whippet book

The Whippet is a medium-sized sighthound that shares ancestry with the Greyhound. In fact, the Whippet’s predecessors may have come from crosses between small Greyhounds and even smaller dogs, which were used by poor farmers for rustling rabbits and other small game during the 18th century.

These poor farmers also used the Whippet for entertainment in the form of “snap dog” contests, where bets were made on which one could “snap up” as many rabbits before they bolted from within a circle. The Whippet was also cross-bred with ratting terriers to increase quickness and keenness.

Nicknamed The Poor Man’s Racehorse

Whippet getting ready to run

The industrial revolution prompted the development of the true Whippet breed that we know today. An influx of rural workers migrated to industrialized areas, bringing a need for entertainment, which they satisfied by bringing their snap dogs. However, there were no rabbits to snap up, so they discovered that the dogs would willingly race toward a waving rag.

Thus, a new sport was born, it became trendy amongst coal miners; in fact, the Whippet is nicknamed “the poor man’s racehorse.” A whippet during that time was an enormous source of pride for families. It was not only a source of extra income but a producer of food for the pot as well. They were an important member of the family; it shared in the family’s provisions and often slept in the bed with the children. They also came to be highly regarded as a companion as well.

Whippet dog with his Pug buddy

Today, Whippet racing is still somewhat popular. Unfortunately, it never really garnered Greyhound racing’s marketable appeal; therefore, it remains strictly an amateur sport. The Whippet was recognized as a breed in 1888, and it began to be highly touted for its aesthetic appeal. It was further crossed with the Italian Greyhound, which further refined its appearance.

The Whippet was not a popular dog right away; however, its uncanny combination of agile grace and courteous companionship progressively created a fervent following. Today, the Whippet is the most popular of the sighthounds and is highly esteemed as a show dog, lure-courser, racer, and family companion.

Breed Facts

Energy levelWatchdog ability
Exercise requirementsProtection ability
PlayfulnessGrooming requirements
Affection levelCold tolerance
Friendliness toward dogsHeat tolerance
Friendliness toward other petsFriendliness toward strangers
Ease of training
A group of five Whippets going into the pond after a stick

Temperament: The Whippet is probably the most affectionate and obedient of the true sighthounds. In fact, they’re an ideal pet for those that want a quiet housedog and a devoted companion. This is an extremely gentle breed; they’re great with children and can make an exceptional companion for them. It behaves indoors and loves to run and play when outdoors. They’re compassionate both physically and mentally. They cannot take coarse treatment or strict correction.

Upkeep: The Whippet is an excellent dog for those that live in an apartment. However, it requires long walks and runs daily. Grooming is a breeze with this breed. Also, it will require a warm, soft bed. It does not do well in cold weather. The hair is concise and fine, and it is virtually free of doggy odor.

Popularity: Somewhat popular
Family: Sighthound
Origin: England
Date Developed: 1700s
Past Function: Racing, rabbit coursing
Current Function: Racing, lure coursing
Other Names: None
Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
Weight: 20 – 40 pounds
Height: Male: 19 – 22 inches; Female: 18 – 21 inches
Color: Immaterial
Health Problems: deafness, some eye defects


The Whippet is among the sleekest of dogs, with a curved, streamlined profile, long legs, and a lean body. The Whippet is the ultimate sprinter, unmatched by any other breed in its capability to accelerate to top speed and to twist and turn with unequaled nimbleness.

It is a lightweight version of the Greyhound, with an especially supple topline and powerful back legs, which enables it to perform the double-suspension sprint at its most extreme. It is square or slightly longer than tall. The walk is low and free-moving. The countenance is acute and alert.

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