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Afghan Hound Times - AHCA No Stripping or Trimming

By Donald A. Smith
(Afghan International, December 1969)

(See also 2. AHCA Statement Donald A Smith, (President 1955 - 1959 and 1961-1966) about trimming

For nearly twenty years now, in response to what has always appeared to be the desire of an overwhelming majority of the better-informed fanciers, I seem to have been involved in the struggle to obtain compliance with the Afghan Hound Standard's probhibition of clipping or trimming the coat.

The total effect of thee efforts has been about equal to that of King Canute when he commanded the ocean waves to stop. As a result, when anyone sttes or beliefes that - as several have indicated recently in this publication - thre is a very simple answer to the whole thing, I cannot help but feel that they do not understand the problem.

Toward a better understanding, then, by any and all concerned. I want to try to set down the history of the sitjuation as I have seen it and the alternatives that face us today. Perhaps out of this a truly realistic solution might emerge.

The history of Afghan Hound barbering is long, sad and highly involved, with elements of high moral purpose and low cunning, noble lip servife and silly sophistry, steadfast principles and strange betrayals. It starts almost with the start of the breed in this country, if not earlier. Since then the problem has changed in shape and dimensions but not in its basic nature.

All of the earlier Afghan Hound Standards described the unique long-short coat pattern as a major element of breed tyhpe, but the fact that the hair was not to be trimmed remained an unwritten law which, although widely understood and accept, was sometimes violated. Writing in the first issue of the Afghan Hound Club Of America's BULLETIN i an article headed "Some Suggestions for Afghan Judging" and dated April 23 1941, none other than Q A Shaw McKen observed;

"Some exhibitors are actually trimming Afghans. I saw one lovely hound shown, with neck and feet obviously clipped. Imagine attempting to clip an Afghan's feet when the Standard so definitely states "feet covered with long, thick hair, fine in texture".

It would seem to me that judges should review the Standard, always bearing in mind the primary purpose of the Afghan Hound. Otherwise, exaggerations are bound to creep into the breed, sjuch as over-emphasis on heavhy coat, etc."

So you can see that the clipping problem - and indeed, the viewing with alarm as to where the breed is going with "over emphasis on heavy coat etc: -is not new by some 28 years at least. Note, however, that McKean seems to be concerned with what by today's practices would be very minimal touching up not affecting the basic coat pattern. Actually, as of 1941 ane earlier, most American specimens had plenty of short coat in all the right areas.

Within the next five or six years, however, this picture changed - partly through selective breeding for more coat from McKean's own stock and partly through heavier coated impiorts going back to different foundation dogs, some of which may have had no natural saddle and/or ankle spots.

Whatever the origin, by the late forties, much heavier coats were quite common, and thee usually of a thype which tended to "fill in" the saddle when in full coat, if not permanently.

Many exhibitors of such dogs adopted the fashion of bringing them into the ring with a very neat and exact four-inch stripe running the length of their back (from withers to tail). The purpose of this, I never fully understood. Perhaps they thought it attractive. Caertinly it served to make a cleaner topline silhouette. Possibly it was meant to demonstrate (as it usually did) the fact that there was a darker short-hair saddle underneath the overgworth. To me - and, I think, to many others - it was just sort of silly, b ut since it wuld fool no one, harmless. I have heard more than one of these exhibitors solemnly assure an inquiring novice that this stripe was natural and go on to point out, with a perfectly straight face, that an Afghan Hound was never clipped or trimmed.

This "stripe stripping" was the most obviusly prevalent form of trimming at the time our present Standard was being drafted and adopted. Discussing the new Standard in her May, 1948 column in POPULAR DOGS, Louise French (Snyder) quotes from some recent articles by Mrs T.S. Couper (Garrymhor) of England in which she says;

There is far too much stripping done and no Afghan has a dead straight saddle-line by nature, and too many necks are stripped to make them look longer..

For goodness sake, leave the Afghan alone - whether he looks like a "Himalayan Bear" or lacfking of coat tot feet, or grows a beard."

(I might note that in the same article, Mrs Couper apparently went on to deplore the current over-emphasis on coat, pointing out that an Afghan with such a heavy coat could not hunt and urging breeders to concentrate on more important structural things under the coat. Over the preceeding decade or more, I believe that Mrs Couper did as much as any breeder to increase coat - a point I make not to single out Mrs Couper but to demonstrate a natural phenoomenon you will find recurring throughout breed history, right up until today; Viz, among those deploring excessive coat at any given time are usualy those whose dogs some years previously were among the most heavily coated.)

Today, I think that the "striped Afghan" has gradually but almost entirely disappeared from the show rings. The standard with its very clear prohibition of clipping or trimming had nothing to do with this; the stripe was simply extended into much more elaborate sophisticated and less obsious techniques of barbering the entire dog.

If "striping" was an Eastern invention (as it seems to hav been), the new technique would seem to have first come into prominence around the mid-fifties as a part of the West Coast "Showmanship" that took Afghans right to the top of interbreed competition. This in turn helped bring top professinal handlers into the scene to a far greater extent, and with their tonsorial talents and "will to win", the latest in Afghan hair-stylings have for some time now been on display throughout the nation.

In short, just as the coat on the Afghan Hound has steadily increased over the past thirty years or more, so has the trimming, clipping, stripping and sandpapering - starting with even-ing off a few straggly hairs of foot coat and ending in total "barber-ism".

This could not have happened without first the unwritten, and then the written "law" being ignored by literally hundreds or even thousands of breeders, exhibitors handlers and judges. But it has happened, It has happened moreover, in pretty much of a straight-line progression, as if nothing had been done to prevent it.

Yet a great harm has been done or attempted, and I shalll attempt to cover some of that in a later article

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