Racing was originally an extension of hare coursing. Whippets began to be bred to race in the mid-nineteenth century. The first form of the sport was a rudimentary form of coursing known as ‘ragging’, and dogs who participated were said to be ‘trained to the rag’. Dogs were kept on a leash by a person known as a slip, who was frequently also the race judge. The slip would release the dogs from their collars at the same time, and they would race towards their owners, who were standing at the opposite end of the track waving towels.
Whippet rags were a popular Sunday event in the north and Midlands at the time. There were also international events; in Australia, at a track known as Gurney’s Paddock, there were races of more than 300 whippets every Saturday, and three nights a week at the White City track. Eventually, the sport evolved and dogs were divided into four groups: those who hunted rabbits, which was not governed by rules; those who coursed hare, for which a set of rules was established; those trained to the rag; and those trained to chase a mechanical lure in a fashion similar to greyhound races. Few of the Whippets of any of the four types were purebred, as maintaining a purebred bloodline was not considered as important as breeding dogs that could win races. Many racing dogs were part terrier, part Greyhound, or part Lurcher.
In 1967, the British Whippet Racing Association was established to bring around reform and consistency in race rules and procedures for races involving non-purebred Whippets. A year later, viewing the non-purebred dogs as a threat, the Whippet Club Racing Association was established exclusively for purebred animals.