THE whippet is a greyhound-like dog, and is the fastest of all dogs at his weight or height. In some instances they have been crossed with Italian greyhounds, but these alliances are apt to bring about inferior whippets for racing or catching rabbits, either on their own ground or at rabbit-coursing or snap-dog matches. In rabbit-coursing, where the rabbits have previously been caught and turned down on unknown ground (to the rabbit) before a brace of whippets, it is the dog that catches the rabbit that wins the course, and the winner of the majority of a given number of courses wins the wager for its owner or connections. Snap-dog coursing - that is, running rabbits down with whippets in small and enclosed places, the rabbit being given little "law," is not considered a sportsmanlike action, and is practiced only as a means of gambling. Whippets have long been declared a pure breed, and this dog was first recognized as such by the English Kennel Club.
Whippet racing is an old sport and the pastime of working men in England. He has been called the poor man's race-horse, as indeed he is, the dog providing sport and a means of speculation for men of slender means. Whippet racing is carried on right through the year in the Northwest and North of England. Of late years it has become a great sport in London and its suburbs, the principal handicaps being run off every other Sunday forenoons at Walthamstow. Whippet racing was patronized by the late King Edward VII of England, at the Ranelagh Club grounds, London, and the leading "country club" of its kind in the United Kingdom. Whippet racing has long been a sport in Belgium, France and Germany. Dog racing was also introduced into South Africa during the end of the last century, and valuable handicaps are run off on the diamond and gold fields. Whippet racing was first favored in the United States by the English operatives in the cotton mills in New England, especially in Massachusetts. The sport has been well and continuously conducted at country clubs around Boston and Philadelphia, which has put the pastime on a society basis. There is no cruelty in whippet racing. The dog is held on his made by the neck and root of tail, and, starting off at pistol fire, the object of his run of 200 yards or less being a towel held by the runner-up - usually someone he knows - who stands, holloas and waves the "rag," as it is called, 10 yards beyond the winning line or mark. The dogs are handicapped according to their weight or height. The latter is not a popular mode and it is the weight of a dog that is considered practically everywhere. Roughly, it can be reckoned that a dog of say 16 pounds is 2½ to 3 yards faster than a 15-pound dog. A bitch is keener than a dog. The handicap scale given in this description of the whippet was arranged by Freeman Lloyd and is largely in use throughout the world.
Finish in an Old-time Whippet Race Meeting.
A whippet track may be easily laid out on grass, race track, show or fair ground. It must be 220 yards straight. If it is over, so much the better. The further the onlookers are kept off the track the more they can see, and they will not interfere with the dogs running. The whippets are entered, their names, weights, colors and owners being given. Each owner pays an entry fee for each dog and these fees are generally made a sweepstake and the purse divided between the first, second and third dogs in the final heat. The dogs must be weighed before they run and an allowance is made of 4 ounces or 8 ounces either way in their stated weight. The handicap is run off in heats, the number of dogs in each heat varying according to the entry and the duration of the racing. Heats may be run off like clockwork, one lot of dogs starting off as the others are finishing; or it may be delayed when the number of dogs is limited. If 40 dogs are entered and an afternoon's sport desired they can be run off in heats of four dogs each. There would be then 10 winners of heats to run off in the semi-finals, which could be either two heats of five each or, better still, three heats with two fours and one of three dogs. The two winners, or the three winners of the semi-finals, must be run off in the final. Taking the three semi-finals for choice, there would be run off altogether 14 races, which would occupy about two hours. The owner of the second may challenge the weight of the winner, immediately after the final is run. The dog is then allowed 6 ounces to the usual allowance made before the running of its first heat.
Here is a plan of a track. If possible, the dogs should run so that the sun shall not be in their faces.
The dogs run in colors, strips of narrow ribbon being tied around their necks. These are of red, white, blue, yellow, green and black. On the race card the shade of the dog's racing color is noted in the preliminary heats. In the semi-final and final heats the back or scratch dog wears the red collar, the next the white, the next the blue, and so on. If the red dog is first over the winning line, where the judge stands, the judge raises a red flag. Whatever color wins so is a flag of the same color held aloft by the official whose ruling is final. Each "runner-up" must be behind the over or trig mark before his clog crosses the winning line. If dogs start when the cap is fired, but there is no powder explosion, it is no start. But if all dogs go fairly away, it is a start. Dead heats must be run off excepting in the final, where owners may agree to divide. If a dog is disqualified, the second dog takes his place in the records. No live bait allowed with the runner-up, and all dogs are subject to inspection by the officials. It is recommended that only whippets of 25 pounds or under be raced. The bigger dogs are often given to savaging or "slapping," and appear ungainly among a lot of small dogs. The back dog in every heat must run the whole of the 200 yards, or whatever smaller course is used.