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Get to Know the Whippet: Whippet Good!

He's a fast friend with a racing heart, but don't mistake him for a Greyhound.

Caroline Coile  |  Oct 20th 2014


When he whips around he’s almost a blur. There’s no faster dog in a sprint than this speedster, and no faster friend by your side. Meet the Whippet. Read on for interesting details about and pictures of this dog breed.

More interesting things about the Whippet:

  • The Whippet may be confused with the Greyhound or Italian Greyhound, but the Whippet is in between the sizes of the other two breeds. The Greyhound is a large dog, the Italian Greyhound is a toy dog, and the Whippet is a medium dog.
  • The Whippet does descend from the Greyhound. It originated in the 1700s from crosses of Greyhounds to smaller dogs, probably ratting terriers.
  • They were popular with peasants for rabbit poaching and for “snap dog” contests, where bets were made on which dog could snap up the most rabbits before the rabbits escaped from a circle.
  • When peasants moved to towns during the Industrial Revolution, the dogs were raced against one another toward a waving rag over a 200-yard straightaway.

  • The Whippet gained the names “poor man’s racehorse” and “poor man’s Greyhound.”
  • The name “Whippet” may be derived from the Middle English “whippen” meaning “to whip,” which can in turn mean to move quickly or nimbly. Some people claim it’s because the Whippet’s tail is like a whip when it wags!
  • English mill operators first brought Whippets to America, where they settled in Massachusetts. For many years the area was the center of Whippet racing in this country. It later became centered in Baltimore and is now countrywide.

  • The Whippet gained American Kennel Club recognition in 1888. It was initially a member of the Sporting group, but when that group divided it became part of the Hound group.
  • The Whippet is considered to be in the sighthound family, which is the group of Greyhound-like dogs who are very fast and chase game by sight. His top speed is not as fast as a Greyhound’s, but he is far more agile and tends to have more endurance.
  • Today Whippets compete in amateur racing and in lure coursing, where they are the most successful breed.

  • Whippets are also very successful show dogs. Two Whippets have won Best in Show at England’s Crufts dog show, one of the largest and most prestigious shows in the world. One Whippet has won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show, in 1964. Five have won the Hound group there, most recently in 2010.
  • The Whippet is currently the 59th most popular American Kennel Club breed, exactly what it was a decade ago.
  • In 2010, a British pet insurance company named the Whippet as the breed with the most expensive claims — despite the fact they are a very healthy breed.
  • The Whippet is the only breed of dog known to carry the gene for so-called double muscling, which causes excessive muscling in dogs who carry two copies of it. These dogs are known as “bully” Whippets because of their weightlifter-like appearance.
  • A Whippet played a role on the television series Frasier.

  • Several products have been named Whippet, including the Whippet car, the Austin Whippet (a single-seat light aircraft), the Medium Mark A Whippet (a tank), the Whippet steam locomotive, the USS Whippet (a United States Navy ship), the Whippet raincoat, and the Bleriot-Whippet, a four-wheeled cycle car. A “whippet” is also slang for a cartridge filled with nitrous oxide, used for making whipped cream or, ahem, getting high.
  • Owners include Apphia Michael, British art critic Brian Sewell, and Alex James of Blur.
  • Two breeds are offshoots of the Whippet probably crossed with Shetland Sheepdogs: The Longhaired Whippet and the Silken Windhound (also crossed with the Borzoi).

Do you own a Whippet? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for American Kennel Club Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.