Italian Greyhound, Whippet and Greyhound
What’s the difference? Aren’t they all just puppy Greyhounds?
Well, they all have the lean sprinting body type of a Sighthound, or Gazehound, so do look very similar. All three have athletic streamlined silhouettes, jam packed with muscles and amazing eyesight. But all three are about a head over each other in height, and so commonly have the misconception of being a puppy version of each other, especially when seen together out and about.
The Italian Greyhound (or Iggy as they are also affectionately known) are the smallest of the trio and they weigh in at around 4 kilos. Their proportions also differ from the Whippet and Greyhound, as their ribcage and loin are the same length, giving them a much squarer outline than that of the Whippet, which has a ribcage twice the length of their loin, and the Greyhound has three times. The faster and bigger a dog is, the bigger its lungs need to be, and so the ribcage has to accommodate for their size! If you see a small dog with an enormous chest compared to its stomach, you’re probably looking at a Greyhound puppy.
Size and proportion aside, colour is a huge factor in these breeds. Greyhounds have the most restrictive list of coat colours allowed, and even that compared to other breeds is still quite extensive! Greyhounds can come in Black, White, Red, Blue, Fawn, Fallow, Brindle, or any of those colours as “Parti” which means with patches of white. The Italian Greyhound is any of those colours (except Brindle), plus seal, cream, or tan points. The Whippets however, can be any colour they choose!
So what about their history? The Greyhound probably has the longest history of any purebreed, with their lines going back thousands of years. The Sighthound originated in Egypt and artefacts from that era have some of the first depictions that are noticeably Greyhound type. They were commonly used as the favourite hunting dog of the upper class, usually noticed as a symbol of status in the high ranking families, in fact when the breed was developed in the Middle Ages in Britain, there was a law stating that only royalty and nobility were able to use the breed. Very similar to the Pharaohs who decreed the same law, that ancient Greyhounds were revered as Gods, and so royalty were the only ones worthy of their company.
All Sighthounds that we know today – which is a dog that hunts and chases using their sight rather than scent like a Basset or Bloodhound, descended from the original Greyhound in Egypt. However the origin of the name is a mystery, as it does not refer to their colour – in fact grey Greyhounds are known as Blue!
The Whippet’s past can be traced back quite far, but there are arguments as to their ancestors, whether they were Egyptian like the Greyhound, or even Greek! And to make things even more confusing, the first use of the word “Whippet” actually described a Greyhound x Spaniel mix. Most experts believe that today’s Whippet likely owes its heritage to Victorian Britain, where they used the tiniest Greyhounds they could, to breed litters of much smaller (and cheaper to keep!) companions, in order to catch rats and rabbits in a sport called “coursing”. This was a much loved sport of the miners at the time, who bet frequently on the dogs.
The Iggy however, can be traced back to the Roman Empire which is where “Italian” comes from in their name. However, they were also clearly depicted in 2,000 year old Egyptian drawings of miniature gazehounds. Their popularity took them across the globe to Greece, Turkey, Europe, and Asia not too long after its development. Due to their size, they were most likely a luxury companion that was also capable of small game hunting by the higher class. Even this pint-sized breed can reach speeds of 25mph if it catches sight of something small and furry!
All three of these breeds are very popular, the Whippet is one of the most commonly used dog in show rings, and the Italian Greyhound is a very loved lap dog! The Greyhound however, you are most likely to see as a rescue, or retired individual from racing, unfortunately they have made their way onto the Vulnerable Native Breed list in the United Kingdom, as sadly only 10 puppies were registered with the Kennel Club in 2021. So unfortunately, it may now be even harder to spot a puppy Greyhound due to their declining numbers.