Whippets were originally bred as hunting dogs to pursue small games such as rabbits and hares and were used for coursing, a form of hunting where the dog would chase the prey by sight rather than scent and then catch and kill it.
The Whippet breed is well-loved due to their speed, agility, and endurance, which make them excellent hunters. However, nowadays, most Whippets are kept as companion animals and participate in dog sports such as lure coursing, agility, and obedience.
How Whippets Hunt Common Prey
Rabbits and Hares
Whippets use their keen eyesight to spot the prey from a distance. They are typically used for coursing, a type of hunting where the dog chases the prey by sight rather than scent. When the Whippet sees a rabbit or hare, it will become alert and focused, ready to pursue the prey.
Once the Whippet spots the prey, it will give chase. Whippets are incredibly fast and agile, and their long legs allow them to quickly cover a lot of ground, using their speed and agility to follow the prey as it twists and turns to evade them.
When the Whippet gets close enough to the prey, it will use its sharp teeth to catch and kill the animal. Whippets have a strong prey drive and are skilled at catching small game animals like rabbits and hares. After catching the prey, the Whippet will typically bring it back to its handler. Whippets can be trained to retrieve the prey or to bring it back to the handler so that they can dispatch it.
During the hunt, the Whippet must follow the commands of its handler. The handler will direct the dog where to go and when to stop and call the dog back when necessary. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure the dog is always controlled to prevent harm to other animals or people.
Whippets use their keen eyesight to spot squirrels in trees or on the ground. They may also use their sense of smell to locate hiding or camouflaged squirrels. Once the Whippet spots the squirrel, the chase begins. Squirrels are much more agile and nimble than rabbits, so the Whippet must use its speed and quick reflexes to keep up with the squirrel as it darts and weaves through trees and branches.
The squirrel may climb up to escape the dog when it reaches a tree. Whippets are not typically known for treeing animals like some other hunting breeds, so the dog may need to be trained to stay at the base of the tree and bark or bay to alert the hunter of the squirrel’s location.
Once the squirrel is treed, the hunter can dispatch the animal with a firearm or other appropriate method. It’s important to ensure that the dog is controlled during this process to prevent harm to the dog or other animals. After the squirrel is dispatched, the Whippet may be trained to retrieve the squirrel or to bring it back to the handler for further processing.
Whippets can be trained to flush birds out of hiding places such as bushes, brush, or tall grass. They use their keen eyesight and sense of smell to locate the bird and chase it out of hiding.
Once the bird is flushed out, a hunting dog, such as a Retriever, may retrieve the bird; however, some Whippets may also be trained to retrieve birds and can use their speed and agility to catch up with the bird and bring it back to their handler.
Different types of birds require different hunting techniques. For example, hunting for upland game birds like quail or pheasants requires a different approach than hunting for waterfowl like ducks or geese. Whippets can be trained specifically for the type of bird hunting that the handler is interested in pursuing.
Advantages of Hunting With Whippets
Whippets are incredibly fast and agile, which makes them excellent at chasing and catching prey. Their slender build and long legs allow them to run at high speeds, and their quick reflexes make them adept at dodging obstacles. Despite their small size, Whippets have remarkable endurance and can run for long periods without getting tired. This makes them ideal for hunting over large distances or for extended periods.
Whippets are intelligent dogs and are generally easy to train. They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods and are eager to please their owners. They have a gentle and affectionate temperament, making them great companions in and out of the hunting field. They are loyal and obedient and make great family pets.
While Whippets were originally bred for hunting small game, they are also skilled at other activities such as agility, obedience, and lure coursing. This makes them a versatile breed that can adapt to various hunting styles and other activities.
Disadvantages of Hunting With Whippets
Whippets have a slender build and delicate bones, making them more prone to injury than other hunting breeds. They may not be suitable for hunting in rough terrain or areas where they may be at risk of injury. While Whippets are fast and agile, they have a limited range compared to larger hunting breeds. They may need to be more effective at covering large areas or tracking prey over long distances.
Whippets have a thin coat and a low body fat percentage, which makes them sensitive to cold temperatures. They may only be suitable for hunting in very cold climates with proper protection. They also have a strong prey drive and may be difficult to control when focused on chasing prey. This may make them challenging to hunt in areas with distractions or where they may encounter other animals.
In addition, while Whippets are generally easy to train, they may be more difficult to train for hunting than other breeds. For example, they may require specialized training to develop their hunting instincts and work effectively in the field.
Essential Skills for Hunting With Whippets
Hunting with Whippets requires specific skills for both the dog and the handler. Here are some essential skills for hunting with Whippets:
- Tracking: Whippets have a keen sense of smell and an instinct to track prey. As a handler, it’s important to understand your dog’s tracking abilities and to train them to follow scent trails.
- Agility: Whippets are fast and agile dogs, which makes them well-suited for hunting. Training your dog to navigate different terrains, including rough terrain and obstacles like fences and bushes, is important as a handler.
- Obedience: Whippets are intelligent dogs, but they can also be independent and stubborn. Training your dog to obey commands and respond to your direction is important as a handler.
- Retrieval: Depending on the hunting you are doing, your Whippet may need to retrieve prey. It is important to train your dog to retrieve prey safely and bring it back to you without damaging it.
- Safety: Hunting with Whippets can be dangerous, so ensuring your dog’s and your surety is important. This includes training your dog to avoid dangerous situations, using appropriate safety gear, and following all hunting regulations.
- Patience: Hunting with Whippets can require a lot of patience, especially when waiting for prey to appear. As a handler, it’s important to remain patient and to provide your dog with clear signals and guidance when it’s time to act.