Showsight August 2020


THE Whippet


Submitted by Donna Lynch

I t is an exciting time to be a Whippet fancier. The breed is enjoying unprecedented success and popularity in so many areas of com- petition. As breeders we have always emphasized the versatility of the Whippet, and labeled it a well-kept secret. Now, for better or worse, the secret is out, and Whippets are setting records at the highest levels in the show ring, and dog sports as varied as agility, dock diving, flyball, lure coursing, and barn hunt, not to mention Whippet racing, which is actually the breed’s original purpose and forte. The Whippet, not the Greyhound, was the original breed of dog designed to compete on the racetrack, as well as serving other purposes in his humble history. The origin of the Whippet remains somewhat debatable. Clearly there were medium-sized sighthound type companions and hunting dogs portrayed in early Roman sculpture and artwork. The ancient Greeks depicted small Greyhound type dogs on pottery and sculpture as well. And, of course, there are many early tapestries that show hunt- ing dogs of a Greyhound style, many larger, but some smaller, in their coursing and hunting scenes. All of these throw the original descendants of the breed into question. It is ironic that the Whippet as he is regarded today has a reputation as a cultured companion, because the origin of the breed in its modern incarnation was extremely humble and that of the lower and working classes of British society. There is no doubt that this smaller racing dog and all-purpose utility dog was established with the miners of the north- ern counties of England. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, a quick and hardy, smallish and streamlined hound was prized by the col- liers and was considered the “poor man’s racehorse.” J. Wentworth Day, in his volume The Dog In Sport (1938) writes, “They were bred originally for rabbit coursing, and it is generally reckoned that the bitches are faster than the dogs. To-day no miner in the North of England considers him- self properly equipped if he is not the owner or part-owner of a Whippet. Apart from rabbit coursing in the open, a great deal of Whippet-racing goes on in industrial and mining districts, and in a good many country villages all over England. Racing is generally known as ‘straight run- ning.’ The dogs race down a series of lanes or tracks divided from one another by string. The ‘lure’ is a handkerchief or colored rag which the owner waves frantically at the end of the track.”

©Lorie Crain


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