Whippet racing was first popularised in the mining areas of the Midlands and the north of England with Lancashire being the hub and up until the First World War, was more popular than greyhound racing. Much time, trouble and money was expended in getting a whippet into peak condition for a race. Initially racing took the form of “rag racing”. The “slippers” would release their dogs once the starting pistol sounded. Meanwhile the owners would stand at the end of the track waving a large white cloth and shouting encouragement to their dogs. Puppies were trained by being called to their food by waving a rag. Many whippets were said to have eaten better food than their owners with some of the best dogs being fed only on Scotch beef, sent down from Scotland because there was prize money to be won and bets to be laid. By the 1940s racing traps had been introduced and the whippets chased a lure. The popularity increased again in the 1960s and it was then decided that a uniform set of rules and organisation for racing was now required. This led to the formation of the British Whippet Racing Association (BWRA) in 1967.
Despite this, there was no standard to establish exactly what was a racing whippet. Essentially, any dog was eligible to run if it’s owner said it was a whippet! A number of whippets running with the BWRA had started to be cross-bred with greyhounds in order to increase their speed. The result was that pedigree whippets were becoming at a distinct disadvantage running against the whippet crosses (now referred to as “non-peds” in racing circles).
As a result of this, three members of the Whippet Club went to Wetherby Racecourse, where the BWRA 1968 Championships were due to be held, together with one of the member’s whippets, which had won the Southern Region Qualifying Weight Class. The objective was to persuade the BWRA committee to race only Kennel Club registered pedigree whippets at it’s events. However, the BWRA were not persuaded to introduce this rule and, later that year, the Whippet Club decided to established it’s own separate association for pedigree whippets – the Whippet Club Racing Association (WCRA). The BWRA continued to look after the non-pedigree side of the sport. In 2009 there was a split in pedigree whippet racing when a number of owners formed a new association – the National Pedigree Whippet Racing Association.