Claybrook Farm

Pure Longhaired Whippets


Recessive Coat Types

       Sighthounds originated before the invention of guns.  The hunter expected the sighthound to see the game and run it down and kill it.  Whippets are sighthounds that were used mainly for the hunting of small game, like rabbits.


"Corbin" across the yard.  Another yard gazelle.  

    Smooth Whippets have skin that tears and gets cut very easily.  They are also very sensitive to the cold.  Whippets that were regularly hunted, as all sighthounds were originally bred to do, were subjected to all types of terrain and weather.  It is only reasonable to assume that coated dogs were much hardier and better able to withstand the elements and therefore preferred by some for the job at hand, namely hunting.  However, hunting with  sighthounds is not like hunting with a sporting dog, like a pointer or a retriever.  The sighthound may have to travel great distances before it can run down and catch it's prey.

    This type of hunting declined with the advent of more people living in smaller areas and using guns for hunting. Then in the mid 1800ís, dog shows became popular.  Showing, as explained on A Perspective on Dog Breeding, is merely presenting animals to one or two people (the judges) for their opinion of which animal looks or trots the best.  At the same time that showing became popular in England, Whippet racing also was developing into a major past time. 

    Unfortunately, as quoted from authors of the books published around the turn of the century, see Coated Whippets in History , the coated Whippets faired less and less well.  The extra hair hid the graceful curves that were blaringly obvious on the smooths, and the it also slowed the dogs down in the races.  People tend not to breed what does not win for them, so they bred fewer and fewer coated Whippets.  However, the genetics for extra hair is polygenic (multiple genes).  Furthermore, it has proven to be cumulative in other breeds, which means that in breeds that are bred for extra coat, if the breeding stock is selectively bred for more and more coat over the years, then the successive generations develop more and more coat.  There are many examples of this very thing in various breeds, including sighthounds.  Various hair length can even be seen in AKC Whippets today, with some dogs having obviously longer hairs than others.  This indicates some type of genetic influence of coat variation in genes that are being carried forward, unexpressed or expressed in a very diluted form, from many years ago.

    It is well known that whippet type dogs were bred with various coats in the 1800's, before the closed registries and dog showing became popular.  These various coat types were obtained through crossing with other breeds, as was commonly done, depending on what the breeder was trying to achieve.  It must be remembered that "breeds", with their narrow definition, called by one European sighthound man, "breed box mentality", did not exist until the mid to late 1800's.  Our view today of "breeds" is very closed minded and a very recent development in the history of dog breeding.  

    A fascinating account of the various coats on the Whippet type dogs appearing as late as the 1890's occurs in the book Das Grosse Windhundeerbe, Kynos Verlag, 1930's.  Translated from the German:  

    "...the 'snapdog', our present Whippet.  I have witnessed it's rise in popularity myself and still vividly remember that in the year 1890 at the houndraces and rabbithunts that were regularly held on Saturday afternoons in this region very often the most remarkable breed mixtures, color-varieties and coat-varieties were making an appearance, smooth, longhaired, 'zottelhaarig' (sort of wirehaired with an undercoat), wirehaired, silky haired, wavy haired and even curly haired a la Curly Coated Retriever, from Foxterrier up to large Airdale size but they all had the muscle packed, characteristic rear end of the English greyhound..."

    If some of these various coat type dogs, undoubtedly being bred long before 1890, found their way into the Whippet type gene pool, which most assuredly they did, then obviously the genetics for those coats were passed into the breed now called Whippet.  While some of these coat types, like wirehaired, are dominant, many of them are recessive.  

    In other words, if two dogs with a recessive coat type, let us say longhaireds for this example, were bred together, they could produce only longhaired offspring, since longhair is a recessive trait.  However, if a longhaired dog is bred to say, a smooth dog with no longhair in it's immediate background, all the resulting offspring will be smooth, since smooth is a dominant trait.  But those offspring will carry the longhaired trait.  

    The dominant trait expresses itself while the recessive trait is there in the dog's genes, but is hidden by the dominant trait.  Those offspring can then pass on the recessive trait to their own offspring, who once again, may never express the recessive trait either.

    Unfortunately, coat inheritance is not that simple, with many traits being cumulative.  The longhair trait is a case in point.  The hair can be just barely longer than a smooth, or it can be quite long and profuse.  When a smooth is bred to a longhair, the smooth trait greatly overpowers the longhair trait, and it takes a number of generations of breeding longer haired dogs together to get the longer coat back. See Mendelian Genetics Simplified

    Concerning coat length, it is well known that coat length and texture vary widely on modern day smooth Whippets.  This variation in smooth coat type also occurs in Dachshunds where all 3 coat types - smooth, long and wire - may be freely interbred in this country (USA).  When this interbreeding is done, many different coat variations can occur in a single litter, even among 'smooth' pups.  Some puppies may have a very smooth coat that is extremely short, fine, close fitting and almost stiff while other 'smooth' pups have longer, not so close fitting and softer hairs.

    Evidently this range in coat type is caused by several genes that interact, possibly linking together, and causing a variation in length, texture (from silky to coarse), curly or straight with long feathering, and thickness of coat. 

    Another interesting link with the coated gene is typiness (sometimes defined as exaggerated curviness in the case of Whippets), or lack thereof.  As with many other breeds of dogs, and cats as well, it is the smooth variety within a given breed that is often more typy than the coated variety.  When both smooth and coated animals are in the same litter, the smooth littermates will frequently be more typy than their nonsmooth brothers and sisters.  This phenomena is unarguable because it is observed so often.  However, this does not make the coated, but not quite so typy animal another breed!  

    This frustrating genetic link has been confirmed by many breeders of various dog and cat breeds.  It is one reason that breeders of coated animals are often forced to periodically use smooth animals in their breeding programs - to continually refine type, lest it be quantifiably reduced - because it appears not to be well-linked to the coated gene.  Occasionally an extremely typy coated animal will be produced, and this is the animal that is heavily coveted for show and breeding purposes.



For more information contact:

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


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