The Whippet dog breed originated in the
17th or 18th century, when greyhounds
that were too small to hunt deer were
bred together exclusively by peasants
who could not legally own hunting dogs.
These early Whippets were bred to capture
rats and hunt small prey such as rabbits,
primarily using their vision to hunt.
Once the breed gained popularity, Whippet
racing became a popular sport, and people
began to breed Whippets for racing.
Whippets are medium-sized dogs; an average
Whippet weighs 28 pounds and measures
17.5-22.5 inches in height. Each Whippet
has a very lean, sleek physique; they
are thin, long, and well-muscled. Whippets
have long, lean skulls; long muzzles that
taper out to their noses; scissor bites;
small ears that are folded and held back;
and long tails that taper to a point They
have short, fine, and close coats, and
each dog may display any or several of
a wide array of colors and marking patterns.
Slight regional differences may be observed
between North American Whippets and European
Whippets on account of the differing breed
standards in different countries. The
Belgian FCI and the British KC demand
heights of 17.5-18.5 inches in females
and 18.5-20 inches in males, while the
American AKC and the Canadian CKC demand
heights of 17.5-21.5 inches in females
and 18.5-22.5 inches in males. Since dogs
are bred to meet these standards, North
American Whippets tend to be larger than
Whippets are typically quiet house dogs,
gentle with children, and very loving,
making them lovable and devoted companions
and great pets. However, they may frighten
easily upon being unexpectedly touched,
and therefore require gentle handling.
Whippets are also known to be intelligent
dogs. Whippets can reside in apartments,
but are not low-maintenance dogs; they
must be walked regularly and receive ample
attention, and do not fare well when left
alone for long periods of time.
Whippets are sprinters, and can accelerate
quickly. They can run at a top speed of
35 miles per hour, which is higher than
that of domestic cats and makes them the
fastest breed of their weight. This is
largely because of the Whippet's use of
a double suspension gallop, in which a
Whippet first fully extends all four legs
in the air, then tucks them under their
body. Because of their speed, Whippet
racing remains a popular sport since its
introduction in 19th century England.
Whippets may also partake in dog sports
such as agility, flyball, and lure coursing.
Whippets are generally very healthy dogs,
and tend not to experience many of the
health problems common in most other breeds.
However, Whippets have large hearts that
beat slowly when they are not exercising,
and even abnormally and unsteadily when
they are resting, making them prone to
heart complications. Though the apparently
abnormal behavior of a Whippet's heart
should be of little concern to a Whippet
owner, heart problems are the second leading
cause of Whippet death. The average Whippet
life span is 12-15 years.