wnippet and puppy whippet coursing















All photographs are copyright nickridley.com

For hundreds of years, the Whippet was prized as a small hunting dog, then as a race dog and finally recognized as a breed by the Kennel Club in 1890 when pedigrees were first officially recorded. The standard by which it should be judged states "built for speed and work" but it was not until 1962 that a group of breeders started the Whippet Coursing Club, providing a venue at which these abilities could be judged publicly. Rules and procedure were those of the National Coursing Club, the only difference being that the maximum points awarded for the run-up were half those given to greyhounds. Licensed judges and slippers were employed and top kennels fearlessly ran their show champions.


two dogs and hare

Whippets coursing a hare

snowy day

The sport quickly became popular and two more clubs were formed, the East of England WCC and the East Anglian WCC, all three having long waiting lists for membership. Dogs cannot run on frozen ground but no other weather deters members during the October to February coursing season.

(left) The line waits for slipped dogs to return

Coursing "under rules" is designed not to catch a hare, in whose favour the odds are purposely stacked, but to match one dog against another, giving them points for speed and the ability to turn the hare from its chosen path before it disappears from view which is the end of the course.

The majority of whippet meetings are "walked up" with owners and spectators walking in a line behind the slipper over ground where hares are thought to lie. When a hare jumps up, the dogs are slipped, ideally when it is 50 yards away but often much further and the line stops until the dogs return to their owners. A mounted judge signals the winner with either a white or red flag.


slipper walking up

hare near slips

The Whippet Coursing Club also runs driven meetings. It takes knowledge and skill to beat several hundred acres to present a hare within a few yards of the slipper

At a driven meeting, slips are more frequently at the 50 yard minimum distance, allowing the whippets to get on terms with the hare, scoring more points from a more even start.

The majority of whippet stakes are for 8 all aged dogs and bitches. They can also be for 16 to be run out in one day. All clubs run puppy and veteran stakes which are possibly the most hotly contested as new hopes may shine or old dogs recall their glory days.

slipper holds back dogs

The slipper must serve an apprenticeship before gaining a licence. Not only must he ensure the hare is fit and healthy and at the minimum distance away, but he has to balance two very excited whippets and make sure that both are facing in the right direction and have seen the hare.

Failure to do this properly can prove fatal for the hare and can also put a fancied dog out of the competition.


whippet off-line

This dog is off the line of the hare having been slipped unsighted


wrong direction

Oops! So is this one!

at full stretch

The whippet lacks the greyhound's thrilling early speed but more nearly matches the hare for stamina

close to hare

This dog has got close enough to score a point by making the hare turn


None of the hares in these pictures were caught by the dogs. Since 2005 the sport has been banned but some breeders have kept old coursing lines going in the hope that it may return.