Afghan Hound Times
(Afghan Hound Database and Breed Information Exchange)
Afghan hound origins
The "myth" of the Sinai Penninsula
(by Steve Tillotson, November 2013)
My thanks to Stephanie Hunt-Crowley (Chandhara) for information for this brief article. A few days ago Stephanie did a web search using the words "Afghan Hound Sinai Peninsula" ...... and according to the search engine there were over 46,000 hits ...A pretty impressive response of "misinformation"..You can't believe all you read on the Internet..
The date and origins of the breed remain undetermined. While we have more information today than writers of 50 years ago who incorrectly reference Sinia as breed origins, we cannot precisely pin down where and when the Afghan hound originated. In this article we will explain how the Sinai error came into being and how attempts have been undertaken in the past to remedy the error.
1 MYTHS OF ANTIQUITY OF BREEDS
It's quite common (in many breeds) to come across statements in dog books such as "the xyz dog is the oldest breed of dog in the world". An oft quoted statement in Afghan hounds originates from Jackson K Stanford, who 60 years ago "in a scientific paper" wrote that the Afghan hound was several thousand years old etc etc. Unfortunately what these "scientists" of that era don't make clear, is that this is just their "opinion" based on evidence that today the academic community would dismiss as unsound. But even the academics can get it wrong. An international working group, based at Durham University, several years ago stated that the breed in the USA had gone extinct and dogs were imported from England in the 1930's to re-establish it. I communicated with the project manager of this group and he revealed his source was the American Kennel Club Complete Dog Book in which this statement was apparently made. The Durham group, quite reasonably "trusted" that the AKC as a source would be a accurate reference, but it was not. Back in the day they got their information from people in the breed who had a reputation for knowledge about the breed. Sine this time, the KC's have themselves by independent research become much better informed and knowledgeable about breeds history. I have previously written about the difficulties inherent in trusting early writings on breeds history. Readers can view the legacy writings article here.
2 AKC RESPONSE TO SHC ENQUIRY
Stephanie followed up by contacting the American Kennel Club - who provided a very helpful response and explained how the error came to be, The AKC response is shown below -
From: James Crowley, Executive Secretary
American Kennel Club
"AKC first published the complete dog book in 1929. It only included breed
standards with no histories (see recently found Connie Miller notes 1967 below)
Since there was no Afghan Club in the U S, the
standard published was that of The Kennel Club in the UK.
The history was incorporated into the Complete dog Book for the 1935
edition. Again, since there was no club in the US (The Afghan Hound Club of
America joined AKC as a member club in 1940), we corresponded with Mrs. T.S.
Couper, Secretary for the Afghan Hound Association in the UK for pictures
and to prepare a history. We received the pictures which were not the best,
but apparently had to write the history ourselves based on whatever
published sources were available . There is a handwritten note in the file
indicating that we should try to get better pictures and then “asked Jones to
write an article on Afghan Hounds (Arthur Frederick Jones was an editor and
writer for the AKC GAZETTE). The history included in the 1935 book referenced
the breed in Sinai and major Blackstone’s supposed translation. The history
was then carried for several additional editions, the last being in 1975. By
the 1979 edition, the Afghan Hound Club of America had rewritten the
history, eliminating the references to the Sinai and major Blackstone. The
new history was approved by a committee appointed by the Afghan hound Club
of America in 1975. It was chaired by Karen Armistead, who was then the club’s
Librarian. The actual history was written by Dorothy MacDonald and Don Smith
It was submitted to AKC in 1977, and as indicated incorporated into the next
edition of the Complete Dog Book in 1979.
In an article written in the club magazine “Topknot News” in the spring of
1999, Karen credits Dorothy Macdonald, Don Smith, and Dr. and Mrs. William
Waskow with showing that the Blackstone story of a 3-4,000 year old papyrus
was a fraud. The title of the article was “Afghan history a ‘PR fairy tale.”
I am attaching a copy of the entire article, which makes a number of the
same points you did."
I hope this helps.
James Crowley, Executive Secretary
American Kennel Club
260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Credit and thanks to AKC for their above excellent response
(AHT UPDATE OCTOBER 1ST 2016)
Since posting this article, we have discovered some additional pertinent notes written by Connie Miller in 1967 which are as follows -
"In compiling the book data we read every "Gazette" from 1920 to the present, but the oldest AKC All-Breed book that was checked for exactitude, with the modern chapter, was a 1935 edition. Recently the pertinent pages of a 1929 issue have been presented to me by a grateful reader. I consider it a real find, for in that issue I found the present chapter on the breed to be non-existent. This 1929 AKC book contains the expected pre-48 Standard but with the following complete breed description.
"Afghan Hounds are swift hunting dogs, their natural quarry being jackal. They are also used on leopard with great success. Usually working in pairs, the dog attacks the throat, the bitch the hinder parts. Shy to strangers, they are very loyal to their owners, they are gentle, sensitive, and very courageous”
The Afghan Hound photo that accompanies the article is obviously (but not actually labeled) , "Eng Ch. Taj Mahip Of Kaf" owned by Evelyn Denyer, whose breed chapter in the English book "Pedigree Dog" (edited by C.C.Sanderson, publ, 1927) undoubtedly spawned the American paragraph quoted above. However, the statements in the paragraph go back directly to a letter written by Major Mackenzie, printed in 1903. It now appears that our current American breed chapter is not nearly so old, or so sacrosanct as we formerly thought it to be
AHT - So with thanks to Connie Miller we now know what the "original AKC breed history narrative" was that AKC originally included
in the AKC Complete Dog Book, and we also know who was the source of that early AKC history narrative)
3 AHCA CORRECTS BREED HISTORY ERROR, BUT NEW ERRORS IN AKC BOOK OCCUR
Our friend at the AKC referenced the (late) Karen Armistead (long serving AHCA breed historian). Well it seems, despite attempts to remedy the original error, the remedy itself introduced additional/new errors. We quote from “Topknot News”
AHCA'S Topknot News, Spring 1999
Afghan History a "PR Fairy Tale?
By Karen Armistead, AHCA Librarian
I don't remember when I first read the breed history of the Afghan hound in the AKC "Complete Dog Book", but I do know I assumed it was a history based on documented research. I was very lucky to meet and become friends with Dorothy Macdonald and Don Smith and Margo and Willie (Dr William) Waskow. They were all involved in researching the history of the Afghan hound and trying to validate the history in the "Complete Dog Book"
3.1 Major H Blackstone's Misinformation about Breed History
Eventually they found out that Major H Blackstone's story of a papyrus written in Greek and dating to 3000 to 4000 B.C. was fraud. (See Don Smith's article in the AKC Gazette, October 1959). In fact, the existence of an English authority on antiquities named Major H. Blackstone could not be verified. And the story about the high tail carriage, which was in the old history, was dissected by Don Smith in the Gazette in November 1957.
In 1975 the Board of the AHCA appointed me chairman of the Committee to Revise and Rewrite the breed history in the AKC "Complete Dog Book". I appointed Don Smith and Dorothy Macdonald to the committee.
The years of research revealed that most of the old breed history could not be substantiated. In fact the basis for the old history was a PR fairy tale dreamt up by Q.A.Shaw Mckean to promote Afghans in the early 1930's. Mr. McKean's PR pamphlet written for him by Milton Danziger, was accepted as fact by Arthur Frederick Jones who wrote the old breed history for the AKC "Complete Dog Book."
In September 1977, after Don Smith and Dorothy Macdonald had submitted several drafts and there had been much discussion on the Board, and exchange of views via many letters, the Board of the AHCA approved a final draft of the revised history of the Afghan hound for the AKC book. The new history was sent to the AKC and we received a letter from Janet Ford, Secretary to John Mandeville, dated Jan 11, 1978, thanking us for the material.
When the 16th edition of the "Complete Dog Book" was published in May 1979, I checked to see that the new history was printed. I only read the first two paragraphs. I regret to say it did not occur to me that I should proof-read the entire new history. This was a terrible mistake on my part.
In February 1999, I was writing a letter and wanted to be sure I was correct about the dam of Ch Badshah Of Ainsdart. I consulted the breed history in the AKC "Complete Dog Book" and found an absurd sentence: "Mr. McKean soon added a young English champion, Badshah of Ainsdart, a bitch of pure Bell-Murray breeding". Badshah was not a bitch. (Ed note, neither was he of pure Bell-Murray breeding).
The sentence should read "A young English champion, Badshah Of Ainsdart, sired by Sirdar Of Ghazni out of Ku Mari Of Kaf (a bitch of pure "Bell-Murray" breeding). I decided I had better proof read the entire history.
I did this and discovered that many lines had been edited out and whole paragraphs had been eliminated. The breed history of the Afghan hound that had been printed in the "Complete Dog Book" beginning with the 1979 edition, is not full of fairy tale nonsense, but it is not the breed history that was approved by the Board of the AHCA in Sept 1977
3.2 Unique Hip Bones Misinformation
I was curious about the statement in the old history that stated, "Another most distinguishing point in the Afghan is the assembly of his hipbones. Thee are considerably higher than in the ordinary dog and set much wider apart. These unique hipbones..". I sent this statement to Dr Wayne K Riser, a famous orthopedic specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr Riser wrote, "This is a very interesting statement. I wonder where this may have originated.... I have a copy of the 1935 edition (of the "Complete Dog Book") and the statement in there.. Such research today (1974) involving measurements of the pelvis and "hipbones" would be made with radiographs. In 1935, x-ray machines were only beginning to appear in America".
Dr Riser continues, "In our work, we have radiographed the pelvis of the Afghan and other dogs of the related hound groups extensively. I have also dissected a number of Afghans and my data do not confirm that the "hipbone" is wider and higher. In examining the macerated pelvis and thigh bones of the Afghan and comparing them to other sporting hounds of equal size, I have great difficulty distinguishing the breeds of the longlegged, thin-boned sporting hounds. I have specimens from a number of these in my collection and if they were not marked, I would be unable to tell them apart because there are no distinguishing features. The pelvis and thigh bones of the Greyhound and Afghan are similar but these bones are not visible in the Greyhound because of the heavy glutei muscles. Neither breed carries much subcutaneous fat and sometimes the Afghan carries too little glutei muscle to cover the crests of the ileum" (What we Afghan fanciers call "hipbones" are actually the crests of the ileum.) So much for the myth of "unique hipbones".
Karen Armistead, Topknot News, Spring 1999
4 Q A SHAW MCKEANS (Prides Hill) AFGHAN HOUND PAMPHLET C. 1934
Above you will see a scan of the front of the Mckean (Prides Hill) pamphlet, and of the title page to the section on breed history written by Milton Danziger. The pamphlet runs to 8 pages and contains several photographs (all of which have been published in magazines over the years). Herebelow is a copy of the full text of Milton Danziger's words on breed history -
EGYPTIANS BRED AFGHAN HOUNDS, STUDIES REVEAL
Ancient documents called dog "monkey-faced hound"..
By Milton Danziger C. 1934
"When attending dog shows I never fail to single out Afghan hounds for inspection. Strong, alert and active, looking like a combination of speed and power with a graceful outline, they are an unfailing delight to me.
Some authorities are of the opinion that they are the oldest breed of dogs. Major H Blackstone of England, an authority on antiquities, reading an ancient Egyptian papyrus dating back some 5000 to 6000 years, states that what is now known as the Afghan hound is often mentioned, but the Egyptians called it Cynocephalus, translated meaning "monkey-faced hound". The papyrus indicates that the breed came from the Sinai mountains. According to Major Blackstone, the Afghan hound was the only known dog of the ancient world, and throughout the ages it had preserved its true type, its topknot, hip bones and the remarkable action which is that of the monkey and different from any other dog.
Scientists and archeologists always thought the animals in the hieroglyphics were imaginary until Lord Roberts entered Afghanistan during the wars of the sixties and there the Afghan hound was re-discovered. After this the scientists renewed their searches and gradually found that the other animals depicted in the hieroglyphics were the progenitors of the present breeds.
Can Kill Leopards - Another Britisher (AHT - we believe this to be a reference to Major Mackenzie who was one of the first to breed and exhibit Afghan hounds in England. Margaret Niblock in her book, page 100 mentions that Major Mackenzie was at the time (early 1900's) looked upon as an authority on the breed and the the Major supplied "much useful, though not always accurate, data for W D Drury's book British Dogs published in 1903") The Major raised Afghans for fifteen years in Afghanistan and northern India and he relates how he uses them for hunting the white leopard. He states that he hunts the hounds in pairs, but often one has torn a leopard to pieces. He also remarks that the tail cariage should be high because the Afghan hounds hunt so much in the thicket that it is only by the tail carriage that the movement of the dogs can be detected.
Afghan hounds became increasingly popular in England after the World war when several British army officers brought back to their native country specimens from Afghanistan, gifts from sheiks in that country. In Afghanistan these dogs are highly valued and are raised by the ruling classes, being used in coursing gazelle and jack rabbits, and in hunting leopards. They have amazing speed and are unusually swift over broken country. They run entirely by eyesight, which is nothing short of uncanny."
Conformation listed - Danzinger then simply summrarizes conformation as detailed in the early/now defunct 1927 AHA (UK) breed standard
5. ORIGINS AND TIMELINE OF THE BLACKSTONE BREED HISTORY STORY
There are still some questions arising that need to be resolved - Nobody has every traced or identified the mysterious Major Blackstone and/or established his supposed credentials
as a Afghan hound historian or as is purported, his credentials as an authority on antiquities. So, we have set of in search of Major Blackstone and attempted to find out
more about him..
We have drawn a complete blank on the name Major Blackstone other than his name is mentioned in some of the breed books. We have encountered a different "Major" who tempoarily raised our hope that we had
found the mysterious Major, more later on this. Let us re-visit the history/timeline of Major Blackstone's comments -
Q A Shaw Mckean in 1935 had established the largest kennel of Afghan hounds in the USA,
located at Prides Crossing in Massachusetts . Mr Mckean is renowned for his promotion of the (then) new breed. His pamphlet is a good example of his professional
approatch to introducing and promoting the new breed to attract new enthusiasts. Typically, rather than write a breed history himself, Mr Mckean seconded Milton Danzinger
(an established and respected canine writer of the day) to write the history for him. The question arises "where did Milton Danzinger get his Blackstone information from?. Did he
obtain the information as part of his networking with dog people, or did perhaps Mr Mckean provide him with the information? (We are aware that Mr Mckean at this time made
annual trips to Europe, including England, and met with overseas fanciers during these visits. He may have heard of the Blackstone story during one of these trips). Being the
professional marketeer that he was, such a story would be ideal content for his pamphlet. We dont know how Mr Mckean obtained the Blackstone story for his pamphlet, but
we do know its is the earliest publication of the story that we have been able to trace.
- 1934 Q A Shaw Mckean (Prides Hill kennels, USA) published a pamphlet about his Afghan hound kennel, including photographs of some of his hounds with a supporting narrative
about breed history written by Milton Danziger - dog editor of the Springfield Republican, in Massachusetts, and founder of the Dog Writers' Association of America. Mckeans
pamphlet is the earliest publication we can find cpmtaomomg Major Blackstone's breed history narrative
- 1935 AKC asked Arthur Frederick Jones (an editor and writer for the AKC Gazette) to write an article on Afghan hound breed history and this referenced the breed in Sinai
and Major Blackstone’s supposed translation of a 3-4,000 year old papyrus mentioning the Afghan hound
- 1977 AHCA investigates Blackstone version of breed history, decides it is incorrect and replaces it with a new narrative. AKC approves AHCA new narrative
- 1979 AKC includes new AHCA narrative in "The Dog Book"
Incidentally, Mr Mckeans pamphlet also contained some breed history narrative accredited to a Major Mackenzie. Specifically, Major Mackenzie states that the Afghan hound in his
native country can kill snow leapards, and that the tail cariage should be high because the Afghan hounds hunt so much in the thicket that it is only by the tail carriage that
the movement of the dogs can be detected. On the first point (killing leopards), Khan of Ghazni was reputed to have killed a leapard, but Major Amps (Ghazni) in an interview
in 1976 said that was not true. In fact hunting with Afghan hounds in Afghanistan involved riders on horseback using trained Hawks to fly ahead of the prey and fly around the
head and bother the prey sufficiently to enable the hounds to catch up to it. The riders would arrive shortly after the hounds did and kill the prey. As regards the second story about
high tail carriage, this is another falacy. The hunters are sitting on horses and would be able to see the hounds, further they would follow the flight of their hawks. The Afghan
hound's tail is naturally held up when in motion.
The bottom line is that Mr Mckean produced a brilliant marketing pamphlet re Afghan hounds and included some exciting and colourful information to draw attention to the
new exciting breed. The Mackenzie story is not exclusive to the Mckean pamphlet, it was mentioned in other writings. The Blackstone story appears to be unique to
Mckean's publication up to that point in time (1934). We are not suggesting Mr Mckean invented stories, particularly as the Mackenzie story was published widely
elsewhere, most likely he or Mr Danziger had heard the Blackstone story and thus included it in all good faith.
We should just mention Arthur Frederick Jones (AKC writer). In the absence of the existence of a documented history of the breed (The AHA had already
informed AKC that they had no written history on the breed as of 1935), where would somebody in the USA go to obtain Afghan hound breed history?
Probably to the largest and most important Afghan hound kennel in the USA at that time - Q A Shaw Mckean - Prides Hill Kenne) .So we suspect that Mr Jones
conferred with Mr Mckean and used the Mckean information for the AKC dog book.
The implications of all of the above are that because the AKC dog book would have had an assumed integrity and trust, it has been the most referenced book for writers and
researchers of Afghan hound breed history (at least until breed-specific books were published by others/experts in their breed starting around 1965). A recent yahoo search
for the phrase "Afghan Hound Sinai Peninsula" resulted in 68,300 hits, a clear indication of how widespread Major Blackstone's misinformation is.
Major Blacktone also translated the greek word "cynocephalus" to mean "monkey faced dog", which is an error in translation. Cynocephalus translates to "dog headed".
In mythology there are multiple references to dog headed humans, dog headed baboons etc. So Blackstone should have at worst translated the Greek to "dog faced monkey"
not monkey faced dog. His re-ordering of these three words doesn't enhance his alredy questionable creditability.
6. MAJOR BLAKISTON
As mentioned above, nobody has managed to identify Major Blackstone. Recently while doing a search on asian hounds we encountered the name "Blakiston"
and this caused us to wonder if the reason nobody has ever found a Blackstone is because his name was possibly mis-spelt. The two names phoneticaly are
close enough for the possibility of confusion to occur.
We have found a Major Blakiston who wrote a book In which he mentions dogs/hounds -
"Twelve Years Military Adventure In THree Quarters Of The Globe Or
Memoirs Of An Officer Who Served In the Armies Of His Majesty
And Of The East India Company Between The Years 1802 AND 1814,
In Which Are Contained The Campaigns Of The Duke Of Wellington
In India And His Last In Spain And The South Of France
In Two Volumes. Published in London, England by Henry Coburn 1829"
However, having acquired and read his two volume publication, it is apparent his interest in dogs/hounds were merely as an observer/commentator on
pastimes of his colleague officers and their racing/hunting activities. He doesn't mention any kind of dog remotely similar to an Afghan hound so we
dont think he is our mysterious major. However, we'll leave this snippet about him in this article, if only to demonstrate the possibility that the original
person (Blackstone) who nobody has been able to find , may be unfindable if (for example) his name was spelt different (such as Blakiston). So
the hunt for the mystery major continues....
Afghan hound history by Constance O, Miller, May 1967
Myths, Legends and Reality" By Steve Tillotson, January 2013
Legacy Writings By Steve Tillotson, November 2012)
The Land Of The Afghan Hound, Mary Amps, 1930
Early Afghan Hounds Section
The Origins Section
The Dog Of The Mystic East - Author Miss Jean C. Manson (Cove) 1929
The Afghan Hound Is An Ancient Breed, Evelyn Denyer (KAF) 1925
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