Afghan Hound Times
(Afghan Hound Database and Breed Information Exchange)
DOGS of the DAY
What is the real Afghan hound type?
(By A Croxton Smith (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Aug 6 1927)
Importers of a little known breed, from a remote country not much visited by Europeans, labour under considerable disadvantages. How are they to ascertain what is the true type, and having satisfied themselves more or less upon that important matter, where are they to get pure breeding stock? Purity of pedigree, indeed, is not the only thing. We know from experience of our breeds that some strains are better than others, embodying the breed characters to a higher degree. Consequently, we want to start with the best of the kind that can be had, and not merely with any specimens that can be offered us. Salukis were pretty plain sailing. The Arabs had preserved their strains with almost as much care as their horses, and they are accessible. When we come to the Afghan hounds, however, another story has to be told. The Afghans do not care to sell their dogs, and as such as are to be had on the borders must be regarded with suspicion, although possibly they are a colourable imitation of the genuine thing.
Soldiers who have had a long Indian experience tell me there are plenty of crossbreds, carrying Saluki and other blood. The curious thing is that the few British soldier-sportsmen who have visited Afghanistan have not given us any very helpful description of the dogs. Sir Harry Lumsden, who was sent on a mission to Kandahar shortly before the Indian Mutiny and had to stay there for some considerable time has left notes which are published in an appendix to "Lumsden of the Guides." Unfortunately he gives more attention to the hawks than to the dogs. Some of the former, he says, could not kill deer without the assistance of greyhounds, and in a later paragraph he tells us that "the dogs of Afghanistan used for sporting purposes, are of three sorts - the greyhound, pointer and khundi. The first are not formed for speed and would have little chance in a fair course with a second-rate English dog, but they are said to have some endurance." It is somewhat strange that, if the greyhounds of which he speaks were similar to those we call Afghan hounds; he should not have been sufficiently impressed by their singularity of appearance to leave us a verbal picture. Possibly there were not so many of them around Kandahar as it is usually said that they are to be found principally in the district of Balkh. Lumsden commented on the indifference shown by the Afghans about maintaining the purity of their different breeds.
Two Afghan hounds were exhibited at a show of foreign dogs in the old Royal Aquarium as long ago as 1895, but we had to wait until 1907 for the appearance of another that was generally accepted as being of the correct type, and undoubtedly the finest specimen that we have ever seen. That was Mr. J.A.Barff's Zardin, who made such a sensation at the kennel Club show of that year and at subsequent shows that he was almost mobbed. I do not know how Mr. Barff obtained him and one or two others that he had at the same time, but there was general agreement then, and have been ever since, that this is the sort of dog we should try to breed. A picture of him is published on this page, so that comparisons can be made between him and Mrs Amp's Sirdar Of Ghazni. Sirdar is smaller than Zardin, but otherwise he seems to me to be identical in type, and when I have seen him at shows, I could not avoid the feeling that he is a very beautiful dog. He carries the typical Afghan coat, which we seem to be in danger of losing after a few generations, and his movement is a sheer delight to watch. He is perfectly sound and in every way is very pleasing. Before coming to England he won at shows in India, at one of which Mrs Carpentier placed him first. This lady, who has made a careful study of the breed in India, has sent home a number of Afghans and as many people seem to be taking them up in India, we should before log be able to get more over of the true type. Mrs Amps, who is I understand, in Kabul, has also sent two bitches, and she has more, which will go into India for the winter shows. Two litters have recently been bred from her dogs in England, in the care of Mrs Bradshaw at Ringmore, Teignmouth.
As Mr. Amps has had an official appointment in Kabul for over four years, he is in a better position than most of us to appreciate the points of the breed and to know whence dogs of the correct type may be obtained. Since he and Mrs Amps began buying, I believe, they have had many submitted to them that were obviously of Saluki character. These are bred by the powindahs, who travel down to the plains every year for the hot weather, and have usually come from a long-dog bitch crossed with an Afghan dog. They are said to be able to stand the heat of the plains, which a real Afghan cannot do. Since the foreign legations were admitted to Afghanistan there have been greater possibilities of studying the breed on the spot and obtaining some for export to Europe. One of the French diplomats has been buying, and I dare say the representatives of other countries will also be induced to get specimens of this very curious race.
The Afghan hounds of course are sporting dogs, just as their relatives, the Salukis are. I feel that I am right in associating these two breeds together, in spite of the manifest differences that are now apparent. It would take time to explain why I believe the Arab breed to be the older, and in all probability the forerunner of the other, except that it may be said in a word or two that Balkh known as Bacteria to the ancients, was conquered by Cyrus, who also reigned over Syria and Arabia, and it is no great stretch of imagination to suggest that he may have taken into the country some of the Salukis. Before speaking dogmatically, however, I should like to know from some antiquarians source the presumed age of the rock carvings and inscriptions in the caves of Balkh, which are supposed to depict dos precisely similar to the modern Afghans. If these carvings go back before the time of Cyrus my theory naturally, would be blown to the four winds. That the Afghan hound has a more plentiful covering and is somewhat more stoutly built than the Saluki does not mean much, because modifications could easily be accounted for by environment and the manner in which the dogs were bred. A stouter dog is necessary for the country over which the Afghan has to work. As Sir Harry Lumsden said, he is not so fast as one of our Greyhounds, but speed is of less importance for what he is expected to do than endurance and his capacity to run in a hilly country. His feet are long and altogether big compared with those of our greyhounds, and are protected with long hair. That also is a necessity imposed by local conditions. For all that, when Mr. Amps took four dogs with him to some sport to the Maharajah of Patiala he was agreeably surprised to find how well they acquitted themselves against English greyhounds on a large open grass parade ground which was as flat as a billiard table. The greyhounds were faster on the straight, but the Afghans were extraordinarily clever at turning and ran with great keenness and zest.
Had the test been over the stony ground and rocks of Afghanistan no doubt the native dogs would have had the advantage, their conformation being intended to give them a maximum staying power under the most arduous conditions. They are frequently out for a whole day after hares and foxes, and at the end of it they are nearly as fit as they were at the beginning. It all comes back to the eternal effort of man to get animals for a purpose - greyhound for their particular kind of work, Afghans for theirs and so on. It will be gathered from the photographs that the Afghan hounds are eccentric looking creatures. Their peculiarities are accentuated by the length of coat, the thin tail, carried high with a peculiar curve at the end, the smooth face looking out from a silky top-knot and their drooping ears.
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By A Croxton-Smith The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, August 2 1930
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Robert Leighton on Mrs Amps Ghazni 1926
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Afghan Controversy What is the correct type? Amps and Bell Murray
Bill Hall Meeting/Interview with Major-Genl Amps 1970's
Susan (Sirdar of Ghazni daughter)- Identity Revealed. Lyall Payne and Steve Tillotson Sept 2015
Early Afghan Hounds Section
The Origins Section
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