The first obvious difference between the whippet and greyhound dog breeds is their size. The whippet looks like a miniature version of a greyhound. However, the greyhound's aristocratic history stretching back to ancient Egypt and the whippet's background among the hardscrabble, working-class British show these dogs have more differences than just appearance.
The greyhound's history extends back to ancient times. The earliest evidence of the dog is carvings on Egyptian tombs from around 2751 B.C., says the American Kennel Club. The dogs are depicted hunting goats and deer. The Romans were the first to describe greyhounds in writing. For many centuries, the dogs were considered high-class animals and only royal families owned and bred them. Greyhounds were trained to hunt foxes, deer and rabbits. The first greyhounds were brought to America by Spaniards in the 1500s, and shown as early as 1877 in major dog shows.
The English Kennel Club did not recognise the whippet breed until 1891, even though the breed had been developed for hundreds of years. The whippet was created by combining genetic traits of Italian greyhounds, greyhounds and a terrier-type dog, according to the AKC. It was called "the poor man's racehorse" and was usually owned by working-class people. The breed came to America with English mill owners. For a long time, Massachusetts was the home of whippet dog racing.
The main difference between whippets and greyhounds is their size. The American Kennel Club reports the ideal height is 19 to 22 inches for male whippets and 18 to 21 inches for female whippets. This is measured from the ground to the highest point of the dog's withers. The ideal weight is 11.3 to 20.4kg. Greyhounds are larger, with males weighing 65 to 70lbs. and females at 60 to 65lbs. They measure from 27 to 30 inches tall.
Greyhounds are the second-fastest land mammals in the world and are faster than whippets. The top speed for the greyhound is almost 39mph. The whippet can reach speeds of 35mph. Both breeds of dogs have been used in racing competitions for centuries. The Romans and Egyptians raced greyhounds for sport and competed in prey-chasing exercises called coursing. Racing the dog with artificial lures started in 1876 in England, but it did not catch on until the early 1900s in America. "Rag races" with whippets became a major English pastime in the 1800s among the working-class citizens.