Wednesday, February 11, 2009




WITH, I believe few exceptions, the whippet or snap dog has' not been included as a distinct variety in any book on English dogs. Still, it is now, and has been for some time, quite a breed of itself, and amongst the colliers and other working men in the north of England, including Lancashire and York- shire, none is so popular or provides so much amusement. Originally the " whippet", was a small dog a cross between the Italian greyhound and some terrier or other, partaking in general appearance more of the greyhound cross than of the terrier. Thus, in many parts of the north, the dog is still called an " Hitalian," the local pronunciation of the name of that country from which it is supposed the fragile toy dog first came. He is likewise known as a "running" dog, the reason for which will be obvious. The whippet in perfection is a miniature grey-

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hound, built on the lines of a Fullerton or of a Bab at the Bowster, but smaller in size. It is kept specially for running races and for coursing rabbits on enclosed grounds arranged for the purpose, and for which it undergoes a course of training suitable to the circumstances. Both coursing and running matches may be considered the popular pastime amongst a very large class in the mining and manufacturing districts northwards, in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, in Durham, Lancashire, and Yorkshire especially. Several attempts have recently been made to extend the popularisation of the whippet, especially so far as its running powers are concerned. The Kennel Club has, for the first time this year (1892), given it an entry in the Stud Book, and classes have been provided for it at several south country shows. The latter had repeatedly appeared in the catalogues at Darlington and elsewhere in the north, but they seldom filled satisfactorily, and as a "bench dog" I need scarcely say the whippet is not likely to be any greater success than the greyhound. The entries made in the Stud Book are few, and most of the dogs there are minus a leading part of their history namely, their pedigrees. Without taking any pessimistic view of the question, I must confess my disbelief in the success of

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any scheme to make the whippet a popular animal outside the society in which it is now received. Its surroundings have not, as a rule, been of the highest in the social scale, nor have the rabbit coursing matches and tests of speed always been conducted by its owners in the fairest way possible. Various tricks are tried by the unscrupulous to prevent an opponent's dog winning, and a trainer or his friend has to be a sharp man in his line, to run successfully the gauntlet of all that is placed in his way during a match for money where such dogs compete. And it must be confessed that, not- withstanding the fairness, honesty, and firmness of the owners of the enclosed grounds where dog races and coursing take place, and of the umpires and referees, the general spirit of the sport is not the most wholesome in the world. Of course, these remarks are not applicable to all owners of whippets many of whom are as honest and good sportsmen as ever owned a dog but there can be no doubt that the popularity of the variety has been kept back by those "black sheep" to whom allusion is made. As I have said, the whippet ought not to be a big dog, weighing, from 12lb. to say, about 25lb. when in training. However, some of them are much heavier than this, and many of the so-called

170 Modern Dogs.

champion rabbit coursers reach 40lb. in weight or even more. I have known a thoroughbred greyhound take part in one of the big handicaps that are held during the season in the neighbourhood of Manchester and elsewhere. It scarcely remains for me to say that these bigger dogs are the direct cross with the greyhound, and some of them are built on such lines and contain so much greyhound blood, as to be scarcely distinguishable from the original article. Such dogs are fast, clever with their teeth, and oftener than not run straight into their rabbit, " holding "it without a turn, the one that does so winning the trial, irrespective of the capacity it shows for working, turning, or making the points as in coursing hares. The law allowed varies from anything between 30 and 70 yards, and directly the rabbit is dropped the dogs are slipped, the latter being done by a skilful man, specially appointed for the purpose. Handicaps are made according to the weight or height of the dog ; in Newcastle-on-Tyne and the surrounding districts, the latter being the custom the dog being measured from the top of the shoulder blade to the pad of the foot whilst in Lancashire and Yorkshire handicap by weight is preferred. In all cases a dog has to allow a bitch three yards start. These customs or rules likewise

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apply to dog racing, as dealt with later on, In some of the more important handicaps, each couple of dogs, as they are drawn together, have to compete the best out of five or even more courses. In minor affairs, one rabbit for each trial is made to suffice. Private matches between two dogs are frequently run, and such often enough create as much interest as the handicaps, especially when two " cracks " are competing. Here the conditions may vary some- what, the start given the rabbit being specially named, and the number of courses being usually the best of twenty-one, or, perhaps, of thirty-one, a certain time, generally five minutes, being allowed between each trial. However, if the whippet is to become generally popular, it will not be by means of an ability to kill rabbits. The dog racing by him will be more likely to find favour with the public. Those who are not connected with the sport will be surprised to find the hold it has obtained amongst the working classes in the north. There are repeatedly from one hundred and fifty to over three hundred such dogs entered at one competition, the trial heats of which, three dogs taking part in each heat, being run as a rule one Saturday, the finals the Saturday following. This day is a half-holiday with the miners and work- people, hence its selection, but other meetings are

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held on the recognised Bank holidays, and sometimes on Mondays.

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