The Afghan Hound is one of the oldest breeds of dogs found anywhere in the world. Originating in the nation of Afghanistan, the Afghan Hound was used as an incredibly fast hunter of game for hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years. There are many different varieties of Afghan Hound in Afghanistan, between 10 and 15, although only one variety is found in the West. Now mainly known as a beautiful show dog and loving companion, the Afghan Hound has many different names, including the Kuchi Hound, Tazi, Balkh Hound, Baluchi Hound, Barukzy Hound, Shalgar Hound, Kabul Hound, Galanday Hound, Kalagh, and African Hound.
Its true origins shrouded in mystery, the Afghan Hound was developed many centuries before dog breeding records were kept, and possibly even before the invention of writing. There are many myths and legends about the origins of this breed, but little can be verified. What is known for sure is that for many centuries and possibly longer, the Afghan Hound was bred in the remote mountains and valleys of the country now known as Afghanistan. These dogs were bred by the many tribes of Afghanistan until British Military officers in the region began to export them to the West in the 1800’s and 1900’s.
Sighthounds such as the Afghan Hound are the oldest type of dog which can be indisputably identified from ancient depictions. Although there is a great deal of dispute among researchers, the dog was domesticated even before humans developed agriculture and settled down in villages. These first dogs were probably almost indistinguishable from wolves other than in temperament, eventually developing into animals which closely resemble to modern Dingo. Agriculture allowed greater populations and a division of labor. Eventually, great civilizations were founded in places such as Egypt and Mesopotamia. These civilizations had large ruling classes which had a substantial amount of leisure. One of the preferred leisure activities of the upper class was hunting with hounds.
The first depictions of hunting dogs were of animals which closely resembled modern Middle Eastern Pariah Dogs, such as the Canaan Dog. An Egyptian breed known as the Tesem was commonly shown. Between 6,000 and 7,000 B.C. dogs which are clearly sighthounds begin to replace more archaic breeds. This replacement happened in both Egypt and Mesopotamia. The dogs shown by these ancient painters very closely resemble the modern Saluki, and are widely thought to be the ancestors of that breed. There is a debate among researchers as to whether these sighthounds developed in Egypt or Mesopotamia. The large amount of trade and cultural contact between the two regions means that the dog could have easily and quickly spread to the other. It is also possible that sighthounds developed in both regions at the same time, either independently or with substantial interbreeding. It is commonly said that the Tesem was used as the base stock, but it is impossible to prove that, and it is just as likely that breeders created sighthounds from random-bred Pariah Dogs with desirable traits.
Wherever and however sighthounds first developed, trade and conquest spread them throughout the Ancient World, from Greece to China. For many years it was believed that the Saluki was the original sighthound, and that these dogs were the ancestors of all other sighthound breeds, such as the Afghan Hound. However, recent genetic studies have shown that sighthounds were created several times in different places, and do not all descend from a common ancestor. For example, the Greyhound is apparently more closely related to Collies than Salukis. The Afghan Hound, however, is almost certainly closely related too, and most likely descended from these ancient sighthounds.
Afghanistan is centrally located between the ancient civilizations of China, India, and the Fertile Crescent. Trade has gone through Afghanistan for millennia, and sighthounds likely arrived here very early. Additionally, Afghanistan has frequently been ruled by Persia, which also controlled Egypt and Mesopotamia at various times, which would have made the transport of these dogs more likely. Recently, controversial genetic tests have seemingly confirmed the Afghan Hound’s ancient ancestry. These tests attempted to prove which dog breeds were most closely related to the wolf and thus the most ancient. The Afghan Hound, the Saluki, and twelve other breeds were identified as ancient breeds.
There is a common association between the Afghan Hound and Noah’s Ark. Although it is not clear how this connection first began, many dog experts such as Michael W. Fox believe it to be the case. It is said that Noah himself owned a pair of these dogs and brought them along with him. There are stories of how members of this breed plugged holes on the ark with their narrow noses, and as a result dogs have had wet noses ever since. Although this connection obviously cannot be verified, it does speak to the ancient nature of the breed and the high regard for which it has always been held.
Once the ancestors of the Afghan Hound arrived in the mountainous regions of modern day Afghanistan, they were slowly developed over the course of many centuries. The harsh environment likely played as prominent a role in Afghan Hound breeding as human selection. In Afghanistan, there is substantial variation between Afghan Hounds of different regions. Some dogs are adapted to the high mountain peaks, some to lowland valleys, and still others to harsh deserts. The long-haired Afghan Hounds most commonly seen in the West developed their long, flowing hair to protect them from the cold and windy mountain air. Afghan Hounds have likely been frequently bred with dogs from neighboring regions, and different varieties closely resemble breeds found in neighboring countries.
For example, the Tazi variety closely resembles a breed known as a Tasy which is found in countries along the Caspian Sea. Other similar breeds include the Taigan from the Chinese region of Tian Shan and the Barakzay or Kurram Valley Hound of India and Pakistan. While the Afghan Hound has been used as a guard dog, flock guardian, and companion animal, the breed’s primary use has always been as a hunter. These fleet footed dogs have been tasked with hunting a variety of game, primarily hares and gazelles, but also deer, foxes, birds, goats, and other game.
The modern history of the Afghan Hound began in the 1800’s, a time when the British Raj controlled most of the Indian Subcontinent. At the time, the empire formally included Pakistan and had substantial political, military, and economic influence in Afghanistan and Persia as Iran was then known. The British actually fought two wars to secure Afghanistan, although neither was met with success. British military and civilian officials became entranced with the beautiful long-haired sighthounds which were owned by tribesmen along the Pakistani border and the nation of Afghanistan. In the latter part of the 1800’s, dog shows were becoming very popular among the British upper class to which many army officers and civilian administrators belonged. Many Afghan Hounds were brought back to Britain in order to be exhibited. These beautiful and regal dogs made an instant splash, and became popular at some of the earliest dog shows.
There were many exports made from the Indian Subcontinent, most of which did not result in established kennels. This may have partially been due to the fact that the British imported many different varieties of Afghan Hound and initially called them by separate names, such as Barukzy Hounds. For a time, “Persian Greyhound” was most commonly applied to the breed; however, that term is now almost exclusively used to describe the similar and probably closely related Saluki. In 1907, Captain Bariff imported a Persian Greyhound named Zardin. Zardin was the basis of the first breed standard for the Persian Greyhound, written in 1912. However, World War I ended the breeding of Zardin’s line, and that of most other Afghan Hounds.
By the 1920’s, interest in the Afghan Hound had again picked up, and two major varieties came to prominence. In 1920, Major and Mrs. Bell-Murray and Miss Jean Manson brought a number of dogs to Scotland from Baluchistan. These dogs were of the Kalagh variety, which is native to lowland steppes. These dogs are less heavily-coated than dogs of the high mountains. The descendants of these dogs became known as the Bell-Murray Strain. In 1919, Mrs. Mary Amps and her husband arrived in Afghanistan as a result of the Afghan War. She acquired a dog named Ghazni, who closely resembled Zardin. Ghazni and the other dogs acquired by Mrs. Mary Amps were heavily-coated mountain-type Afghans. Mrs. Mary Amps founded a kennel in Kabul, which she shipped to England in 1925. These dogs eventually became known as the Ghazni Strain. These two strains were eventually merged to form the modern Afghan Hound breed.
Once the Afghan breed became better established in England, these beautiful and regal animals began to be exported to other nations. Dog fanciers in the United States began to import these animals in high numbers in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Most Afghan Hounds in the United States were descended from the Ghazni Strain. The first Afghan Hounds to arrive in Australia were exported from the United States in 1934. By the end of the 1930’s, Afghan Hounds had also become established in France. . In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Afghan Hound came to be seen as a breed of the rich and the upper class, a reputation which has not diminished over time. In fact, this reputation has further popularized the breed, as it has made owning an Afghan a status symbol. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Afghan Hound in 1926, and the United Kennel Club (UKC) followed in 1948. The Afghan Hound Club of America, Inc. (AHCA) was founded to protect and promote the Afghan Hound and is an official affiliate of the AKC.
In the Western World, the Afghan Hound has traditionally been used as a show animal or companion, not as a hunter. The beauty and elegance of the Afghan Hound has long made it popular in the show ring. This was one of the most important breeds in the popularization of dog shows. Sirdar, a dog owned by the Amps family, won Best-In-Show at Crufts in 1928 and 1930. This win propelled the breed to greater fame around the world. Afghan Hounds have also won Best-In-Show at the 1996 World Dog Show in Budapest and at Westminster in 1957 and 1983. The 1983 win also marked the last time that a breeder-owner-handler won Best-In-Show at Westminster. Afghan Hounds reached their highest success in the show ring in the 1970’s in Australia, where the breed took home Best-In-Show at numerous major events. In recent years, the Afghan Hound has been used as a lure coursing dog. Although not as fast as Greyhounds or Salukis, the Afghan Hound is still quite capable of reaching some of the highest speeds of any breed.
In Pakistan, Afghanistan, and especially India, there is a growing effort among dog fanciers to stabilize and standardize native breeds. Despite the difficulties caused by war in the region, Afghani breeders are taking steps to create unique breeds from the different varieties of Afghan Hound. It is possible that in the near future there will as many as fifteen different breeds of Afghan Hound, although five or six would be more likely.
In 1994, Stanley Coren, a psychologist at the University of Vancouver, published a book entitled the Intelligence of Dogs. The book detailed his theories on canine intelligence which divided canine intelligence into three parts, instinctive, adaptive, and obedience/working. Coren sent out questionnaires to roughly 50% of obedience and agility competition judges in the nation, and compiled the results into a list which ranked breeds from the most trainable to the least. The Afghan Hound ranked last on his list and the breed has had a reputation for being stupid ever since. However, his rankings were based on trainability, not on actual intelligence.
In 2005, the Afghan Hound, one of the world’s oldest breeds, became the first dog to ever be successfully cloned. On August 3rd of that year, the Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk announced that Snuppy, an Afghan Hound puppy was the world’s first cloned dog. Although Hwang Woo-Suk was later dismissed by his university for fabricating research data, Snuppy is a genuine clone.
The Afghan Hound’s unique appearance and reputation for being an upper-class pet have resulted in the breed making many appearances in popular culture. An Afghan Hound appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in November 1945. Frank Muir wrote a series of children’s books about an Afghan puppy named “What-A-Mess.” Virginia Wolf used an Afghan Hound in her novel, Between the Acts, and Nina Wright and David Rothman have included the breed in their literary works as well. Afghan Hounds, both real and animated, have made numerous appearances in film, including Balto, Lady and the Tramp II, 101 Dalmations, 102 Dalmations, Marmaduke, and the BBC sitcom Mongrels.
In Afghanistan, the Afghan Hound is still primarily a hunting dog, as it has been for centuries. In the West, a small number of dogs are used for lure coursing, but the breed is almost exclusively used as a show dog or companion animal, tasks at which the Afghan Hound excels. At various times the Afghan Hound has been a trendy breed to own in various countries, and its population has fluctuated somewhat throughout the decades. However, Afghan Hound populations have remained largely stable in the United States for a number of years. In 2010, the Afghan Hound was ranked 86th in total registrations among AKC breeds, and ranked 88th ten years earlier. The Afghan Hound is not a particularly common breed in the U.S., but it has a number of dedicated fanciers and the breed will likely remain a regular, if somewhat infrequent sight for the foreseeable future.
The Afghan Hound is one of the most recognizable dog breeds. These animals have a regal and dignified appearance, and are often described as regal. The Afghan Hound is a tall dog, but not a heavy one. Male Afghan Hounds are typically between 26 and 28 inches tall at the shoulder, and female Afghan Hounds are typically between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder. The ideal weight for a male Afghan Hound is 60 pounds, and the ideal weight for a female Afghan Hound is 50 pounds. Although their bodies are covered in long fur, if shaved, an Afghan Hound should appear very thin with its ribs easily visible.
These dogs should appear graceful, but also capable of running at the great speeds of which the dog is capable. They have long, muscular legs, which move with grace. The Afghan Hound’s tail is more important than most other breeds. The tail is long and set low. The tail curves upward and forms a ring towards the end. When in motion, the Afghan Hounds narrow tail is carried up, but not over the back.
The Afghan Hound is known for its beautiful, long hair, which distinguishes it from otherwise similar dogs such as the Saluki or the Greyhound. The Afghan Hound is mostly covered in very long, silky, and very fine hair. This hair should hang straight down, and flow when the breed walks. The breed’s ears and feet are very well-feathered. The Afghan Hound’s long hair continues to the top of the head, giving the breed a top-knot. The Afghan Hound has short hair on its face and muzzle, along with parts of the neck. Some Afghan Hounds have a beard-like patch of hair on their muzzles known as a Mandarin. The tail of an Afghan Hound has hair that is similar to that over the rest of the body but somewhat shorter. Any color is acceptable in Afghan Hounds, although white markings are undesirable, especially if on the face. Some of the most common colors among Afghan Hounds are tan, black, brindle, and grey.
The head and face of the Afghan Hound are very refined and show the elegance which the breed is known for. The Afghan Hound has a head which appears small for the body, particularly as it is placed at the end of a very long neck. Afghan Hounds have very narrow heads and muzzles, which taper towards the black nose. The Afghan Hound’s face allows the dog to have completely unimpeded vision. This breed has triangular eyes which are set obliquely. This gives the Afghan Hound it correct expression. Dark Brown is the preferred eye color for Afghan Hounds, but lighter-colored dogs often have lighter-colored eyes.
The Afghan Hound is known for being regal and dignified, and indeed many of these dogs are. Some however, are more like silly clowns, known for their goofiness. Afghan Hounds are known for being loyal and affectionate with their owners. These dogs form close bonds with their families. Afghan Hounds can do well with children, but do best with older children who are gentler. Afghan Hounds are more variable in their tolerance for children than most other breeds. Afghan Hounds have a low dominance level, and are happiest when their owners are gentle pack leaders.
Most Afghan Hounds are suspicious and somewhat standoffish around strangers, but are very rarely aggressive. Proper socialization and training will greatly benefit an Afghan Hound in dealing with new people. Unsocialized Afghan Hounds will often become very timid and nervous. Afghan Hounds make alert watchdogs, but would make a poor guard dog. Afghan Hounds are extremely sensitive to stress, and easily pick up the moods of their owners. Afghan Hounds are so sensitive to stress that they often become physically ill, to the point where they vomit. If you have a high stress family, where fights are common, you should likely consider a different breed.
The Afghan Hound is generally sociable with other dogs. They have hunted with other canines for thousands of years. This breed tends to be submissive and shows considerably lower levels of canine aggression than other breeds. However, the Afghan Hound does not crave the company of other dogs as do breeds such as a Beagle or Foxhound. Afghan Hounds which have not been properly socialized around small and toy dogs may see them as prey to be pursued. It is always best to exercise considerable caution when introducing new dogs to each other. The Afghan Hound is not the best breed to have around small pets. These dogs were bred to be hunters for thousands of years and some of this instinct remains. Even the most well-trained and socialized Afghan Hounds may pursue and occasionally injure or kill small animals. Proper socialization and training will reduce these instincts but will not completely eliminate them.
Afghan Hounds have a reputation for being difficult to train. These dogs tend to be stubborn and slow learners. It is possible to train an Afghan Hound, but owners will have to spend a considerable amount more time and effort to train this breed than almost any other. If you are used to training Labrador Retrievers or German Shepherd Dogs, working with Afghan Hounds may prove extremely frustrating. Afghan Hounds tend to be somewhat independent and willful, and may choose to disobey. Even the most well-trained Afghan Hound will probably not be as well-trained as its owner would like. If you want a dog that will be able to compete in obedience trials or do a number of complicated tricks for you, you should almost certainly find another breed. Unfortunately the training difficulty extends to housebreaking. Afghan Hounds have a reputation for being one of the most difficult breeds to housebreak, and may have to be crated for many months longer than most breeds.
Most Afghan Hounds will be playful and silly indoors, but not necessarily rambunctious. The breed does have a relatively high exercise requirement, however. Afghan Hounds are canine athletes, capable of running at great speeds and performing other feats of agility. They need long daily walks and preferably frequent opportunities to run off-leash in a secure area. If you do not have the time to provide the amount of exercise, you should not get an Afghan Hound as these dogs quickly become bored and destructive if they are unexercised.
Afghan Hounds should not be let off-leash when unsecured. These dogs have a tendency to run after whatever catches their eye, and they will pursue it until they catch up to it. Afghan Hounds are unlikely to respond to their owners’ calls to return, and no human being on Earth has any hope of running fast enough to catch up to an Afghan Hound at full speed. Any fence which contains an Afghan Hound must be very high. These dogs are capable of leaping higher than almost any dog breed and can easily clear a six-foot tall fence.
Afghan Hounds have a tendency to be extremely sensitive. They do not respond well to being overly or forcefully corrected. They also are very sensitive to yelling. Afghan Hound owners must be gentle at all time with this breed; otherwise, they may become extremely nervous.
As one would expect from the breed’s long and luxurious coat, the Afghan Hound requires a great deal of grooming. The coat of the Afghan Hound is very likely to suffer from matting. It also collects dirt and grime. The coat must be regularly brushed, but this should not be done when dry, otherwise it is even more likely to mat. Afghan Hounds which are to be kept in show condition should be bathed at least once a week. Dogs which are pets still need frequent bathing, but not to that extent.
Owners who intend to keep their Afghan Hounds in show conditions will spend countless hours working with their dogs, and owners of pet Afghan Hounds often choose to take their animals in for regular professional grooming. Many owners place a snood on their dogs’ head while eating to prevent their ears from getting dirty. If you do not have several hours every week to devote to grooming your dog, the Afghan Hound is probably not the right choice for you.
Afghan Hounds are considered average shedders. These dogs will probably not leave your furniture and clothing constantly covered in dog hair. However, they will shed and owners who cannot stand the thought of cleaning dog hair should probably consider a different breed.
Afghan Hounds are regarded as a generally healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 12 years. This is comparable to dogs of a similar size. Some Afghan Hounds have been known to reach an age of 18. Studies conducted in the United Kingdom have shown that the leading causes of death among Afghan Hounds are cancer which is responsible for 31% of Afghan deaths, old age which is responsible for 20%, cardiac problems with 10.5%, and urologic problems with 5%. Afghan Hounds are known for being very sensitive to anesthetics. Along with other sighthounds, this breed has little body fat and often experiences bad reactions to anesthesia.
One of the most serious health problems which Afghan Hounds are particularly vulnerable to is chylothorax. This rare disease is caused by leaking thoracic ducts. Chyle fluid enters the dog’s chest, and causes many problems. One of the most common and serious is lung torsion where the lungs twist. Lung torsion is fatal unless an emergency surgery is performed. Anther serious problem which is caused by chylothorax is fibrosing pleuritis, or hardening of the organs. The organs harden as scars form due to the damage caused by the chyle fluid. Although not necessarily fatal, chylothorax is deadly for most dogs which develop the condition.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
Other health problems which have been encountered in Afghan Hounds include: