Afghan hound

Afghan hound in close-upIn eastern Europe and Asia, coursing has been popular pursuit for centuries, and various types of dog have been bred to give chase to game. At Kabul in Afghanistan, a number of such hounds were kept by the ruling dynasties. They could outpace horsemen over short distances, and they caught game independently rather than in packs. These sighthounds would run down prey ranging from hares to deer, as well as tackling other predators such as wolves and even snow leopards which could threaten farmstock.

These Afghan hounds, working in pairs or ‘couples’, first located their quarry by sight and then pursued it relentlessly across the rocky terrain. They still retain tremendous stamina, while their coats give protection against the climatic extremes of their native region. No-one knows how far back their bloodline can be traced. Early pictures their existence at the start of the 19th century, but they are almost certainly much older in origin, and are related to the saluki breed.

Although such hounds were first seen in Britain towards the end of the 19th century, being brought back by soldiers returning home from the Afghan War of 1878-1880, they did not attract any real attention until the arrival of Zardin, who accompanied his owner, Captain John Baff, to Britain in 1907.
Afghan in woodland

Today's Afghan hounds

Modern bloodlines date back to the 1920s when eight were imported to Scotland. In Afghanistan, various localised forms of the breed were recognised, and this particular group of Afghan hounds had the light, desert coats. They gave rise to the Bell-Murray line. In 1925, some darker, more sturdy Afghan hounds, belonging to the mountain race, appeared in England and led to the foundation of the Ghazni strain.

Examples of the Bell-Murray strain were sent to the United States, and the first official registration of a member of this breed took place there in 1927. During the next decade, following further importations, various bloodlines evolved and the breed gained in popularity. By the 1970s, over 10,000 Afghan hounds were being registered each year. Unfortunately, however, the regional distinctions which initially distinguished the breed have disappeared, and their coats have become more profuse too, transforming their appearance in these respects.

Afghan houndThe Afghan is undoubtedly one of the most popular and fashionable breeds worldwide, and, as a result, its shortcomings tend to be overlooked. The long, relatively soft coat, needs constant attention to maintain its attractive appearance. The hunting and chasing instincts of the breed live on in contemporary members of the breed, which can lead to training difficulties. Muzzling may be recommended when out walking, particularly where small dogs may be encountered.

Afghan and ownerAfghans require considerable exercise, but few breeds can rival them for elegance and individuality.  They are actually raced on occasions, around a track like greyhounds, although they can prove to be less inclined to chase a mechanical lure.

It is unclear how the breed has fared in its homeland, given the recent military struggles of recent years. However, a separate population known as the Barakzai or Barukhzy (commemorating the name of a royal family in Afghanistan) still occurs in northern parts of India. It is also known as the Kurram Valley hound.