A brindle whippet
Other namesSnap dog (archaic)
OriginUnited Kingdom
Height Males
47 to 51 cm (18.5 to 20 in)
44 to 47 cm (17.5 to 18.5 in)
Coat fine, dense, short
  • FCI: immaterial (not important)
  • UK: any except merle[1]
Litter size 1–10, average 6.1[2]
Life span 12–14 years[3]
Kennel club standards
The Kennel Club [[1] standard]
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The whippet is a British breed of medium-sized dog, of the sighthound type, related to the larger greyhound and the smaller Italian greyhound. Apart from the differences in height, the whippet closely resembles these two breeds; it has sometimes been described as "the poor man's greyhound".[4] It is kept as a companion dog, for competitive showing, for amateur racing as well as lure coursing. It has the highest running-speed of any breed in its weight and size range, and may have the fastest idle-to-running acceleration of any dog.[5]

The breed's name, ‘whippet’, is derived from an early seventeenth-century word (now obsolete) meaning "to move briskly".[6]

There has been some continuity in describing greyhound-types of different sizes — large, medium and small, recorded in hunting manuals and works on natural history from the Middle Ages. Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, confirmed in his early 15th-century translation of (and additions-to) an original, late 14th-century French Livre de chasse the advantages of maintaining the ‘great’, the ‘middle’, and the ‘small size of greyhound’ for different sorts of game.[7] The English physician and academic John Caius refers in his 16th century De Canibus Britannicus to lesser as well as greater sorts of Leporarius, Grehounde (greyhound)[8] and notably to a type which has been connected to the whippet, the tumbler, a lesser sort of mungrell greyhounde and excellent warren dog for catching rabbits,[9] also recorded by the early 19th-century Scottish curator and editor Thomas Brown.[10] The Victorian English writers describe an emerging modern breed of whippet, or snap-dog, bred for catching rabbits, coursing competitions, straight rag-racing, and for the novel show fancy.[11][12] [2]


a painting of pair of small greyhound-like dogs
Misse and Turlu, Two small Greyhounds Belonging to Louis XV, by Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton by Batoni, 1758, featuring a dog that appears to be an early form of Whippet.

Whippets, as with all sighthounds, were bred to hunt by a sight-driven prey instinct, coursing game in open areas at very high speeds. There are numerous representations of smallish, sighthound-like hunting dogs in Ancient Egyptian artworks dating back thousands of years, possibly portraying ancient forms of greyhound, basenji, Pharaoh hound or saluki.[13] In medieval England, a small greyhound-type breed became popular for use as a ratting dog (terrier); the first written English use of the word whippet (with regards to a type of dog) was in 1610.[14] Whippets were commonly known as "snap dogs" for their tendency to readily "snap up" nearby prey, due to their naturally high prey-drive. In a painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755) of two dogs named ‘Misse’ and ‘Turlu’, presented to Louis XV of France, the dogs painted were either whippets or another small, smooth-coated sighthound, but likely were an early form of the whippet.[15] Oudry had also completed a second painting of Misse with a different, non-sighthound breed of dog. There is a 1758 painting by Pompeo Batoni, Portrait of Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton, which features a similar, whippet-like dog.[15]

In the 19th century, whippet racing was a popular sport in parts of England.[4][15] The breed was held in high regard in the northern parts of England, as well as in Wales, but was generally disregarded in the rest of the country.[15] At the time, there were two varieties of whippet; one type had a smoother coat and was more popular in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and the Midlands, later becoming the modern whippet.[15] The second form had a rougher coat as a result of crossbreeding with Bedlington terriers. This type was more popular in Durham and Northumberland, and was frequently referred-to as a "rabbit dog".[15] Early specimens were taken from the race track by dog fanciers of the time, and later exported around the world. John Taylor said that "In all the shapes and forms of dogges; of all which there are but two sorts that are useful to man's profits, which two are the mastiffe and the little curre, whippet, or house-dogge; all the rest are for pleasure and recreation."[16]

The age of the modern whippet seemingly dawned in 1891 when The Kennel Club granted the breed its official recognition, thus making whippets eligible for competition and judging in dog shows, as well as commencing the recording of their pedigrees.[17] In the United States, the whippet was recognised three years prior, in 1888, by the American Kennel Club (AKC).[17] Whippets arrived in the United States (via mill operators) from England, with the first populations being established in Massachusetts.[18] The whippet is the 55th most popular breed, according to ranking by the AKC.[19]

In 1964, Ch. Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.[20] In 1992, Pencloe Dutch Gold won best in show at Crufts;[21] a whippet known as Cobyco Call the Tune won in 2004[22] and, in 2018, the award was achieved by Ch. Collooney Tartan Tease.[23] In 2011, GCh. Starline's Chanel, a female whippet, was chosen as the Hound group Show Dog of the Year by the Westminster Kennel Club.[24]


A tan dog wearing a blue jacket emblazoned with the number two. The dog is running, with all four legs fully extended and off the ground.
Full extension
A black and white dog wearing a red jacket emblazoned with the number one. The dog is running, with all four legs tucked under its body and off the ground.
Full contraction
The two suspensions of the double suspension gallop, as demonstrated by racing Greyhounds

Dog racing was originally an extension of hare coursing.[25] Whippets began to be bred to race in the mid-nineteenth century.[4][15] The first form of the sport was a rudimentary form of coursing known as 'ragging', and dogs who participated were said to be 'trained to the rag'.[15] Dogs were kept on a leash by a person known as a slip, who was frequently also the race judge.[15] The slip would release the dogs from their collars at the same time, and they would race towards their owners, who were standing at the opposite end of the track waving towels.[15][25]

Whippet rags were a popular Sunday event in the north and Midlands at the time.[15] There were also international events; in Australia, at a track known as Gurney's Paddock, there were races of more than 300 whippets every Saturday, and three nights a week at the White City track.[25] Eventually, the sport evolved and dogs were divided into four groups: those who hunted rabbits, which was not governed by rules; those who coursed hare, for which a set of rules was established; those trained to the rag; and those trained to chase a mechanical lure in a fashion similar to Greyhound races.[15] Few of the Whippets in any of the four groups were purebred, as maintaining a purebred bloodline was not considered as important as breeding dogs that could win races.[15] Many racing dogs were part-terrier, part-Greyhound, or part-Lurcher.[15]

In 1967, the British Whippet Racing Association was established to bring around reform and consistency in race rules and procedures for races involving non-purebred Whippets.[15] A year later, viewing the non-purebred dogs as a threat, the Whippet Club Racing Association was established exclusively for purebred animals.[15]



The Whippet is a medium-sized dog: the ideal height for bitches is 44 to 47 cm (17.5 to 18.5 in), and for dogs 47 to 51 cm (18.5 to 20 in).[26][27] The standards of the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club allow for larger animals, with an upper limit of 55 cm (21.5 in) for bitches and 57 cm (22.5 in) for dogs.[18][28] Because colour is considered immaterial in judging Whippets, they come in a wide variety of colours and marking patterns, everything from solid black to solid white, with red, fawn, brindle, blue, or cream.[26] In 2019, The Kennel Club announced it would no longer accept registrations for merle Whippets as it is not a naturally occurring colour in the breed.[29][30] The coat is short, smooth and close.

They are the fastest dog of their weight, capable of achieving speeds of up to 56 km/h (35 mph),[18] due to their ability to run in a double suspension gallop.[31] This gait results in four of the dog's legs being off the ground twice in each stride, once when the legs are completely extended and again when they are tucked under the body.[31]


Whippets are quiet and reserved but also exhibit a playful side, and require regular exercise.[18] They are generally gentle dogs and are often content to spend much of the day resting.[18] The AKC describes them as "quiet and dignified in their owner's living room"[18] and says they make "excellent house dogs."[18] Whippets have been called a "poor man's racehorse"[4] by the colliers in Lancashire and Yorkshire.[32]

The whippet will form a strong bond and devotion to their owner and as such can often suffer from separation anxiety like many other breeds when left alone.[33] They do not bark often but do occasionally in the presence of intruders, making the whippet a passable watch dog similar to other small-medium dogs. However a whippet would likely never attack or guard against anyone due to their gentle and often shy demeanour.[34]


a Whippet dog with extreme large muscles
A 'bully whippet'

Whippets course, work, and race; they have been bred for these jobs for years. This has kept them a structurally sound breed which is predominantly free from the physical exaggerations that can lead to certain health problems.[35] Whippets are, like other sighthounds, intolerant of barbiturate anaesthetics. This is in part due to their low concentration of body fat and their liver's inability to metabolise the anaesthetics.[36]

Given proper nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care, most Whippets live for 12 to 15 years.[37] A UK breed survey puts the median lifespan at 12 years 10 months.[38] They are generally healthy, and are not prone to the frequent ear infections, skin allergies, or digestive problems that can afflict other breeds. Genetic eye defects, though quite rare, have been noted in the breed. Because of this, the American Whippet Club recommends that breeders test for this defect in their breeding stock.[39] Hip dysplasia is rare in Whippets, with only 1.2% of 161 evaluations performed by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals being determined as dysplasic.[40]

The heart of a Whippet is large and slow beating, often being arrhythmic or even intermittent when the animal is at rest. This sometimes causes concern to the owner, or to the vet not experienced with the breed. Whippets will, however, demonstrate a regular heartbeat during exercise. In a health survey conducted by The Kennel Club, cardiac problems were shown to be the second leading cause of mortality in Whippets.[41]

A 2007 study[42] identified a myostatin mutation particular to Whippets that is significantly associated with their athletic performance. Whippets with a single copy of this mutation are generally unaffected; those with two copies have disproportionately large musculature and are known as "bully whippets". These bully whippets experience no significant health problems beyond those experienced by a normal whippet, but may be more prone to muscle cramping.[43] The mutation has not been seen in Greyhounds or other sighthound breeds, or in heavily muscled dogs such as Bullmastiffs, Bulldogs, Rottweilers or American Staffordshire Terriers.[43]


  1. ^ Beckett-Bradshaw, A., 2019 The merle color pattern in the whippet. Sighthound Review (10) 1 Spring p108
  2. ^ Borge, K. S.; Tønnessen, R.; Nødtvedt, A.; Indrebø, A. (2011). "Litter size at birth in purebred dogs—A retrospective study of 224 breeds". Theriogenology. 75 (5): 911–919. doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2010.10.034. PMID 21196028.
  3. ^ Cassidy, Kelly (2007). "Breed Longevity Data". Dog Longevity. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Coile, Caroline (1998). Whippets: A complete pet owner's manual. Hauppauge, N.Y: Barron's. p. 8. ISBN 0-7641-0312-1. OCLC 38016572. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  5. ^ D. Caroline Coile (1998)."Whippets: Everything about Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Behavior, Training, and Exercising". p. 51. Barron's Educational Series
  6. ^ "whippet facts, information". Encyclopedia.com.
  7. ^ Baillie-Grohman, W. A. (1909). The master of game: the oldest English book on hunting. London.
  8. ^ Caius, J., Of Englishe dogges, the diversities, the names, the natures and the properties. A short treatise written in Latine and newly drawne into Englishe by Abraham Fleming. Translation; Fleming A., 1880 London ed., pp. 9-10
  9. ^ Caius, J., Of Englishe dogges, the diversities, the names, the natures and the properties. A short treatise written in Latine and newly drawne into Englishe by Abraham Fleming. Translation; Fleming A., 1880 London ed., pp. 11-12
  10. ^ Brown, T., 1829 Biographical sketches and authentic anecdotes of dogs, 1829, pp. 416-17.
  11. ^ Dalziel, H., 1879 [ British dogs; their varieties, history, characteristics, breeding, management and exhibition, London, pp. 45-8.
  12. ^ Shaw, V., 1881, The illustrated book of the dog, London, pp. 255-58.
  13. ^ Coile, Caroline (1998). Whippets: A complete pet owner's manual. Hauppauge, N.Y: Barron's. p. 6. ISBN 0-7641-0312-1. OCLC 38016572. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  14. ^ "Whippet". Merriam-Webster. 13 August 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Walsh, E.G.; Lowe, Mary (2004). The English Whippet. Coch-Y-Bonddu Books. ISBN 1-904784-03-8. OCLC 650188132. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  16. ^ "The Whippet: Something About the Animal and in Racing Abilities". The Montreal Gazette. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Gazette. 25 October 1904. p. 12. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  17. ^ a b Coile, Caroline (1998). Whippets: A complete pet owner's manual. Hauppauge, N.Y: Barron's. p. 9. ISBN 0-7641-0312-1. OCLC 38016572. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
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  19. ^ "Whippet Dog Breed Information".
  20. ^ Fletcher. Walter R. (11 February 1996). "All Those Dogs, All Those Tales". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  21. ^ Coile, D. Caroline; Earl-Bridges, Michele (26 May 2000). Whippets: Everything about Purchase, Care, Nutrition, Behavior, Training, and Exercising. Complete Pet Owner's Manual. Barron's Educational Series. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-7641-0312-4. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  22. ^ "Crufts 2004 Results". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  23. ^ Bentley, David (11 March 2018). "Crufts 2018 Live Results - all the winners including Best in Show as they are announced". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Dogs of Esteem". Dog World. 97 (6). BowTie Inc: 20. June 2012.
  25. ^ a b c Rule, Andrew (14 November 1980). "The wiry whippet". Weekender. Melbourne. The Age. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  26. ^ a b "Fédération Cynologique Internationale - Whippet". Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  27. ^ "The Kennel Club - Whippets" (DOC). The Kennel Club. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  28. ^ "Canadian Kennel Club - Whippet" (PDF). Canadian Kennel Club. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  29. ^ "Merle coloured Whippets". www.thekennelclub.org.uk. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  30. ^ "Whippet Colors | American Whippet Club". americanwhippetclub.net. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
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  33. ^ Jamie. "Can Whippets Be Left Alone?". Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  34. ^ "Is A Whippet A Guard Dog? Will He Protect? - WhippetCentral". whippetcentral.com. 13 July 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  35. ^ Ewing, Patty (2010). "Whippet Health". www.whippet-health.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  36. ^ "Saluki Anesthesia". Saluki Club of America. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
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  39. ^ "Whippet Health | American Whippet Club". americanwhippetclub.net. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  40. ^ "Trends in Hip Dysplasia (selected breeds)". Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  41. ^ "Summary results of the Purebred Dog Health Survey for Whippets" (PDF). The Kennel Club/British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  42. ^ Mosher, Dana S; Quignon, Pascale; Bustamante, Carlos D; Sutter, Nathan B; Mellersh, Cathryn S; Parker, Heidi G; Ostrander, Elaine A (25 May 2007). "A Mutation in the Myostatin Gene Increases Muscle Mass and Enhances Racing Performance in Heterozygote Dogs". PLOS Genetics. 3 (5): e79. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030079. PMC 1877876. PMID 17530926.
  43. ^ a b Coile, Caroline (June 2008). "Breeder's Notebook: The Double-Muscle Phenomenon". Dog World. BowTie Inc: 24–25.