Evolution and genetic influences
The Whippet! That svelte, elegant dog that could easily be compared to an Olympian athlete in evening suit! But where does he come from? How did this elegant, speedy creature evolve? Because before becoming the darling of dog shows and families alike, the Whippet has a rich heritage worth exploring. So, hang on to your leashes, we’re about to dive into the fascinating origins of the Whippet!
1. A little history:
The Whippet is a descendant of the sighthounds that were popular with the nobles of ancient Egypt. Transported to England by the Romans, the Whippet’s roots can be traced back to the middle of the 18th century. It was born of the union between greyhounds, Italian greyhounds, and other small English dogs, terriers. Why, you ask? Well, in the 18th century, there was no Netflix, so the miners of northern England needed a distraction! And what could be better than fast, light dog racing?
Originally, Whippets were called « Whippet Terriers » or « Sighthound Terriers ». They were renowned for their ability to quickly hunt small game such as hares. Whippets were also widely used for poaching. They were also highly prized in sighthound racing. Fun fact: they were nicknamed « poor man’s sighthounds ». In fact, they provided a fast sport without the cost of larger sighthounds.
2. Evolution of the breed (British roots with a French twist):
Over the years, the Whippet has evolved to become a popular companion dog, in addition to its hunting abilities. Its appearance has also been modified to meet the aesthetic criteria of dog shows. The breed was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1891. Since then, it has grown in popularity worldwide.
Later, English factory workers imported the Whippet to the United States. There, this breed of dog was mainly used for sports such as racing.
Although the Whippet was conceived in England, it’s interesting to note that many French breeders have played a key role in its development over the years. In fact, the « Club Français du Lévrier » (French Sighthound Club), founded in 1906, was one of the first to recognize and promote the Whippet in France. In doing so, it brought the breed to the other side of the Channel.
The breed standards have also evolved over time. And the aim has been to define the physical characteristics desired in the Whippet. So, the current standard emphasizes an elegant, muscular, and athletic body, with a slender silhouette and graceful gait. Breeders have worked to maintain these characteristics. They have also ensured that the dogs’ health and well-being remain a priority.
3. Sprinter DNA:
From a genetic point of view, Whippets are a fascinating blend of speed and endurance. Their slender morphology, long legs and muscular backs predispose them to short bursts of speed. In terms of athletic performance, they’re like the « Usain Bolt » of the canine community.
Studies conducted by the University of Rennes (France) in 2015 showed that the Whippet has a unique combination of genes. This combination predisposes it to impressive sprints and elegant musculature. It gives him speed without compromising his elegant silhouette.
A few years ago, researchers even discovered a particular genetic mutation (MSTN gene). It is present in certain Whippets and makes them even more muscular. These « double-muscled » Whippets are a small minority. And while they’re impressive, they’re not necessarily the fastest on the track.
4. Influences from the dog world:
If you look closely at a Whippet, you may see similarities with other breeds. This is because, over the years, the breed has been influenced by other sighthounds and even some terriers. You could say that the Whippet is a bit like the main course of a great canine banquet: a tasty blend of the best parts of several breeds. The Greyhound is one of the Whippet’s most notable ancestors. They share a similar silhouette and speed, although the Whippet is considerably smaller. By combining the size of the Italian Greyhound with the speed of the Greyhound, breeders were able to create a dog that was both compact and fast. This genetic fusion has resulted in a dog that combines the best of both worlds: speed and a size suited to urban life. Pretty handy for a city apartment, don’t you think https://passion-whippet.com/do-whippets-make-good-apartment-dogs/(ouvre un nouvel onglet)/?
5. And today?
Over the years, different lines of Whippets have developed, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some lines have specialized in greyhound racing, while others have concentrated on dog shows. These different lines have contributed to the breed’s genetic diversity and preserved its unique traits.
Some lines may be more speed-oriented, while others may focus more on aesthetic aspects. Breeders and breed enthusiasts appreciate this diversity. In fact, it makes it possible to obtain Whippets with varied talents and characteristics, while maintaining the integrity of the breed.
And today, the Whippet is not only a « 3-star » competitor on the slopes, but also, and above all, a loving family companion. They’re known for their gentle temperament, intelligence, and love of naps on the sofa. Yes, after reaching speeds of nearly 56 km/h, even the most energetic Whippet likes to curl up and dream of his sprinting ancestors.
The Whippet has come a long way from its humble origins in the north of England to its place on canine catwalks the world over. This exquisite blend of genetics, evolution and diverse influences gives us a breed of dog that is both beautiful to look at and exciting to study.
So, the next time you see a Whippet speeding through a park, remember its rich heritage and remarkable evolution. And if you’re lucky enough to have one as a companion, give it a little extra cookie from me. After all, it’s not every day you meet a genetic superstar!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you did, please remember to like, and share it😊And, dear Whipsters, I’ll see you soon for new adventures!
- “A Mutation in the Myostatin Gene Increases Muscle Mass and Enhances Racing Performance in Heterozygote Dogs “- National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1877876/
- “Myostatin Mutation (« Bully » Whippet)” – Genomia: https://www.genomia.cz/en/test/bully_whippet/
- “Whippet” – The Kennel Club: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/breed-standards/hound/whippet/
- “Official Standard of the Whippet” – American Kennel Club: https://images.akc.org/pdf/breeds/standards/Whippet.pdf
- “Whippet” – Canadian Kennel Club: https://www.ckc.ca/CanadianKennelClub/media/Breed-Standards/Group%202/Whippet.pdf