The Afghan Hound

The Afghan is elegant and beautiful, more often seen gracing the catwalk at the side of a highly paid model than in his rightful place as a herder, watch-dog and sight hound. A dignified aristocrat, he hails originally from Afghanistan. His home country has such extremes of climate that there are two distinct types of Afghan hound although as the years go by, these differences become less obvious. The dogs of the south and west are rangier with less coat and of lighter colour. The northern, more mountainous regions give rise to dogs that are more compact, darker and more heavily coated. The long, fine coats of the dogs of the north are typical of animals that frequent high altitudes.

The sight hound group includes the saluki, greyhound, whippet, Scottish deerhound and Irish wolfhound among others. All have a long, tapered face and muzzle, long legs and a narrow, muscular body.

As a whole, the Afghan is extremely fast. It is strong and versatile, lithe and sure-footed. It is used to hunt jackals, deer, hare and wolves. They may be hunted in pairs, packs or singly and have the necessary endurance to stay with its quarry for hours. They are also hunted with specially trained falcons.

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Because of the banning of exports, the Afghan only reached Europe early in the 20th century although images of a similar type of dog had appeared on Egyptian papyrus and in ancient caves. During the First World War, the Afghan almost disappeared from the western world. It reappeared in the United States in 1926. In 1940, the Afghan Hound Club of America gained American Kennel Club (AKC) membership.

The Afghan is rather independent but with patience and kindness he can become a most pleasant companion. The overall impression is of an aloof dog of great beauty. Afghans range from around 24 to 28 inches high and weigh 50 to 60 pounds. All colours are allowed but white markings are discouraged in show dogs. The most commonly seen colour is sandy with the face and ear fringes being darker.

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The Afghan has an oriental look. The nose is slightly Roman and the dark eyes are almond-shaped. The hipbones are prominent. Typically the hair in the saddle region is short and it has a long, silky topknot. In general the body is covered with long, thick, silky hair. The ears and feet are well feathered. The hair is very fine, short and close on the back and on the uppermost surface of the tail. Because of its length and thickness, the coat may matt occasionally. Avoid too much brushing between baths. The breed is an average shedder.

It is a refined animal. The long ears reach almost to the end of the black nose. A line drawn from the chest to the rear of the body should be about equal to the height at the shoulders. The neck is strong and arched and the topline almost level. The loin and hindquarters are powerful, dropping away towards the tail. The flanks are tucked up. The tail is covered with short hair and should never be curled over the back although it can curl at the end.

When the Afghan is running freely, it will normally gallop. The stride is smooth and springy, covering a great amount of ground at each stride. The legs are long and straight. The feet face to the front and are unusually large with well-arched toes and large pads to the feet.

The Afghan has a low pain threshold. They are happiest if they are allowed lots of exercise, much of which should include free galloping.

Afghans live for around 15 years and have 6 to 8 puppies per litter. The major health issues are likely to be allergies and cancer. Most sight hounds are somewhat sensitive to anaesthesia because of the relatively low level of body fat.

The Afghan is affectionate and sensitive. Some can be highly strung. They are best suited to a dominant but kind owner. Because of their tendency to chase and kill small creatures, Afghans can end up in pedigree dog rescue centres or in dog rehoming kennels. If you don't have other pets you might like to visit a rescue centre to look for your ideal companion.