Whippet History and Origins

Whippets are elegant and graceful dogs known for their incredible speed and agility. These medium-sized sighthounds have a fascinating history and origin that dates back several centuries. In this article, we will explore the captivating journey of the Whippet breed, from its early development to its present-day popularity. So, let’s dive into the world of Whippet history and uncover their remarkable past.

What is a Whippet?

The Whippet is a breed of dog that falls under the sighthound category. They are known for their sleek and aerodynamic build, enabling them to reach astonishing speeds. Whippets are often compared to smaller versions of Greyhounds, sharing similar physical characteristics and ancestry.

History and Origins of Whippets

The history of Whippets can be traced back to ancient times when they were revered for their exceptional hunting skills and companionship. Let’s delve into their origin story and understand how these marvelous dogs became a beloved breed.

Ancient Beginnings

Whippets can trace their ancestry to ancient Egypt, where depictions of similar-looking dogs have been found on ancient artifacts. These elegant dogs were highly valued for their speed, agility, and hunting prowess. It is believed that they were often seen accompanying the nobility during hunting expeditions.

Development in England

The true evolution of Whippets as a distinct breed began in England during the Industrial Revolution. This can be traced back to the 18th century in England, where they emerged from breeding Greyhounds with smaller-sized terrier-type dogs.

This intentional crossbreeding aimed to produce a smaller, more agile version of the Greyhound, suitable for hunting small game like rabbits. The resulting offspring were known as “snap dogs” due to their ability to snap up prey swiftly.

Whippets in England

Whippets quickly gained popularity among the working-class communities in northern England, particularly in the coal mining regions. These dogs were highly valued for their hunting abilities and were commonly used in coursing events. Their exceptional speed and agility made them successful hunters, and their popularity continued to grow.

brown brindle whippet running
They’re VERY fast!

Racing Dogs

One significant milestone in Whippets’ history was Whippet racing’s emergence. During the 19th century, Whippets started to transition from hunting to racing. The working-class communities in Northern England embraced this thrilling sport, organizing races where Whippets showcased their incredible speed and agility.

These races became popular entertainment for participants and spectators, further fueling the growth of the breed’s popularity. Their incredible acceleration and nimble bodies made them perfect for the sport. Whippet racing became a beloved pastime in many communities.

Rise to Prominence

During the late 19th century, Whippets gained recognition beyond their hunting and racing abilities. Their elegant appearance, gentle nature, and remarkable athleticism caught the attention of the upper class.

Wealthy families began to keep Whippets as companion dogs, appreciating their affectionate demeanor and compact size, which made them well-suited for indoor living.

The Whippet breed as we know it today started to take shape during this time. Breeders selectively crossed these small Greyhounds with Italian Greyhounds, another breed known for their elegance and speed. The infusion of Italian Greyhound blood brought refinement and elegance to the Whippet’s appearance, enhancing their natural grace and beauty.

Whippets in America

The history of Whippets took an exciting turn when they crossed the Atlantic and made their way to America in the late 19th century. They quickly gained popularity among dog enthusiasts and found success in various endeavors.

Whippets proved themselves as exceptional racing dogs and competitive show dogs, mesmerizing judges with their grace and poise. Their reputation as versatile and athletic companions continued to grow.

brindle white whippet
White and brindle Whippet

Standard and Recognition

In 1891, the Kennel Club in England officially recognized the Whippet breed. This recognition solidified the breed’s status and led to the establishment of breed standards. The standard outlined Whippets’ ideal physical and temperamental characteristics, ensuring consistency in breeding and maintaining the breed’s integrity.

Modern Era

As we progress into today, Whippets have firmly established themselves as beloved family pets and successful show dogs. Their unique blend of elegance, speed, and gentle nature has endeared them to countless dog lovers worldwide. Let’s explore their prominence in various spheres of contemporary society.

Whippets in the Show Ring

Whippets have flourished in dog shows, where their remarkable conformation and elegance are meticulously evaluated. Their intelligence yet sleek, muscular bodies and captivating movement make them a true delight to behold. Whippets have claimed numerous accolades and championships in prestigious dog shows, solidifying their status as one of the most admired breeds.

Family Companions

Beyond their showmanship, Whippets excel as affectionate and devoted family companions. Their gentle and loving nature makes them exceptional additions to households of all sizes.

Forming strong bonds with their human family members, offering unwavering loyalty and affection are what Whippets have become to be known for. They thrive on companionship and make excellent playmates for children, always eager to participate in family activities.

whippet and owners
A modern day Whippet

Whippets in Sports

The athleticism and agility of Whippets have paved the way for their involvement in various dog sports. They excel in lure coursing, agility trials, and obedience competitions. Their natural speed and quick reflexes allow them to navigate challenging courses with precision and finesse, showcasing their exceptional athletic abilities.

Therapy Dogs

With their calm and gentle demeanor, Whippets have also found their calling as service and therapy dogs. Their soothing presence and affectionate nature provide comfort and joy to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other therapeutic environments. Whippets are intuitive and sensitive to the needs of others, making them excellent therapy companions for those needing emotional support.

Popular Culture

Whippets have made their mark in popular culture through various mediums. They have been featured in books, movies, and artwork, often depicted as elegant and regal dogs. Their unique appearance and athleticism have captured the imagination of many artists and creators.

Adoption and Rescue

For those considering adding a Whippet to their family, adoption and rescue organizations provide opportunities to give these dogs a loving home. Many Whippets find themselves in need of new families due to various circumstances. Adopting a Whippet can be a rewarding experience and a chance to provide a second chance to these beautiful animals.


The history and origins of Whippets are a testament to their versatility and enduring charm. From their humble beginnings as hunting dogs in England to their present-day roles as loving companions and competitive athletes, Whippets have left an indelible mark in the hearts of dog enthusiasts worldwide.

Their grace, speed, and affectionate nature make them genuinely remarkable companions. So, whether you’re captivated by their racing prowess or charmed by their gentle demeanor, Whippets are sure to leave an everlasting impression.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How did Whippets get their name?

Whippets derived their name from the term “whippet,” which describes small dogs or greyhounds. The name is believed to have originated from the expression “whip it,” which referred to the rapid movement of these dogs during hunting and racing.

Are Whippets related to Greyhounds?

Yes, Whippets share a close genetic relationship with Greyhounds. They were selectively bred from Greyhounds and smaller terrier-type dogs to create a more compact and agile breed.

Were Whippets successful in dog racing?

Yes, Whippets excelled in the world of dog racing. Their exceptional speed and agility made them formidable competitors on the racetrack. Whippet racing events drew large crowds, further boosting the breed’s popularity.

Are Whippets still popular today?

Absolutely! Whippets continue to be cherished as both show dogs and loving companions. Their distinctive appearance, gentle temperament, and athletic abilities make them a favorite among dog enthusiasts worldwide.

What is the significance of the American Whippet Club?

Established in 1912, the American Whippet Club played a crucial role in promoting and preserving the Whippet breed in the United States. It continues to support breeders, exhibitors, and enthusiasts, ensuring the breed’s vitality and well-being.

Are Whippets popular parent breeds for cross-breeding?

Definitely! Checkout some of the common and post popular Whippet lurchers there are around!

Evan S. Conaway

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