Dog Breeds 101: Whippet

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The Whippet is a medium-sized dog that has also been known as the English Whippet or Snap Dog. The Whippet is the descendant of the larger Greyhound and is the product of a brutal past. English Forest Laws in the eleventh century required commoners to restrict their Greyhounds from hunting in the royal forest. If they were caught doing otherwise, the dogs were maimed. It is believed these discarded dogs were crossed with other breeds in order to create a dog that less resembled the Greyhound yet still maintained its speed. [1]

For many years, Whippets were bred to race, work, and course. Their accurate sight in wide open spaces was originally used for hunting small game. From its origin as a rabbit, rat and hare hunter, the Whippet has become a popular breed in the world of dog racing. Whippet enthusiasts enter their dogs in various dog sports such as flyball, agility and lure coursing. [2]

The breed’s coat is known to be short and smooth. When judging a Whippet, color is not necessarily valued – which is probably one of the reasons why the breed comes in various markings and colors such as black, blue, fawn, red, sable, brindle, black and white. [3]

Whippets are probably best recognized for their elegant slender frame, which allows the dog to accelerate quickly and maintain a fast running speed. With a maximum speed of 35 mph, the breed is probably the fastest running dog of its weight and size. They are also considered excellent pets because of their positive interactions with humans.

Generally, Whippets are gentle dogs that often choose to rest throughout the majority of the day. In fact, when they are not running, they are probably sleeping! Furthermore, they are intelligent, sensitive/emotional and quiet most of the time. Whippets are not the type of dog that barks easily. They love chasing other small animals but they rarely engage in fights. However, they can be overly sensitive to touch and may even overreact or jump when startled.

Nonetheless, Whippets are generally considered to be calm, docile, sweet, and very affectionate. They can be sensitive to harsh physical and mental training. Therefore, “positive reinforcement” is advised and punishment should be avoided – otherwise they can become fearful and terrified. [4]

This breed thrives in apartments on the condition that they get adequate daily physical activity – in other words, plenty of walking and running. They are very athletic in nature, thus, they need to get sufficient physical activity on a regular basis. Also, they should not be left outdoors, especially in regions with low temperatures, because they are sensitive to cold. Compared to other breeds, Whippets are clean and odor-free. Also, they are easily groomed and make excellent travel buddies.

On average, the life expectancy of a Whippet is anywhere from 12 to 15 years. They are generally healthy, however, it is worth noting that this breed can be susceptible to cardiac issues. [5]


[1] D. Caroline Coile, “Whippets” (Barron’s Educational Series, 1998).


[3] Megan M. Gunderson, “Whippets” (ABDO Publishing Company, 2013).

[4] E. G. Walsh and Mary Lowe, The English Whippet (Coch Y Bonddu Books, 2004).


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