IF YOU are the slightest bit interested in Afghan Hounds and their history I’m sure you will have heard of Zardin, the dog who created a sensation when he appeared in and won the ‘foreign dog’ classes at Crufts in 1909, ’10 and ’11.

There are some familiar photos of him, as well as a superb portrait by F T Daws, showing a handsome, exotic looking animal with tremendous ’attitude’ and all the hallmarks of the breed including the sloping croup, ring tail, saddle and coat patterning at the pasterns.

You can find out more about him from Steve Tillotson’s researches at www.afghanhoundtimes.com; briefly he was thought to have been born in what is now Iran, near the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders, in 1902, and was shown in Quetta.

Brought back to England by Captain John Barff, he was shown here with success and the press took a great interest in him. An old story that he was taken to Buckingham Palace to be viewed by the King and Queen turns out to be quite true; we know how interested in all breeds was Queen Alexandra.

By the time of his second Crufts win he was owned by Mr S ‘Squire’ Shackelton, a dog dealer, and in 1911 by Mr A Shackleton, possibly Squire’s son. His ultimate fate remains a mystery.

Zardin did leave some progeny but disappointingly they too died or disappeared, and it was left to the post-first world war imports from the Bell-Murray and Amps kennels to establish the breed in Britain and worldwide. However in a way he does live on as a description of him is the basis for all subsequent Afghan Standards so even if he isn’t actually the ‘father of the breed’ he is certainly its honorary uncle!

Now there is great excitement in the Afghan community for, purely by chance, several new photographs of Zardin have come to light including, for the first time, one with his owners!

It started when Helen Stephens, owner of a puppy bred by Midland breed club chairman John Bloor, was approached by a man who made a fuss of her dog and introduced himself as William Barff, grandson of the Captain, who said he had lots of photos at home.

She put him in touch with John who was able to visit William and his wife who were happy to share their photos which are more than a century old. You can access them via the club’s website www.mahc.co.uk and I’m grateful to John and William for letting me reproduce some here.

John is now ensuring the photos are properly archived and scans lodged with the Kennel Club library.

Isn’t it great that so many Afghan enthusiasts realise the importance of keeping the old records together and making them available to everyone interested? It certainly must be one of the best documented of all breeds.