A happy accident. That’s what we call it when we come across information at the same time we find a photograph from our archives that perfectly illustrates that information.
The Whippet’s storied history includes the breed’s role as the “poor man’s race dog” in 19th and 20th century England, and while we can talk about the different kinds of Whippet racing (straight racing and oval racing), the American Whippet Club does a far better job of explaining it here. What we do want to talk about now is something else you see in this photograph, namely, those basket muzzles.
A muzzle is as much a part of a racing Whippet’s “uniform” as is its “jacket,” and there are a few reasons for a dog to wear it during a race.
One reason (a little hard to see in this picture, but evident in others like it) is that when racing, Whippets (and other sighthounds) do it with their mouths open. Each dog very much wants to catch the lure, but in their enthusiasm to get to it first, a bump with an exposed canine tooth into another Whippet at 35 mph can do a lot of damage to the delicate skin of this breed. Racing without a basket muzzle is simply not worth the risk. A well made and properly fitted and balanced muzzle gives the dog full freedom to open its mouth.
In addition to protecting delicate skin, muzzles can be useful in determining who is the true winner in a photo-finish race. Two dogs racing nose-to-nose and crossing the finish line at the same time can make it difficult to determine the order of the finish. Muzzles, particularly when of different colors, make this easier.
And finally, The Greyhound Board of Great Britain says that basket muzzles help protect against damage to the artificial lure at the end of a race.
And now you know.
Photo from 2014 of Shannon Lyons’ “Ryan” and “Byelo” (both multi #1 race dogs in straight and oval racing) by Tony Crafts