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Extract and audio article from Joan Brearley' book
"This Is The Afghan Hound"
Chapter 1 Ancient History Of The Breed

Click controls above to listen to article

AHT Editor comments - We have previously documented the difficulties of trusting some early writings about the breed, especially those penned in the 19th century. Such Legacy writings were often written by authors with no personal or direct knowledge of the breed, and who had a habit of mixing up fact and fiction.. We can perhaps, cut these 19th century writers some slack, making some allowance for the era of their writings, when books were "entertainment" as well as being "informational".

As technology advanced, example - photography, the telegraph, etc, it became easier to communicate information from far away and exoctic places. It also became more practical to validate authors writings with photographic evidence (rather than artists illustrations based on an unsubstantiated description). Thus, as we move through the 20th century, potentially the quality of information on breed history would be expected to improve. The followiing article was written mid 20th century , and propagates many of the myths and legends established a century earlier. Readers are encouraged to click on the links at the bottom of this page to articles covering several of the myths and legends mentioned by Miss Brearley.

(Extract from, "This Is The Afghan Hound", by, Joan Brearley, 1965, Chapter 1)


Some three thousand years before Christ, when the warring northern and southern kingdoms of Egypt were uniting under the reign of King Menes, to form the First Dynasty of Egypt, the acknowledgment of the existence of a slender hound of the Afghan type was first being recorded on papyrus, and portrayed in hieroglyphics on the walls of the peerra-mids of the gods in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

Archeological histories estimate the actual existence of the breed as long ago as seven thousand years, with its origin seeming to center around the Mountain of Moses on the Sinai Peninsula. There are also historical theories on additional evidences of simultaneous appearances of the same type of dog, all over the Asian continent as well.

In Afghanistan, whence the dog derives its name, it is regarded, though unofficially, as the "national dog," and native Afghans claim and believe this monkey-faced, or baboon dog, as it was often called, was the chosen dog to accompany Noah on his ark in the year of the great flood. They also uphold the belief that it is the dog portrayed in the rock carvings on the walls of the caves in the northern province of Balkh. This is the reason it has also been referred to as the Balkh Hound.

The correct interpretation of these ancient and obscure carvings, and the conjecture regarding the Afghan Hound's being the only dog mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible, will always be open to argument, or personal opinion. And it is sure to be the basis of heated discussion when Afghan fanciers get together.

But we do know this : the Afghan type dog goes back so far that historian Jackson Sanford, in a scientific paper, states that the Afghan Hound represents a form of animal structure found on earth over one hundred thousand years ago. Based on bone structure comparisons, it is a contemporary of the very earliest Asian dog-like animals which are believed to have inhabited even the North American continent, two million years ago.

In the earliest written records of the breed, however, there is almost a habit of "mixing and matching" the Afghan Hound with the Greyhound and the Saluki, with points of variance being mainly the outward appearances of each, namely, coat and feathering. There is much reference to what might easily be a composite of all three throughout these histories. It is only when man began to analyze the work each species was expected to perform in the different countries and climates, that we see the Afghan Hound begin to emerge and develop as the superior hunter, because of its coat, long-range eyesight, and "pivotal hip joints."

Arnold Fletcher, one-time Deputy Director of Habibia College in Kabul, Afghanistan, claims that a Greyhound's legs would have snapped on the quick turns necessary when doubling back on prey, but the almost pivotal hip joints of the Afghan Hound enable it to turn almost within the length of itself. Also, the smooth-coated Greyhound fell subject to respiratory diseases in extremely cold temperatures of the upper snow regions, whereas the Afghan Hound prospered under the protection of its heavy coat. While this profusion of coat guarded it against the cold, it also shielded this fleet-footed mountain hunter from the merciless sun while it coursed the desert. With its huge, thickly-padded paws and powerful hindquarters, the Afghan Hound was also the perfect "desert dog," with equal ability to skim across the hot desert sands or to scale rocky tors in the mountainous territory.

In order to pinpoint the origin and purpose of this dog down through the centuries, we must remember that the Afghan Hound of the past did not present the same picture it does today. The beautifully- coated well-fed Afghan Hounds that give rise to the choruses of Oh's and Ah's in today's show ring certainly are not representative of the breed in ancient times.

The appearance has changed, and so has the purpose to which the dog is put. We must recall the differences in the border-lines of the countries during past centuries. Constantly moving native tribes and traders kept national borders irregular and indistinct. But each "country," even as it was then, found its own use and purpose for this hound in its ultimate scheme of life. In Egypt, for instance, where only a select few animals such as the Brahman bull and the cat were revered, the Afghan-type dog won sovereignty for itself by becoming a companion to kings, and came to play a significant part in the national religion.

Legend has it that a dog guided Isis, goddess of motherhood and fertility, when she searched for her brother and husband, Osiris, a wise king of Egypt who was brutally murdered and tossed into the Nile by his brother. The role played in his most triumphant return and his elevation to the status of a great god, also immortalized the dog in the land of the Pharaohs. Even beyond this royal role as companion to kings, these Egyptian dogs were used as guards, walking sentry duty each night with an eye for raiding tribes creeping in from the desert to steal. Sleeping by day and walking guard in pairs at night around the oases and cities, the Afghan Hounds were also taught to steal from neighboring encampments for the good of their masters. This is a trait that has remained with the Afghan Hound through the centuries. Present day Afghan Hound owners readily admit that their dogs are expert at thievery, and that every pure-bred Afghan Hound still harbors a bit of larceny in its soul

In the Middle Ages, dog teams were used to pull carts of cloth, tea, furs, incense, and other commodities between Persia, India, Arabia, Russia, and China. They seem to have penetrated as far north as Scandinavia and as far east as China. Woodcuts after Olaus Manus depicting Scandinavian hunters on skis armed with crossbows in the 16th century show dogs bearing a strong resemblance to the Afghan Hound running alongside them.

Examples of Asian art bear out the appearance of this type of dog in Chinese sculpture and carved jade. The Cairo Museum is reported to have on display a piece of pottery bearing Afghan-Uke creatures in chase which was unearthed along with other treasures from King Tutan-kharmen's tomb.


In Afghanistan the dog excelled as a hunter. Hunting is, and always has been, the most popular pastime in Afghanistan. Wealthy Afghans, aboard their excellent horses, equipped with guns and hounds, hunt expressly for sport. At times they also employ falcons which ride on their gauntlets until released to swoop down and distract the prey as it is chased and surrounded by the dogs.

Afghan Hounds are primarily sight (as well as scent) hunters. They have exceptional vision and can spot prey far off before using their fantastic running speed, estimated at twenty-five miles or more per hour at full speed, to track down what they have spotted. Sometimes hunting in pairs, male and female, the female usually chooses to circle the prey, bounding and barking wildly to distract it while the male awaits the opportunity to leap at the prey's throat, where he hangs on until the neck is snapped and broken. Their great speed and power enables them to hunt gazelles, snow leopards, wolves, hyenas, and jack-rabbits and animals of similar size. Their powerful twisting jaws make a kill almost certain.

The poorer people of Afghanistan, however, hunt for the most primeval of reasons ... for food and skins. With the tribesmen, however, the Afghan Hound is taught to hunt without devouring or killing the catch, but merely to keep it at bay, allowing the master to deliver the death blow so that the game may be eaten without sacrilege. According to the Mohammedan religion, only slaughtered game may be consumed.

Ordinary dogs in Afghanistan are regarded as unclean and are often clubbed and stoned in the streets. But the Afghan Hound is admired and respected by all without exception. To the rich he is a skilled and swift hunter, and to the poor he is an invaluable guard and provider of food and clothing.

Whatever the Afghan Hound's use or purpose has been down through the centuries, it has withstood the changing sands of time and has remained a dog of great intelligence and beauty. While written records might be inadequate, incomplete, or even questionable, it is generally agreed that the exotic Afghan Hound is of the pre-Christian era.

Joan Brearley, 1965

Related content
Origin of the Afghan hound
Early Afghan hounds
The "myth" of the Sinai Penninsula by Steve Tillotson, November 2013
Legacy Writings by Steve Tillotson, November 2012
Origin and History
The Dog Of The Mystic East - Jean Manson 1929
Rev Bush
Life in Afghanistan 1878 (a letter to home)
A Brief Sketch Of Afghanistan/Pakistan/India History by Steve Tillotson,

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