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By Patricia H. Gilbert

(First published in Sight & Scent, October 2008, Volume Four Number 5)
“What should strike you first as they walk into the ring?”

This is a medium sized sporting hound with lots of curves. Think of a series of “S” curves both on the topline and the underline and that is the Whippet. Does the outline scream breed type? - I am a Whippet. Your eye should flow over the Whippet. He is elegant, graceful, muscular, and powerful hound built for speed and work. Yet, the Whippet is not exaggerated or coarse. He must have symmetry of outline and a keen, intelligent, alert expression. The outline must tell you that he can cover ground a maximum distance and with a minimum of lost motion. He is a square dog as defined from top of shoulder to ground and from prosternum to point of buttocks. He can be slightly longer and he must have medium bone.  Too much or too little bone is not functional in a dog built for speed and is offensive and ruins the balance.

While I dislike dwelling on the negative you should remember that the AKC Standard does have disqualifications for size - both over and under, eye color, bite and any coat that is not short, close, smooth and firm in texture. If any of the Whippets in your ring strike you as having one or more of these problems, you should deal with the disqualification immediately. 

You also should be aware that the Whippet can be examined on the ground, table or on the ramp. But they are judged on the ground. The choice is yours as you know what tools work best for you. I am tall so am happy with the table and the ramp. A shorter person might find the ramp or ground best.

Is there a particular trait that makes you cringe and should never be overlooked?
Poor condition, lack of curves, small varmity eyes, lack of underjaw, and out of balance with an over angulated rear. A dog that is out of condition should not be rewarded. This is an athletic hunting hound with balanced muscular power capable of running with great speed.

Some Whippets appear to have curves and then lose them on the move. They go flat and long. This is not attractive or correct. They must hold the proper curvy outline on the move.

The opposite is what I call the slap assed Whippet. You will see some dogs that look as if they were slapped on the butt with a shovel and are scooting out of the way. This too is not attractive and is not at all functional. They can get the rear under them but have trouble getting the drive and rear extension to do its required work. This look often has an inflexible topline. If the topline can’t flex, then it can’t properly go convex and concave as needed in the double suspension gallop which is the working gait of the Sighthound.

The short necked dog lacks elegance and cannot reach their head down to grab its prey.

I have seen several two dimensional Whippets. They look great from the side until you approach from the front and realize there is no breadth or width to the hound. He must have a broad back with a graceful natural arch which is continuous beginning over the loin and continuing over the croup. This is called a fall away arch.

Above all if the hound is not balanced, then it is not correct and should not be awarded. That out of balance thinking should be extended to movement. If the Whippet is out of balance then more often than not he will not have the particular daisy clipping Whippet movement.

What have breeders worked hard to achieve in the breed that should be acknowledged?

Breeders have worked hard to keep curvy correct balance both stacked and moving. They have worked hard to get and maintain the trot that appears to be a grass cutting movement as seen from the side. It is LOW, free moving and smooth. It has good reach in the front and good drive from behind. They tend to converge on the down and back.

Anything that deviates from the ideal should be penalized. If there is a lot of unwanted action and crossing or hackney-like motion, it should be strictly penalized.

While the eyes are an esthetic, the Whippet as a breed is losing its wonderful dark and large round or oval eyes and its fine correctly folded rose ears.

Conversely, what do you see that could become a problem?
Generic judges who expect the Whippet to be constantly at attention could be a problem. The shape, set, carriage and fineness of the rose ear on a Whippet are important but you only need to see the ears are correct. Please do not expect them to be constantly showing their ears at the attention attitude.  While the Whippet does have the tenacity of a terrier, they are a hound. Hounds only pay attention when there is something worthy of their time.

Judges who confuse speed for proper low and free movement are a detriment to the breed. The Whippet when moving correctly will look as if he is barely putting any effort into the movement.

Please don't judge on color appeal. A good Whippet cannot be a bad color. “Color immaterial”.

Poor temperament should not be tolerated in the show ring.

I also see a problem with judges who are afraid or unable to properly use a wicket, especially in the BOB class. It is a disservice to the breed to leave a hound out of the ribbons because you think he might be too tall or too small. Measure the hound and put your mind to rest. Conversely if you award an oversized or undersized hound, then you are not doing your job properly and you look foolish. Measure and you will find that sometimes the ringside pundits will have their discussions put to rest about a famous hound that actually measures in easily.

Is there something that every judge of Whippets should do (not do) or notice (not notice)?
The judge should approach obliquely and calmly and not too chatty whether on the ground, ramp or table. Remember they are a Sighthound. All Sighthounds are far sighted and when approached may pull their head back to refocus on the close object - the judge in this case. Do not mistake this action for poor temperament.

There are some poor temperaments where the dog will completely shy from the judge. This is so untypical of the breed. The dog should be excused or at the very least not be awarded any placing. The Whippet should be gentle, and friendly in the show ring. Baiting will give you that intense look and I warn you to watch your fingers. Make sure the handler puts away the bait before your hands-on.

If bait is thrown, make the handler pick it up.

You should melt into the large dark pools of its eyes. I look at a proper Whippet’s head and expression and take a deep wonderful sigh as I put my hands under the chin.

There is one outline in my mind. That outline is the series of “S” curves starting at the nose right down to end of its tail and feet. He has a deep and long rib cage, with a long sternum bone curving into a tiny waist with a very strong hard arched loin. The Whippet needs the tuck up to fold up the knees of the hind legs during the double suspension gallop.

You should always get the impression of elegance, fitness and great speed with power and balance.

Are you seeing a hunting Sighthound that looks strong, curvy and holds the look on the move?  Remember symmetry of outline, muscular development and powerful gait are the main considerations.  Trust your good instincts, based on the Standard.

Article first published in Sight & Scent magazine 2008 -