Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Twentieth Century Dog 1904

The Twentieth Century Dog ... By Herbert Compton
The Twentieth Century Dog ...
By Herbert Compton
Published by G. Richards, 1904
Item notes: v.2




Norman Mayall & Co. photo



The whippet affords a remarkable illustration of the talent, not to say genius, of the dog-fancier, and his ability to manufacture new types of dogs. No one looking at the picture of Manorley May, which adorns this section, and bearing in mind her height, which is 17 inches, and her weight of 19 Ibs., could desire a more exquisitely proportioned four-footed creature, or one more instinct with the attributes of swiftness and virility made apparent. And yet this model of harmony and grace is, in its correlation of height and weight, outside the ordinary scheme of canine creation. To all intents and purposes it represents a new species of dog, as it represents a new feature of attractiveness in dog-fancying in one of the uses to which it is put.

Curiously enough, the whippet as a piece of canine art is the creation of the working-man. To the miners and mill-hands of the North,—heavy-limbed, huge-framed, grimy delvers in the bowels of the earth, or toilers in the busy factories,—we owe this dainty design in dog's flesh. The genesis of the breed may be traced to the love of sport and affection for dogs which are characteristics of the North, that has given us many contributions besides whippets to our canine classification—as, for instance, Airedale, Bedlington, Manchester, Yorkshire, and white English terriers, and also fostered in


their purity other older breeds which were, otherwhere, lapsing into a state bordering on mongrelism. The dog- world owes much to the triangle between the Mersey, the Humber, and the Tyne. Therein dwell a hardy, homely race of sportsmen, whose humble sphere of sport was confined chiefly to rabbiting; and it was to increase the speed of the terrier or " snap-dog," formerly used in this pursuit, that, some time in the 'Sixties, it is said, an out-cross with the Italian greyhound was resorted to ; others ascribe the creation to a cross between a greyhound and a Manchester terrier.

It was an alliance of swiftness and grace with pluck and tenacity, and the blend " came away good." In time, by judicious breeding, there was evolved an animal with the grit and staying powers of the working terrier, and the symmetry and speed of the aristocratic dog. No doubt at a later period greyhound blood filtered in, for there is a variation in the weight of the whippet inconsistent with a cross confined to the first two breeds only. But the terrier grit was maintained whilst the physical outline was gradually refined into closer harmony with the greyhound, until a perfect miniature of that breed was arrived at, only gifted with an improved character and mental capacity.

With its racing lines, with its racing speed, and with its tractability, a new vista opened out for this new breed of dog. I have no doubt the terrier intelligence it retained suggested the possibility of the purpose to which it was put. The whippet was a dog that could be trained to race without fur leading it— no easy task when you come to try it, but amazingly fascinating when accomplished. Horse - racing is a sport which appeals irresistibly to the natives of these islands, whilst only a few can personally enjoy it . But racing with dogs, and such dogs, was a form of com-


petition that came within the means of the poorest. The north countryman took to the idea with avidity ; the dog was bred more and more for speed ; there came " professional trainers" to educate it and fit it for its duties ; and in the course of a decade the " snap-dog " blossomed into a race-dog, and whippet-racing one of the most popular amusements of the miners and other sons of toil in Northumberland, Yorkshire, and the adjoining counties.

Whippet-racing is now a big business — quite a world of its own ; its rules and regulations are not germane to these pages ; but those who are interested in them may find all the information they need in a publication that deals with the subject at full length. Sufficient to say that the sport has been reduced to very exact lines, and the rigour with which it is legislated for and conducted is second to that of no other sporting code in the country. To the well-trained whippet the race alone is the thing. That it excites them almost as much as their masters is a fact capable of ocular proof at any meeting ; and the wholly innocent cause of that excitement contrasts pleasantly with other similar dog-diversions where praise for the prowess of the dog is qualified by pity for its victim. From a humanitarian point of view, the whippet, as a race-dog pure and simple, and one that can be excited to the greatest exertion without scent of blood or sight of fur, deserves popularity.

I have been so fortunate as to obtain the following contribution from Mr. J. R. Fothergill, the President of the Whippet Club, on the subject of whippet-racing, and although its inclusion extends this section beyond its allotted limits, I am sure all my readers interested in the breed will be glad to have a description of the sport from one so qualified to give it:—


Whippet-racing.—The whippet has often been called "the poor man's race-horse," but nevertheless it can also be the rich man's race-dog. It is true that, with a few exceptions, only working-men in England have ever attended to whippet-racing, but I shall endeavour to show that, although it is the cheapest form of sport, it is far from being the meanest.

Although whippet-racing finds its patrons amongst some of the narrowest intellects in England, there is no doubt that the simple miners and mill-hands of the North have a genius for the breeding, running, and educating of their dogs. I have visited Lancashire more than once, especially to investigate whippet-racing there, and have come away full of admiration for their scientific methods, their keenness and honesty.

The best racing-whippets are bred like race-horses, through a long line of winners. To be of any use the dog must begin its education very young. As soon as it has been weaned it is kept aloof from his fellow-puppies and other dogs. From this day forward it lives the life of a hermit, having no friends and no enemies. The reason for this is that the dog will have to do his racing unjockeyed, so to speak, over a 200 yards' course, and from the moment he leaves the " slipper's " hands he must never take his eyes off the " rag" which another man (the walker-up) has carried before him up to the end of the course. If, then, he has been in the habit of chiveying playmates, or fighting with strange dogs, there are ten chances to one he will prefer to indulge in these games up the course instead of honestly " running to the rag." If, on the contrary, he has never known the society of other dogs, it will rarely occur to a whippet to molest them. Those who turn out " slappers," as they are called, are useless for racing, as they will never run in front. At the first Lancashire whippet-race I attended a friend told me he was bringing out a whelp for the first time. It was twelve months old and had never run in company. I suggested it was a toss-up whether it would " run honest" or not, and he was quite surprised at my doubts. But the whelp turned neither to right nor to left, and in the company of five screaming dogs, and between some thousand onlookers, ran as straight as a line from start to rag.

During the first six months or year a puppy requires much attention and patience; he is generally, therefore, handed over to an experienced " walker," who, for two or three shillings a week, will keep and educate him. The puppy at once takes up his quarters in the man's kitchen and bedroom, where he plays and sleeps till his master has left work for the day, when he is taken



for a walk. It is comical to see a little puppy walking on a lead, muzzled and coated. They always muzzle whippets to prevent them picking up bad food when in training ; many of them even sleep in their muzzles.

The puppy is now encouraged to tear and worry rag and paper, even though he destroy, at times, some of his master's belongings. The taste for the rag once developed, he is held by one man in the proper slipping fashion, whilst another worries him with-a rag. He is let loose at it, and then, by increasing the distance from a yard to thirty yards or so, the puppy will dash at the rag with all the speed he can muster. Great care is taken not to give the puppy too much exertion, as this would damp his fire. He is taken to whippet-races, where he hears the people shout, accustoms himself to the starter's pistol and the noise of the dogs yelping. No dog shows more nerve than the racer; he is indifferent to everything save his rag, and afraid of nothing. The experiment was once tried, for a wager, of lighting a line of straw across the track ; the dogs ran through it quite blindly. I have been asked whether a dog was brought to such a pitch of keenness by starving him ; and again whether he was taught by the whip ! The reader will have already understood there is no need for such curious means to prick the courage ; nay rather, the dog, whatever be his offence, is never chastised. The fearlessness of the race-dog is due entirely to the fact that he has never known suppression or defeat from man or beast. He lives by rule, is daily given his runs and walks, and his only diversion is to witness a dog-race, or to visit the public-house of an evening in his master's arms or on the lead. Here he will attract a circle of whippeters, who will handle him and maul him about on the table, much to the satisfaction of the walker.

When the whelp is about ten months old he bids good-bye to his first keeper, and starts life with a trainer. Of course the greater number of dogs are brought up by their owners and trained by them, but most of these will spend six weeks, at some time, with a trainer. But the successful dogs, as a rule, are those that are under professional care, which is by no means expensive.
The dog is now walked regularly from 5 to 15 miles a day, according to his size, and does a 200-yards' course twice a-week, or even shorter distances. When he is quite hard, and his feet in condition to stand the cinder track, he runs his first race. It is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules for training, as trainers differ so much in method, and dogs in constitution ; but the chief points observed are these. The dog must have


enough slow work for hardening him to give him stamina, say, for three races in an afternoon, and enough running to develop his speed ; by observation and timing the trainer is able to see how much exercise, fast and slow, he needs. It is important, moreover, that the dog, when walking, should go on a lead at his trainer's pace, and that, when he runs, the distance shall never exceed 200 yards. As for feeding, the bantam's eggs, the first slice off a shoulder of lamb, old sherry, and other delicacies that one hears is the race-dog's bill of fare, these are vain imaginations! The dog usually gets a basin of broken bread, gravy, and pudding; very often tea and ale, and, in fact, has just what the family has. Meat he is not given until the last few days before a race. Of course if he has to run for a .£50 match he is somewhat more expensively fed for a week or so.

I have now considered the education and training of a race- dog. Before I come to the handicapping a word or two must be said of the "slipper" and " walker-up." For the race the dog is put into the hands of the slipper, who stands behind the starting mark, and the walker-up, who is generally the owner or trainer, or some one whom the dog knows, takes the rag, waves it in the face of the dog, and then, with frantic shouts or whistles, passes up the course with the other walkers-up, and does not stop till the "trig mark" is reached—that is, 15 yards behind the winning mark. The judge signals to the starter at the other end, who tells the slippers to " get ready." These take up their position, holding the dogs by a good handful of skin by the neck, and the tail firmly at the root. The starter, standing behind the dogs, fires the pistol, and with a lurch forward the dogs are all thrown into their stride, and before thirteen seconds they will have caught, every dog, his own rag, with all the grip of his jaws, be lifted into the air by his own momentum, and swing around his particular man like a fish on a line '

The first over the winning mark wins ; the walkers-up are careful to hold the rag at arm's length to the side, otherwise, when the dog comes at full speed to catch the rag, he would break his neck against the man's legs. A whippet, when at full speed, is going at the rate of somewhere between 36 and 40 miles an hour ! There are seldom more than three or four crack slippers in Oldham, for their business requires great skill. These men take from .£3 to £$ for slipping the winner of a handicap. So precisely can they tell how dogs are slipped that a slipper is commonly heard to say that he got his dog offthree or four inches better than another, or vice versa ! And seeing that in the finals


of a good handicap the six dogs can be " covered with a towel" when running over the winning mark, it is important to procure every possible inch by securing a good slipper. It is only by slipping some thirty dogs every Saturday afternoon that these men become such skilled performers.

The dogs are handicapped on a very elaborate and exact system. It is only just that a little dog should get a start from a big one, as the bigger has the more weight and muscle and a longer stride, and so a scale of weights and starts is made to establish a basis upon which to handicap any dog whose performances are not known. By closely observing the running of hundreds of dogs for forty years, and by striking the averages after every handicap, the folk in Lancashire have elaborated a scale which allows the best dog to win, and not the biggest. Ignorant people will make up a handicap, giving the dogs two yards to the pound, but this is rough and unscientific. It stands to reason that a pound to a dog weighing 9 Ibs. is more advantageous to him over a dog weighing 8 Ibs. than the pound would be to a 28-Ib. dog over one weighing 27 Ibs. With the little dogs a pound is worth more in proportion to their whole weight than with big dogs. This will be illustrated in the appended scale:—



Bitches, being three yards faster than dogs, have three yards less start and so if one has to make up the starts of a number of dogs one would employ this scale, and the dogs at the finish would be very close, unless they differed much in quality. It would then be a " classic race," in which the fastest dog would win. In the next handicap one would put the winner back two yards behind the last mark, and the second one a yard. If any dog ran particularly badly in its heat, he would be given a lift of a yard or so. It does not do to be too generous with the lifting. Good dogs are not encouraged, and bad ones are kept low until the owner complains to the handicapper, when he is told to "get a better dog !" I cannot but think with regret how many bad dogs are exterminated every year, but as the whippeter is a poor man he cannot afford to keep bad stock.

On the other hand, there are feelings almost romantic between the owner and a successful dog ; it is always the centre of love and affection in the family, and deserves to be when, perhaps, it has supported them from time to time by its winnings. And when it gets too old it lives for the rest of its life by the fire, and the family get another winner to run for them.

Of course betting is with the whippeters the sole aim of dog- racing. At the winning end of the course there is a stand erected for "dockers." These stand with watch in hand and time the winners of the first heats before they and their friends put down their money on the ultimate winner. The dog-timing watch is expensive, costing about £9 or £10 ; the hand travels round the dial once in two seconds. Thus a dog can be timed easily to a sixteenth of a second, which represents a yard. . , Twice a month all through the year there is a handicap of £25 or £40 at £are entered. After the first round one can generally get 6 to I or better on the field. Sums of £300 or £400 are frequently won at these handicaps, and I once saw a dog backed by its owner to win £3000, but he lost by a nose! Needless to say the owner was a well-to-do innkeeper.


betting on the others' dogs. This of course reduces the sport to robbery and absurdity. But if the stewards insist on fair starting, there are left fewer ingenious tricks in whippet-racing for cheating the betting public than there are in horse-racing ; for it is possible to see if a man has held his dog, however momentary the delay may have been, whilst it is never quite obvious that a jockey is pulling.

Personally the few whippet-races I have seen have always reminded me of a sight I was once witness to in an Indian jungle, where I was shooting, with a large body of beaters driving the game towards me. My station was in front of a small glade, the grass on which was cropped as short as the turf on the Downs by browsing deer. Suddenly across this little open space darted seven mouse-deer at full speed, frightened by the cries of the approaching beaters. They were tiny, grey, dotted things, with pipe-stem legs, just about the size of smallish whippets, and not at all unlike them in shape and form. Running extended, and low to earth, they cleared the glade and shot into the opposite jungle before you could say " Jack," much less " Robinson ! " I think it was the fleetest entrance and exit I ever saw in my life. And when I was present at my first whippet-race, the memory of that scene occurred to me, and the conviction to my mind that a mouse-deer was the proper quarry for a whippet.

The speed of a whippet is almost incredible. The record time, made by a 21^-lb. dog, named White Eye, was twelve seconds for 200 yards, which works out at a pace of a mile in 1- minutes. A 12-lb. dog has been known to cover the same distance (expressing it in the technical phraseology of the whippet-race course) in " 7 J yards inside 13 seconds." The racing pace of a whippet is reckoned at 16 yards per second— figures that will account for the acute excitement when these little creatures are competing with one another


with (what you might call) the speed of a telegraph message! In such " touch and go" affairs as these handicaps necessarily are, the rules controlling them have to be extra stringent, and the slipping of a dog before the report of the pistol is followed with disqualification for the whole meeting. Bank holidays and Saturday afternoons are devoted to whippet-racing by thousands of people in the North, and, needless to say, there is a great deal of gambling and wagering on the results of the races.

Rabbit-coursing is also conducted on the handicap principle. The rabbit is allowed an average start of 50 yards,—it may be more or less,—and the dogs are slipped from their handicap stations. There are no points allowed to count for the skill displayed in the course, as in greyhound-coursing, and each couple of competitors are matched for the most kills of from eleven to twenty-five rabbits.

It is an inexplicable thing why whippet-racing has never " caught on " in the South, notwithstanding that exhibitions have been given at some of the leading shows. Mr. Fothergill arranged two whippet handicaps, £20 and £2 5 stakes, at Lewes in 1901, under the management of a club formed by him ; but, though the racing was very good, over 100 dogs being entered in the second race, the venture proved a great loss. The breed, however, has decidedly increased in popularity. In 1899 a Whippet Club was formed, and through its exertions the breed received formal recognition and was accorded a place in the Registers three years later. It is, by its very nature, not a show-bench dog, but classes are fairly well filled, and at the Kennel Club shows in 1901-03 the entries averaged forty-five, though they sank below forty in the latter year. Of course this cannot be considered very satisfactory in a small breed of dogs, and


one which numbers its votaries by the thousands in the North. But it is pretty certain that the Whippet Club, -- which now has such names on its front page as Mr JR Fothergill, Lady Arthur Grosvenor, Mr Fred Bottomley, Mr Harding Cox, and Mr A Lamotte,-- will soon improve the status of the breed, and carry it into the position which the intrinsic merits and physical beauties of the little animal it has been founded to foster, right worthily deserve. The sport of whippet racing suitably conducted is one in which ladies might find a great delight; it offers the quintessence of excitement, crystallised into a few seconds; it is capable of being conducted within private enclosures and kept select, and it adds an attraction to dog-keeping which is not to be obtained in any other breed under the same innocent conditions. There is no blood shed, and there is lots of fun, and, I doubt not, as much joy in owning a winner as in the proprietorship of other “fleetest of their kind.” And for this reason alone the development of whippet-racing is a consummation which no one could object to.

The following are the notes I have received from my contributors in this section:--

MR JR FOTHERGILL (President of the Whippet Club)-- Nothing could be better as regards type, than many of the bitches now being shown, but the breed requires a few good dogs, a few good breeders, and a few good supporters The values of the points seem to me good, but in judging by points one can often go wide of the mark. More especially is this the case with whippets and greyhounds With these dogs individual points are of little importance, even if they have them all in equal perfection, without symmetry, balance and simplicity of construction. The whippet is intended for running only. Many a dog, with a row of bad points, is faster and handier than many a good-showing dog. The reason is that they have the above - mentioned qualities. Judge a whippet out of focus first and then adjust your sight for detail.


I like a whippet first as a race dog, a more interesting study for the subject of animal psychology is hard to find, but there is no need to expatiate upon this somewhat abstract subject here. Like all dogs, their characters are like those of their masters, and they are as easily impressionable, and taught, as any other dog I have had to do with. A thorough bred whippet can be taught retrieving and ratting, whilst he is naturally a better hand at rabbits than a terrier or a greyhound. I have four thorough bred whippets that will hunt the scent of a rabbit or any other scent for any distance. Each takes its own line and they are remarkably clever at casting and travel at a great speed. I have known them to hunt a hare entirely by its scent over the Downs for about a mile and a half. A lady looks better with a whippet than with most other dogs, they are so ornamental. Though if for this purpose a foil is required, a bulldog certainly serves best.

MR HARDING Cox — There is not much fault to find with the type of the breed as it exists to day, but breeders must keep up sufficient bone, and must be careful about close, strong, well arched, and well split up feet. I have always judged whippets on greyhound lines making due allowance for difference of type in hindquarters. Beyond the sport afforded by whippets in sprinting matches and coursing rabbits, I fancy there is little to recommend them as companions though they are lively and amiable as a rule.

MRS CHARLES CHAPMAN – I think there is a danger in breeding whippets fit for the bench only and losing sight of the qualities necessary for racing. The whippet is gifted with extraordinary speed and for the limited distance it races exceeds that of the greyhound. My bitch Ch Rosette of Radnage accomplished the feat of winning a championship at the Kennel Club Show of 1900, and winning the handicap promoted by the Whippet Club at the same show. Whippet racing, properly conducted, is a most charming sport and essentially suitable for ladies to interest themselves in, and I feel very sorry that the efforts made to popularise it seem to have been without result. Whippets, or more properly speaking race dogs, are capital house companions but their principal interest lies in the sport they afford. And for my ideal whippet, I see him held in the leash by his handler eager for the start. He is straining every nerve quivering with excitement and fairly screaming in his anxiety to be after the white rag to reach which is to the uninitiated the inexplicable cause of this mysterious racing. My


ideal is of brindle colour, about 15 or 16 Ibs in weight, so that he is well placed in the handicap. His head is long and lean, his mouth perfectly level, his ears small, and shoulders as sloping as possible. His body is well tucked up, with the brisket very deep, his back slightly arched, with a whip tail carried low but nicely curved. His hindquarters are very muscular, and his fore legs absolutely straight, with feet hard and close, and hind legs well turned with hocks bent under him, all the muscles induced by the thorough training he has undergone showing – he looks what he is – a perfect picture of a “race dog”

MR A LAMOTTE – The breed is making great strides in the right direction, viz a greyhound weighing about 20 Ibs. In the Standard of Points, great value should be laid on power in hindquarters and loin, good feet and legs, deep brisket with plenty of heart room. The whippet was made to race and gallop short distances at a great speed. To see these small pets fighting it out yard by yard on the track is wonderful. And how they love the sport. Unfortunate it is that it is not in better hands, but we must hope that this will improve in time. The whippet as a pet is a very charming animal and its affection for its owner is great. Watching them running about with their quick graceful movements is a joy to the eye

MR FRED BOTTOMLEY – The type of whippet to day is better than of late though there is still room for improvement in shoulders, weak pasterns, straight hocks, and size, which in my opinion should not exceed 20 Ibs. I am the oldest whippet exhibitor, and for the last ten years have made but few additions to my kennels, always showing my own strain which include Ch Manorley New Boy and Ch Manorley Model now withdrawn from the show bench. I have always found whippets the best of pals, very game dogs, and the fastest dog living for their size.

I take the following Standard of Points from the Whippet Club's publication. This institution has a strong committee. Mr Charles S Smith is the Honorary Secretary and the subscription is half a guinea annually. The club owns a challenge cup which is competed for every year at the Kennel Club Show.



HEAD Long and lean rather wide between the eyes and flat at the top. The jaw powerful yet clearly cut
TEETH Level and white
EYES Bright and fiery
EARS Small fine in texture and rose shaped
NECK Long and muscular elegantly arched and free from throatiness
SHOULDERS Oblique and muscular
CHEST Deep and capacious
BACK Broad and square rather long and slightly arched over the loin which should be strong and powerful
FORE LEGS Rather long well set under the dog possessing fair amount of bone
HINDQUARTERS Strong and broad across stifles well bent thighs broad and muscular hocks well let down
FEET Round well split up with strong soles
TAIL Tapering long and nicely carried COAT Fine and close
COLOUR Black red white brindle fawn blue and various mixtures of each
WEIGHT The ideal weight is 20 Ibs There are no points values published in this breed

The subject of my illustration is Mr Fred Bottomley's beautiful bitch Manorley May born in June 1899 by Fullerton ex Judy. She stands 17 inches at shoulder weighs 19 Ibs and is of a fawn colour. Mr Bottomley describes her as having a grand long lean head brown eyes semi erect ears small and fine in texture and beautiful neck and shoulders. Her body and legs are perfect and she is framed for speed and work. She possesses all the good points of a first class whippet and has proved herself a very fast bitch in handicap races as well as a great winner on the show bench. She won a championship at Brighton firsts every time shown and is the dam of winners.

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