The Afghan Hound is a hound that is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence. Distinguished by its thick, fine, silky coat and its tail with a ring curl at the end, the breed acquired its unique features in the cold mountains of Afghanistan. Its local name is Tāžī Spay (Pashto: تاژي سپی) or Sag-e Tāzī (Dari Persian: سگ تازی). Other alternate names for this breed are Kuchi Hound, Tāzī, Balkh Hound, Baluchi Hound, Barutzy Hound, Shalgar Hound, Kabul Hound, Galanday Hound, or sometimes incorrectly African Hound.
Sighthounds are among the oldest recognisable types of dogs, and genetic testing has placed the Afghan Hound breed among those with the least genetic divergence from the wolf on some markers; this is taken to mean that such dogs are descended from the oldest dog types, not that the breeds tested had in antiquity their exact modern form. Today's modern purebred breed of Afghan Hound descends from dogs brought in the 1920s to Great Britain, and are a blending of types and varieties of long haired sighthounds from across Afghanistan and the surrounding areas. Some had been kept as hunting dogs, others as guardians. Although demonstrably ancient, verifiable written or visual records that tie today's Afghan Hound breed to specific Afghan owners or places is absent, even though there is much speculation about possible connections with the ancient world among fanciers and in non-scientific breed books and breed websites. Connections with other types and breeds from the same area may provide clues to the history. A name for a desert coursing Afghan hound, Tazi (sag-e-tazi), suggests a shared ancestry with the very similar Tasy breed from the Caspian Sea area of Russia and Turkmenistan.Other types or breeds of similar appearance are the Taigan from the mountainous Tian Shan region on the Chinese border of Afghanistan, and the Barakzay, or Kurram Valley Hound. There are at least 13 types known in Afghanistan, and some are being developed (through breeding and recordkeeping) into modern purebred breeds. As the lives of the peoples with whom these dogs developed change in the modern world, often these landrace types of dogs lose their use and disappear; there may have been many more types of longhaired sighthound in the past. Once out of Afghanistan, the history of the Afghan Hound breed becomes an important part of the history of the very earliest dog shows and The Kennel Club (UK). Various sighthounds were brought to England in the 1800s by army officers returning from British India (which at the time included), Afghanistan, and Persia, and were exhibited at dog shows, which were then just becoming popular, under various names, such as Barukzy hounds. They were also called "Persian Greyhounds" by the English, in reference to their own indigenous sighthound. One dog in particular, Zardin, was brought in 1907 from India by Captain Bariff, and became the early ideal of breed type for what was still called the Persian Greyhound. Zardin was the basis of the writing of the first breed standard in 1912, but breeding of the dogs was stopped by World War I. Out of the longhaired sighthound types known in Afghanistan, two main strains make up the modern Afghan Hound breed. The first were a group of hounds brought to Scotland from Baluchistan by Major and Mrs. G. Bell-Murray and Miss Jean C. Manson in 1920, and are called the Bell-Murray strain. These dogs were of the lowland or steppe type, also called kalagh, and are less heavily coated. The second strain was a group of dogs from a kennel in Kabul owned by Mrs. Mary Amps, which she shipped to England in 1925. She and her husband came to Kabul after the Afghan war in 1919, and the foundation sire of her kennel (named Ghazni) in Kabul was a dog that closely resembled Zardin. Her Ghazni strain were the more heavily coated mountain type. Most of the Afghans in the United States were developed from the Ghazni strain from England. The first Afghans in Australia were imported from the United States in 1934, also of the Ghazni strain. The French breed club was formed in 1939 (FALAPA). The mountain and steppe strains became mixed into the modern Afghan Hound breed, and a new standard was written in 1948, which is still used today. The spectacular beauty of Afghan Hound dogs caused them to become highly desirable showdogs and pets, and they are recognised by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world. One of the Amps Ghazni, Sirdar, won BIS at Crufts in 1928 and 1930. An Afghan hound was featured on the cover of Life Magazine, November 26, 1945. "Afghan Hounds were the most popular in Australia in the 1970s…and won most of the major shows". An Afghan Hound won BIS (Best in Show) at the 1996 World Dog Show in Budapest. Afghan hounds were BIS at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1957 and again in 1983. That win also marked the most recent win at Westminster for breeder-owner-handler, Chris Terrell. The Afghan Hound breed is no longer used for hunting, although it can be seen in the sport of lure coursing.
The Afghan Hound is tall, standing in height 24–29 inches and weighing 45–60 pounds. The coat may be any colour, but white markings, particularly on the head, are discouraged; many individuals have a black facial mask. A specimen may have facial hair that looks like a Fu Manchu moustache. The moustache is called "mandarins." Some Afghan Hounds are almost white, but parti-colour hounds (white with islands of red or black) are not acceptable and may indicate impure breeding. The long, fine-textured coat requires considerable care and grooming. The long topknot and the shorter-haired saddle on the back of the dog are distinctive features of the Afghan Hound coat. The high hipbones and unique small ring on the end of the tail are also characteristics of the breed. The temperament of the typical Afghan Hound can be aloof and dignified, but happy and clownish when it's playing. This breed, as is the case with many sighthounds, has a high prey drive and may not get along with small animals. The Afghan Hounds' reasoning skills have made it a successful competitor in dog agility trials as well as an intuitive therapy dog and companion. Genomic studies have pointed to the Afghan Hound as one of the oldest of dog breeds. The breed has a reputation among some dog trainers of having a relatively slow "obedience intelligence" as defined by author Stanley Coren in The Intelligence of Dogs. Although seldom used today for hunting in Europe and America where they are popular, Afghan hounds are frequent participants in lure coursing events and are also popular in the sport of conformation showing.
The Khalag Tazi is a variety of the Afghan. It was introduced to Europe in 1920 when an Indian Army officer, Major G Bell-Murray, brought some animals back from Afghanistan. Tazi is a current and ancient name for hunting dogs of the sighthound type in the Middle East. It has been used to denote the Saluki, Afghan, Taigan, Persian Greyhound, greyhound types of hound.
Lifespan Afghan Hounds in UK surveys had a median lifespan of about 12 years. which is similar to other breeds of their size. In the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (31%), old age (20%), cardiac (10.5%), and urologic (5%). Those that die of old age had an average lifespan of 13 to 14 1/2 years.
Health concerns Major health issues are allergies, cancer, and hip dysplasia. Sensitivity to anesthesia is an issue the Afghan hound shares with the rest of the sighthound group, as sighthounds have relatively low levels of body fat. Afghan hounds are also among the dog breeds most likely to develop chylothorax, a rare condition which causes the thoracic ducts to leak, allowing large quantities of chyle fluid to enter the dog's chest cavity. This condition commonly results in a lung torsion (in which the dog's lung twists within the chest cavity, requiring emergency surgery), due to the breed's typically deep, "barrel"-shaped chest. If not corrected through surgery, chylothorax can ultimately cause fibrosing pleuritis, or a hardening of the organs, due to scar tissue forming around the organs to protect them from the chyle fluid. Chylothorax is not necessarily, but often, fatal.
In popular culture
Because of its distinctive appearance, the Afghan hound has been represented in animated feature films and TV shows, including Universal Pictures' Balto (Sylvie), Disney's Lady and the Tramp II (Ruby), and Brainy Barker from Krypto the Superdog, an Afghan hound also appeared on 101 Dalmatians as well as in 102 Dalmatians as one of the dogs in Cruella De Vil's party and the television series What-a-Mess (Prince Amir of Kinjan; based on children's books by Frank Muir) and, as Prissy in the 1961 Disney animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians and 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure. Afghan hounds have also been featured in television advertisements and in fashion magazines. The Afghan hound is represented in books as well, including being featured in a series of mystery novels by Nina Wright (Abra), and a talking Afghan Hound in David Rothman's The Solomon Scandals (2008, Twilight Times Books). In the novel Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf uses an Afghan hound (named Sohrab) to represent aspects of one of the book's human characters. On August 3, 2005, Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk announced that his team of researchers had become the first team to successfully clone a dog, an Afghan Hound named Snuppy. In 2006 Hwang Woo-Suk was dismissed from his university position for fabricating data in his research. Snuppy, nonetheless, was a genuine clone, and thus the first cloned dog in history. In the BBC Three Sitcom Mongrels the character of Destiny is an Afghan Hound. In the 2010 comedy Marmaduke, two Afghan hounds appear in the dog park and are shown to resemble high school girls watching the more athletic dogs as if they were "jocks" and are also shown to be "air heads". The Afghan Hound features prominently in the avant-garde music video of popular French band M83's, "Set in Stone (M83 Remix)." In the FX animated series Archer, the titular protagonist's mother mourns the death of her Afghan Hound "Duchess" as a recurring gag throughout the show.