By FREEMAN LLOYD from the American Kennel Club Gazette May 1935. “This will be article one of three published by Freeman Lloyd in 1935. I will post the second next week. These articles have been donated by Don Frames from the scrapbook collection of Gertrude Hooft.”
THE whippet, in shape, is a miniature greyhound, and should weigh less than 25 pounds. He is the most speedy of all dogs of his weight or height, and is used for racing and rabbit coursing purposes. A nice height for dogs is 18inches, and for bitches, 17 inches. The larger ones are fast enough for running wild rabbits on their own ground, but are too slow for the European hares and American jack-rabbits. Whippets are both smooth haired and wire haired, but the coat does not affect their speed: that is to say, one kind is as good as the other when they are extended at full speed. As a bench show dog, the smooth coated whippet may be looked upon as the more beautiful since his elegance of form is more discernible when the silk-or satin-like, well-groomed hair sets off the lovely contour of the body. As a smart and sensible dog about the house, or as lady’s companion for the outdoors, the whippet is well suited. They live in amity when kennelled together in large numbers; they are not aggressive but friendly in the fullest sense; in short, whippets are desirable dogs for play as well as for sport. Alhough keenly interested in whippets for many years, I have been unable to discover the origin of the word “whippet.”
DERIVATION might have been “wappet,” an English provincialism meaning: small, yelping cur. When the small greyhound-like dog was being taught to run to a rag or towel waved by one man, while the excited puppy or older dog was held by another person, the dog would become noisy, and wap or yap: hence wappet, which in time became whippet. AS whippet racing originated in the north and northwest of England in Northumberland and Lancashire, to be precise-the word whippet may be considered an English one, and now has become worldwide in its use. The breed name is acknowledged and tabulated in the stud books of all countries where kennel registers are kept and valued. From Britain, whippet dog racing has extended to both hemispheres; and from whippet-racing has grown greyhound racing, the latter sport—or perhaps it had better be called “pastime” —being far and away the most popular of all four-legged racing, except horse racing, among the nations. WHILE the whippets’ distance or course is about 200 yards or less in length, the greyhounds cover longer courses or tracks. While the whippet runs a straight race, the larger greyhounds cover greater distances, and mostly around circular or oval-shaped courses.
Some day, greyhounds may be run on a straight-running artificial hare or rabbit, provided that a means is found for keeping half a dozen greyhounds from converging on the one object of the chase. It is well known that if you let loose six greyhounds to course a fleeing hare, they will fail to catch her, for the simple reason all will concentrate their killing desires on the single quarry; and, in their attempts to do so, will charge and bump into one another. Thus the six greyhounds become a muddled heap of useless dogs. ON the other hand, while a brace, or two greyhounds, course a hare, the one gains where the other fails; in short, a single greyhound is fairly useful, a brace of greyhounds is satisfactory; while a leash of three greyhounds which hinder one another, become practically useless as a coursing combination. In which way was the greyhound reduced in size so that the offspring might approximate that of a 16-25 whippet? Probably by the use of terrier crosses — several of them ; and then the further crossing of the progenies that favored the greyhound type in all points save those of large size. In this way, the greyhound-form type — the personification of speed and beauty of outline— was accentuated and preserved, while the sturdier type of the terrier—whatever its breed or variety—was destroyed save and except in the grabbing, tearing, and aggressive tendency possessed by the terrier, a worrying disposition that might be found more in a dog’s head or temperament, than in the form of his body or the length of his legs. It would surprise many to observe how fast a whippet- foxterrier-bred dog can travel. Years ago, a white and black marked terrier that resembled a foxterrier more than a whippet, could hold his own against the pure-bred whippets on the London tracks; the half-breed could beat many of the pure-breeds. He was entered as a half-breed, and appeared as such on the race cards. Moreover, the presence of the mongrel was not objected to. It was a case of let those come which might. There was no “color” or breed lines. In my experience, I never saw any other terrier, save smooth foxterrier cross-bred race-dogs, run in a handicap. Possibly on account of his being half-bred, the mongrel mentioned was given an advantage of about 3 yards in a handicap in a race of 200 yards. It is, however, not advisable to use a terrier cross while breeding whippets, for the reason no one will desire to lose the racing lines—the elegance of the greyhound—while producing them. But, as before written, a little or a great deal of the terrier “devilment” is often required in the racing whippet. The ideal of gracefulness may be allowed that sort of temperament that, in the human, might develop into the grabbing spirit of hair-pulling! The whippet that hangs on to the towel is always a good finisher. A rag-shy dog or bitch lacks the dash required during the last moment of the race. The whippet has been called “the poor man’s racehorse,” and very likely the description is an apt one. It is true that whippet racing has long become a fashionable sport; but it has had its ups and downs among fashionable people here, there, and everywhere. Still, in the case of the miners and cotton mill workers of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the colliers of Northumberland and Durham, the pastime has remained the same: a Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning diversion. The same remarks apply to the whippet dog racers of London. IN the United States, the Rhode Islanders and the cotton operatives of New England, generally, maintain their keen-as-ever interests in whippets and whippet-racing. High class clubs have come and gone, chiefly because of the publicity their race meetings have been given. There has, and perhaps ever will be, the much discussed legal question regarding wagering. As a consequence, the Law has stepped in while the whippet has had to step out: an innocent victim of the eternal conflict as to what constitutes right or wrong. So the affluent have been pounced on, while the working-men sports, holding and running their dog handicaps in some hole and corner out of the way, have been able to carry on their amusements, while the more spectacular and “respectable” gatherings have been dispersed. In countries where horse and dog racetrack betting is legalized, whippet racing is among the well patronized out-door entertainments; and will continue as such. Some writers have thought the Italian greyhound cross was used to produce the whippet, but bearing in mind the high-stepping action of the smallest of the greyhound kinds, there is reason to believe that such a cross would be unadvisable. The high knee- action of the hackney horse is of no avail as a galloping organization, against that of the thoroughbred horse—which travels closer to the ground. So for the sake of speed it were better not to employ the Italian greyhound as a stud dog or a brood bitch for the production of whippets that might be required for racing purposes. THERE has been little change in the formation of whippets during the last half a century or more, although since the photographs of hand- posed dogs of this breed, have appeared in publications devoted to dogs seen in the bench show judging rings, there has been a noticeable inclination to produce whippets with greatly arched loins—a lamentable procedure, it is thought. It is the shortness or compactness of the loins that denote strength ; the loins form a strong middle piece that connects the forequarters to the hind quarters. Here is the mighty hinge on which the framework, or body, of the dog swings and works. It is the link on which much depends. There also is a tendency to admire the arched loin of the show greyhound; but if the reader care to look at the backs of the 64 greyhounds entered and run in an English Waterloo Cup, he or she will find that almost every one is inclined to be relatively flat along the loins. There will be found a slight rise in the loin formation; but nothing approaching that of the arched loin of many bench show greyhounds. Therefore, if the one be right, the other must be wrong. IT is obvious that the “long dog,” with a naturally arched loin, will not cover so much length or space, as will the dog with an inclined-to-be-flat loin. The one that covers the most ground, is supposed to have the longest stride. If this be so, the longer striding dog, will be found the speedier; and, as the old saying goes: “the race is to the swiftest.” So, perhaps, a great mistake is being effected when an attempt is made to make a whippet appear as if he possess abnormally arched loins — a practice that is common in the show rings of all countries. Very likely this custom has been brought about because of posed pictures of prize dogs. Such will prove misleading — especially for novitiates who might not be well-versed in the anatomies of dogs, and what those makes or shapes portend. “The poor man’s racehorse,” as often as not, has been the poor man’s friend. As in the instance of some of the older varieties of toy spaniels and toy terriers, the breed of whippets would long have died out, had it not been for the working men of Britain, and, in a lesser sense, those of New England and Pennsylvania.
WHIPPET racing and exhibiting have long been among the greater outdoor pastimes of the great and otherwise of Hollywood, California, while the best arranged of all the model racetracks was that at Green Spring Valley, Baltimore, Maryland, where Felix Agnus Leser and friends were responsible for truly sporting events. These were carried on in the best of sporting ways: in short, here was the sport of whippet racing conducted by gentlemen for gentlemen. There was an absence of everything that might have been considered unseemly: it was a model course midst glorious surroundings and the ease and quietude of responsible respectability. “Then what caused its downfall ?” There was a little wagering through the agency or an honest-to-goodness totalizator—an unheard of wickedness, it seemed, according to the beliefs of some people. So the curtain had to be rung down on the best managed whippet race track that could be imagined. However, I am glad I witnessed a Baltimore whippet race, if only for the reason, that I am enabled to write that there was observed one of those quiet and sedate, yet truly sporting, meetings that might be compared with a Hunt Club steeplechase meeting of the horse- racing kind. At Baltimore was witnessed the realization of a dream; an imagination of one that had a deal to do with the introduction of whippet racing into different parts of the world. The old, and by many the still preferred way, for starting whippets in a race, is to hold the dog with one hand by the scruff of neck, and the hind quarters with the other hand—and throw him into his stride, at the flash or sound of a pistol shot, the gun being held by the starter. The scratch dog should run the full 200 yards. The dog crosses the winning line, at full speed, while 10 yards beyond he seizes the towel waved by a shouting, encouraging runner-up. Previous to this, the runner-up had, at the trot, traversed the full course, all the time waving the “rag,” whistling or otherwise encouraging his dog to follow. As may be well imagined, the five or six dogs held on their respective handicap marks, make no end of a noise as they bark their desires to reach their callers. A runner-up may be a stranger to the dog, but the whippet will run to him. It is, of course, preferable that the man be known to the little racer. Still the whippet is keen, and in his excitement, he is game to follow his “flag.”
On many modern whippet race tracks, the racers are secured in stall- like boxes with apertures in the door ways, through which the dogs may see all that is going on. With their eyes, they follow the actions of the runners- up. When the men are about to cross the winning line, the starter fires his pistol and simultaneously releases the electrically controlled doors of the box stalls. In this way, the dogs are dispatched on their journey. This method is considered fair for all the dogs and their owners, and, very likely, such is true. The art—bad as well as good—of the slipper is done away with : there can be no holding or restraining a dog on his mark, when, because of monetary or other considerations, it is not desired or politic for the dog to win. Once a whippet is on his way, there is no slowing him. He has no human jockey on his back. The dog is out to win if it be possible for him to do so. So, the destroying of a dog’s winning chance is in the hands of the dishonest slipper. Even a delay of a fifth of a second on the starting mark may mean somewhere about 3 yards difference in the speed of a whippet that may cover 200 yards in the remarkable time of 12 seconds. Needless to write there often is much that is dishonest in all forms of racing from pedestrianism to classic horse racing. And when all is so soon over —the race run and won in so short a time as a fifth of a minute-money sometimes is the inducement that does not fail to attract the avaricious. The poor man’s race horse also is his medium for money-making. One day he may wish his dog to win: on the next occasion, it might be best for his pocket, that the dog lose. SOME people have found fault with the noise and shouting at a whippet race meeting. But they forget the dogs have been trained to run to the loud voices of the towel carriers. The bang of the gun gets on the nerves of others, but to ordinary frequenters these ebullitions of excited men and dogs surely appear as parts of the programme. So it happened that the tamest and least exciting whippet handicap ever witnessed was run off in 1895 before the Prince of Wales—afterwards King Edward VII of England —at the Ranclagh Club, Barn Elms, London. The “First Gentleman In Europe” was accompanied by the Princess of Wales, and their three daughters. It was a great and grand day when whippet racing, under such distinguished patronage, was seen in the country where dog racing had its origin. And wouldn’t it be a pretty sporting dish to set before a King? Yes and no! Everything was beautiful and never before or since has been seen such a galaxy of human beings of high station and estate at a whippet track. The managers of the meeting decided on what they thought would be a better way to conduct dog racing in or near the metropolis. At that time, whippets were not considered as highly desirable dogs to own: they were on a parity with fighting bullterriers or the “business dogs,” so- called, of the dog-pit variety.
For the royal fete, no London whippets were considered reliable enough for that gala day on which occasion the more or less ragged and unsohisticated East Enders could have no place. So several whippets of renown, their Lancashire owners, slippers, and runners-up, were brought to London. The men were instructed how they should act in the presence of Royalty ; the runners-up might not even shout loud encouragements to their dogs; the men, dressed up in all their Sunday- best, might not even loudly pipe their whistles within hearing of the august personages. As for firing a fully powder-charged pistol that would be entirely out of place. The bang of an exploded cartridge might frighten the guests and stampede the vast assembly of fashionables that thronged both sides of the 200 yards grass track on which the little sprinters were to run. So it was, almost silent runners-up trotted down the course on the well- mown lawn. It is true the shrill barks of the excited whippets could be heard; but to the old-timers it seemed the race was on and half over, before the people were ready for it. “It must he a false start!” they cried. But it wasn’t! ONLY a percussion cap had been exploded on the nipple of the pistol: the sound of discharged powder would cause a panic! Who could wonder when some of the whippets ran off the course! The dogs couldn’t hear the longed-for voices—the usual calls and exhortations of the men whose waving towels they had been used to seize; and oft allowed to tear to ribbons, as rewards for the dogs’ strenuous endeavors. It can be imagined that the event was far from being successful. After the racing was over, one of the owners was asked why some of the dogs had run off the course. “Oh,” said he, “our dogs have not been in the habit of seeing so much finery; all the dresses of the fine ladies and gentlemen. An’ there was the Prince of Wales! When they couldn’t hear our voices, they were all at sea! Dog racing without a noise can be no good. The excitement keeps the dogs keen. Royalty or not it’s rag-waving, whistling and shouting that urge the dogs to do their best. Even the –wise from the bettors and the onlookers help the game along.” Whippet racing from that 1895 day on became an acknowledged sport among the better classes of the South of England. It had been patronized by members of the Royal Family, and for English men and women that was sufficient guarantee that the pastime was a worthy one. Of course, there was no public betting at the Ranclagh Club meeting, although wagering is a part and closely connected with all forms of racing. It was a top-hat, kid- glove event of the garden party order. The hub-bub of the bookmakers’ rings—as had been usual at the previous and large metropolitan dog racing at Kensal Rise—was unheard on the field of aristocratic Ranclagh. Sometime in the early ’90’s whippets were first exhibited in Holland. The show was held in lovely park-like grounds, close to the sea at Scheveningen, the fashionable watering place, about three miles or so from The Hague. A few English owners of show dogs made entries, among these being George Nutt, of Pulborough, Sussex, England. He was noted for his rough-haired beagles—a very sporty class of small hounds—a variety that has yet to be seen in America. Distinguished in appearance, gentlemanly and courtier-like in manner, Mr. Nutt was a popular figure whithersoever he travelled. Above all, he was full of fun, or mischief if you like; but his practical jokes were unharmful: they always had happy endings. So it was at Scheveningen that the Pulborough or Nutt whippets made their bow to a Dutch gathering of dog- lovers. The show days were Saturday and Sunday. On the latter day, the Burgomaster, his lady, and party were to attend the show of the afternoon kennel fete. The visiting Englishmen were apprised of the coming vi sit of notabilities, and asked to prepare their dogs for a grand parade before the chief magistrate of the Capital. Yes: and if Mr. Nutt would “race” his little whippet dogs, wouldn’t that be something entirely new for everyone to see! THERE was an exhibition of arts IL and merchandise on at the same time; and to this building that housed it, Mr. Nutt and his friend wended their way on the Sunday morning. Nutt wanted to purchase a few trifles to take home for his daughter, the whippet owner said. After much trouble, Nutt seemed satisfied when he had bought the largest and costliest silk handkerchiefs on which were embroidered the entwined flags of the kingdoms of Holland and Great Britain. There was presented a true emblem of the hands-across-thesea sentiment that existed between the two countries. What better! And so arrived the afternoon of a glorious, early-summer day, when much of the beauty and chivalry of The Hague, followed their burgomaster to the dog show at Scheveningen! Truth to tell, I had never before observed such a well-dressed assembly at any of the British and Continental events of the dog show sort! So it was that my mind ran back to what I had read about the affluence and solid respectability of the old East and West Indian Dutch merchants, who opened up the trade channels to previously unsettled and unexploited lands! Had not much of the gold of the Indies been theirs; had not many of the capes, bays, and promontories on the world’s map, been named after their mariners and navigators! There on the Scheveningen sward was reflected, as was thought, the staid, solid, and unostentatious respectability and wealth that must have partly accrued from the successful adventures of those old-time and splendid Dutch “Ploughers of the Deep!” Half a dozen whippets composed the Nutt entry: ALL of them were true runners to the rag. Just to demonstrate that two of his little dogs would run to any kerchiefs, the silver-haired, clean shaven, clear and ruddy complexioned, handsome Englishman, bowing low, approached the Burgomaster’s party, and begged for the loan of a handkerchief from the chief guest and his wife.
These were willingly entrusted to Nutt, who in turn handed them to two runners-up who already had been instructed what to do: to run up the course, whistle and wave the handkerchiefs: the dogs would do the rest. The whippets raced up to the amateur runners-up, and seizing the handkerchiefs. tore them into shreds. What a scene! The English had insulted the Dutch! The Burgomaster’s handkerchief had been wilfully cast before a foreign dog so the foul creature could destroy it ! Like all, save one person, I was afrighted and ashamed. The one man to keep his nerve and play his brave if impudent part, was George Nutt, who advancing towards the outraged parties, apologized for the “unthoughtfulness” of his dogs. With one knee on the ground, he begged that the great gentleman and lady accept the proffered gifts of silk handkerchiefs, with their emblems denoting a lasting friendship between the glorious Kingdom of Holland and England! Immediately a change came over the scene. Where had been hissing and cries of hate and derision, there arose a mighty cheer! Nor was that all! Half an hour afterwards, every English whippet at the show had been purchased, and to remain in Queen Wilhelmina’s Realm. And from that date—early in the ’90’s— whippet racing, as a sport, became popular in Holland.