The Afghan Hound Standard
By (Jennifer Atkinson, Afshari), NZ)
Jennifer Atkinson with Afshanti Sihn Original
Hound judge and breeder of "Afshari" Afghan Hounds.
My first thoughts of an Afghan hound started with a picture on a chocolate box when I was twelve years old. According to my mother, I stated that when I had the time, space and money, I would have one of these. I finally bought my first Afghan, a male, Streisland Milan (Pollock) in 1977, while living in the South Island. I had the space, but I really don't know about the time and money but, I certainly became "hooked" on the breed with Pollock truly being my trial and error dog, teaching me much in handling, care and the attendant problems associated with owning any coated breed. He also taught me about the "quality" of an Afghan, becoming a multiple Best In Show winner along the way
My first ribbon parade was indeed traumatic. Pollock was just seven months old, and was starting to produce the starting of his saddle markings, with the resultant loss of the long hair on his neck. Now no one had warned me about this, my vet only knew this one Afghan, telling me that the dog was healthy and perhaps not to worry about this. I arrive at the Ribbon Parade and was duly introduced to other Afghan people. I was also introduced to Pollock's litter sister. My astonishment was profound as this bitch had not long had her first season and was draped with a full saddle. My comment was (or was it blunder) "Oh your dog has the same problem as my dog, what is it, do you know?" Oh yes they knew, and I was told of the secret of the saddle.
Despite this novice introduction to the dog world, I am still here, having started to develop my kennels (Afshari prefix) with the initial concentration being on building up a wide gene pool with which to work.
My interest in genetics has proved useful and any mixing and matching are not easily explained within this discussion. Dogs and bitches I have liked for one reason or another have, I feel, influenced what I wish to achieve in developing my own kennel look. Certainly temperament has been an over riding factor, and I make no concessions in this area.
Any breed standard is limited by the necessity for brevity and the attempt at conciseness. This puts a restraint on detailed description of the finer points of a breed but nonetheless can provide a medium which, with the aid of informed individuals, and clubs, does allow the prospective judge a starting point. With respect to the Afghan Standard, the standard is brief and leaves unanswered questions as it stands.
In the Characteristics - "Dignified and aloof with a certain keen fierceness" seems to contradict itself. "The eastern or oriental expression... typical .... looks at and through one.." In the ring the Afghan can give you some of these expressions in a fleeting moment, and it is not until you see this creature out in its own world that you see all of them. The keenness of long distance sight can give the appearance of looking straight through you. The dog does not fully focus at the closer distance. It is more than likely focusing on an object further off than you as the Judge and in consequence, appears to you as looking straight through you. When the dog is extremely intent on a far off object this focusing produces a keenness of expression, and the eye focuses not on an entire area, but on a small specific area. When in the show ring, the riveting effect that some disturbance outside the ring can have on the Afghan can produce this effect. The dignified look will generally be there as the Afghan stands naturally, (or should do) due to their natural bearing.
In the General Appearance - "Smooth and SPRINGY" another seeming contradiction. Smooth suggests a single flat level, while the spring suggests the up and downward movements. The spring comes from the short hocks and slightly sloping front pasterns, which lift the Afghan up off the ground. Bearing in mind that the natural habitat of this breed is either the desert sands or mountainous country, it requires the lift to get out of the sand or up and over the rocky terrain. Now if this dog only has lift, it will spring up allright but promptly come back down in the same spot.
The smoothness comes from the forward motion of the Afghan. Once up in the air, the Afghan needs to achieve the maximum coverage of the ground before returning. Strong tendons ensure the flexing and release to achieve both these objectives. As the foot comes down into the ground the tendons are stretched to their limits to absorb shock, and as the Afghan rises in its next forward movement, that tendon springs back into its initial non stretched state, creating the lift and forward movement. The Afghan must create a smooth transition during these levels of movement. It is quite distinct from other breeds that give the appearance of the topline (once moving) to stay at one level. The Afghan hound has two levels due to this spring but there must be smoothness in the transition between the two. This does not mean that the Afghan has a sloppy topline. The topline of the Afghan itself must stay level. It is the forward movement that does not. The proud head carriage comes from need to actively be able to see over the top of terrain, so it seems ridiculous to having a crouching, stooping Afghan, With these few comments, it can be seen that a standard can be inadequate in explaining detail, but I believe that it is a starting point. Even today I am finding better ways of explaining the Afghan standard as my own studies continue. It is really up to an aspiring judge at any level to keep questioning, as knowledge on a certain point only comes after study at a previously lower level. I think back to my initial reading of the Afghan standard, and remember thinking that I did not understand it. It appeared to be basic, but I have found over the years that it is much more than that, and I hope I never stop questioning this standard.
Jennifer Atkinson, Afshari, NZ, 1991
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