A listing of dog breeds in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, published in 1788, shows no mention of Whippets.
A greyhound is shown, and also a small whippet-like dog labeled a "Naked Turkish Dog." This breed resembles the modern Italian Greyhound. It is mentioned as late as 1859 in Darwin's The Origin of Species.
It is generally agreed that the Whippet as we know it today developed in Northern England during the mid to late 19th century.
Greyhounds were crossed with small terriers, (including possibly the Bedlington Terrier), to produce a small, swift hound capable of hunting rabbits and other small game. During this era, the whippet belonged mainly to the working class people of England. These were factory and mine workers in Northern towns near Manchester and Liverpool, who worked hard and lived simple lives.
Because of this, the whippet became known as the "poor man's greyhound," or the "poor man's race horse." During non-working days, owners raced their whippets in fields and on town roads. These races became known as "rag races," probably because a piece of cloth was used as a lure. The dogs typically ran a straight 200 yard track.
The American Kennel Club first registered a whippet in 1888. The dog was named Jack Dempsey, and was born September 23, 1885. He was bred by P. H. Hoffman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Whippet was first recognized as a registerable breed in England in 1891, when it was recognized by the Kennel Club of England.
Today, Whippets are the most popular of the hound breeds at dog shows. Their size, short coat, and agreeable temperament make them the perfect family pet. Organized activities for Whippets and their families can be found in most areas, and include lure coursing, straight racing, flyball, agility matches, and of course, obedience training. Whippets are independent thinkers, and many of them find obedience training to be somewhat beneath them. But those who do enjoy it have excelled, and there are quite a few Whippets who have earned obedience championships.
Notes on the origin of the word "whippet."
The word "whippet" comes originally from the latin "via" meaning "a road, a street, a path, or way."
Because "via" meant a road or a path upon which people traveled, the words eventually were associated with movement, traveling, or quickness. Some other words derived from "via" are "vibrate," vibrant," "whip," "viper," "wiper," "wife," and "whiplash."
The word "whip" probably derives from the Middle English "whippen" or "wippen," meaning "to whip." "To whip" has such derivative meanings as "to move smartly, quickly or nimbly," hence the quick moving and lively dog, "the Whippet."