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US AFGHAN HOUND HISTORY - THE STORY OF OMAR AND ASRA
Janis Nixon (Canada)
Acknowledgement: Originally published in the AHCA's magazine "Afghan Actions Annual" in 1993. We are grateful to the AHCA for allowing us to reprint the article on these pages. Thank you.
In 1931, the famous American comedy team of the Marx Brothers was on film location in England, when Zeppo, the youngest brother of the troupe and his wife caught a glimpse of some Afghan Hounds. They were so fascinated with them that they spared no effort to locate and obtain a breeding pair to take home to America. A most difficult search for available stock was finally rewarded with purchase of two creams, Westmill Omar, by Danenda of Ghazni out of Surkh of Ghazni and Asra of Ghazni, by Eng. Ch. Sirdar of Ghazni out of Shireen of Ghazni
Once the dogs had reached Californian shores, the hectic movie schedule of the Marx brothers soon forced them to be turned over to George Thomas, a respected judge and dealer in valuable dogs, who determined to keep them for himself until suitable new owners could be found. In his care, Omar and Asra mated and while the litter was anxiously awaited an enthusiastic Mr. Thomas invited a Mr. Q. A. Shaw McKean over to look at his two acquisitions. It was a clear case of love at first sight, and Mr. McKean begged to buy the pair on the spot. Finally Mr. Thomas agreed, but only if he remained the breeder and owner of the yet unborn litter. So Omar and Asra went to live at the spacious Pride's Hill Kennel of Wire Fox Terrier fame. Mr. McKean gave the two the run of his home and found them to be both entertaining and unobtrusive house pets.
On April 1, 1932, the litter arrived with some of the pups carrying the Pride's Hill affix and others the Barberryhill prefix of Bayard Warren, who purchased several of them. Two bitches of considerable impact on the breed came from this first litter, Zahera of Pride's Hill and Barberryhill Illusive.
In Q. A. Shaw McKean, the breed had found a very active and knowledgeable press agent who set about in earnest to educate the dog owning public about the marvellous creature called the Afghan Hound. He circulated folders, showed his dogs en masse, and made deals with fledgling fanciers acquiring stock, to get the breed out in the public eye.
From Omar and Asra's second litter came America's first champion, Kabul of Pride's Hill. They produced three litters together and although they themselves were cream with poor skin pigment, some of their offspring were coloured pups with facial blazes and white stockings. Unfortunately, as no record is available, we must assume that Omar lived out his life with Mr. McKean. Asra on the other hand eventually went to live with Muriel Boger, where she produced her last litters, acquiring a lifetime total of fourty-three pups from various studs. She died at the age of fourteen, the grande dame of Afghans.
by Janis Nixon with ample help from Inge James' Impact and C. O. Miller and E. M. Gilbert's new Complete Afghan Hound