JUDGING THE AFGHAN HOUND

An analysis of the Breed by Lynette Watson (nee Schelling)
Originally published in "National Dog" in the 1970's.
Reproduced here with permission of the author -
Lynette Watson (nee Schelling) of "Shaltarah" Afghan Hounds (Australia).



Before we actually get into this presentation I want to tell you that I am constantly going to refer to reasons why the Afghan is built like he is. That is, the utility and purpose for which he was originally developed. In judging, you should be able to apply this to any breed at all. It is merely a matter of first deciding how that dog should be constructed and how he should then gait and carry himself for his life's purpose. It is a good thinking exercise. It makes judging extremely interesting and aids in our understanding so much about dogs in general. It gives us very good reasons to adhere to type-specifically breed type. We are expected to know the three cardinal attributes for all purebred dogs, namely:-

TYPE, BALANCE, SOUNDNESS

The street bred mutt may by chance be BALANCED; i.e. all parts of that dog being in harmony, and relative to the others without any one part drawing attention, giving the parts the ability to function smoothly as a whole.

This street mutt will almost certainly be SOUND. That is possessing the ability to see, hear, eat locomote and procreate -for if he were not sound he would be naturally culled. The soundest dogs in the world are those that dodge big city traffic, postmen's boots, and the owner of the last rubbish bin they raided. Cow hocked, knuckled over, flat footed mutts just don't survive long at making a living in the streets.

The quality these dogs can never have, is TYPE. They were never bred to perform any specialised duties.

Now let us find out about this Afghan Hound;- with all stories about this breed being the one which Noah took with him into the ark aside at this time.

According to documented Afghan history, the Tazi, or Afghan, first became popular in the time of Sultan Hahmud Ghaznawe in about 988. A fiercely military man, though a patron of the arts, he invaded India on some 12 occasions over a thirty year period and always carried a pack of Afghan Hounds with his army, using them as couriers, guard dogs and hunters.

In 1857 mention was made of the Hounds of Afghanistan with hair the length of 5 to 8 inches, very powerful and a match for the caracul or Persian Iynx, being able to kill that very formidable animal single handedly. Eighty years later, we have recorded reports of the dogs being used in Afghanistan for the oldest form of hunting, a type portrayed in ancient Mooul and Persian manuscripts and still being carried on the remoter parts of Afghanistan. The quarry is small, very swift deer called Abu Dashti, and is hunted by the hounds with the aid of hawks. Young birds. and Afghan puppies are kept together and trained on deer flesh. Immediately the training is complete the birds and the Afghans are taken to the hills. The birds impede the deer by flapping at it enabling the hounds to overtake and kill .

This particular deer is known in India as chinkara, and a saving that country goes;-"the day a chinkara is born a man may catch it. the second day, a swift hound. but the third, no-one but Allah". So. here we have a dog expected to do the job of Allah . . . a far cry, some will say. from what he has become. A status symbol. his beautiful coat has done all but turn him into a lap dog. His glamour has attracted to him all the elements which he needs least.

His independent nature has been ridiculed as unintelligent by non-understanding obedience trainers and farm types; and some of the neurotic owners he's found would cause any sane person to wonder at his real worth. The most work he's likely to do these days is 15 minutes on the walking machine to keep trim for the next beauty contest

Exaggeration? It's true that a few lucky ones do get to go racing now and then. No matter what, there's no doubting that the Afghan Hound is beautiful. Many see his real beauty in his true dignified and aristocratic outlook on life, his sense of humour. But it is necessary to know one to appreciate that. The most beautiful Afghan to a judge must unquestionably be the Afghan who could perform the duties which were the reasons for his evolvement.

Now I repeat, the Afghan is in no way in the world a conventional street mutt. He really is an aristocrat, and even today, given the opportunity, he's a highly specialised racing, hunting and killing machine, with very definite breed characteristics and any deviation toward the conventional canine -away from style refinement and aloof, oriental bearing, is foreign and wrong.

So, having established the purpose for our breed, it remains for us to classify the necessary structural engineering required. We shall come to our blueprint and specifications directly.

The Afghan is a GAZEHOUND-a dog used for sighting and running down game. He differs from other gazehounds in that he has TWO natural working gaits, and although we will only ever see one in the ring we must be able to distinguish the dog who would perform both. Unlike the Saluki and the Borzoi, who were slipped after the quarry was spotted-the Afghan was required to independently seek out the game and then give chase and kill as well; so aside from that all important mobility, as a sighthound he requires two initial specifics:- A clear outlook. and a high head carriage, both of which points will be expanded later.

There is a further fact which the aspiring judges (and breeders and exhibitors) must know and have probably been told already, and that is the necessity for all gazehounds to be noticeably and functionally wider in the hindquarters than in the forequarter region.

he particular type of gallop employed by this family of hounds -the Whippets, Borzois. Saluki, Deerhound, Greyhounds, is known as the double suspension gallop; the same action as used by the fleetest animal known to man; the Cheetah.

It is a different gallop from that used by, say, the Boxer, a retriever or a horse. It needs to have the hindquarters passing the forequarters by UP TO A FULL BODY LENGTH during one of the periods of suspension, and one necessary structural feature MUST be a narrower front than rear.

Another important detail, probably equally so in the level backed Afghan compared to the Borzoi and Whippet, whose backlines are more or less permanently in readiness for this gallop-is just that-a spinal column capable of arching sufficiently to complete that second sequence of suspension

Now. no matter what type. what colour. how much coat. whether his saddle is there or not-we would not have our Afghans todav if their ancestors had not been able to perform the function of catching the tucker. I guess the master of the hunt gave his dog two or three chances. and if he didn't do his thing he wouldn't come home - he'd fill the pot, one way or another. I don't see why we should perpetuate by ignorant judging. a weakness which is extremely serious and actually limiting to a breed. So it becomes a definite responsibility for us to learn to recognise a dog who could conceivably perforrn this double suspension gallop.

I have already mentioned the differently modified shape of the Borzoi and the Whippet. The Borzoi having his arch commencing at the third vertebrae or as near the scapula as possible, and the Whippet having a definite arch over the loin, bringing the pelvis into a position to get those hindquarters through with a minumum of effort. These two breeds need to have immediate short burst of speed, and with the Greyhound, are the "sprinters" of the group. The Deerhound, Afghan and Saluki could be classed more as "dual purpose". Their jobs took them over the changing terrain, the first two in mountainous country, but they also had to have ability to spring and kill at the end. In relation to the foregoing remarks, let us just briefly take a look at these other Gazehound Standards, noting what they require in forequarters and hindquarters.

SALUKI:     "Chest moderately narrow" 
            	"Hipbones set wide apart" . . .

GREYHOUND: 	"Shoulders narrow and cleanly defined"
            "Thighs wide" . . .

DEERHOUND:	"Not too much width between blades" 
             "Drooping over hindquarters with hips
             wide apart"

WHIPPETS:	"Blades carried up to spine and set close
		 together at top" ... qualified by "Front
		 not too wide" ... "broad across thighs"

and
THE AFGHAN: 	"shoulders not to be loaded" . . . "Broad
		loin with prominent hipbones set wide
		apart"


AN INTERPRETATION OFTHE BREED STANDARD

Now, finally, to the Standard:

Note these interesting key facts:

1. The word "LONG" is used no less than thirteen times describing various features.

2. The word "SHORT" is used only twice in relation to structure.

3. The word ' MODERATE" used but one time.

"The Afghan Hound should be dignified and aloof with a certain keen fierceness. The eastern or oriental look is typical of the breed. The Afghan looks at, and through one. He is essentially an ANGULAR dog. A square dog. i.e. measuring the same from forechest to buttocks as withers to ground. Having withers and hipbones at the same level. I think his saddle pattern and his ringed tail could also come in here, as these are characteristics of this breed, and no other.

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The gait of the Afghan should be smooth and springy with a style of high order. The whole appearance of the dog should give the impression of strength and dignity, combining speed and power. The head must be held proudly .

Along with the second mention of "dignity" we find here the first mention of high head carriage-accompanied by the word MUST. To fulfil the requirements of a sighthound this is essential. he's not going to see much with his head down or stuck straight out in front of him. He-s not going to look dignified either.

A correctly built Afghan is quite unique among animals, bred for high head carriage. We are told that the muscles which cause the neck and head to be lifted high are also those which control the forequarters and cause these to be lifted high as in the Hackney horse or the Miniature Pinscher. Not wanting a hackney gait in the Afghan, how do we produce the long ground covering stride which appears effortless, and yet retain the necessary proud head carriage, now referred to among authorities overseas as the "reconnoissance trot" . .

Firstly-and most importantly-by having a long, well set back and well sloped scapula or shoulder. To my mind, 45 degrees, which is recognised as the most efficient possible angle, is essential.

Secondly-by having an equally long humerus or upper arm -also well laid back. This gives stability, shock absorption and a powerful lift at the gallop, as well as aiding to the spring called for in this paragraph of the standard.

Thirdly-by having the required long pastern.

Fourthly - by having long, powerful, well angulated hindquarters.

Fifthly-by having low hocks.

Sixthly-by having the correct ribcage shape.

Seventh-by having properly acting vertebrae through the loin region.

When all of these things are present-in balance, and when the right mental attitude is also present, we cannot fail to have "a style of high order".

Coming and going, the Afghan will converge his feet at the trot, but never to the point of crossing the centre line.

When the front leg moves forward it carves out an arc known as the arc of momentum. The ideal point at which the pad should strike the ground is where momentum expends itself and the arc contacts the earth. Up to that point there are two forces active-momentum and gravity.

When the forward reach is not sufficient to advance the pad to this point, owing to a short upright shoulder or to imbalance with overabundance of rear-end drive, dogs may meet the situation in one of four ways. Firstly, the pad strikes the ground while both forces are active, that is before the end of the arc has been reached. This slams the pad into the ground with a much harder skidding action than should be necessary. This dog is said to be ' pouncing", and the whole body shudders with increased shock. This dog is also over-reaching with his rear, or sidewinding, or crabbing, which forces the spine on a deflecting course.

Secondly, some dogs bring into play the extensor muscles of the forearm-those that bend the elbow. These lift the leg and pad higher and suspend them for a fraction longer time before dropping the pad into place. Many breeders and ringsiders have admired this characteristic, not uncommonly referred to in a high-stepping horse as "hackney gait", already mentioned.

A third means of meeting this condition is through the action of the rearing muscles. These take on the burden of suspending the forequarters by producing a little more lift than they would normally be required to do. You see this more at the gallop than other gaits. The animal will not have a level gallop but will resemble a rocking horse bobbing across the field. Needless to say, these dogs lack both speed and stamina. for they use energy going up as well as going away.

Probably the most fortunate dog having to solve this problem of imbalance is the one that cuts down his rear drive, even though he may have excellent power there. until it matches his front. Unless one realises what he is doing, the animal may be criticised as having plenty of angulation, but is shortgaited, will not step out. We certainly would not class this dog as perfect, but we do give him more credit not slamming into his front.

HEAD AND SKULL

Skull long, not too narrow, with prominent occiput. Foreface long, with punishing jaws and slight stop. The skull well balanced and surmounted by a long silky topknot. Nose preferably black but liver is no fault in light coloured dogs.

The word "LONG" is repeatedly at use in this Standard. Horse breeders know that when one breeds a long head then every bone in the body will be correspondingly long. Nature does that. I believe it was for this intended purpose that the originators of the Standard wished to convey the necessity for preserving length throughout.

McDowell Lyon describes the racing shoulder blade as very long-being as long as the head from ear to nose. The words 'not too narrow" are there to save us from weak jaws, since it calls for balance with the foreface, which is also long. It is fairly universally accepted by breed authorities that anything approaching a thick wedge shape or highly differentiated shape of skull over muzle is wrong, and getting away from racing lines. As long as we can remember that we can have no weakness here, since our dog is to use his jaws for work, then we cannot have a snipey face. Strength of jaw comes with good fill in under and forward of the eye. Look for depth at the level of the first molar right down through the lower mandible as well.

Look for well expanded nostrils. You will find both blunt ended nose leathers and sharper ones. The blunt ones can tend to give a setterish appearance. Flews are definitely out in the Afghan. If he's going to kill something, he doesn't want to bite his own lip. This look usually goes with the shorter boned, heavier set dogs. The sharper angling ones are more racey and nonwind resisting, but could lead one to think there is less underjaw. Checking the bite will give you the answer.

Strong, even teeth, vertical as possible, meeting in a scissor bite is the accepted norm. There should be a noticeable centre line running from mid muzle, up between the eyes. "Slight" stop may be taken in this breed as imperceptible. The only appearance of stop will be where the very slight brown line rises over this centre line depression.

The "Roman" appearance is highly regarded by fanciers and so is the beard. Both are without mention in the English Standard. The nasal prominence could be distinctly useful both for its depression, which would give a clearer outlook, and for its rise, which increased capacity for air intake and makes the cooling system more efficient.

Copyright(c) Lynette Watson (nee Schelling) Shaltarah Afghan Hounds (Australia)

  

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