Claybrook Farm

Pure Longhaired Whippets


History of the Current Longhaired Whippet 

Claybrook Rowen


The history of the current Longhaired Whippet breed lies shrouded in mystery and controversy.  One thing is known, and that is that the Longhaired Whippet seen in the USA was reestablished by Harvard graduate Walter Wheeler, Jr., a Whippet breeder since 1957.  Beyond that point of agreement, there are two versions of how the current Longhaired Whippet came to be.  


Version 1 - According to Walter Wheeler, breed founder and creator:  

Many years ago, Mr. Wheeler alleges, he saw a 'fuzzy' Whippet puppy in a litter of smooths owned by a noted breeder judge.  He says that he asked about that puppy and was told that if the puppy developed a long coat it would be put down.  This breeder judge denies that this incident ever took place.  Wheeler was fascinated with the concept of a coated Whippet and says that he eventually acquired dogs from this and other bloodlines.  By intense inbreeding on these dogs, he claims that he developed the Longhaired Whippet as we know it today. 

One of the foundation matrons for the modern Longhaired Whippets, according to Mr. Wheeler, was a British Champion, a top English show female in the late 1950's.  He reported that she could not be shown for her championship before having her thick mane and fuzzy tail stripped and trimmed.  Her breeder has denied this, however.  Mr. Wheeler has said that her descendants have been used to produce one family of longhairs. 

Mr. Wheeler states that he also inbred on a particular West Coast stud to produce a successful family of longhairs.  When this stud was linebred on,  Wheeler alleges, he produced a 'coated' Whippet champion who, after having his moderately long coat stripped and trimmed, became a 'smooth' show winner, Mr. Wheeler has said.  

Mr. Wheeler seriously began his project to breed Longhaired Whippets in the 1970's, and by 1981 had enough of them to 'go public' by publishing an article in The Whippet magazine, #6, 1981.  In The Sighthound magazine a follow-up article was published in 1982.  By then he had incorporated his club, the Longhaired Whippet Association (LWA), and by 1986 he wrote the standard and copyrighted it.  


Version 2 - AKC breeders, and other Whippet breeders from around the world:  

Others in the Whippet world claim that Walter Wheeler did indeed use his Whippets, probably including those mentioned above, in his longhaired project, but they say that he actually crossbred them with either Borzoi or Shetland Sheepdogs, or both.  He did, indeed, own both of these other two breeds, and he owned Borzoi at the same time as Whippets, but there is some question regarding whether he actually owned Shelties at the same time as the Whippets.  


The Present:

Recent (2004) DNA studies, conducted by UC Davis, and Washington State, have shown that the Longhaired Whippet breed has an autosomal recessive gene called MDR 1-1.   This gene causes the dogs who possess this trait (not all of them), to be extremely sensitive to certain chemicals, including the wormer Ivermectin.  This gene is not found in the Whippet population, nor is it found in the Borzoi population, however, it is found in the Shetland Sheepdog breed, indicating that there must have been at least one, "Sheltie in the woodpile at the Windsprite kennel".  That means that, evidently, there must be, according to the DNA study, Shetland Sheepdog in the background of the Longhaired Whippet.  It is unknown if there were Borzoi in the background of the Longhaired Whippet, or not, but that is also a possibility.  


Into the Future:  

Based on this recent genetic study, it is now scientifically known which of the above claims are correct, but since Longhaired Whippets breed true, and since none of our current breeds of dogs dropped from the sky preformed, but were indeed all crossed with some other breed, or breeds, at some point in history, it is this breeder/author's contention that no matter how these modern Longhaired Whippets came into existence, the fact remains that they do, indeed, now exist, are pure-breeding (like to like begets like, which means that they reproduce themselves), and are delightful and charming dogs.  

Since the origin of these current Longhaired Whippets was for many years a matter of some question and contention, there are those who seek to have the word 'Whippet' removed from the name of these dogs.  The use of a given word in more than one breed's name is referenced on the page:  Formation of New Breeds     

Furthermore, this author contends, even though the current Longhaired Whippet is the product of crossbreeding, we have only to look at the example of the Whippet itself.  While some claim that the Whippet as a breed originated only in the 1800's, from crossbreedings with terriers, it is well known that Whippet-type dogs existed long before that time.  A few historical references from the 1500's are given on the page Coated Whippets in History, and also on the page Whippet History in Art.  And while terriers were indeed crossbred on Whippet-type dogs in the late 1800's, when the closed registries were being formed, the resulting wirehaired Whippet type dogs were not called by another name, they were called wirehaired Whippets.  The resulting smooth dogs were called smooth Whippets.

A further example is the Dachshund.  First there were dogs called Dachshunds who were smooth - Dachshunds.  Then these smooth dogs were crossbred with terriers, and thus produced dogs called Wirehaired Dachshunds.  Also the smooth Dachshunds were crossbred with spaniels and in this way produced dogs called Longhaired Dachshunds.  However, even in AKC today, all coats of Dachshunds are just registered as "Dachshunds".

Therefore, historic precedent has been set.  There are doubtless other examples, besides the ones already cited, in other breeds, both of crossings used to produce different types, and also of the use of the same word in various breed type dogs' names.  All in all, those of us who admire and seek to promote these lovely dogs thank Mr. Wheeler for making these dogs, however he did it.  We are grateful to have these beautiful, little, coated rare sighthounds available to us today.  

(To see a larger version of the picture below, click on it.)

Corbin on sidewalk.jpg (16623 bytes)

For more information contact:

Claybrook Farm --  Michelle Henninger -- 5730 Olde Scotland Road, Shippensburg, PA 17257


Copyright  by Michelle Henninger

All rights reserved.

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