Let's talk Whippets

Speed, strength and agility sum up the Whippet’s physical characteristics, and when it comes to personality this charming dog has plenty going for it too. Affectionate and gentle Whippets made their name as hunting dogs and nowadays, as well as excelling at sports like racing, they also make lovely family pets. Unsurprisingly, given their reputation for speed and their lean silhouette, they do need owners who can commit to giving them plenty of exercise – as well as plenty of cuddles, though this last part shouldn’t be too hard.

Official name: Whippet

Other names: None

Origins: United Kingdom

Black and white portrait of a Whippet
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather?
 Shedding level
Suited to apartment living?  Very high
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* Medium Family Pet?* 
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets Medium
Can stay alone?*

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
Inline Image 15
Illustration of a Whippet
Male
44 - 47 cm Height
11 - 18 kg Weight
Female
44 - 47 cm Height
11 - 18 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 10 months
 Adult age  10 months to 8 years
 Mature age  8 to 12 years
 Senior age  from 12 years

Whippet running through field

1/7

Get to know the Whippet

All you need to know about the breed

Whippets are sleek and muscular dogs, often described as looking like Greyhounds, but smaller. As well as the go-faster silhouette, they also share their bigger counterpart’s gentle and affectionate nature. The resemblance is no coincidence: the Whippet breed was developed through cross-breeding between Greyhounds and other fast, long-legged breeds including terriers.

Whippets may be built for speed and activity but when at home, they go into energy saving mode, stretching out and lazing around calmly with their humans until it’s time to play again. They even adapt well to apartment living, provided their exercise needs are met. While Whippets are not known for their barking, they are sociable, family-orientated dogs and if left alone for extended periods they may protest through barking or chewing.

Once trained, Whippets should get on fine with children as well as other dogs (they enjoy playing, after all) but they were bred for hunting and their strong prey drive endures, so they are not suitable pets for households including cats or small animals such as hamsters or guinea pigs.

Anyone who has seen a Whippet run will also understand why that chasing instinct means that if they’re off the lead for exercise, it needs to be in a securely enclosed space. Given the chance they’ll doggedly – and speedily – follow a scent for miles. And we really do mean miles.

Whippet running over pebbley beach

2/7

2 facts about Whippets

1. Say whappet?

Mystery surrounds the origins of the Whippet’s name. Theories range from a now obsolete word meaning “move briskly”; a slang word meaning “little cur” (itself a not very flattering description of a dog and famous Shakespearean insult) or “small dog that yelps”.

2. Lightning Rag Dog

In the early days of the breed, when Whippets competed in “rag races”, they earned the nickname “Lightning Rag Dog”, on account of their speed. This lightning-fast canine can run at speeds of up to 35 miles (56 km) per hour. That’s fast enough to break the modern-day speed limit of 30 miles per hour in the Yorkshire and Lancashire villages the breed hails from.

3/7

History of the breed

The Whippet breed dates its origins back to the late 18th or early 19th century, in the northern English counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Resourceful coal miners and mill workers who enjoyed dog racing and rabbit hunting but found the costs of keeping large dogs such as Greyhounds prohibitive, set out to create their own smaller breed. It was a resounding success.

The crossing of Greyhounds with fast and long-legged breeds – Manchester Terriers and Italian Greyhounds are thought to feature in the Whippet mix – produced a dog that was used for hunting (or in many cases poaching) small animals such as rabbits. They were also put to the test in “rag races” in which the dogs would chase a waving cloth down a long straight course.

The Kennel Club officially recognised the Whippet breed in 1891. The Americans had got there first, however – British workers emigrating to the US brought their dogs with them, and the breed soon became popular stateside. The American Kennel Club had registered the Whippet breed in 1888.

Black and white portrait of a sitting Whippet

4/7

From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Whippets

1. Head

Long, lean head, broader at the eyes, tapering to muzzle

2. Ears

Small ears, flat against the head and held back

3. Body

Strong, muscular but lean body with deep chest

4. Coat

Fine short coat in grey, brown, white, tan and grey

5. Tail

Long tapering tail

Two Whippets stood facing opposite directions

5/7

Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Whippet
Beige Whippet stood in mountainous scenery

6/7

Caring for your Whippet

Grooming, training and exercise tips

That lovely smooth coat pretty much looks after itself – just a weekly groom will do, and it’s a great chance for a cuddle. Whippets’ ears need to be checked regularly for signs of infection (redness or hotness) and nails should be trimmed too if they don’t wear down naturally. Whippets are a breed known for their speed and although they are content spending hours curled up in their basket at home – as long as their humans are nearby – they do also need quite a bit of exercise. Regular walks, intense play sessions chasing a ball or runs off the lead (in a securely enclosed space) would all fit the bill. Early, patient and positive training is a must to ensure your Whippet grows up into a well-socialised, well-adjusted dog. They may have a mischievous streak but they’re intelligent and good-natured so they are open to learning. Just remember to take any food rewards out of their daily rations!

7/7

All about Whippets

In a word, no. The Whippet is not a breed known for barking, although they may make some noise if they’re left alone for long periods. If you’re after a guard dog, this is probably not the breed for you. If it’s an affectionate and gentle pet you’re after, the Whippet is an excellent choice.

Whippets are not the most gregarious breed of dogs – they can be wary of people they don’t know (although early socialisation can help with this) – but the good news for would-be owners is they are known to be cuddly and affectionate with their own humans. Once trained, they get on well with children.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/