Are you a Whippet lover but have always wondered about the Whippet’s origins? Why are Whippets the way they are? Where did they come from? What were Whippets bred for?
If you know anything about Whippet temperament, you’ll know that Whippets are a fun-loving dog breed who are quite happy to snooze when well-exercised. Whippets aren’t lazy, but they do enjoy a snooze!
Whippets are also speed merchants, being able to click up an impressive 35mph when running at full-throttle. They can also turn on a sixpence. meaning that even dogs with a faster top-speed can find it hard to catch them.
In this post I’m looking at what Whippets were bred for, and this is what you can expect to find out.
Table of Contents
- Whippet Temperament
- Where Do Whippets Come From?
- What Were Whippets Bred For?
- Related Posts
As a rule, Whippets are a very kind and loving dog breed. They can be a little wary of strangers and have a tendency to be independent.
Sometimes this independent nature gives people the impression that Whippets are disobedient and hard to train. Although they might not be the most obedient of dog breeds, Whippets are by no means untrainable.
Whippets also have a reputation as a lazy breed. This isn’t entirely true in my experience, since Whippets are just about as happy to snooze as any other dog breed if they have nothing to do.
That said, this may not be the case for Whippets that don’t get the exercise they need. Whippets may be boisterous and demanding if they don’t get a chance to burn off energy on a good walk.
A perfect gift for dog lovers!
This black and white photographic tribute to man's best friend, captures the diversity of the dog world.
Photographer Elliot Erwitt's "Dogs" shows the quirkiness of our furry friends in a series of loving compositions.
I've had this book for over 20 years and it's something I still flick through occasionally... friends and family love it too!
Like all dogs, Whippets need exercise!
In general, Whippets are very loyal, loving and gentle natured. They can be a little reserved around new people, but they’re extremely affectionate with their loved ones. This means Whippets are great dogs for families.
Where Do Whippets Come From?
Whippets are considered sighthounds… a large family that includes a number of breeds such as the:
- Galgo (Spanish and Italian)
- Italian Greyhound
- Longhaired Whippets
The origins of the Whippet are open to debate… that’s to say there appears to be no definitive view as to when they originated.
Some people believe that the Whippet breed was “created” in the 1700s. It’s said that Whippets came about initially as a result of breeding terriers and English Greyhounds. They were latterly refined by breeding in Italian Greyhounds to further enhance their elegant appearance.
Others believe Whippets are much older. They reference the fact that Whippet-like dogs feature in works of art going back to the Middle Ages.
Going even further back into history, the Romans appear to have brought small Greyhound-like dogs into England and this might help to explain the origin of Whippets. It’s clear there is a huge similarity in appearance between Whippets and Greyhounds, though of course Whippets are much smaller.
Perhaps initially Whippets evolved from planned and unplanned cross breeding between Roman “Greyhounds” and dog breeds the Celts raised?
What Were Whippets Bred For?
Since we don’t know for certain when Whippets were initially bred, we cannot know the reasons why the Whippet breed was created initially.
That said, it’s likely that Whippets were bred for speed and agility. The Whippet’s ability to run fast and change direction quickly without losing speed, perhaps made it an attractive breed for chasing and catching small game such as rabbits.
Of course Greyhounds too have a long history of “coursing” game. However, it’s larger size probably made it more suited to chasing larger quarry.
We know that Whippet-like dogs became popular within the working-classes from the 18th Century onwards, where their speed could provide a meal for the pot! However, they also provided a means of entertainment, not to mention a chance to earn a few pennies gambling on informal Whippet races.
We know that the Whippet was officially recognised as a breed in its own right by the American Kennel Club and yhe UK Kennel Club in 1888 and 1891 respectively. Of course, Whippets as we know them today must have been bred for many years before such formal recognition could occur.
Summary – What Were Whippets Bred For?
Though we can’t say with 100% certainty why when or what Whippets were bred for, we can surmise that in all likelihood Whippets were initially bred for catching small animals.
As time passed their “usefulness” extended to Whippet racing, especially in the north of England where it started to become a clandestine community-based event.
Nowadays, Whippets are also bred for their elegant physique… many people (myself included) adore the athletic look of Whippets and most Whippet breeders take great pride in producing dogs that excel in this aspect.
Many Whippet breeders are also extremely zealous in defending the purity of the breed and do not advocate Whippet mixes.
I know several people who have Whippet crosses and I feel this is fine as long as breeders are responsible and truly care for the litters they oversee: I certainly do not advocate “designer dog breeds” produced in a puppy farm to make money for an unscrupulous breeder.
Given that Whippets are generally very family oriented and loving, it’s entirely possible that Whippets were bred for their even temperament… they make excellent companions.
One final honourable mention. I’m not sure if Whippets were bred for helping to warm up a bed at night, but I can tell you they most certainly do… Whippets love sleeping under bed covers!
- Are Whippets Good Pets?
- Things to Think About When Buying a Whippet Puppy
- A Whippet Owner’s Starter Kit
- How Much Do Whippets Shed?
- Can Whippets Be Left Alone?
- 14 Amazing Facts About Whippets
- Common Whippet Health Problems
Do you have any questions? Perhaps you have some theories about what Whippets were bred for? Please leave your questions / thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.