You can show this dog tricks and they’ll pick up quickly.

They do adapt well to their surroundings. Because the Whippet isn’t the most boisterous, they can live in apartments without an issue. As watchdogs, they know how to alert without being snappish, oddly enough. 

Whippets enjoy jumping or hopping up on the furniture. Perhaps that’s them being lazy or them being curious and enjoying the world view from above. 

A Whippet thrives when they are with their family. Sure, they enjoy a job or something to keep them from boredom, but is companionship that they yearn for. Expect this breed to form a close bond and share affection daily. 

Elegant and graceful, you can take the Whippet basically anywhere you want. They get along fine with dogs, and if children know how to treat a dog, the breed is fine with them as well. However, most experts will caution, that the breed can be touch sensitive. Yes, the Whippet sometimes overreacts to someone picking them up. This behavior usually goes away with trust and with the person learning how to handle the breed.

All in all, this is a cuddle bug dog, that you may find it surprising they don’t require so much exercise. That isn’t to say they don’t like getting out and stretching. That they do. The Whippet will be happy being close to family, having a daily backyard romp, and frequent walks. Apartment or countryside, the breed lives wherever their people do. 

Health

According to the Whippet Club of America, this breed is among the healthiest of all breeds. Yet, when you buy a Snap Dog from a breeder, make sure you do so from a reputable breeder. This person should be able to provide you with health clearances. Always ask the questions, read the reviews and obtain the proper documents to make the best purchasing decision possible.

In addition, you should schedule regular visits with the veterinarian. If you use common sense measures, then there is no reason to believe your Whippet can’t live between 12 to 15 years.

Idiopathic epilepsy may be seen in the breed. The Club of America does counter that this disorder is rare but will typically occur in Whippets between the ages of 1 and 3.

There are some rare instances of congenital deafness within the breed. However, again the Club states that is rare, and that the breed can manage a quality life with congenital deafness. There is extensive testing available, that most breeders will use, typically through the method of Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response. 

Hypothyroidism is lack of hormonal production in the thyroid gland that can lead to issues with the coat, lethargy and lack of appetite. It is rare again, but it can take place with this breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals rates the breed the 103rd worst out of 114 breeds among the Chow Chow and Dachshund. The OFA cites that the breed’s thyroid has a 87.7 normal rating.

Regarding the cardiac department, the breed does have room for concern. The OFA states that the breed has the 8th worst overall rating in the cardiac department. Issues like Mitral Valve, which is a failure of the valve between the left ventricle and atrium to properly function, subsequently causing blood pressure to elevate and forcing the heart to work harder than it should. Coughing, wheezing and weakness are a few signs your dog may suffer from this complication.

Cushings Disease is an endocrine disorder that is due to the dog producing too much cortisol, a hormone. Likewise, the breed may also battle another disorder, Addisons, which is when there’s a lack of cortisol production. This can lead to issues with the coat, depression, a spike in urination and thirst, bloat to name a few. If you suspect that your  dog suffers from either of these endocrine disorders, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Cloudiness of the lens in the eye or Cataracts has been found to impact the breed in few instances. Glaucoma and Progressive Retinal Atrophy have also been found in the Whippet. These disorders all lead to vision loss or complete blindness. There is no cure for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which is the degeneration of the photorod receptor cells.

A 2004 Kennel Club survey found that the majority of death placating the Whippet was due to old age. This is a welcoming finding, showing that the breed is rather healthy. However, you’re not out of the woods yet, because heart failure was the second highest reason for death.

Care

The Whippet is rather simple to care for. This is a low maintenance breed. That said, you should supervise encounters between smaller children and the breed. That’s because they are sensitive when people pick the breed up. This could cause a bad reaction, that could lead to a child being bit. Teach your kids how to properly handle dogs before allowing them to do so.

The breed may display signs of prey drive. Keep in mind their historic job as ratters, vermin hunters and coursing hounds. Their instincts to chase, say, a squirrel, could prove to be troublesome if you don’t have the proper parameters in place. Keep up a safe and secure fence and walk them on a leash. Also, it is best to avoid interacting this breed around smaller animals like mice and etc.

They should be getting plenty of mental and physical stimulation. You won’t need to go crazy with the exercise, but a daily walk, or letting them out in the backyard to stretch their limbs should suffice their needs. Challenging this breed will help fulfill their need for mental stimulation. Agility, lure coursing and even obedience are activities they can thrive at.

You should check the breed’s ears routinely for any sign of bacterial buildup. Because they enjoy running, it is always wise to keep an eye out on their nails. Trim the nails regularly to avoid splits, crack and overgrowth.

Feeding

A Whippet will do fine on a high quality formula or dry kibble. Meat should be the first ingredient. Even though the breed seems to be on the smaller side, they do tend to bloat or suffer from obesity. Always watch their portions. Puppies, as usual, will eat more as they grow. Some people feed puppies four to five times per day until a certain cut off point. Typically, that’ll be up to a year.

Most adults can eat between 1.5 cups to 3 cups a day depending on weight and activity requirements. Spaying and neutering, as well as metabolism and age can play a part in how much your Whippet will eat. It is always a good practice to feed them two to three times per day, instead of one big meal. This will help balance them to your feeding schedule, and also help reduce the chances of Gastric Torsion. Gastric Torsion or Bloat is a deadly condition of the stomach due to an excess of gas, which distends or twists the stomach in a painful fashion.

As always, you should provide your Whippet with fresh drinking water.

Coat

A Whippet’s coat care is simple to manage. You should be able to get away with brushing them once a week. This is a seasonal shedder that only require occasional grooming. 

The coat of a Whippet is short, smooth, close to the body and firm texture.

According to the American Kennel Club, there are a staggering 18 acceptable options for coat color. Those are; Black, blue, blue brindle, blue fawn, cream, fawn, fawn brindle, red, red brindle, white and black, white and blue, white, white and blue fawn, white and blue brindle, white and fawn brindle, white and red, white and red brindle.

There are six acceptable markings: Black mask, blue mask, water marked, white markings — blue mask, white markings — black mask and white markings.

Fun Whippet Facts

  • According to World Atlast.com, the Whippet is the 8th fastest breed out of 15 in the world. The site states that the breed clocks at 34 mph. The AKC clocks the breed at 35 mph.
  • A Whippet by the name of Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth in 1964 won Best in Show honors at Westminster Dog Show.
  • Whippets have won three times at Cruft’s taking the Best in Show honors in 1992, 2004 and the latest competition in 2018.
  • It is said that the Bedlington Terrier was a part of the earlier Whippet’s foundation. 
  • The Italian Greyhound and the Greyhound are both part of this breed’s bloodline.
  • 96th most intelligent breed meaning they’ll obey first command 50 percent or better of the time.
  • The Whippet may appear to be taller and bigger in North America than they do in England. That is because the standard call for 1 to 2 inches more in height than the other standards.

Closing Words

A Whippet can be for anyone and everyone. While they do enjoy bursts of energy, the breed is rather tame and calm. So, if you aren’t the most active person in the world, that’s okay in the Whippet’s book. 

They will be more than happy to hop up on the couch and cuddle with you to your favorite television shows.