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SHELBY -- George Christoph was meandering through Shelby’s community garage sale when he saw the emblem for Shelby City Schools had a unique mascot -- a whippet.
Christoph, who moved to Mansfield with his wife three months ago, was curious about the history of the mascot.
“How did Shelby come to use whippets for their mascot?” he asked via our Open Source platform.
Christoph’s son has rescued two greyhounds, a breed similar to the whippet, but larger. Both breeds are sighthounds, described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as lightning-quick dogs with a “lithe and graceful physique.”
Another article by the AKC states that whippets were originally bred to pursue and capture small game.
To learn more about the history of the Shelby mascot, we turned to Shelby City Schools Superintendent Tim Tarvin and Shelby High School Principal John Gies.
Tarvin said there are two main theories about how the Whippet mascot came to be.
“The first theory has ties to the Whippet Bicycle, which was manufactured here in Shelby,” Tarvin said.
The Shelby Cycle Company released its Whippet bicycle in 1928. Around the same time, the company provided Whippets to the school's football team for training.
The second theory is described in the “The History of Shelby Football 1894-1985” by Fred Eichinger.
According to Eichinger, a man named George Evans first coined the term during a football game against Willard in the late 1920s. Evans was standing by the sidelines with two sports writers, Fred Palmer of the Shelby Globe and Bill McKee from a newspaper in Ashland.
Evans remarked that the backs “ran like a bunch of Whippets.”
Shelby ended up beating Willard 12-6, and the Whippet nickname began to catch on. McKee was the first to use the term in his sports coverage, with Palmer following not long afterward.
By the early 1930s, the name caught on with the sports program of Shelby High School.
Eichenger’s account states that Evans first pitched the Whippet model to Shelby Cycle executives. The bike was lightweight and fawn blue.
“Mr. Evans, it seemed, liked to bet on the dog races when he would vacation in Florida,” the book states. “He came to like the Whippets, and would bet on them rather than the larger and slower Greyhounds.”
Tarvin said it’s possible that both theories are true and interrelated.
“There is no documentation to be found at this point to determine which came first,” he said. “Perhaps they are tied together somehow."
Regardless of how exactly the name came about, Tarvin and Gies say they love the Whippet mascot because it’s memorable.
“We really like our mascot because it's so unique,” Tarvin said.
Based on his own research, Tarvin believes Shelby is one of only eight schools in the country with a Whippet as its mascot. Shelby students are the only Whippets in the state of Ohio.
Gies said that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a Shelby family that owned whippets would let them run across the football field prior to every game. The tradition was revived in the 1990s when a Shelby teacher began raising whippets.
“She would hold that dog back and let go of that thing and it would race diagonally across the field,” he said. “People would just love it.”
Tarvin expressed openness to the idea of bringing back a live mascot, but said he’s unaware of any Shelby residents that have whippets today.