By Herbert Compton
Published by G. Richards, 1904
Item notes: v.2
THE RACE DOG
WHIPPET OR RACEDOG
Norman Mayall & Co. photo
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
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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STANDARD OF POINTS OF THE WHIPPET
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.