SILKEN WINDSPRITE (formerly known as LONGHAIRED WHIPPET)

Whippets, small greyhound-like dogs, have existed for at least five hundred years and are depicted in numerous Renaissance works of art.  A smooth show type Whippet is shown in “The Adoration of the Magi” by Benvenuto di Giovanni (1436-1518) in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  Two smooth Whippets, a black and a white, are in another “The Adoration of the Magi” by an unnamed painter identified as a Hispano-Dutch Master, late 15th century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.  These are only two of countless examples.  An excellent article by Walter Wheeler is “The Historical Whippet” originally published in Popular Dogs, February, 1958, which gives other references.  Other Whippet history is in Col. David Hancock’s book The Heritage of Dogs, 1990, (Great Britain).

    Prior to the late 1800’s and the formation of closed registries in England and here in the USA, dog breeds were maintained or improved by crossing them with other breeds.  This promoted hybrid vigor and repressed inbreeding depression (accumulation of negative recessives) that causes the health problems which we see alarmingly increasing in dogs registered in closed registries today.  Whippets were included in these crosses, of course, and the resulting offspring were no doubt the foundation stock for coated Whippets mentioned in many old dog books.

            Perhaps the very best, and certainly an irrefutable, historical reference to the existence of  Whippets with longhair is found in The New Book of the Dog, 1906, by Robert Leighton, which contains a chapter on Whippets that is written by F. C. Hignett, a Whippet fancier for over fifty years.  Hignett states:

     “Formerly there were two varieties of the Whippet, long and short coated, but the former is rarely met with nowadays, either at the exhibitions or on the running track; in fact, a long-coated dog, however good it might be as regards anatomy, would have a poor chance of winning a prize at a show, for its shaggy appearance would most likely hide the graceful outline which is a much admired and characteristic feature.”

            Hignett divided Whippets intotwo groups, short and longcoated.Please note that Hignett stated that the "longcoated" Whippet was "shaggy".  Some would interpret Hignett's term "longcoated" to mean only wirehaired, but from old photos we know that Wirehaired Whippets were not what could be called "shaggy".  Rather they had a fairly sparse coat that tended not to hide the outline, more like a wirehaired Galgo, as stated by D. Brian Plummer, below.  

    Obviously, Hignett had seen and was describing Whippets who had much more hair than the typical wirehaired we know from photos.  Based on other historical documents, we know that Whippet type dogs with a variety of different coats, obtained from various breed mixtures, were seen in the mid-1800's, before the inception of the closed registries and their closed studbooks.  No doubt some of these variously coated dogs found their way into the Whippet gene pool, which provided a base for the modern day longhaired Whippet.

    Personal  correspondence with individuals who have owned and bred Whippets since the 1920's and who actually saw and were familiar with the Wirehaired Whippets confirm the fact that their coats were, indeed, sparse. This is not surprising, given the fact that Terriers were crossed on smooth Whippets, in England, before the creation of the closed registries.  This was done to give more drive and gaminess.

    Other individuals, whose families owned, bred and coursed Whippets for generations in the British Isles, have confirmed their first hand knowledge of Longhaired Whippets with soft, silky hair, in Great Britain, many years ago, prior to their current revival here in the USA

Another historical reference to Whippets that are not smooth is in The Whippet and Race Dog, 1894, by Freeman Lloyd.  He states:

     “For the sporting Whippet I should be inclined to pick the rough-haired variety...I would rather go in for the hard-coated variety - one with a grizzled face and a fairly dense coat - I think these are more suitable for the work, and can stand the weather better than the animal that has to be clothed in winter and even pampered in the summer.”   

    Here we have an author from the late 1800's using two separate terms for Whippets that were not smooth - "rough-haired" and "hard-coated".  Since Lloyd actually describes "hard-coated" as having a "grizzled" face one can assume that "hard-coated" probably indicated wirehaired.  

    So then what did "rough-haired" mean to Lloyd?  Obviously, at least, a dog that was not shorthaired.  One can conclude that there were some "rough-haired" dogs that were "hard-coated", and some "rough-haired" dogs that were not "hard-coated", since the author used both terms and felt that he had to explain "hard-coated".  

    Therefore, we can deduce that Lloyd's "rough-haired" dogs may or may not have had grizzle on their faces and may or may not have had a dense coat.  So, was this rough-haired Whippet without grizzle on the face and with a less dense coat a longhaired, a separate "variety", to use Lloyd's own word?  Perhaps.  All we know is that Lloyd used both terms, and felt that he had to further describe the different "rough-haired" Whippets, with one "variety" having grizzle on the face and a "fairly dense coat" and the other evidently not having these attributes but still having a nonsmooth coat.

            Thirteen years later, in 1907, Mr. Lloyd wrote in the Melbourne Sporting Library edition of Dogs

    “Whippets are exceedingly sharp and smart dogs, very delightful to look upon.  There are smooth and rough in coat. The former are the more popular.”  

    Then he once again divided coated Whippets into two categories with his following statement:

     “I am not of the opinion that the rough variety or the broken-haired kind will ever find so much favor in the eyes of the judges as the smooth ones...” 

    Here again we have a clear historical reference to coated Whippets, with, once again, evidently two varieties within the coated type dogs.  His first statement breaks Whippets into smooth and nonsmooth.  But then he further divides the coated Whippets into two distinct types.  If the sentence syntax is examined we see that there are no commas after "rough variety" or around the phrase "the broken-haired kind".  If there were commas we would know that Lloyd was just using a different word to rename the exact same coat.  However, he states "…the rough variety or the broken-haired kind will…", with no commas, presumably implying two separate types of coated Whippets. 

            It is difficult to argue against historical references from 100 years ago.  When people argue that Whippets with longhair did not exist, one has only to point to these references.  

    Furthermore, as stated above, people whose families have bred Whippets for generations in Great Britain have confirmed their knowledge of Longhaired Whippets with long, soft, silky hair.  Also, art dealers have confirmed that they have seen various old works of art with dogs that surely resembled Longhaired Whippets.  

    Obviously from these historical references we can see that Whippets with longhair were evidently fairly rare even in the late 1800's when the closed registries and their "recognized" shows came on the scene.  Nevertheless, historical authors knew of, and wrote about, a "longcoated", "shaggy" Whippet.

    For further historical information regarding other coat types seen in Whippet type dogs in the 1800's, see the page:  Recessive Coat Types 

Aside from the material already mentioned there is further evidence that longcoated genetics existed in Whippets and were perhaps introduced to the Whippet gene pool as recently as the last century.  The Philological Society of Oxford found that the term ‘Whippet’ or its variations, appeared in English publications as early as 1577, and produced evidence of English Spaniels being used in crosses involving Whippets: “1841:Hartshorne, SALOPIA ANTIGUA, 614 -- “Whippet, a dog bred betwixt a greyhound and a spaniel.” (From A NEW ENGLISH DICTIONARY ON HISTORICAL PRINCIPLES, Volume W 1921 - 1928.)”

            On a more recent note in reference to Wirehaired Whippets, British sighthound authority D. Brian  Plummer states in his book The Complete Book of Sight Hounds, Long Dogs and Lurchers, 1991, in the Whippet chapter: 

    “Seldom were ‘shake’ or broken-coated whippets run at the races in the Black Country, though such dogs were by no means uncommon around Sheffield, Doncaster and Newcastle Upon Tyne.”  

    He uses the term "broken-coated" to refer to wirehaired.  Plummer also writes: 

    “Indeed Hubbard records an almost distinct breed, the rough-coated Whippet (a dog resembling a diminutive rough-coated galgo) did exist until the late 1920’s, a dog which almost certainly carried the genes of the northern working terrier.”  And “Seldom was a rough-coated whippet fielded around Walsall...”  

    Hubbard wrote in the 1940's, and used the term "rough-coated" to indicate the wirehaired variety, which by the '40's had already essentially disappeared.    

            Cathy Flamholz, in A Celebration of  Rare Breeds Volume II, 1991, wrote: 

    “Clearly, dog writers from an earlier era were well aware of the existence of both a longhaired and a wirehaired Whippet.”  

    Flamholz has an excellent chapter on the Longhaired Whippet in this book, which is available from OTR Publ.,PO Box 481, Centreville, AL 35042.

            Wirehaired Whippets were bred by the Arroyo Kennel in California and raced until the 1930’s by James F. Young and his daughter Christine Cormany.  She wrote about these dogs in Kennel Review, stating that they were around 22 lbs., although one successful female was only 15 lbs. They were mostly black, silver and fawn.  She states: 

    “As far as I can recall, we never had a white, brindle or parti-color,” and “The conformation of the rough-haired variety often compared favorably with the smooth.”  

    All these dogs were put down when racing declined during the Depression and the Arroyo Kennels were forced to close.  Wirehaired Whippets did exist in particolor and other colors in Europe in the 1920's and 1930's, and photos of such dogs appear in the book Das Grosse Windhundeerbe, Kynos Verlag, 1930's.  Other photos and information regarding the Wirehaired Whippet are also presented in the book The Complete Whippet by Louis Pegram. 

            Since the wirehaired trait is dominant, when the last dog with the wirehair trait dies, that particular type is lost forever from that particular gene pool.  It can, of course, be reintroduced using other unrelated wirehaired dogs, obviously from another gene pool.  

    So the original Wirehaired Whippet is now, unfortunately, essentially extinct in the United States because it has been discriminated against for many years.  This sad situation came about because the writers of the Whippet standard did not want, or like, the Wirehaired Whippets. A smooth coat reveals the outline better than a more profuse coat, so that is the type of coat that the writers of the Whippet standard described as 'the only acceptable (to them) coat', and the smooth coat has subsequently  been selected for in the ensuing years.  

    It was a simple, though time consuming, task to weed out the dogs with the wirehair characteristics.  Since wirehair is a dominant trait it displays itself quite obviously and so can be quite easily discriminated against.  However, because the longhaired gene is recessive it can be quietly carried for generations without being displayed.  

    From the preceding it is quite clear that coated Whippets did indeed exist, in various types, many years ago. The history of the current Longhaired Whippet breed lies shrouded in mystery and controversy.  One thing is known, and that is that the Longhaired Whippet seen in the USA was reestablished by Harvard graduate Walter Wheeler, a Whippet breeder since 1957.  Beyond that point of agreement, there are two versions of how the current Longhaired Whippet came to be. 

    According to Walter Wheeler, breed founder and creator, many years ago, Mr. Wheeler states, he saw a ‘fuzzy’ Whippet puppy in a litter of smooths owned by a noted breeder judge.  He asked about that puppy and was told that if the puppy developed a long coat it would be put down.  He was fascinated with the coated Whippet and eventually acquired dogs from this and other bloodlines.  By intense inbreeding on these dogs, he claims that he developed the Longhaired Whippet as we know it today. 

            One of the foundation matrons for the modern Longhaired Whippets, according to Mr. Wheeler, was a British Champion, a top English show female in the late 1950’s.  It is reported that she could not be shown for her championship before having her thick mane and fuzzy tail stripped and trimmed.  Mr. Wheeler has said that her descendants have been used to produce one family of longhairs. 

            Mr. Wheeler states that he also inbred on a particular West Coast stud to produce a successful family of longhairs.  When this stud was linebred on, he produced a ‘coated’ Whippet champion who, after having his moderately long coat stripped and trimmed, became a ‘smooth’ show winner, Mr. Wheeler has said.  Whippets like these obviously must have had coated dogs in their backgrounds and their influence can still be seen today in some smooth show Whippets who have longer hair length, sometimes as long as one inch.

            Mr. Wheeler seriously began his project to breed Longhaired Whippets about 30 years ago and by 1981 had enough of them to ‘go public’ by publishing an article in The Whippet magazine, #6, 1981.  In The Sighthound magazine a follow-up article was published in 1982.  By then the Longhaired Whippet Association (LWA) had incorporated and by 1986 the standard was adopted and copyrighted.  

    Others in the Whippet world claim that Walter Wheeler did indeed use his Whippets in his longhaired project, but they say that he actually crossbred them with either Borzoi or Shetland Sheepdogs, or both.  It is not known which of these claims are correct, but since these Longhaired Whippets breed true, and since none of our current breeds dropped from the sky preformed, but were indeed all crossed with some other breed, or breeds, at some point in history, it is this author's contention that no matter how these modern Longhaired Whippets came into existence, the fact remains that they do indeed now exist, and are delightful and charming dogs. 

    Since the origin of these current Longhaired Whippets is a matter of some question and contention, there are those who seek to have the word Whippet removed from the name of these dogs.  The use of a given word in more than one breed's name is referenced on the page:  Formation of New Breeds    

    Furthermore, this author contends, even if the current Longhaired Whippet is the product of crossbreeding, we have only to look at the example of the Whippet itself.  While some claim that the Whippet as a breed originated only in the 1800's, from crossbreedings with terriers, it is well known that Whippet-type dogs existed long before that time.  A few historical references from the 1500's are given on the top of this page.  And while terriers were indeed crossbred on Whippet-type dogs in the late 1800's, when the closed registries were being formed, the resulting wirehaired Whippet type dogs were not called by another name, they were called wirehaired Whippets.  The resulting smooth dogs were called smooth Whippets.

    A further example is the Dachshund.  First there were dogs called Dachshunds who were smooth - Dachshunds.  Then these smooth dogs were crossbred with terriers, and thus produced dogs called Wirehaired Dachshunds.  Also the smooth Dachshunds were crossbred with spaniels and in this way produced dogs called Longhaired Dachshunds.

    Therefore, historic precedent has been set.  There are doubtless other examples, besides the ones already cited, in other breeds, both of crossings used to produce different types, and also of the use of the same word in various breed type dogs' names.  All in all, those of us who admire and seek to promote these lovely dogs thank Mr. Wheeler for making these beautiful, little, coated rare sighthounds available to us today.

 

 

28.12.2007 20:41:53
Adriana Vanekova
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