The Most Dog Friendly Community Online
Join Dog Forum to Discuss Breeds, Training, Food and More

Dog Genome Project: Double-muscling In Whippets


New Member
Reaction score

Join our free community today.

Connect with other like-minded dog lovers!

Login or Register
Hello all,

I'm writing from California, where I am involved in pedigree whippet racing. In the past several years, the whippet racing community has seen some pups born from different bloodlines which appear to be double-muscled.

A small group of racing folk approached the National Institute of Health's Ostrander Lab to see if they would be interested in investigating this problem. (The Ostrander Lab is the lab which mapped the canine genome.)

They were very interested and the racing community here responded with samples from every possible bloodline we could manage. The lab is now looking to expand the study to include ANY and ALL whippets, including whippets in the UK and Europe.

In order to facilitate the sample submission process, the lab is accepting either blood samples (the usual sample mode) OR cheek swabs for this study only.

I've made the call for submissions letter available on my website at the following URL:

As with any scientific study, the more samples received (even from unaffected and unrelated dogs), the more accurate the study results will be. Double-muscled whippets can now be found in North America, Europe, and the UK; any participation would help track down the cause of this problem.

If you have any questions about the study, the lab manager at the Ostrander Lab is available by either telephone or email and would welcome your questions.


Last edited by a moderator:
I'd like to add that the only cost involved in sending in a cheek swab sample is postage.
Sounds interesting research. So, you're asking for cheek swabs from any and all ped whippets? That sounds very uncomplicated and I'd be happy to do it, unless anyone on K9 can think of a reason not to.

Will we hear back from you about the sample we've provided, or about any of your research findings?
Could any-one provide an image of a "double-muscled" whippet, as I am not sure what is meant by the term.
Must admit I was confused by this wording and also what the aim of research is?

Is this to research the DNA of general KC registered pedigree whippets that have more muscle definition / mass? or is it research of what is known as 'bully' type whippets? If it's the latter I would imagine approaching non-peds as more worthwhile as there are incidents of this but to my knowledge, I haven't heard of it within KC pedigree whippets? Anyone know? ( I did notice this thread also posted in the non ped forum but was a little confused as reference was made to pedigree whippets, presumably with KC registration?)

The hypothesis behind 'bully' types is that it's a throw back to when bull breeds ?english bull terrier? was used to increase the power and speed of a whippet in the last century. Is this testing to confirm this or is this a new incidence occuring in KC reg whippets?

Good luck with the research, I hope it brings some useful information and it would be great if this could encourage further research within the breed especially AI diseases etc. :luck: :luck: :luck:

P.s. I too would be happy to participate if any of my dogs conform to the criteria required.
Last edited by a moderator:
Must agree with Jacs .......We don't see pedigree double muscled racing bred Whippets over here, though the non peds do seem to get them :) ........I will send off though and send in my 8's swabs :thumbsup:
Hi again,

Yes, I posted the call for submissions in the non-ped forum as well, as the researchers want samples from ANY whippets. The study started out for just pedigreed whippets but, as I think they've found something interesting, they are now looking for samples from all.

Just in the past couple of years, we've seen some "bully" type whippets appear in the pedigree, KC-registered whippets here in North America. I know of one also in Europe (German-bred but I think it lives in Switzerland or Austria).

I'm not one of the researchers...just a whippet race person. A few months ago, three of us started talking about the increasing incidence of "bullies" in the pedigreed whippets here and were wondering what was causing it. Yes, we'd heard the throwback theory but, to be honest, I think it would be more common than it is if that were really the case.

After a young German boy was diagnosed with having the myostatin mutation that causes double-muscling, I started to think that perhaps that was what was causing the problem. A friend had looked into "fragile chromosome theory", thinking that's what the cause was.

We finally decided to quit playing at being geneticists and contact the real ones. That's when we approached the Ostrander Lab, telling them what we were seeing.

They have limited their research to looking for a myostatin mutation in whippets. The only end result we will have after the study is complete is a report on whether or not there is such a mutation. Our thinking was that, once we know what is causing the problem, we can make more informed breeding choices. At least, that's what we're hoping for.

Any participation in the study by any whippet owner, whether they have KC whippets or non-peds, is only going to improve the quality of the study. As with any scientific research, the larger the sample size, the better.

There used to be a racing photo of a bully in the non-ped racing forum but I can't find it right now. Perhaps someone could take a look there?

Edited to add that as soon as I get my hands on the study findings, I will of course be posting them everywhere I can. ;)
Last edited by a moderator:
Thanks Jenson this clarifys a lot. I know of a non-ped who although not bully in type as such has produced 2 offspring with this condition and also has 2 half sisters that were also bully. The owners theory is that it is a reccesive gene and they're pretty sure they're dog possesses it. I've asked them if they're willing to submit DNA and the circumstances of the research and they're happy to give a sample. Although the dog is not a KC registered ''pedigree'' whippet the owner will be able to supply details of the dogs lineage if this is of use.

Hope this helps.
Last edited by a moderator:
Thanks for your reply Jensen.

I have e-mailed for a sample kit and will happily help in research. If any-one does find a photo, I would like to get a better idea of what the condition looks like :thumbsup:
For any-one following, I have tracked down this photo of a dog called Spider's Lady (hope you don't mind me posting on it here Jade). Having read through some old Non ped posts, I have found quite a lot of info on "bullys" and many of them have an undershot lower jaw aswell as the over muscling.

Last edited by a moderator:
We don't seem to get it in KC registered whippets here but I've wondered before wether the "bully" pups they get in the non-peds is caused by the same gene as the myostatin mutation that causes double-muscling. It certainly sounds the same but it would be very interesting to find out.
does the condition do the dogs any harm?

can they still run fast? after all the picture shows a dog racing?
Hi all,

Someone found a couple of photos of bully pups on this website:

One is named "Cleveland" and one is named "Beth".

I only personally knew one bully here; she was able to race but she did cramp. Her heart was apparently unaffected as there were no problems there. She ran about 8 years ago; at that time, I thought it was sort of a fluke rather than something genetic.

Thank you all so much for your positive response.
here's one I used to own


this particular bitch ran 8.50s for 150yrds; She weighed about 32lbs but was only the size of the average 25lber.

She had a litter sister who was also a bull.

She did have an undershot mouth and had the typical broad skull of the "bull" type, as well as the obvious muscle mass.

Her half sister on the sires side was a well built bitch but not a bull as such and this bitch produced a bull in her first litter and a borderline dog in the second.

As far as bulls in American pedigrees goes i would venture this may have more to do with English non ped blood in the breeding rather than a spontaneous mutation.

Whether the condition is caused by a single gene is IMO equivicable. Whippet racing is a power sport as it is a sprint race and clearly well muscled dogs are an advantage and do well and hence are used to breed from. Its plauable that the gene is recessive but partialy expressed ( rather like sickle cell aneamia) and confers an advantage when a single autosome is present but when both are the recessive gene a bull occurs. Why there is also commonly skeletal defects is more difficult to explain.
Last edited by a moderator:
and the award for crappiest photographer goes to................. :- "

Tony Taylor said:
As far as bulls in American pedigrees goes i would venture this may have more to do with English non ped blood in the breeding rather than a spontaneous mutation.
Whether the condition is caused by a single gene is IMO equivicable. Whippet racing is a power sport as it is a sprint race and clearly well muscled dogs are an advantage and do well and hence are used to breed from. Its plauable that the gene is recessive but partialy expressed ( rather like sickle cell aneamia) and confers an advantage when a single autosome is present but when both are the recessive gene a bull occurs. Why there is also commonly skeletal defects is more difficult to explain.

The fact is, it doesn't really matter how it got into the bloodlines. What is important is that it is there (and also in the European pedigree bloodlines...probably through a Good as Gold daughter imported to France).

In the case of the German boy, both of his parents carried one copy of the mutation and were both known for their athletic ability. If two people in Germany can find one another and have a child together, it's not unreasonable to allow the possibility that there is more than one source of the mutation in the whippet population. I have not been able to identify a common ancestor in the American lines producing bullies, even if I consider all the rumours.

I absolutely agree with your hypothesis that a single copy of the gene likely confers an advantage and a double copy creates a bully or a "bully lite".

This is a copy of the initial letter sent to the NIH's Ostrander Lab:

I am writing to inform the NHGRI Dog Genome Project of an apparent genetic defect in a sub-population of pure-bred whippets. It is hoped that your researchers will find this a worthwhile research pursuit.
Several lines of whippets bred for racing are now producing what are known as “bully whippets”. Bully whippets are characterized by extreme over-muscling (to the point of being considered double-muscled), severe overbites, protruding tongues, overly broad back skulls, cat feet, short limbs, and noticeably sweet temperaments. A bully whippet does not look like its littermates or its parents but it does look like other bullies, much in the same way that people with Down’s Syndrome have similar physical characteristics.

Anecdotally, we have heard that the “bully syndrome” also occurs in NGA greyhounds and non-pedigreed whippets in the UK. Like the pure-bred whippets here, both of these populations are bred for racing.

A number of breeders and enthusiasts have worked together in an attempt to identify the source of the problem and we have developed an admittedly amateur theory that could explain it. If any part of the theory is correct, it could prove interesting to not only those involved with canine genome mapping but also to researchers studying myostatin mutations and muscle wasting diseases and/or those researchers studying Down’s Syndrome.

Our theory is based on our observations of the different breeding lines producing the bullies and a layperson’s knowledge of genetics. Simply put, we suspect that a spontaneous myostatin mutation has occurred at some point in time in the racing whippet population and, when a male carrier of the mutation is bred to a “geriatric” female carrier, a Down’s Syndrome-like affected pup occurs.

When breeding for athletic performance, whippet breeders generally breed “the fastest to the fastest”. As suggested by the family history of the German boy recently found to have a myostatin mutation (NEJM, Myostatin Mutation Associated with Gross Muscle Hypertrophy in a Child; Schuelke, Wagner, et al.; Vol. 350, No. 26), a single copy of a myostatin mutation produces athletic prowess. We theorise that, for several years, whippet breeders have unwittingly been selecting for a singly copy of a myostatin mutation in their breeding programmes. Aside from being fast, there are no other physical traits that might suggest a whippet is carrying the “bully gene”.

Occasionally, these very fast whippets have produced very heavily muscled pups that share some of the characteristics of the “bully whippet” but not all. For lack of a better word, we have been calling these whippets “bully lites”. In our theory, these “bully lites” are analogous to the German boy; they carry two copies of the myostatin mutation.

That left us wondering where the true bullies were coming from. The overwhelming similarity to Down’s Syndrome (and other aneuploidies) led us to consider the age of the mothers of the bully pups. We identified different bitch lines that appeared to produce bullies at different ages. It seems that, after a certain age, bitches that had previously produced normal or even “bully lite” whippets, invariably produced bullies.

We suspect that the theoretical myostatin mutation has produced fragility in the chromosomal structure and, after a certain maternal age, aneuploidy is more likely to occur during the development of the embryo.

Perhaps it is only coincidence but one article researched during the development of our theory indicated that the canine gene which contains the myostatin information maps to the human chromosome 21 and aneuploidy in that chromosome is responsible for Down’s Syndrome.

In closing, I hope you will find this an interesting and worthwhile research topic. We are able to provide photographs, pedigrees, and (in some cases) DNA samples of known carriers, suspected carriers, and affected dogs.

For whippet breeders, a more definitive knowledge of the root of the problem could provide crucial information for breeding strategies. I also apologise for any obvious scientific errors in our theory; as I said, it is an admittedly amateur one.
Our hope is that the Ostrander Lab will be able to tell us exactly what is going on with our dogs' genes. I'm not so sure now that the age of the bitch is that crucial; more like the age of certain bitch lines creates fragility at that chromosome.

Hope this explains more...


Well our kit turned up on Thursday and we duly swabbed and measured. It is all very straight forward and the cost to return the large envelope to the US from here was only £4.00.

If you haven't already requested a pack, do consider it. All research is highly valuable and only serves to improve the breed for future generations :thumbsup:
:( My kit never arrived...

Did anyone else get involved with this?

I keep wondering about it :blink:
~Helen~ said:
:( My kit never arrived...Did anyone else get involved with this?

I keep wondering about it :blink:

We sent all our stuff back and got an e-mail to say it was received in the USA. I should e-mail Dana again, I am sure it must have got lost in the post or seized by customs (w00t)
From what i can gather Cathrine also had Mac (blue goblin + master blaster) none ped sampled, i haven't heard back off her with the findings yet, might send her a email as she has moved back to Norway again she said mac loves it there

pic of mac at 10 weeks


Welcome to Dog Forum!

Join our vibrant online community dedicated to all things canine. Whether you're a seasoned owner or new to the world of dogs, our forum is your go-to hub for sharing stories, seeking advice, and connecting with fellow dog lovers. From training tips to health concerns, we cover it all. Register now and unleash the full potential of your dog-loving experience!

Login or Register