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Breeder Buzzwords – The Afghan Hound

Breeders of purebred dogs speak a language all their own. Wherever they gather, at dog shows, seminars or in chat rooms, words and phrases are used that have very narrow definitions. Their usage makes it difficult for a novice to fully participate in the conversation, and all but impossible for the general public to follow along.

Much of the breeder’s language is derived from domesticated livestock or veterinary science. Veterans who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their own family of purebreds use agricultural and medical terms with confidence. When noted breed authorities get together, the dialog that results can effortlessly span the broadest topics, although the words spoken will often have the narrowest of definitions.

Those words are quite often derived from the breed standards. As guide for both breeder and judge, the standard describes those characteristics of make, shape and behavior that define a breed, distinguishing it from all the rest. Distinctions between breeds can be subtle, so standards use very specific words to illustrate singular traits. These buzzwords become part of every breeder’s dog show dialect, guiding both conversations with peers and decisions made in the whelping box.

The Afghan Hound, King of Dogs.

Ancient Afghani Aristocrat

“The Afghan Hound is an aristocrat,” according to the General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard. Derived from the Greek word for “excellence,” the designation implies that this sighthound is a member of the highest echelon, with all the privileges assumed by members of the noble class. Nothing in the Afghan’s appearance or its manner is common in any way. The breed is dignified and aloof, however individuals can be quite playful with trusted members of their inner circle. Notoriously difficult to train, the breed maintains an independence that has served it well since the days it was used to track large game in the mountainous desert region of Hindu Kush.

An ‘Eastern’ Expression

The eyes of the Afghan Hound are “almond-shaped (almost triangular), never full or bulgy, and are dark in color,” according to the breed standard. These qualities translate into an expression that is described as “Eastern,” a characterization that recalls the Silk Road that for centuries linked the Far East to civilizations to the west. A sighthound of ancient lineage, the Afghan Hound’s expression is described as “gazing into the distance as if in memory of ages past.”

A Saddle for a Noble Breed

Shown in its natural state, the Afghan Hound’s coat befits its elite status among dog breeds. Thick and silky with a very fine texture, it is not clipped or trimmed. A silky topknot crowns the head, and an abundant coat covers the ears, forequarters, flanks, ribs, hindquarters, legs and feet. A characteristic of the adult coat is the saddle of short, close hair that appears from in front of the shoulders, extends backward towards the tail and, from the flanks and the ribs, upward. This smooth back is a traditional characteristic of the breed and is faulted if missing in a mature dog.

A Ring for a King

The Afghan Hound carries its tail high, with a level of detailing that befits its aristocratic countenance. The tail, set not too high on the body, ends with a distinctive ring or curve. This particular trait is unlike that found on any other breed of dog. The tail should never be simply curled and must never be carried sideways. The correct tail is a kind of exclamation point, announcing the presence of a king.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
  • Mike Zimmer March 4, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Such a shame that this breed is not shown naturally anymore. All this shearing, scissoring etc. Where is Sunny Shay when you need her.

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