A clown to his loved ones, a silky-coated aristocrat to the world, the Afghan Hound is one of those dogs that is seen once and never forgotten. He makes an indelible impression. Here are six fun facts about this regal canine.
Those who think the Afghan Hound’s natural terrain is the fashion runway are surprised to hear that he is one of the most ancient breeds of dogs. It is said that Noah brought a pair of Afghans aboard the ark. Under that glamorous coat beats the heart of a powerful hunter, swift enough to bring down gazelles and even snow leopards. The long coat protected him from the harsh elements, and his big feet and thick pads helped him traverse mountainous regions. The Western world became acquainted with the breed when Major Amps from England was stationed in the Kabul region after the Afghan War of 1919. He and his wife, Mary, developed a keen interest in the breed and established their Ghazni Kennels in the hill country of Afghanistan at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Mrs. Amps wrote about the difficulty of acquiring these hounds from the hunting parties, and it took the intervention of officials before the natives reluctantly turned over a few hounds. The Afghan Hounds that eventually arrived on American shores did so by way of Great Britain.
The Afghan Hound’s American history began in 1931, starring none other than Zeppo Marx, the youngest of the madcap Marx Brothers. While in England shooting a film, Marx first laid eyes on an Afghan, at which point he and his wife insisted on taking a pair back to California for breeding. He reached out to Phyllis Robson, the then editor of English Dog World, who also owned a famous champion from Major Amps’ Ghazni bloodlines. Marx left the decision making to Robson, merely requesting a pair of light-colored hounds with abundant coat. Omar and Asra soon joined them in Hollywood
The first paragraph of the breed standard captures the Afghan Hound’s essence. Under General Appearance, he is described as “an aristocrat, his whole appearance one of dignity and aloofness … with eyes gazing into the distance as if in memory of ages past.” The striking characteristics of the breed include his “exotic, or Eastern, expression, long silky topknot, peculiar coat pattern, very prominent hipbones … [and large feet] … giving the Afghan Hound the appearance of what he is, a king of dogs, that has held true to tradition throughout the ages.”
Hair of the dog
The “peculiar coat pattern” mentioned in the standard refers to the arrangement of hair on the dog. The face is smooth but is framed by a topknot of long, silky coat and long ears also adorned with hair. At maturity, the fluffy puppy coat gives way to a strip of short hair down the back, called a “saddle,” while long, silky hair drapes down the sides of the body. The smooth tail is carried high in a ring or a curve, with a bit of feathering on the underside. While the silky coat mats easily and requires regular brushing and bathing, a bonus is that there is little shedding. Some owners prefer to keep the coat clipped down to a more manageable length.
Few breeds offer owners the array of colors and patterns that the Afghan Hound does. Solid colors range from black to white and virtually every shade in between: dark and light blue, silver, gold and cream, with or without the traditional black mask. Color patterns or combinations include brindle (stripes), black-and-tan and domino (dark widow’s peak and saddle, contrasted by lighter-colored face and side coat), the latter term coined to honor Champion Tanjores Domino, a Swedish Afghan of this unusual coloring that came to America in the 1960s.
Afghan Hounds are highly intelligent, but never robotic, push-button dogs that will fetch your slippers or perform endless tricks. Once taught a command, they see no purpose in repetition. Breeds in the Hound Group are stubborn, and the Afghan is no exception. They are very cat-like in temperament; speedy athletes outside, but mellow and chill in the house. For all the haughtiness they display to the world, they are sweet, loving and clownish with their chosen ones. If that sounds like a dog you’d appreciate, then definitely look into the ancient Afghan Hound.