Afghan Hound Times
(Afghan Hound Database and Breed Information Exchange)
The Afghan Hound Breed Standard - WHY?
By Donald A Smith 1961
The following was published in Afghannews, July-Aug 1961. Donald A Smith, President of the AHCA was interviewed by Conni Miller who on behalf of th Northern California Afghan Hound Club had sent Mr Smith a list of members questions in advacne of the meeting. The the following is an extract from the interview
It is good to hear that members of the Northern California Afghan Hound Club are engaged in serious study and discussion of our breed standard, This, together with careful observation and intelligent study of the Afghan hounds themselves, is basic to any real understanding and appreciation of the breed.
In attempting to cover the questions you list as most frequently discussed in your club, let me begin by disclaiming any status as one who had a hand in creating the present standard. The standard was adopted by the AKC in 1948 grew out of widespread discussions over several preceding years. The discussions were open to the entire fancy at the time, under the leadership of the parent club, which made and approved the final draft and submitted it to the AKC. My own active interest in the breed scarcely antedates 1947, So this standard was the work of older and wiser heads, far too many of which are no longer with us. My only authority on the entire subject is as one who did know many of those who did write the standard and as one who has been a student of the breed since that time and central to parent-club affairs over the past decade.
Before launching any major discussion of the standard it is wise to make sure all parties understand the nature of the standard. It is first a general description and definition of the breed. Secondly it is a statement of what the fancy feels to be a helpful guide in selecting and breeding better specimens of the breed. Although some standards go into great details as to exact angles, ratios, shades of color, etc., it is not and cannot be a complete or an absolute guide to breeding and judging. A good standard represents a general consensus of the entire fancy's experience and judgment, stated as clearly as possible and serving as a guide to any who will apply it intelligently to their own experience and judgment. The "official" standard is as accepted by the AKC, and members of the parent club and recognized regional clubs are sworn to accept its basic guidance rather than breeding or judging by random ideas of their own.
At the same time the floor is always open to discussion of revision of the standard. When flaws became apparent or changed circumstances in the breed call for amendment, the standard can and will be revised by the parent club in consultation with the regional clubs and other responsible segments of the fancy - the suggest revisions being proposed to the AKC by the parent club. The only basic requirement, other than procedure, is that the fancy be quite fully agreed upon the revision.
This would seem to have been the situation in the years just prior to 1946; the standard in use here at that time was virtually identical with the English standard, which allegedly was drafted as simply a description of Zardin, who in 1907 was virtually the first Afghan the English had seen. Actually, if this was its genesis this was quite a remarkable standard - for even reading it today, there is very little wrong with it. It is not, however, the standard found in Hubbard's "The Afghan Hound Handbook", which as he points out was revised in 1946, then further revised and finally includes some alterations that he (Hubbard) has made.
In other words, as of 1946 American breeders were still using a standard which the English had abandoned or revised - for probably the same reason as U.S. fanciers felt need for revision. Within the previous decade the breed had grown tremendously in numbers, with a much wider basis for selection in judging and breeding and with much more known about it. The old standard was good as far as it went, but there were a great many things it did not mention, such as color. I do not want to overemphasize this aspect of it, but taking color as an example, even though the foundation dogs from Afghanistan had little or no white markings, a few generations later we were getting some pretty splashy parti-colors and masked reds with white face blazes, yet nothing in the standard indicated that this was not 100% OK. Or to take another example, I think you will agree that it is hardly an adequate description of the typical Afghan hound head to say simply "Narrow, conforming to that of the greyhound but more powerful".
In brief, then changed circumstances plainly showed a need for an "expansion" or "clarification" of the standard - and this was precisely what was undertaken. It was never presented or intended as a "new' standard but simply a reworking to make the previous standard more understandable and useful to modern fanciers.
The standard that emerged is, in my opinion, a most remarkable document - one of the best, if not the best, standards in existence for any breed. This is not to say that it is flawless. There are several spots where I feel I could improve it - and other fanciers will find similar spots, although not necessarily the same spots. But a standard should be taken as a whole; ours certainly gives a wonderful overall picture of the breed as it should be, plus pointing out a number of important details. The opening paragraph on "General Appearance" alone strikes at the heart of what we should all be breeding and judging for.
The excellence of our standard, I believe, stems largely from the special nature of the people who drafted it. The total number of fanciers was relatively small. The key people had a good many years experience with the breed - intensive experience and study of the sort that goes only with pioneering in a relatively new breed. Yet most of them also brought to bear even longer experience with other breeds, so that they were thoroughly "dog people" as well as "Afghan hound people". Today our dogs are more outbred, but we, as fanciers, are perhaps overly inbred in the sense that all too many of us have almost literally never look at any other dog but the Afghan hound.
Haven given this much of a preamble let me turn to the specific questions Mrs. Miller poses. I am not sure that all of these are among the more fruitful points for discussion in the standard - nor that I fully understand the intent of some of the questions. But I shall give the best answers I can in relatively few words.
1. WHY "eyes dark in color" rather than the earlier "eyes dark but golden color not barred"?
Here you seem to have confused Hubbard with the prior American standard. It said simply "eyes dark". The 1948 standard took away nothing; added only "in color". It does not seem to me that the British allowance for "golden" represents any advance. The dark eye s more or less an "all breed:" preference as a matter of taste and appearance rather than function. I personally do not feel that a moderately light eye should be penalized, but it does tend to spoil the expression and some judges will penalize it - so in breeding if not in judging one would certainly prefer to breed toward darker eyes rather than lighter or "golden".
2 WHY "nose black in color" Rather than the earlier "nose preferably black, but liver is no fault in light-colored dogs"?
Here again you are quoting Hubbard. The pre-1948 standard does not mention nose color. I feel that the specific allowance of livers is a mistake based on a misconception. The liver nose must be allowed in dogs of the "bb" series since no other is possible. This however, is the one major color variation that does not occur in Afghan hounds. In all the colors we have in this breed, it is possible and desirable to have black nose pigment. It is true that this pigment tends to be rather weak in some of the lighter self-color dogs resulting in a nose color variously called "pink", "rubber" or "flesh colored" (but not really "liver"). This lightening can, moreover, occur periodically - the so-called "winter noses". This is admittedly a handicap in showing lighter colored dogs - but I am not sure that we can and should make an exception in the standard to mitigate what is an "out-of-condition" factor. I do think it would be reasonable for judges to make allowance for lighter nose color in solid creams, etc., but that the ideal for the breed should remain a black-nosed dog regardless of coat color, that this is attainable and remains what we should breed for
3. WHY mention of "slight Roman nose" as being desirable?
I can recall this same question as a novice among the experts when the standard first appeared. I do not recall getting a direct answer to the "why" except that this was something which the breed had acquired here from English imports, although not prevalent in Britain. Some thought it to our gain, some, our loss.
In fairness to the standard, however, I urge you to re-read the section carefully. What is actually said is that "there is a slight prominence of the nasal bone structure causing a slight Roman appearance e...: and the passage goes on in an attempt to describe the typical Afghan hound shaping of the muzzle and foreface. This something is more easily sketched or recognized than put into word but certainly there is a very slight, graceful curving to a good Afghan hound profile and to the chiseling of the head from other angles. It is not the nearly straight muzzle of the greyhound and most Salukis, nor the true Roman nose common in Borzois. The exact phrasing of the standard seems to me to represent acute observation. The nasal bone, you'll note, is not bent downward to create a real Roman nose but quite evenly elevated to a point several inches back where it starts to fall away below the eyes, which does manage to give a slight Roman nosed effect and which effect is clearly preferable to an unbroken dish-faced swoop. Note, too, that an "exaggerated Roman nose" is singled out as a specific fault.
4. WHY "White markings especially on the head, are undesirable"?
Well in a few words, because they are. Seriously, I have covered this topic at some length in my June column in Pure Bred Dogs, written prior to receipt of your questionnaire. I know of no way to explain why such markings are undesirable except to ask you imagine, say, a black Afghan hound with long white stockings possibly ticked with blue, or a fawn with white patches running through its outer coat, or masked red with a white blaze from nose to topknot. These things can happen in Afghans. They were happening when the standard was clarified. They will happen again if, in breeding, we do not carry at least some prejudice against white markings. Genetically, such markings are progressive in nature and tend to take rather sudden and large cumulative jumps in extent
The net effect of extensive white markings is an off-type appearance in an Afghan hound. This is the fact: the logical explanation could be any of several after the fact. I would suggest that, for one thing, the Afghan coat and coat pattern is not calculated to enhance such markings, and vice versa. The particular emphasis on white markings about the head may have a two-fold cause. First, you usually get white markings on the head only in company with white markings elsewhere. Secondly, the noble expression and subtle lines of a good Afghan head are nullified by white markings just as surely as if daubed with streaks of white war paint.
5. WHY "the height at the shoulder equals the distance from the chest to the buttocks?
This is a question that has several possible answers and opens many lines of discussion. I'll try to reply from two angles only.
Intrinsically, this passage always seemed a neat (although perhaps not complete) answer to the paradoxes of a dog that is supposed to run faster, turn sharper and endure longer than any other. In simplest terms, it can be said that speed requires long legs, agility a short back, and endurance a long body. Which comes first in the Afghan hound? Well the answer balances out to the square proportions given in the standard. In a dog of these proportions, given the proper angulation, the legs can cover ground in great strides, the body can be large enough to provide lung and muscle power, and the back can still be moderately short and
Historically, the passage may represent the settlement of a long controversy - a controversy in which partisanship was apt to be determined or influenced by the dogs one owned. Since the time the breed first became popular it has been possible to find considerable variation within it in body-leg proportioning. The background of this variation might be stated as follows: Both Zardin and the early Bell-Murray imports from Baluchistan were relatively long-bodied dogs. The original standard, apparently based on these specimens, said that the body "should be that of a hound and have ample length". The later Ghazni imports from the more mountainous part of Afghanistan, however, seem to have been generally shorter bodied and long legged. The history of the breed for the past 25 to 30 years has been a blending of the Bell-Murray, Ghazni and other imported strains. In such breeding, body proportions are one element that does not tend to trend in an even and intermediate way. At the time the standard was rewritten probably the longer-bodied dogs in particular were prevalent and successful in the show ring, abetted by their tendency to have a smoother slow gait and by the wording of the standard. They had their ardent partisans, too, but others foresaw that as legs kept getting shorter and coats longer the Afghan hound might resemble an overgrown Skye terrier. Even short of this extreme, the latter group felt that the long body was appropriate only to herd dogs and "flatland" hounds that the true mountain-terrain coursing hound should be high stationed and short coupled.
Now it would not be entirely accurate to assume that prior to 1948 one continually heard arguments in just these terms. But there has been diversity in the breed in body proportions - and even into fairly recent times some have advocated dividing the breed into two varieties, the "desert type" and the "mountain type". There were also in the fancy two firm schools of thought - one emphasizing long bodies, the other long legs. The "square" proportion rule in the revised standard seems to have satisfied both camps. This may have been partly because it was a surprise move, a new thought. I rather suspect that at first sight it made each side feel vindicated, for it sounds like a relatively tall dog yet will be found to measure out to an Afghan hound that appears slightly longer in body than leg. But I feel that its ultimate success lies in the intrinsic logic of it as outlined above and because it creates a sensible goal in working toward a uniformly proportioned breed. The Hubbard standard would indicate that the British chose to duck this question in revising their standard. I cannot but feel the American handling of the situation was sounder and wiser.
6. WHY "height: Dogs 27 inches, plus or minus one inch, Bitches 25 inches, plus or minus one inch"?
There is right size for every breed or variety, and the breed should be uniform in that respect, as in others.
The right size for an Afghan hound male is about 27 inches at the shoulder (and, of course, about 27 inches chest to buttocks). Bitches will naturally be slightly smaller. This was the average size of the original imports from Afghanistan, where these dogs were bred purely on the basis of their functional ability. It is a logical size. A coursing hound appreciably smaller would not be generally capable of handling game larger than rabbits and vermin: a dog appreciable larger would tend to lose the agility and hardiness required to handle all sizes of game in rugged terrain and bad climate.
The original standard said; "Height: Dogs about 27 inches, bitches, about 25 inches". The 1948 revision merely defines "about" as meaning minus or plus one inch, a range commonly allowed in a breed of this size. According to Hubbard, the British apparently revised the original standard to allow an extra inch, so that the "ideal height" for dogs is from 27 to 29 inches, while bitches may be anywhere from 24 to 27 inches. Under our standard dogs should be between 26 and 28 inches; bitches 24 to 26 inches. Few would regard this as sufficient difference to create a great Anglo-American conflict. But nowhere in any standard is there a basis for condoning the 30 inch dog or the 23 inch bitch.
7. Do you consider variations from the above (light eyes, oversize etc.) grounds for disqualification?
This is an easy one. The complete and only correct answer is a flat "no". The standard lists no specific disqualifying faults. I take this to mean that a judge not only cannot officially disqualify an Afghan hound for such faults as you ask about but cannot properly place a dog last in a class on the basis of a single fault and without complete examination. Looking at the standard as a whole, I feel sure its intention is to impel us all to do what the best judges and breeders do - look at the dog as a whole
But I assume your question is seeking some idea of the weight I personally would give to the points raised in the other questions,
It seems to me that any breeder who has read the present standard and who has a modicum of common sense would try very hard to avoid breeding together a dog and bitch both of which had light eyes, a pale nose, or white markings that amount to more than chest and toe patches. This is why these points are in the standard. Given breeders of even minimal common sense and knowledge, then, these faults should not and generally do not pose any great threat to the future of the breed. At their worst they are faults less serious and more easily bred out than basic structural faults. I therefore see no justification for penalizing these "coloration" faults severely in the show ring. Here again, however, common sense and, if you will, "relativity" must enter the picture. A pale nose on a solid cream, for example is quite different from a pink nose on a solid black.
Again I say, it is the overall picture that is important - the general soundness and balance, the type and expression, the temperament and bearing of the dog. The emphasis in a judge's examination should be on the way in which the entire dog is put together, the way he stands, moves and acts. Most of the details in the standard are perhaps more an explanation of what can spoil the overall picture rather than a substitute for it.
I doubt if any judge who knows the breed, for example, specifically checks to see that the nose has a "slight Roman appearance" but not an "exaggerated Roman nose". Instead he looks for head that "looks right" and is generally "true to type"> He may find an entirely acceptable head that has no "Roman nose" effect; he is less likely to be satisfied with as head that ends in an extreme Roman Flourish. I have yet to see judges using measuring devices in the Afghan hound ring, and I do not believe that the standard intends the measurements it gives to be judged on such a basis.
In the matter of proportions, for example, I cannot imagine a judge penalizing a dog purely because he is an inch longer or shorter than he is high. Yet I cannot imagine a competent judge not penalizing heavily an Afghan hound who is obviously not well proportioned. The dog whose legs are so short and whose body and/or coat is so long that it looks like a caterpillar is definitely "off type"; the dog whose body is so short and/or slight that his legs get tangled cannot be called "sound"
Much the same applies to "off standard" sizes. Because of a whim of some judges and breeders, the oversize mail in particular looms as a major problem today. We have had others in the breed with a penchant for developing true miniatures or toys. These size variations are not easily bred back out. Although I do not say that the giant dog and/or miniature bitch should be disqualified, I do wish that judges would be fairer to the 26 inch male and less generous to the 30 and 31 inches - and that they might also develop a better sense of just how much substance an Afghan hound should have.
But finally, and yet again, in studying the standard and in evaluating dogs, always try to get back to the complete entity. Study the standard in detail - not for the sake of details nor in order to talk about your dog's virtues and my dogs faults - but to fix in your mind a clear and complete picture of how a truly good Afghan hound is put together.. how he should look, stand, move and act.
Donald A Smith, 1961
(USA Afghan Hound Breed Standard -The Classical Compromise) Steve Tillotson 2012
Indian Kennel Gazette Description of Zardin 1906 (precursor breed standard)
The Parent Club, AKC and the Afghan Hound Breed Standard Shake-Up .( by Peter Belmont Elmo, USA, 1985)
Reigh Abram (Dureigh) Comments on The Breed Standard
The Afghan Hound Standard In Detail by Eta Pauptit, 1976
US Current Breed Standard 1948
USA Afghan Hound Breed Standard (1946) Discussions, By Johannah Kench-Owen 1977
Afghan Hound History, comments by Constance O, Miller, May 1967
UK Current Breed Standard Revised 1986
UK Early Breed Standard,1946
Recognition of the Afghan hound by The Kennel Club 1926
Mrs Drinkwater (Geufron) and Dr Porter (el Kabul) re differences in type (Bell-Murray and Ghazni)
Shahzada/Zardin and the Afghan Hound Breed Standard
Afghan breeders turn back the clock to the Amps and their early imports (Bill Hall, c1975)
Afghan Controversy UK 1926 What is the correct type?
Early Afghan Hounds
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