Italian Greyhounds and Whippets aren’t just similar breeds, they’re family! So, there’s a good reason why they are frequently confused. There are some similarities between the two, which can be attributed to their shared sighthound status as well as their shared origins. But, we shouldn’t mistake them, as they are quite distinctive breeds.
Let’s compare the Whippet and the Italian Greyhound in our on-going series, Dog vs. Dog.
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The older of the two breeds is the Italian Greyhound, which despite its name does not descend from the modern Greyhound.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Italian Greyhounds were bred as noble companions some 2 or 3 thousand years ago in the region that is now Greece and Turkey when the mighty Roman Empire ruled in the Mediterranean, where archaeological digs have turned up small Greyhound skeletons.
The breed’s original purpose has been lost to history, but the Italian Greyhound likely served as a hunter of small game in addition to duties as a companion.
By the Middle Ages, the breed had made its way to southern Europe and was very popular among the aristocracy, especially in Italy — hence where it got its name.
In the 17th century, the Iggy, as it is sometimes called, arrived in England, where, as in Italy, it found many fans among the nobility. Royal owners throughout the centuries include Mary, Queen of Scots, Princess Anne of Denmark, Charles I, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and Queen Victoria, during whose reign the breed’s popularity peaked.
Unlike the Italian Greyhound, the Whippet is a fairly modern breed, not much more than a couple of hundred years old. The breed was developed in Northern England, specifically Lancashire and Yorkshire, most likely during the late 18th century, by crossing Greyhounds with fast, long-legged terriers.
The result was a small, swift dog frequently used by hunters to hunt rabbits and other small game.
The Whippet became popular with working men in Northern England, who spent their free time seeing whose Whippets could kill the most rabbits or rats or which was the fastest.
Whippet races usually took place on a straight track that spread down roads and across fields. The Whippets would chase a piece of cloth or rag, and the contests became known as rag races.
Italian Greyhounds are the smaller of the two, in fact, it is the smallest of the sighthounds, standing 13 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder. Their weight ranges from 6 to 10 pounds, with some as large as 14 or 15 pounds.
A Whippet can range between 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder. Their weight ranges from 18 to 48 pounds, with females being smaller, averaging 29 pounds.
Coats and Colors
When it comes to appearance, size is not the only difference in these two breeds.
An Iggy’s short coat looks glossy like satin and feels soft to the touch. You’ll find it in all shades of fawn, cream, red, blue, or black, either solid or with white markings.
The Whippet’s short, smooth coat lies close to the body. It can be any color or color combination known to dogdom. You’ll see Whippets in black, white, red, fawn, blue, cream, brindle, with various combinations of those colors and a wide variety of spots, blazes, and patches.
Both breeds are considered to have easy-care coats. With either breed, all you really need to do is brush it when it gets dusty, and bathe the dog when it’s rolled in something smelly.
Be careful about cold weather. Neither breed’s short, single coat is well suited for cold weather climates. Your pooch would rather be cuddled up under a blanket.
Overall, either breed can be a loving family companion, even for novice owners. Neither likes to be left alone for long periods of time.
The Italian Greyhound is sensitive, alert, smart, and playful. They are affectionate with family, and love to snuggle with you and stick close to your side all day. Strangers may see a more shy, reserved side of this personality.
Amiable, friendly, loves to snuggle, quiet, and gentle at home, the Whippet is alert and makes an excellent watchdog. Guard dog? Not so much. Your Whippet happily greets any stranger.
The Whippet is very child-friendly. The Italian Greyhound does okay around kids but is not as tolerant as the Whippet.
Both breeds are ok with other dogs and usually cats, but smaller pets such as bunnies are a no-go, as they have a high chase drive.
The Italian Greyhound has an above-average tendency to bark, while the Whippet has a low tendency to bark.
Both the Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are good for new owners.
In intelligence, the Italian Greyhound has a slight advantage over the Whippet and tends to be more focused and patient with training.
Although they’re fairly clever, Italian Greyhounds have short attention span and a “what’s in it for me?” attitude toward training.
But, neither breed is particularly independent or dominant, and with patient training can learn all the commands you wish to impart upon them with rewards of food and praise.
This breed can be extremely difficult to housetrain. Your Italian Greyhound may never be totally trustworthy in the house. A doggy door can help, but having the dog live outdoors is not an option you should ever consider.
The Whippet is the fastest domesticated animal of his weight, capable of speeds up to 35 mph, easily outpacing the Italian Greyhound’s top speed of about 25mph, which is still pretty quick.
Both dogs are considered medium energy levels and require a fair amount of exercise. Both need daily exercise and will enjoy romping and running in a fenced yard or on a leash.
Health and Lifespan
Both the Italian Greyhound and Whippet have an average lifespan of between 12-15 years.
Both breeds can have ailments, as with any breed, but overall, you can expect fewer vet bills with a Whippet than with an Iggy.
Common ailments affecting the Whippet are eye disease and a blood disease that keeps the blood from clotting normally called von Willebrand’s Disease.
The Italian Greyhound has a whole list of common ailments, including eye diseases such as Cataracts, Vitreous Degeneration, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy, von Willebrand’s Disease, Hypothyroidism, Allergies, Hip Dysplasia, Epilepsy, and Portosystemic Shunt, an abnormal blood flow between the liver and the body.
Many of these health concerns can be minimized by selecting a good breeder if adopting a puppy. We encourage thorough research before acquiring a puppy of any breed.
Both dogs have drug sensitivity. Sighthounds, including Whippets and Iggies, are sensitive to anesthesia and some other drugs. A normal dose for any other dog of similar size can be fatal, probably because of the low percentage of body fat.
Choose a veterinarian who is aware of this sensitivity in sighthounds and will know how to dose pooch.
So, which of these splendid sighthounds do you pick? Let us know in the comments.
If you’re considering one of these dogs or any other breed for that matter, remember there are breed specific rescue organizations all over the world that are usually a Google search away.
If there are other breeds you’d like us to compare, shout them out, we’ll give them a look.
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