Claybrook Farm

Pure Longhaired Whippets


The Coated Whippet In History

"Corbin and puppies"

Whippets, small greyhound-like dogs, have existed for at least five hundred years and are depicted in numerous Renaissance works of art.  A smooth show type Whippet is shown in “The Adoration of the Magi” by Benvenuto di Giovanni (1436-1518) in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  Two smooth Whippets, a black and a white, are in another “The Adoration of the Magi” by an unnamed painter identified as a Hispano-Dutch Master, late 15th century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  These are only two of countless examples.  An excellent article by Walter Wheeler is “The Historical Whippet” originally published in Popular Dogs, February, 1958, which gives other references.  Other Whippet history is in Col. David Hancock’s book The Heritage of Dogs, 1990, (Great Britain).

Prior to the late 1800’s and the formation of closed registries in England and here in the USA, dog breeds were maintained or improved by crossing them with other breeds.  This promoted hybrid vigor and repressed inbreeding depression (accumulation of negative recessives) that causes the health problems which we see alarmingly increasing in dogs registered in closed registries today.  Whippet type dogs were included in these crosses, of course, and the resulting offspring were no doubt the foundation stock for coated Whippets mentioned in many old dog books.

One fascinating historical reference to coated Whippets is found in The New Book of the Dog, 1906, by Robert Leighton, which contains a chapter on Whippets that is written by F. C. Hignett, a Whippet fancier for over fifty years.  Hignett states:

     “Formerly there were two varieties of the Whippet, long and short coated, but the former is rarely met with nowadays, either at the exhibitions or on the running track; in fact, a long-coated dog, however good it might be as regards anatomy, would have a poor chance of winning a prize at a show, for its shaggy appearance would most likely hide the graceful outline which is a much admired and characteristic feature.”

Hignett divided Whippets into two groups, short and long-coated.   

Personal  correspondence with individuals who have owned and bred Whippets since the 1920's and who actually saw and were familiar with the Wirehaired Whippets, confirm the fact that their coats were rather sparse, but perhaps Hignett had seen dogs with more coat, as he used the term, "shaggy".  It is not surprising that the Wirehaired Whippets that we have photos of, are sparse coated, given the fact that terriers were crossed on smooth Whippet type dogs, in England, before the creation of the closed registries.  This was done to give the dogs more drive and gaminess.  It also gave the wirehair coat, and those dogs were called "Wirehair Whippets", many of which can be seen in pictures in various old dog books, some of which are shown on the Appalachian Greyhound pages on this site.  

Based on other historical documents, like the book Das Grosse Windhundeerbe, quoted on Recessive Coat Types, we know that whippet type dogs with a variety of different coats, not just wirehair, obtained from various breed mixtures, were seen in the mid-1800's, before the inception of the closed registries and their closed studbooks.  No doubt some of these variously coated dogs found their way into the Whippet gene pool.

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

KK in the yard.jpg (5575 bytes)

Another historical reference to Whippets that are not smooth is in The Whippet and Race Dog, 1894, by Freeman Lloyd.  He states:

     “For the sporting Whippet I should be inclined to pick the rough-haired variety...I would rather go in for the hard-coated variety - one with a grizzled face and a fairly dense coat - I think these are more suitable for the work, and can stand the weather better than the animal that has to be clothed in winter and even pampered in the summer.”   

Here we have an author from the late 1800's using two separate terms for Whippets that were not smooth - "rough-haired" and "hard-coated".  Since Lloyd actually describes "hard-coated" as having a "grizzled" face, one can assume that "hard-coated" probably indicated wirehaired.  Perhaps the two terms, "rough-haired" and "hard-coated", were used to describe the same type coat, but, perhaps not.  Obviously, at least, he was referring to a dog that was not shorthaired.   

Thirteen years later, in 1907, Mr. Lloyd wrote in the Melbourne Sporting Library edition of Dogs

    “Whippets are exceedingly sharp and smart dogs, very delightful to look upon.  There are smooth and rough in coat. The former are the more popular.”  

Then, once again, he seems to divide coated Whippets into two categories with his following statement:

     “I am not of the opinion that the rough variety or the broken-haired kind will ever find so much favor in the eyes of the judges as the smooth ones...” 

Here again we have a clear historical reference to coated Whippets, with, once again, perhaps two varieties within the coated type dogs.  Or, perhaps he was just using the two names to refer to the same coat type, the wirehair.  Who knows?   

It is fascinating to read historical references from 100 years ago about nonsmooth Whippets.  What is even more fascinating, is when art dealers have confirmed to this author that they have seen various old works of art with dogs that surely resembled Longhaired Whippets.  Were they Longhaired Whippets, or were they wirehairs with extra coat, or were they whippet type crossbreds?  Once again, no one knows for sure, but we do know that whippet type dogs with nonsmooth coats were in existence, and we also know without a doubt that Wirehaired Whippets existed until the Depression, and are well represented in photographs.     

Obviously from these historical references we can see that Whippets with longer hair were evidently fairly rare even in the late 1800's when the closed registries and their "recognized" shows came on the scene.  Nevertheless, historical authors knew of, and wrote about and used various terms for coated dogs, calling them:  "longcoated", "shaggy", "broken-haired", or "rough variety".

    For further historical information regarding other coat types seen in Whippet type dogs in the 1800's, see the page:  Recessive Coat Types 

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

Claybrook Zena


On a more recent note in reference to Wirehaired Whippets, British sighthound authority D. Brian  Plummer states in his book The Complete Book of Sight Hounds, Long Dogs and Lurchers, 1991, in the Whippet chapter: 

    “Seldom were ‘shake’ or broken-coated whippets run at the races in the Black Country, though such dogs were by no means uncommon around Sheffield, Doncaster and Newcastle Upon Tyne.”  

He uses the term "broken-coated" to refer to wirehaired.  Plummer also writes: 

    “Indeed Hubbard records an almost distinct breed, the rough-coated Whippet (a dog resembling a diminutive rough-coated galgo) did exist until the late 1920’s, a dog which almost certainly carried the genes of the northern working terrier.”  And “Seldom was a rough-coated whippet fielded around Walsall...”  

Hubbard wrote in the 1940's, and used the term "rough-coated" to indicate the wirehaired variety, which by the '40's had already essentially disappeared.       

Cathy Flamholz, in A Celebration of  Rare Breeds Volume II, 1991, wrote:  

    “Clearly, dog writers from an earlier era were well aware of the existence of both a longhaired and a wirehaired Whippet.”  

Flamholz has an excellent chapter on the Longhaired Whippet in this book, which is available from OTR Publ.,PO Box 481, Centreville, AL 35042.  This book may be out of print now, but can be found from time to time on either eBay, or perhaps on Amazon.

Wirehaired Whippets were bred by the Arroyo Kennel in California and raced until the 1930’s by James F. Young and his daughter Christine Cormany.  She wrote about these dogs in Kennel Review, stating that they were around 22 lbs., although one successful female was only 15 lbs. They were mostly black, silver and fawn.  She states: 

    “As far as I can recall, we never had a white, brindle or parti-color,” and “The conformation of the rough-haired variety often compared favorably with the smooth.”  

All these dogs were put down when racing declined during the Depression and the Arroyo Kennels were forced to close.  Wirehaired Whippets did exist in particolor and other colors in Europe in the 1920's and 1930's, and photos of such dogs appear in the book Das Grosse Windhundeerbe, Kynos Verlag, 1930's (see Appalachian Greyhound pages at:  Appalachian Greyhounds Introduced by Claybrook).  Other photos and information regarding the Wirehaired Whippet are also presented in the book The Complete Whippet by Louis Pegram. 

Since the wirehaired trait is dominant, when the last dog with the wirehair trait dies, that particular type is lost forever from that particular gene pool.  It can, of course, be reintroduced using other unrelated wirehaired dogs, obviously from another gene pool.  

So the original Wirehaired Whippet is now, unfortunately, essentially extinct in the United States because it has been discriminated against for many years.  This sad situation came about because the writers of the Whippet standard did not want, or like, the Wirehaired Whippets. A smooth coat reveals the outline better than a more profuse coat, so that is the type of coat that the writers of the Whippet standard described as 'the only acceptable (to them) coat', and the smooth coat has subsequently  been selected for in the ensuing years.  

It was a simple, though time consuming, task to weed out the dogs with the wirehair characteristics.  Since wirehair is a dominant trait it displays itself quite obviously and so can be quite easily discriminated against.  

From the preceding it is quite clear that coated Whippets did indeed exist, with various names, many years ago.  Quite possibly their influence can still be seen today in some smooth show Whippets who have longer hair length.

For more information contact:

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


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