The Whippet (also English Whippet or Snap dog) is a breed of medium-sized dog. They are a sighthound breed that originated in England, where they descended from greyhounds. Whippets today still strongly resemble a smaller greyhound. Shown in the Hound group, Whippets have relatively few health problems other than arrhythmia. Whippets also participate in dog sports such as lure coursing, agility, and flyball.
Whippets were originally greyhounds that were deemed unsuitable for hunting because of their size. They were returned to their peasant breeders after being maimed so that they could not be used to hunt and break the Forest law. These maimed dogs were bred together and used to catch rats, and huntrabbits. When the Forest law was repealed, these "miniature greyhounds" became popular in the sport of dog racing. This has led to Whippets being described as "the poor man's racehorse." They are still frequently used as racing dogs today, as they have the highest running speed of breeds their weight: 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
Whippets were bred to hunt by sight, coursing game in open areas at high speeds. One can find numerous representations of small greyhound-like hounds in art dating back to Ancient Egyptian times. Pharaohs bred a small sighthound dog related to the greyhound to keep in their palaces, and this dog may be the ancestor of today's Whippets.In medieval England, a small greyhound breed became popular for use as a ratting dog.The first written English use of the word whippet with regard to a type of dog was in 1610.However, the first dog to be called a Whippet was actually a greyhound-spaniel cross and has little to do with the modern Whippet.
The original Whippets were thought to be English Greyhounds that were too small for stag hunting in the forests of England. These dogs were frequently returned to their breeders, who were usually peasants and as such could not own hunting dogs under the Forest law. Because of this, dogs returned to them were maimed, usually by cutting a tendon in a leg or removing the toes on one paw. The breeders kept these dogs and continued to breed them, producing a smaller version of a greyhound that was suited for rat catching and hunting hares and rabbits. When the Forest Law was repealed, the "small greyhounds" became immensely popular. Whippets were then commonly known as "snap dogs" for their tendency to "snap up" nearby prey.