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).
JUDGING THE AFGHAN HOUND
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
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
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
WHIPPETS: "Blades carried up to spine and set close
together at top" ... qualified by "Front
not too wide" ... "broad across thighs"
THE AFGHAN: "shoulders not to be loaded" . . . "Broad
loin with prominent hipbones set wide
AN INTERPRETATION OF THE 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
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.
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
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
Fifthly-by having low hocks.
Sixthly-by having the correct ribcage shape.
Seventh-by having properly acting vertebrae through the
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
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
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)
Norah and Richard Ward (Golithar,Aust), by Steve Tilotson and Lyall Payne July 2015
Mrs. Olive Macdougall (Kandahar)
Mrs.V B West (Bara-Khel)
Mrs. Barbara Skilton, (El Tazzi), by Steve Tilotson and Lyall Payne July 2015
History Of The Breed Down Under by Helen Furber (Furbari, Aust), 1969
Jim Hickie article on Australian breed history
Fear of Possible Mennace -"The Post's" Sydney, Australia, 1935
An Interview with Barbara Skilton Of Eltazzi Kennels
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