Why Are Whippets So Fast?

If you’re the proud owner of a whippet or even have seen them run at full speed, then you’ll know that whippets are incredibly fast.

With the ability to run at up to speeds of 35mph, these dogs are one of the fastest on the planet.

But why are whippets so fast?

In this post we are going to look at exactly that, breaking down the reasons why such a small dog is capable of running at high speeds.

Whippets are very small dogs, with an average height of around 50cm, and an average weight of 10kg, this allows them to be incredibly agile.

Many whippet owners choose to use whippets as working dogs to catch small game such as rabbits and rats, as they’re low to the ground and able to pick the prey up easily.

Hunters and dog racers know how to keep a whippet fit, so they can ensure that they run at the top speed when chasing game or racing other dogs.

Whippets are also part of the sighthound family, which means they primarily hunt with their sight and speed, making them a formidable hunter that can easily pick up small prey animals.

Let’s take a closer look at why whippets are so fast…

What Makes A Whippet So Fast?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the speed of a whippet, from being lightweight and nimble to having large muscles, the whippet is simply designed for speed.

But what makes a whippet so fast?

Here are some of the main reasons why whippets are able to beat almost every other dog in a race against the clock;

Large muscles

One of the first reasons why whippets are so fast is because of their large muscles.

Image: InternetArchiveBookImages

They have large front and back leg muscles that give them the power to launch off the start line and get into a full-speed sprint in seconds. 

Whippets are naturally muscly, which is why they can run so fast and perform so well on the racetrack.

Genetic mutation

A new study found that whippet that had a certain change in the myostatin gene was much stronger and faster than the average whippet.

This gene affects many animals, even humans, but most of the work done to date has been on the ones with obvious muscle changes, such as cows and whippets.

If you’ve ever seen those pictures on Google of the cows that look like they’ve been on steroids since birth, that’s caused by the mutation of the myostatin gene.

What’s interesting is the fact that whippets can sometimes have a similar thing happen to them, and some whippets are incredibly muscly.

These are called ‘Bully whippets’, many of them get put down sadly as they are not seen to look like the average whippet.

If a whippet has one mutant copy of the myostatin gene then it’s incredibly fast and strong, these dogs usually perform exceptionally on the racetrack and are quite a lot faster than the average whippet.

But if the whippet has two mutant copies of the myostatin gene then it’s classed as a Bully whippet and looks incredibly muscly.

Lightweight frame

Another reason why whippets are fast is that they have a small, lightweight frame, which doesn’t weigh very much.

As mentioned the average weight for a whippet is around 10kg, and with a muscly build like the whippet has this is able to be propelled at lightning-fast speeds, as well as being able to manoeuvre quickly too.

This is what makes them great working dogs as they are able to wean in and out when chasing small prey.


Whippets were specifically bred in the mid-19th-century in England to chase rabbits and hunt small game.

The breed was developed from terriers and a small English greyhound, with Italian greyhounds, later being bred to give the whippet a sleep appearance.

Greyhounds are the fastest dogs in the world, they are capable of running at 45mph and are commonly used for racing around the world.

It’s in a whippets DNA to run fast, which is why they do such a great job at it.

Being descendants of the fastest dogs in the world certainly helps the whippet run fast, alongside large leg muscles and a lightweight frame.

How Fast Are Whippets?

The greyhound is the fastest dog in the world, being able to run at speeds of up to 45mph (72kmh).

This makes them excellent racing dogs and great hunters, as they are also sighthounds, which use their eyesight and speed to catch prey when used as working dogs.

The whippet is not far behind the greyhound, being able to run at speeds of up to 35mph (56mkh).

Whippets have a lightweight frame as well as large muscles in their legs that propel them forward at lighting fast speed.

If you’ve ever seen a whippet run at full speed then you’ll know the feeling of having your breath taken away, it’s jaw-dropping to see just how fast whippets are.

Whippets Have A Unique Running Style

Whippets have a very unique running style that’s different to most other dogs; it’s actually more like a cheetah than another dog.

Similar to a greyhounds running style, the whippet uses its strong and powerful legs to spring it into the air, meaning all four legs are off the ground at once.

If you watch a whippet run, you’ll see that their legs are in the air at the same time and parallel to the ground, they use their strong legs to jump whilst they are running, allowing them to hit their top speed quickly.

How To Keep Your Whippet In Shape

Just like other dogs, whippets can become fat if not exercised correctly and fed on a healthy, nutritious diet.

Adult whippets usually need to be fed two times a day, whilst whippet puppies need three to four meals per day.

Puppies slowly move down to three meals per day, then finally going down to two when they are around one year old.

why are whippets so fast?
Image by Mat Coulton from Pixabay

According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, an active adult whippet weighing 30 pounds required an average caloric intake of 894kcal.

One of the best ways how to keep a whippet fit is to ensure your whippet is eating a healthy and nutritious diet.

This is especially important for those who have working whippets that need to catch small prey, as they’ll need a strong diet and plenty of exercise to keep them in shape.

Whippets Were Bred To Hunt

Whippets were bred to hunt in the early 1600s by the English, they were used to course game at high speeds, where many would place bets on which whippet would win.

The name whippet even comes from the old English phrase “whip it”, which means to go swiftly, specifically referring to rider whipping their horses to move more quickly.

The whippet was also referred to by many as “the poor man’s racehorse”, as it was only the upper class that could afford a racehorse so the working class had to use whippets instead.

It’s not surprising that whippets are extremely fast dogs when you look at why they were bred and their heritage, they have racing in their DNA.

Final Thoughts

So why are whippets so fast?

Well, apart from their lightweight frame, mutant genetics and large muscles, they also have a racing heritage.

Being descendants from greyhounds, which are the fastest dogs in the world, it’s no surprise that whippets can also run at high speeds.

Being able to run at speeds of up to 35mph, whippets are the second-fastest dogs on the planet.

They have a unique running style, which more resembles a cheetah than a dog, as they leap into the air, lifting all four legs off the ground at the same time.

If you want to keep your whippet in tip-top shape then I recommend feeding your whippet on a high quality, nutritious diet and giving him/her plenty of exercise.

This is especially true in those that have working whippets, as they’ll need to be in top shape to catch small prey animals such as rabbits or rats.

Learning how to keep a whippet fit is important if you want your whippet to run at high speeds, so you’ll need to feed him on a good quality diet and give him lots of exercise.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why whippets are so fast, and what makes them exceptional sprinters and formidable hunters.

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