The whippet is a medium-sized sighthound known for its elegant appearance and similarity to the greyhound. Like the greyhound, the whippet is capable of high speeds and maintains a lean physique.
The whippet is considered the fastest domestic animal based on its weight; it can run as fast as 35 miles per hour.
The head is long and lean with small ears and oval-shaped eyes. The tail is long and many tend to curl at the end. The short coat comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Whippets weigh between 25 and 45 pounds and average a height of 18 to 22 inches. Life expectancy is 10 to 15 years.
Many of the more dangerous forms of entertainment with animals, such as bull baiting and dog fighting, started to lose their appeal with the British public in the 1800s.
Whippets were bred from greyhounds and Italian greyhounds and were used in lure coursing events with rabbits. The earlier form of these events did not allow the rabbits to escape; the modern-day version is much more humane.
Members of the British public gambled on these events, and the whippet was later used in racing events, being nicknamed as the “poor man’s racehorse,” according to the American Kennel Club.
Whippets made their first appearance in America after being imported to Massachusetts, where they were used in racing events. Their popularity grew, and the events spread to other states along the East Coast. The AKC was first to recognize the breed, in 1888, and the English Kennel Club followed in 1891.
In more recent times, this breed has become somewhat peculiarly synonymous with the song “Whip It” by Devo, released in 1979. Several parodies, videos and consumer apparel have been created from the likeness of the breed and that song title.
The whippet was originally bred for lure coursing and racing events as a form of entertainment in England in the 1800s.
The breed is now a companion pet and also participates in conformation, hunting, lure coursing, racing, sighting and agility. Whippets are listed as one of the breeds included in the American Sighthound Field Association.
Intelligent, sweet, calm and docile — all of those attributes describe this breed. Plus, these dogs are quiet in the home.
Consistent training is needed with this breed, but they are sensitive to rough training or harsh teasing. They do well with children if the interactions are not too rambunctious, although, of course, every dog is different. Because of their calm nature indoors, whippets are recommended for apartment life.
Whippets are good with other dogs but should be closely supervised with other animals. Because they are sighthounds with a strong prey drive, it is possible for them to give chase and injure cats and other small animals. Cats raised with the dog from a young age have been known to become close friends with the breed.
Whippets can be wary of strangers and exhibit guard dog qualities, and it is important to properly socialize them. Housetraining may be difficult.
Whippets can also be entertaining dogs. In the video below, whippets Max and Jake obviously want something, a ritual their owner says they do every day about the same time. This particular time, he gets them singing:
Daily exercise is a must for this active breed, but there are some safety precautions to keep in mind. Whippets should be taken on daily walks and ideally given a safe, fenced area in which to run and exercise. They are inclined to chase small animals, so it is important to keep them on a leash or in a confined space while outside or exercising.
They do well in apartments if their daily exercise needs are met.
To get an idea of how fast whippets can move, check out this video of one keeping a ball up in the air and chasing its every descent.
Grooming is minimal with whippets, but consistent and regular grooming should still be part of your weekly routine.
The short coat can be brushed weekly or rubbed with a chamois. Bathe only when necessary; the short coat leaves the dog susceptible to temperature extremes. Weekly grooming includes checking and cleaning the ears, the teeth and keeping those nails at a comfortable length.
Common Health Problems
The whippet breed is healthy and is only susceptible to a few common health problems as a whole. Common ailments include:
- Susceptibility to heat and cold
- Skin problems
- Stomach issues
Is the Whippet the Right Dog for You?
Whippets are intelligent, active dogs that require daily exercise. They are elegant and quiet dogs indoors, although they can be pretty vocal. They are companion pets and like to be near their owners, but they can be wary of strangers. Other dogs in the house are okay, but whippets have a high prey drive.
Whippets are good with children as long as the kids are not too rough with the dog. Grooming is minimal but should be consistent on a weekly basis. Their think coat makes then susceptible to harsh temperatures, so keep your local climate in mind when choosing a whippet.
Apartment life is okay for this breed, but these dogs need to be exercised in safe, confined areas so they do not give chase to smaller animals.
They may be difficult to housebreak but certainly can be trained. Socialization should be thorough so they are not fearful of strangers and other dogs.
Keeping all those things in mind, you may find that a whippet will make a great addition to your family.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Yes, even full-bred whippets often wind up in shelters and rescues. Use Pets Adviser’s custom search to find an adoptable whippet near you. Breeders are available if you choose to buy a whippet — but please be aware of the many puppy mill red flags.
- American Kennel Club’s Whippet Page
- American Whippet Club
- The Whippet Club (Great Britain)
- National Whippet Club (Canada)
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