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race history

The origin of the breed is immersed in a scenario of controversial opinions and theories. Some, based on ancient paintings, maintain that the whippet has existed as a recognized breed since ancient times. While others claim that the breed only came into existence in the late nineteenth century, when greyhounds were bred to terriers, and later to the Italian greyhound to produce a small, fast dog for hunting rabbits and then for racing.


At this time the greyhound was a dog owned only by the nobles. That's why the whippet became known as the 'greyhound of the poor' - mainly mine workers in northern England towns. As the races were promoted on straight tracks and their owners waited at the end of them swinging a cloth, this sport was known at the time as the 'cloth race'.


The American Kennel Club registered the first whippet in 1888. The dog was Jack Dempsey and was born on September 23, 1885. He was bred by PH Hoffman of Philadelphia. The official recognition of the breed by the English Kennel Club took place in 1891 in England.


In the first edition of Mr. Frederick Lloyd Freeman's book 'The Whippet and Race Dog' published in 1894, he confirmed that the whippet was originally produced by a cross between the greyhound and the terrier. Fitter BS also commented in his book 'The Show and Working Whippet' published in 1947 that Northumberland and Durham miners produced the whippet for racing. And even pointed out that terrier blood gave tenacity, while greyhound blood lent its speed, strength and conformation.


However, as far back as 1907, it was suspected that the whippet breed was much older than a few hundred years. In an article by FC Hignett in 'Whippets in the New Book of the Dog' published that same year, he claimed that whippet racing was mainly for the working class, miners from Lan Cashire, Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland. He also commented that there were  evidence that whippet existed as a breed, even before dog shows and pedigree records. He further recognized that the greyhound has its share in whippet genetics, not only because it looks like a miniature greyhound, but because the purpose for which it was created is also very similar to that of its larger prototype.  


W. Lewis Renwick wrote in 1956 of the greyhound and terrier cross theory: "I don't think this evidence is strong enough to establish this  claim. It seems such an easy way to get the answer, as it is obvious that the whippet is the greyhound type (it is so obvious that the Italian greyhound is the greyhound type as well). But I can see nothing in the whippet that resembles the conformation of a terrier.” He believed that Italian whippets and greyhounds were simply reduced greyhounds. Lewis stated that  Greyhounds have been portrayed by artists for thousands of years and he is "forced to conclude that the only real evidence we have about the origin of our whippets will be found in ancient works of art."  


CH Douglas Tood in his book 'The Popular Whippet', published in 1961, confirmed Lewis' theory. He commented that the Greeks portrayed greyhound-type dogs on ceramic statues. And that the smallest type of these dogs looked a lot like the whippet in shape and size. There is little doubt that the Greco-Roman group of dogs (now at the British Museum), found on Monte Cagnolo near Laneivum, is a fine work of art that typically depicts two whippet dogs than any other breed. Other artworks showing whippet dogs are 'Joachim with Shepards' by Giotto 1350, 'The Light of the World' by Menline 1450 and the 'Vision of St. Hubert' by Darer.


In the book 'The English Whippet', published in 2004, EG Walsh and Mary Lowe defend the fascinating theory that "with selected crosses, from the same gene bank, one can, in a few generations, produce an Italian greyhound and a greyhound from a blood line originally from whippets".  


According to the classification of the Brazilian Confederation of Cinophilia and the International Cynological Federation (CBKC/FCI) they are members of Group 10. In the same group we find other breeds, among them the most popular are the Greyhound, Saluki, Borzói, Italian Greyhound and Afgan Hound . The dogs of this group are commonly known as GALGOS (name adopted by Portuguese cynophilia), SIGHTHOUNDS (which means dogs that hunt by sight), GAZEHOUNDS (alluding to hunting gazelles) and WINDEHUNDE (which in German means dog of the winds).


Today's whippet retains its hunting instinct, but it would be impossible to write about the breed, not to mention its wonderful aptitude as a companion dog. Without a doubt, today they are the most versatile dogs of any canine group. Its size, short coat and easy maintenance, and especially its stable and friendly temperament make it an excellent pet for the most different lifestyles.  In addition to being excellent companions for outdoor activities, they love to be indoors, with their owner on the sofa in the living room.



- Hignett GC, The New Book of the Dog, Cassell and Companu, London, Paris, New York, Torono and Melbourne, 1907

- Renwick L.. The Whippet Handbook, Nicholson and Watson, London, 1956.

- The Modern Dog Encyclopedia, The Telegraph Press, 1953

- Todd CHD, The Popular Whippet, Arco Publishing Company, New York, 1961.

- Walsh EG, Lowe M., The English Whippet, Coch-y-Bonddu, 2004

- Whippet History

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