Generally acclaimed as one of the most beautiful and exotic breeds of dogs, the Afghan Hound actually comes from the harsh mountains of Afghanistan, where he lived a rugged life. While often loved for his luscious locks, prospective owners need to recognize the hunting hound and racing heart beneath them.
The Afghan Hound is one of the most ancient breeds, according to DNA studies. It was bred by nomadic tribes to chase down hare and gazelle over rocky mountainous terrain.
The Afghan Hound is a member of the sighthound family, the group of Greyhound-like dogs who hunt by sight and speed.
The Afghan Hound has a distinctive coat pattern seen in no other breed. DNA studies show that the gene that causes the long coat in this breed is different from that which causes it in almost every other long-haired breed. In the mature dog, the face and saddle (extending along the top of the tail) are short haired; the pasterns may also be short. The rest of the coat is long and silky.
Some Afghan Hounds grow a “mandarin” beard on their chins.
Puppies often have fluffy “monkey whiskers” on their cheeks and will not have saddles. When spayed or neutered, adults revert back to their puppy coat pattern.
The very prominent hip bones and generally bony appearance are normal.
The Afghan has a distinctive ring tail.
They come in almost every color and pattern but chocolate, spotted or merle.
They are extremely agile and excellent jumpers. They enjoy competing in the sport of lure coursing.
The first Afghan Hounds came to England in the early 20th century. At the time they were called Barukhzy Hounds. In 1907, an Afghan Hound named Zardin became the dog the breed standard was modeled after.
The AKC recognized them in the 1920s.
Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers first popularized the breed in America. He imported his first pair in 1931 after a visit to England.
In 2005, an Afghan Hound named Snuppy became the first cloned dog.
Owners include Zeppo Marx, Pablo Picasso, Jimmy Carter, Gary Cooper, Stevie Nicks, Adam Faith, and Jeff Beck.
Two Afghan Hounds have won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show. The first (in 1957) was Shirkhan, who was the first dog of any breed shown by his owner and breeder to Best in Show there. The second (in 1983) was Pepsi, also shown by his owner and breeder.
A popular book once listed the Afghan Hound as the least intelligent of all breeds, causing owners to protest. The breed is independent but resourceful. Several have attained high obedience and agility titles. But they do have a tendency to run off!
Afghans became very popular in the 1970s, appealing to both the hippy culture and the upper class. They have since plummeted in popularity. They currently rank 93rd in AKC breed popularity, slightly down from 89th a decade ago.
Do you own an Afghan Hound? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!
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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.