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Italian Greyhound vs. Whippet: Breed Differences & Similarities

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Last Updated: June 16, 2023 | 8 min read | 12 Comments

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Are you considering an Italian Greyhound vs. Whippet for your next four-legged family member? The Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are remarkably similar pups, and this is entirely because they are both direct descendants of their larger cousin, the Greyhound. They are also sometimes bred together, resulting in a popular Whippet mix.

However, some differences set them apart from one another. The most obvious difference is their size, with the Italian Greyhound being a small toy breed and the Whippet being a medium-sized pooch.

So, whether you’re here to help you decide which breed may be better suited to you and your lifestyle, or you’re here simply to give yourself a doggy education, read on to discover the finer details of their differences and their similarities.

Breed Comparison

Italian Greyhound

  • Height 13-15 Inches
  • Weight 7-14 Pounds
  • Temperament Playful, Alert, Sensitive
  • Energy Average
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 14-15 Years
  • Price $800 and Up

Whippet

  • Height 18-22 Inches
  • Weight 25-40 Pounds
  • Temperament Calm, Affectionate, Playful
  • Energy Average
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $800-$1,500

Key Differences

  1. Italian Greyhounds are smaller. They weigh between 7 and 14 pounds. Whippets are significantly larger, reaching between 25 and 40 pounds.
  2. Whippets can be smooth or long-coated. Italian Greyhounds are short and fine-coated with soft, silky hair
  3. Italian Greyhounds are harder to train.
  4. Whippets are friendlier, more sociable, and more adaptable.
  5. The Italian Greyhound is an older breed.
  6. Whippets are more expensive.
  7. Italian Greyhounds live longer but are predisposed to more health conditions.
  8. Whippets are slightly more active and need more exercise.

Breed History

When comparing the Whippet vs. Italian Greyhound, one must start with breed history. Both the Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are direct descendants of the Greyhound. However, they have differing histories. The Whippet is often mistaken for the Greyhound, even though they are different breeds. The Italian Greyhound is easier to distinguish, purely based on dog size (it’s much smaller than the other two).

Italian Greyhound

Small and Slender Gray Dog
The Italian Greyhound is a toy version of the Greyhound.

The Italian Greyhound is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean lands around 2,000 years ago. During the 16th Century, his popularity boomed in Italy, as miniature dog breeds were seen as a wealth symbol amongst the aristocracy and the upper classes. As such, they were in high demand. It was here that he was given their name, the Italian Greyhound. He was first registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1886, and it was America who saved this breed from becoming extinct in the war-stricken European lands during the World Wars.

The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the sighthounds, but he is still mighty quick and powerful. He was originally used as a small game hound. However, he is now more commonly found in family homes as companionship dogs. The AKC has ranked him as the 73rd most popular dog in America today, and because of his small stature, he finds himself amongst the other toy breeds.

Whippet

Brindle Dog With Black Face
The Whippet is s slightly larger version of the Italian Greyhound.

The Whippet is a medium-sized dog that is relatively new in the canine world, and it was only developed as a breed in the last few centuries in Victorian England. He was engineered to have the same qualities as the Greyhound but much smaller in stature. This is where he inherited his nickname, the “poor man’s Greyhound.

It is believed that he was created through breeding Greyhounds and long-legged Terriers. He is much smaller in both height and weight, but he still kept his power to hunt rabbits thanks to his fast speeds of up to 35 mph. Although his forefather, the Greyhound, still retains his title as the world’s fastest dog, the Whippet is the world’s fastest accelerating dog.

He first came to North America in the early 20th Century to be used in dog racing and hunting. He is now the 61st most popular breed in America, according to the AKC.

Appearance

Dogs on Logs in the Woods
These two breeds look very similar, with the exception of their size; the Whippet is slightly larger. 

Firstly, the Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are very different in size and stature. The Italian Greyhound measures 13 to 15 inches, from paw to shoulder, whereas the Whippet measures 18 to 22 inches. The Italian Greyhound weighs only 7 to 14 pounds, compared to the Whippet, which weighs much more, between 25 to 40 pounds, so that is a difference of 22 pounds between the average size of each breed.

This is really where their differences end regarding their appearance. The Italian Greyhound is simply just a mini version of the Whippet. They have the same long arching back and deer-like legs. Both breeds have a narrow skull held tall by a swan-shaped neck. They both have large round dark-colored eyes, a narrow muzzle, and small rose-shaped ears. All of their features should be dark in color, such as his nose and eye rims.

They both have a short and smooth coat, which is shiny in appearance. The Whippet also has a variety with a long coat, while the Italian Greyhound always has a short coat. They both have a wide variety of coat colors. The full breed standard of the Whippet states that his coloring is immaterial, and he often has brindle markings. In contrast, the full breed standard of the Italian Greyhound states that he must not have any brindle shading whatsoever.

Temperament

Dogs Close Up with Erect Ears
Both breeds make great family pets.

The Italian Greyhound vs. Whippet temperament and personality are very similar. Both are gentle dogs with calm demeanors. If you seek a quiet dog that does not bark often, these guys both definitely fit that requirement. These doggos make for one of the best snuggle buddies in that they will happily laze on the sofa all day long if you’d allow them to.

They make wonderful companions for small children as they are particularly gentle creatures. They are very affectionate with their immediate family; however, they are slightly timid with strangers. Because of their timidity, they do not like to be alone for long periods of time and may suffer from separation anxiety.

Despite their laziness, they are famous for having short outbursts of energy, often called zoomies. The zoomies often last up to five minutes, and these sessions include running around the house super-fast in circles, leaping up onto sofas, and digging into the floor.

If you have one of these guys, you should not leave expensive or sentimental items out or within reach. When they get a mega case of the zoomies, they might accidentally bump into them.

Being sighthounds, they both run after smaller animals without much, if any, warning, even if they have never been hunting or entered a racecourse. For this reason, they must never be off-leash in a public area. Make sure your yard is secure and reinforced, as they can easily jump fences. For this reason, they only suit households that do not have other small pets, such as rabbits or guinea pigs, because it is in their DNA to chase them. Unlike their larger Greyhound relative, neither of these guys tends to chase cats.

Exercise

Dogs Running Outdoors
The Whippet requires more time exercising than the Italian Greyhound.

Despite their racing and hunting background, many people are surprised to learn that they are not high-energy dogs. They are very mellow (borderline lazy) and only require short sessions of intense exercise. These guys are medium-energy dogs who would enjoy two brisk walks a day. If you have access to a reinforced yard or play park, they would really appreciate a visit to expel their hound energy. Lure coursing is the perfect way for these guys to release that energy by chasing a mechanized object that stimulates the unpredictability of wild animals but in a controlled and safe environment.

Of course, the Italian Greyhound, being much smaller than the Whippet, will need much less exercise. The Italian Greyhound benefits from around 20 minutes of exercise a day, whereas the Whippet appreciates around 40 minutes of daily physical activity. You want your pup to be calm and subdued when at home, and the best way to ensure that is to walk them frequently.

Training

Dogs Listening to Humans
Both breeds benefit from early socialization and obedience training.

The Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are often difficult to train, as they are independent and often stubborn. They would much rather have a lazy afternoon watching movies than partake in training sessions. For this reason, early obedience training is important to set a basic level of discipline into their routine. Short and fun training sessions are best, and even if you feel that you aren’t progressing with your pup, strive on and be consistent.

Their shared timidness means that it is really important for them to socialize from an early age so that they grow up being comfortable with all humans and animals alike and in unfamiliar situations. It is important to use positive reinforcement method in their training. Otherwise, their nervousness will extend to their immediate family and their master.

Health

Dogs With Erect Ears Standing Outside
Since smaller dogs tend to live longer, you can expect the Italian Greyhound to outlive the Whippet.

The Italian Greyhound and the Whippet share some health issues, and they also have their separate health issues.

The Whippet National Breed Club suggests that owners test for the following:

Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Test – also known as BAER, this test is to establish a normal level of hearing in both of his ears.

Ophthalmologist Evaluation – screen for several eye conditions, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy.

Cardiac Evaluation – heart disease is the leading cause of death for whippets in older age.

The Italian Greyhound National Breed Club suggests that he undergoes an ophthalmologist evaluation similar to the Whippet, as well as the following issues:

Hip Dysplasia – this is an abnormal formation of the hip joint, which can cause painful arthritis.

Thyroid Evaluation – the thyroid is the gland that controls all hormones and metabolism. It can cause a multitude of related health issues if it does not function at a normal level.

Luxating Patella – put simply, this is a dislocated kneecap that will cause pain and discomfort.

Because they are both skinny with thin skin, they are prone to frostbite and hypothermia, so for this reason, in the winter, you must invest in a doggy coat to avoid this. Additionally, they are both sensitive to anesthesia, so if for any reason they have to visit the veterinarian and require any form of surgery, then be sure to remind the veterinarian of this.

Despite the Italian Greyhound being disposed to slightly more health issues, he will generally live slightly longer than the Whippet.

Nutrition

Dogs With Tongues Hanging Out
The amount of kibble you offer your dog will depend on age, size, and activity level.

The Italian Greyhound will eat between ½ and 1 cup of food every day, whereas the Whippet will eat slightly more at 1 to 1 ½ cups of food a day. They are partial to a snack or two throughout the day, so it is best that their treats are monitored to ensure that they do not become too big for their tiny frame. Stick with a healthy, well-balanced dog food that uses high-quality animal protein.

Neither dog is prone to becoming obese simply because of their genetics. Both dogs love to run, so you should make sure you are providing your dog with enough space to have proper energy outlets throughout the day. Since both of these pups have faster metabolisms, you can free-feed them, but you’ll still want to keep an eye on their food habits.

Grooming

Lounging Dogs on Sofas
Both breeds are fairly easy to groom.

The Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are very low maintenance when it comes to their short and smooth coats. While they do shed, they shed little, and as such, they will only require brushing once a week. These guys do not need a bath very often either, so once every two months or so will suffice. They both have very thin skin, so while brushing them, be sure to watch out for skin infections and treat them appropriately.

Because of their narrow jaws, both the Italian Greyhound and the Whippet suffer from dental problems, so their teeth need brushing with doggy toothpaste a few times a week. Not only does this keep their breath smelling fresh, but it also prevents other periodontal diseases.

Puppy Prices

Puppies Looking at Camera
Both breeds are affordable purebred puppies.

The price of the Italian Greyhound, being the smaller of the two, starts from $500, whereas the cost of the Whippet starts from around $800, both from a reputable breeder. Of course, if you are seeking puppies from a particular champion bloodline then you can expect to pay much more than this, heading into the region of a few thousand dollars.

For further information regarding reputable breeders, the Italian Greyhound Club of America lists reputable breeders across America, as does the American Whippet Club.

Final Thoughts

Overall, both the Italian Greyhound and the Whippet are very similar dogs because they are related to one another through their forefather, the Greyhound. They look so similar that the Italian Greyhound looks like the younger sibling, and the Whippet his older brother. It is their size difference that is often the deciding factor for prospective owners, as their temperaments are almost identical too.

Being the larger version, the Whippet needs slightly more exercise and food than the Italian Greyhound, and he is a lot faster should you accidentally let him off-leash!

They are both fantastically fun with their 5 minutes zoomies but calm and gentle for the rest of the day, and they both make equally great family pets!

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