The Whippet

For elegance of style, cleanliness of habit, and graceful movement,

few dogs can equal the Whippet, for which reason his popularity as

a companion has increased very greatly within the past decade. No

more affectionate creature is to be found, yet he possesses

considerable determination and pluck, and on occasion will defend

himself in his own way.

Too fragile in his anatomy for fighting, in the ordinary sense of

the word, when molested, he will snap at his opponent with such

celerity as to take even the most watchful by surprise; while his

strength of jaw, combined with its comparatively great length, enables

him to inflict severe punishment at the first grab. It was probably

owing to this habit, which is common to all Whippets, that they were

originally known as Snap-Dogs.

The Whippet existed as a separate breed long before dog shows were

thought of, and at a time when records of pedigrees were not

officially preserved; but it is very certain that the Greyhound had

a share in his genealogical history, for not only should his

appearance be precisely that of a Greyhound in miniature, but the

purpose for which he was bred is very similar to that for which his

larger prototype is still used, the only difference being that rabbits

were coursed by Whippets, and hares by Greyhounds.

This sport has been mainly confined to the working classes, the

colliers of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland being

particularly devoted to it. As a rule the contests are handicaps,

the starting point of each competitor being regulated by its weight;

but the winners of previous important events are penalised in

addition, according to their presumed merit, by having a certain

number of yards deducted from the start to which weight alone would

otherwise have entitled them. Each dog is taken to its stipulated

mark according to the handicap, and there laid hold of by the nape

of the neck and hind-quarters; the real starter stands behind the

lot, and after warning all to be ready, discharges a pistol, upon

which each attendant swings his dog as far forward as he can possibly

throw him, but always making sure that he alights on his feet. The

distance covered in the race is generally 200 yards, minus the starts

allotted, and some idea of the speed at which these very active little

animals can travel may be gleaned from the fact that the full distance

has been covered in rather under 12 seconds.

In order to induce each dog to do its best, the owner, or more

probably the trainer stands beyond the winning post, and frantically

waves a towel or very stout rag. Accompanied by a babel of noise,

the race is started, and in less time than it takes to write it the

competitors reach the goal, one and all as they finish taking a flying

leap at their trainer's towel, to which they hold on with such

tenacity that they are swung round in the air. The speed at which

they are travelling makes this movement necessary in many cases to

enable the dog to avoid accident, particularly where the space beyond

the winning mark is limited. For racing purposes there is a wide

margin of size allowed to the dogs, anything from 8 lbs. to 23 lbs.,

or even more, being eligible; but in view of the handicap terms those

dogs which possess speed, and scale 9 to 12 lbs. amongst the

light-weights, and over 17 lbs. in the heavy ones, are considered

to have the best chance.

Probably there is no locality where the pastime has maintained such

a firm hold as in and around Oldham, one of the most famous tracks

in the world being at Higginshaw, where not infrequently three hundred

dogs are entered in one handicap. The Borough grounds at Oldham and

the Wellington grounds at Bury are also noted centres for races. It

is a remarkable but well recognised fact that bitches are faster than

dogs, and in consequence the terms upon which they are handicapped

are varied. The general custom is to allow a dog 2-1/2 to 3 yards

advantage for every pound difference in weight between it and the

gentle sex.

One of the fastest dogs that ever ran was Collier Lad, but he was

almost a Greyhound as regards size. Whitefoot, whose owner challenged

the world, and was considered to be quite unbeatable, was a Whippet

in every sense of the word, and was a nice medium weight, though

probably Capplebank's time of 11-1/2 seconds stands alone. The best

of the present-day racing dogs are Polly fro' Astley (15 lbs.) and

Dinah (11-1/2 lbs.), and of those which promise well for the future,

Eva, whose weight is only 9-3/4 lbs., is most prominent.

The training of Whippets is by no means easy work, and is more

expensive than most people imagine. The very choicest food is deemed

absolutely necessary, in fact a Whippet undergoing preparation for

an important race is provided with the most wholesome fare. Choice

mutton-chops, beef-steaks and similar dainties comprise their daily

portion. Of course exercise is a necessity, but it is not considered

good policy to allow a dog in training to gambol about either on the

roads or in the fields. Indeed, all dogs which are undergoing

preparation for a race are practically deprived of their freedom,

in lieu of which they are walked along hard roads secured by a lead;

and for fear of their picking up the least bit of refuse each is

securely muzzled by a box-like leather arrangement which completely

envelops the jaws, but which is freely perforated to permit proper

breathing. Any distance between six and a dozen miles a day, according

to the stamina and condition of the dog, is supposed to be the proper

amount of exercise, and scales are brought into use every few days

to gauge the effect which is being produced. In addition to this

private trials are necessary in the presence of someone who is

accustomed to timing races by the aid of a stop-watch--a by no means

easy task, considering that a slight particle of a second means so

many yards, and the average speed working out at about 16 yards per

second--nearly twice as fast as the fastest pedestrian sprinter, and

altogether beyond the power of the fleetest race-horse.

Colour in the Whippet is absolutely of no importance to a good judge,

though possibly what is known as the peach fawn is the favourite among

amateur fanciers. Red fawns, blue or slate coloured, black, brindled

of various shades, and these colours intermingled with white, are

most to be met with, however. In some quarters the idea is prevalent

that Whippets are delicate in their constitution, but this is a

popular error. Probably their disinclination to go out of doors on

their own initiative when the weather is cold and wet may account

for the opinion, but given the opportunity to roam about a house the

Whippet will find a comfortable place, and will rarely ail anything.

In scores of houses Whippets go to bed with the children, and are

so clean that even scrupulous housewives take no objection to their

finding their way under the clothes to the foot of the bed, thereby

securing their own protection and serving as an excellent footwarmer

in the winter months.

Probably in no other breed, except the Greyhound, do judges attach

so little importance to the shape of the head; so long as the jaws

are fairly long and the colour of the eyes somewhat in keeping with

that of the body, very little else is looked for in front of the ears.

As in the case of racing competitors, really good dogs for show

purposes are much more difficult to find than bitches. The best of

the males are not so classical in outline as the females, though some

of them are as good in legs and feet--points which are of the greatest

importance. Though it is not quite in accordance with the standard

laid down by the club, it will be found that most judges favour dogs

which are about 17 lbs. weight, and bitches which are between 15 lbs.

and 16 lbs., the 20 lbs. mentioned in the standard of points, without

variation for sex being considered altogether too heavy. Appearances

are sometimes deceptive, but these dogs are rarely weighed for

exhibition purposes, the trained eye of the judge being sufficient

guide to the size of the competitors according to his partiality for

middle-size, big, or little animals.

The South Durham and Yorkshire Show at Darlington has the credit for

first introducing classes for Whippets into the prize ring. Previous

to this it had not long been generally recognised as a distinct breed,

and it is within the last twenty years that the Kennel Club has placed

the breed on its recognised list.

The following is the standard of points adopted by the Whippet Club:--

* * * * *

HEAD--Long and lean, rather wide between the eyes and flat on

the top; the jaw powerful yet cleanly cut; the teeth level and

white. EYES--Bright and fiery. EARS--Small, fine in texture and

rose shape. NECK--Long and muscular, elegantly arched and free from

throatiness. SHOULDERS--Oblique and muscular. CHEST--Deep and

capacious. BACK--Broad and square, rather long and slightly arched

over the loin, which should be strong and powerful. FORE-LEGS--Rather

long, well set under the dog, possessing a fair amount of bone.

HIND-QUARTERS--Strong and broad across stifles, well bent thighs,

broad and muscular; hocks well let down. FEET--Round, well split up,

with strong soles. COAT--Fine and close. COLOUR--Black, red, white,

brindle, fawn, blue, and the various mixtures of each. WEIGHT--Twenty


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