"The Poor Man's Racehorse"

Photo of Whippet


Knowledge of the Whippet's beginnings is a little murky. Some historians and experts believe that the breed originated in ancient times; others maintain that the modern Whippet developed in northern England during the second half of the nineteenth century. Those who belong to the latter school of thought contend that breeders crossed Greyhounds and small terriers with the intention of producing a small, fast-moving dog that could hunt small game. The breed was a favorite of England's working classes, who would race their dogs on their days off from their factory or mining jobs. This custom plus the dog's speed earned him the nickname “the poor man's racehorse.” By the end of the century, both the Kennel Club of England and the American Kennel Club had recognized the breed. In 2006, the Whippet ranked 60th in registrations among the 154 breeds recognized by the AKC.


Most Whippets are quiet, gentle, and well-behaved inside the house, and love to join their people on the couch (and to keep the couch warm when their people aren't sitting on it!). They're friendly to visitors – no watchdog here – and aren't afraid to show how much they adore their owners. The American Whippet Club's website points out that, despite their overall gentleness, “many Whippets do seem to suffer from ‘Excessive Greeting Disorder,' characterized by wild displays of exuberance when their owners return from long absences of 10 minutes or more.” Outside the house, care must be taken to keep a Whippet on leash or in a fenced area. That's because the moment a Whippet sees a small animal, his prey drive supersedes any and all human attachments.


Whippets are medium-sized sighthounds (other sighthound breeds are the Afghan Hound, the Greyhound, the Pharaoh Hound, and the Saluki) that resemble Greyhounds in miniature. They're 19 to 22 inches tall and weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. Their coats are short, close, and smooth with a firm texture, and can be any color.


As much as the Whippet loves his people, he may not take too kindly to monotonous, repetitive training from those people. Short, positive sessions with ample, edible rewards (at least during early training) will enable an owner to school his Whippet in the basics. Whippet enthusiasts suggest bypassing competitive obedience activities in favor of lure coursing, a sport that capitalizes on the Whippet's speed and prey drive.

Grooming & Care

The Whippet is the ultimate wash-and-go dog. His short coat needs only a weekly brushing with a hound glove or small brush. Weekly pedicures and ear cleanings, plus baths as needed, will keep him looking his best.

Health Concerns

Like all purebred dogs, the Whippet has a few genetic health issues. Among the most worrisome are sebaceous adenitis (a disease characterized by degenerating hair follicles and oil glands), progressive retinal atrophy and other eye problems, and heart defects. Breeding parents should receive CERF clearances and have their skin evaluated for sebaceous adenitis before being bred.

Famous Whippet

Pennyworth, the 1964 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best in Show winner, was the only Whippet to ever win at Westminster.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 3
Schedule 5
Home 9
Children 49
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 13
Exercise 61
Challenges Can't be trusted off-leash.
Height 18 to 22 inches
Weight 28 to 30 pounds
Life 12 to 15 years
Home Alone 83
With Kids 86
With Strangers 91
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.