Whippet racing: is it worth it? Why should you get up at the break of dawn, drag along the all family and endure the elements just to join a coursing meeting? Because you’ll love every minute of it!
Nothing compares to the emotion that these racing dogs give to their people at a coursing event.
Whippeteers have devised many kids of running events to satisfy the lust of speed of their dogs and their own esthetic pleasure in seeing them race the wind.
Whippets make great racing dogs thanks to their phenomenal acceleration ability.
The whippet was very popular with the coal miners in Northern England for his unparalleled ability as racing dog of incredible sprinting acceleration.
No fancy equipment was needed for the “rag race”, someone waving a rag was enough to trigger the whippet’s chasing instinct and a “slipper” would release or even toss the dog into the race.
The betting provided an income source and a good racing whippet was a bread winner and a coddled family pet.
Click on the picture to see a whippet racing in Dublin 1941.
Whippets earned themselves the nickname of “poor man’s racehorses” but whippet racing never reached the popularity of greyhound racing, sparing the breed the massive over breeding of the greyhounds.
Nowadays the rag waver has been replaced by a mechanic lure, the slipper by the starting boxes, the races are strictly nonprofessional and the dogs double as pampered pets.
The principle of the game though is still the same, the dogs are tested for speed and eagerness to follow the lure but now whippets only compete for titles and ribbons, never for profit or gambling.
In Straight Racing the racing dogs run 200 yards breaking from starting boxes in groups of 6, wearing muzzles and racing jackets.
The winner is the first on the finish line.
Oval racing is run on U-shaped or oval tracks with an inner fence and on longer distances.
Racing is an very competitive sport and if you wish to participate at high level it is advisable to start with a whippet from a racing line.
It’s a good idea to start him at home walking your pup through a cardboard box and enticing him with a lure on the other side.
At the first meeting, give him a chance to get used to the noises of the starting boxes. Later you can let him start from the box with the open gate.
At the meetings, experienced dog owners are generally very helpful and willing to show you how to train your green dog.
It might take some time for your whippet to get used to the starting boxes but with a little patience from your part he will understand the game and enjoy it enormously.
This is by far the most popular event of the whippet world. In this race a lure, often a simple plastic bag, is dragged in a field following a path designed by a system of pulleys.
The dogs compete in small groups of two or three dogs.
All sighthounds compete in coursing but whippets excel in this sport because of their explosive speed, the ability to follow the twists and turns of the lure and the complete focus on the task.
The dogs are judged on their enthusiasm, agility and endurance.
Even whippet dogs that are coming from show lines or are house pets often turn out to be great runners, they quickly understand the game and follow the lure enthusiastically.
You’ll be surprised at the enthusiasm of your couch potato at the first meeting.
Your whippet will quickly become a small dot in the distance only to reappear soon at top speed in the pursuit of the lure.
Open field coursing involves the chase of live quarry and often ends with a kill.
Queen Elisabeth I was a keen supporter of this sport and she was the first to set the rules in 1590. In those times greyhounds were utilized in coursing.
In 1962 was founded in Britain the Whippet Coursing Club.
In America field coursing is practiced mainly in California where the quarry is the jackrabbit. These kind of hares are too large for whippets. Bigger hounds like and salukis and greyhounds are better suited for this hunt.
In Europe the quarry is the hare, more appropriate for the whippet. Nevertheless the difficulty of finding enough grounds for the meetings, the demands of this sport on dog and owners and the objection of anti-coursing organizations make the lure coursing an easier alternative.
To participate in a coursing event your whippet must be fit, healthy and trained to run for endurance and sprint.
Daily walking and running in a safe field will take care of the general fitness.
Tie a rope to a pole about two meter long, at the other end attach a plastic shopping bag, add a piece of fur or a white rag for extra excitement.
Have a helper restrain your whippet while you start dragging the lure around your backyard, giving it an erratic movement.
When your dog gets into a frenzy, ask your helper to let him go.
Let your whippet catch the lure every now and then but to keep his interest alive don’t make it too easy.
From your vantage point you can make the lure fly and your dog will express all his acrobatic abilities to catch it.
Always make sure there are no obstacles and sharp objects in the area, you don’t want your whippet to get hurt in the excitement of the pursuit.
Leave the game before your pet gets really exhausted, you want to keep him hungry for more.
This game is an excellent introduction to whippet racing and frisbee catching and is an easy, fun way to train your dog.
During the race your whippet will have to wear a muzzle and a racing blanket.
If you slip these items on when he is focused on the lure he will begin to associate them with the race and will learn to accept them easily.
During the winter you might need a coat to keep you whippet warm between races.
Dogs are not wearing a collar during the whippet racing. A slip lead might come handy if your whippet is wiggly and agitated at the start.
A dog crate will help you keep your whippet safe and relaxed in between races.
Don’t forget chairs, blankets, a picnic and toys for the kids.
After all a coursing meeting is supposed to be a fun and socializing event not only for our dogs but also for us and our families.
You’ll soon discover that even the most homely whippet will go berserk at the sight of the lure. It’s extremely important to keep your dog safely on a leash when he is not running to avoid accidents.
Walk and massage you dog to warm him up and cool him down and avoid injuries.
Whippets are very intense in a race and can easily get overheated. Keep water at hand to quickly wet your dog if needed.
Never feed your dog before a race!
To avoid running injuries often the dewclaws of the front legs are removed at birth. When they are still present some owners wrap the pasterns for the race.
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