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Longhaired Whippet

The Longhaired Whippet is a medium-sized coated sighthound breed that is closely related to short haired whippets.


Appearance The Longhaired Whippet is a medium-sized, athletic sighthound, identical in build to the Whippet but with a longer silky coat and fringes. The breed standard indicates that the Longhaired Whippet should conform to the general appearance outlined by the Whippet breed standard except, of course, for the longer coat. However, the coat should not prevent the dog from being able to fulfill its function in the field as a running dog. They come in a variety of colors including: solids like red and black, parti-colors such as fawn and white, and various shades of brindle. They range in height from 18-22 inches at the shoulder and usually weigh between 20 and 30 lbs Temperament Longhaired Whippets have sweet, friendly personalities and enjoy spending time with people and other dogs (especially dogs of their own kind). They are affectionate and loving yet still maintain the typical dignified sighthound demeanor. They tend to be a bit more biddable and eager to please than other sighthounds which makes them well suited to obedience and agility training. They do not make good guard dogs, but will bark a warning to their owners if they feel it necessary.

Exercise Longhaired Whippets are capable of reaching very high speeds, but are not high-strung or hyperactive. They are sprinters and do enjoy being able to run and play, but spend a large amount of their time lounging comfortably at home. Like all sighthounds, they do not have a lot of body fat and are not suitable to be kept outdoors year round, nor for long periods outdoors in the cold or inclement weather.

History The history of the Longhaired Whippet has not been without some controversy. In the 1970s, after several decades and breeding generations, an AKC Whippet breeder named Walter A. Wheeler Jr. went public with his successful breeding of a long coated variety of Whippets developed from both his own smooth coated (short haired) Whippets and those from other Whippet breeders that displayed observable evidence of carrying the longhair gene. Mr. Wheeler claims that the long coat is the result of the expression of a recessive gene for long hair which is carried in some lines of smooth Whippets. Although some people continue to believe that Longhaired Whippets are derived solely from short haired Whippets, others believe that the long coat more likely came from cross-breeding with other longer-coated breeds such as the Borzoi or Shetland Sheepdog, both breeds that Mr. Wheeler owned. One reason for this alternative belief is that some Longhaired Whippets carry the recessive MDR1 allele and/or the recessive CEA allele, mutant genes found predominantly in herding breeds, but not in the smooth Whippet. The breed origin controversy is mostly an academic one as all Whippets were originally developed by cross-breeding other dogs such as Greyhounds and Terriers. No breed is more "pure" than any other, but some breeds were developed earlier in human history than others. Another controversy stems from the use of the word "Whippet" in reference to the Longhaired Whippet. Some smooth Whippet breeders openly oppose including the word "Whippet" in the Longhaired Whippet's official breed name, although there are many other breeds who use names that are similar, such as "Greyhound" and "Italian Greyhound". Some American Whippet breeders claim that the name Whippet should be reserved for only smooth Whippets, although a rough coated variety of Whippet was common in the early history of the breed as a racing dog in England and existed as late as the 1970s in the United States. The last of these rough coated Whippets were euthanized when the only remaining kennel owner/breeder passed away at that time. Since the gene for the rough coat (also sometimes called "wire coated" or "wire haired" ) is a dominant gene, the elimination of all these rough coated Whippets effectively eliminated the rough coat from the American Whippet gene pool. Those who believe that the Longhaired Whippet developed directly from the expression of a rare recessive longer coat gene (an allele of the gene FGF5;) that is carried by smooth Whippets point out that there are a number of other breeds who have known recessive long coated varieties (e.g. German Shepherd Dog, Weimaraner, Dachshund, Chihuahua). However, scientific research published in 2006 clearly shows that the specific allele that confers the long coat is not present in any of the breeds "fixed" for short hair (e.g. Whippets, Greyhounds). This study did show that Greyhounds (and several other breeds fixed for short hair such as Beagles, Dobermans, Labradors) do sometimes carry one or two copies of a variant of the FGF5 allele (contains a small duplication in a non-conserved part of the coding region) but this variant allele (unlike the missense allele that confers the long hair) does not correlate with long hair. That is, dogs with two copies of this variant allele do still have short hair (1). Therefore, this study provides evidence that Greyhounds (one of the founding breeds for Whippets) do not carry a recessive allele for long hair. The Longhaired Whippet has been confused with the Silken Windhound due to their similar appearance. The Longhaired Whippet is actually one of the founding breeds behind the Silken Windhound which was developed by Borzoi breeder Francie Stull. She crossed Longhaired Whippets from Walter Wheeler's breeding kennel with Borzoi to create the breed now known as the Silken Windhound.[4] While the two breeds are related, the Silken Windhound tends to be larger and has a different head type. Another name that is used for the Longhaired Whippet (especially in Europe) is the "Silken Windsprite". This was originally a nickname used by Francie Stull, for her Silken Windhounds. "Windsprite" was Walter Wheeler's AKC kennel name and is in the pedigrees of his Longhaired Whippets. The Silken Windsprite name is now used by some European breeders, especially in Germany, as a breed name for the Longhaired Whippets that they have imported from the U.S., but other Longhaired Whippet breeders in Europe have chosen to use the name Longhaired Whippet as their official breed name.

Recognition The Longhaired Whippet is not currently recognized by any of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world. However, there are two national parent clubs set up for the breed: The Longhaired Whippet Association (Incorporated in 1981) who produce only purebred Whippets exhibiting or carrying the long haired gene and the International Longhaired Whippet Club, which breeds and registers purebred Longhaired Whippets, and also tracks - in a separate registry - mixes of Longhaired Whippets with other breeds. Both clubs offer conformation and performance events for their members. Effective spring 2010 Longhaired Whippets can compete in some AKC obedience and agility trials if they are neutered/spayed and registered with the AKC as mixed breeds. In addition to the events held by the national parent clubs, the Longhaired Whippet is also eligible to compete in conformation events held by rare breed clubs and minor kennel clubs including the Continental Kennel Club, the North American Kennel Club, the International Canine Kennel Club and the International All-Breed Canine Association (IABCA). Longhaired Whippets, like all Whippets, can excel in dog sports such as agility, lure coursing, and obedience, which are open to all dogs through clubs such as the United States Dog Agility Association.

Health Longhaired Whippets are known to sometimes carry for two undesirable genetic mutations (see below). In any breed the intense inbreeding necessary to select for a recessive trait such as long hair can concurrently select for other undesirable recessive traits, especially those that are (by chance) linked to the desirable traits being selected. Longhaired Whippets are potential carriers of a recessive genetic mutation in the MDR1 gene, which makes them sensitive to certain drugs, such as a common dewormer known as Ivermectin. There are several other commonly used drugs that these carrier status dogs should not take such as Zofran and Imodium.[10] Carrier status for MDR1 can be established through a simple cheek swab tissue test. In addition, the eye disorder Choroidal Hypoplasia (also known as Collie Eye Anomaly [CEA]) sometimes occurs in this breed, as well as in several other breeds, predominantly of the herding class. A genetic test for this recessive trait is available as well. In some breed clubs in Europe it is forbidden to cross -/- to -/- (with - indicating the mutant allele and + indicating the wild type allele) and -/- to +/-. In addition, these clubs do not recommend crossing -/- to +/+ and +/- to +/-. All Longhaired Whippet breed clubs in North America as well as Europe are working hard to eliminate both the MDR1 and CEA mutations from this breed by conducting genetic testing and making genetically informed breeding choices.