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A Westminster Victory Puts The Whippet on the Map!

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148 – February, 2020

By Amy Fernandez

So what makes a “serious” breed? You hear that a lot these days… well, ever since AKC has apparently decided to forego the velvet rope process. Breeds of every shape, size and …heritage are suddenly right there eyeballing the “serious” contenders. So, what are the criteria? Yeah, it’s hard to define. It’s even more confusing when one of these gatecrashers suddenly rules the dance floor.

That was more or less what happened on February 11, 1964 when Bob Forsyth walked Ricky to the MSG sweet spot, chosen as BIS by none other than Len Carey. One the rare Westminster double victors, Carey’s Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm had managed the feat back in 1952 and ‘53. Later explaining his decision to The Times Carey simply said, “I’ve never seen a better hound.”

Whippets had come close a couple times, but this was history. Likewise, Ricky’s handler, Bob Forsyth, was no stranger to this rodeo, having made it to Westminster’s final round on five previous occasions. Technically, a first time win for Ricky’s owner, Margaret Newcombe, most viewed it more as carrying on the family tradition. Her mother, of course, won Westminster in 1936 with her Sealyham import, Ch. St. Margaret Magnificent of Clairedale.

Still, the idea of a Whippet winning Westminster took some getting used to. Bill Kendrick, in his Westminster wrap-up for Popular Dogs aptly echoed the prevailing sentiment referring to Ricky as “the little longtail”. In his Times report, John Rendel also remarked on the Whippet’s unsavory past saying, “He had the bearing of an aristocrat-no such mundane activity as racing for him.” His comment alluded to the lingering sense of something a bit shady about the breed.

It wasn’t totally unfounded. Fast, exciting and unpredictable, during its heyday Whippet racing attracted colossal crowds. Historians trace its origin- and that of the breed- to Britain’s 1835 ban on blood sports. As Watson explained in his 1905 book, that ostensibly unrelated event catalyzed the creation of the working man’s answer to the elite sport of Greyhound coursing. “The ban on dog fighting, bull baiting and prize fighting turned the attention of miners and workmen of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North of England generally to more legitimate forms of sport in which they could participate.”

Click here to read the complete article

148 – February, 2020

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