CHAPTER XIX. THE WHIPPET

The training of Whippets is by no means easy work, and is more expensive than most people imagine. The very choicest food is deemed absolutely necessary, in fact a Whippet undergoing preparation for an important race is provided with the most wholesome fare. Choice mutton-chops, beef-steaks and similar dainties comprise their daily portion. Of course exercise is a necessity, but it is not considered good policy to allow a dog in training to gambol about either on the roads or in the fields. Indeed, all dogs which are undergoing preparation for a race are practically deprived of their freedom, in lieu of which they are walked along hard roads secured by a lead; and for fear of their picking up the least bit of refuse each is securely muzzled by a box-like leather arrangement which completely envelops the jaws, but which is freely perforated to permit proper breathing. Any distance between six and a dozen miles a day, according to the stamina and condition of the dog, is supposed to be the proper amount of exercise, and scales are brought into use every few days to gauge the effect which is being produced. In addition to this private trials are necessary in the presence of someone who is accustomed to timing races by the aid of a stop-watch—a by no means easy task, considering that a slight particle of a second means so many yards, and the average speed working out at about 16 yards per second—nearly twice as fast as the fastest pedestrian sprinter, and altogether beyond the power of the fleetest race-horse.

Colour in the Whippet is absolutely of no importance to a good judge, though possibly what is known as the peach fawn is the favourite among amateur fanciers. Red fawns, blue or slate coloured, black, brindled of various shades, and these colours intermingled with white, are most to be met with, however. In some quarters the idea is prevalent that Whippets are delicate in their constitution, but this is a popular error. Probably their disinclination to go out of doors on their own initiative when the weather is cold and wet may account for the opinion, but given the opportunity to roam about a house the Whippet will find a comfortable place, and will rarely ail anything. In scores of houses Whippets go to bed with the children, and are so clean that even scrupulous housewives take no objection to their finding their way under the clothes to the foot of the bed, thereby securing their own protection and serving as an excellent footwarmer in the winter months.

Probably in no other breed, except the Greyhound, do judges attach so little importance to the shape of the head; so long as the jaws are fairly long and the colour of the eyes somewhat in keeping with that of the body, very little else is looked for in front of the ears. As in the case of racing competitors, really good dogs for show purposes are much more difficult to find than bitches. The best of the males are not so classical in outline as the females, though some of them are as good in legs and feet—points which are of the greatest importance. Though it is not quite in accordance with the standard laid down by the club, it will be found that most judges favour dogs which are about 17 lbs. weight, and bitches which are between 15 lbs. and 16 lbs., the 20 lbs. mentioned in the standard of points, without variation for sex being considered altogether too heavy. Appearances are sometimes deceptive, but these dogs are rarely weighed for exhibition purposes, the trained eye of the judge being sufficient guide to the size of the competitors according to his partiality for middle-size, big, or little animals.

The South Durham and Yorkshire Show at Darlington has the credit for first introducing classes for Whippets into the prize ring. Previous to this it had not long been generally recognised as a distinct breed, and it is within the last twenty years that the Kennel Club has placed the breed on its recognised list.

The following is the standard of points adopted by the Whippet Club:—

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HEAD—Long and lean, rather wide between the eyes and flat on the top; the jaw powerful yet cleanly cut; the teeth level and white. EYES—Bright and fiery. EARS—Small, fine in texture and rose shape. 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 a fair amount of bone. HIND-QUARTERS—Strong and broad across stifles, well bent thighs, broad and muscular; hocks well let down. FEET—Round, well split up, with strong soles. COAT—Fine and close. COLOUR—Black, red, white, brindle, fawn, blue, and the various mixtures of each. WEIGHT—Twenty pounds.