Gentle, affectionate and adaptable with an elegant appearance

The Whippet is a medium sized, short-haired sighthound breed that originated in England. It was bred to hunt by sight, coursing small game in open areas at high speeds. Whippets are the fastest domesticated animals of their weight, reaching speeds of up to 56 km/h (35 miles/h).

Whippets have a graceful appearance and elegant outline combined with muscular power and strength. They are gentle, affectionate, and adaptable and therefore ideal companions, but their hunting instinct must always be taken into account. With their short coat, without an undercoat, and low body fat, they need to wear a doggie coat to stay warm in cold weather.

Whippets are sprinters, i.e. they must regularly have the opportunity to run and romp about in a safe area, but they are not long-distance runners or endurance athletes. At home, they like to make themselves comfortable on the sofa and love to cuddle, so future owners should be prepared to share their couch (or even their bed).

Whippets vary in appearance depending on whether they are more of the racing or show line. As puppies they are little whirlwinds and as young dogs they are lightning-swift bundles of energy, but most of them become much calmer after two or three years, sometimes almost a bit boring and can turn into little prima donnas.

Dogs of Whippet type appear in many ancient paintings and sculptures. They were bred to hunt by sight, coursing small game in open areas at high speeds.
The modern Whippet was probably developed by the miners of Northern England who raced their dogs in “rag races” on straight tracks.
Whippets are calm, gentle, affectionate and adaptable companion dogs that rarely bark and can also be kept in a flat if given the opportunity for appropriate exercise.
The Whippet breed was recognised in 1890 by The Kennel Club (in 1888 by the AKC). Zuber, born in 1889, became the breed’s first champion.
Their short, soft, shiny coat, deep chest, slim waist and slender but strong legs not only make them look elegant, but also make them nimble, light-footed athletes. At the same time, their passion for hunting should never be underestimated.

Whippet characteristics

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The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but small, compact greyhound-like hounds appear in many ancient paintings and sculptures. The modern Whippet was probably developed by the miners of Victorian North Eastern England – maybe by crossing small Greyhounds with fast, long-legged terriers.

The miners began racing their dogs in “rag races” where dogs chased after rags which were dragged down straight tracks or just waved from the far end of the track. This earned the breed such colourful nicknames such as “lightning rag dog” or “poor man’s racehorse.”

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It is believed that Whippets were first brought to America in the 1900s by English textile mill operators of Massachusetts, which was the center of Whippet racing in North America for many years. Nowadays Whippet racing and coursing are still quite popular as a hobby, but the Whippet with its elegant appearance has also successfully conquered the show ring and enjoys great popularity as a family dog.

There are different theories concerning the origin of the name “Whippet”. One theory says that the name is derived from an early 17th century word meaning “to move briskly”, another that it derives from the antique word “whappet” (or “wappet”) that means “a small dog that yaps”. A third theory is that the name has its origins in the word “whip it”, an old English phrase meaning to move quickly, specifically referring to applying the whip to a horse to make it move faster.

Breed facts

FCI: Sighthounds - Group 10
AKC/KC: Hound Group
brindle, fawn, red, black, blue; solid or parti-coloured
View colour distribution
Lure coursing, Racing
Whippets are also active in Rally Obedience, Agility, Flyball, Tracking and Nosework, Dock Diving, Barn Hunt or as Therapy Dogs.
Great Britain
Small to medium
Coat type
short, smooth


Whippets are generally a healthy breed, which is mostly free of physical exaggerations that can lead to health problems. However, like other sighthounds, they have an intolerance to barbiturate anaesthetics due to their low concentration of body fat. Furthermore, their extremely high speeds when running can lead to minor injuries or even dangerous running accidents.

Some Whippet clubs recommend their breeders to check all their breeding dogs for health conditions like heart disease, deafness and eye diseases. In some breeding lines diseases such as Myoglobinuria/Rhabdomyolysis, Myostatin mutation (bully-gene) or Cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) may occur.