Reigh Abram (Dureigh Afghan Hounds)
Comments on Breeding
(Summary compiled by Steve Tillotson Jan 2012)
In an interview recorded in the early 1980's Reigh Abram explained how she and Dewey started breeding Afghan Hounds and what their guiding principles were. In addition to the breeding strategies/policies that Dureigh followed, this interview is historically significant because of the detailed descriptions (good and bad) of the various early types of Afghans and bloodlines that formed the USA breeds development stock that the Abram's had to work with. Such insight is rare. We summarize that relevant details from the interview below.
****We recently published the views of Eta Pauptit (vDOM Netherlands) who also had experience in breeding Mountain and Desert types (vDOM eventually breeding only the Mountain type). It is very helpful to READ BOTH this (Dureigh) article and then read the Vdom article to gain the maximum perspective on the differences in type and the difficulties of trying to crossbreed them. Both tried, both failed, both settled for one type or the other. Thanks to Reigh Abram and Eta Pauptit's words we can learn of the differences, the difficulties and how/why they eventually went the directions they decided upon.
Steve Tillotson 2012
The Abram's obtained their first Afghan Hound from Cainbrook in 1942. They then acquired a daughter of Rudiki Of Prides Hill from the Five Miles Kennel and they were given great support by Marion Foster Florsheim (Five Mile Kennel) from day one. The Abram's stuck with the principles bestowed upon them by Ms Florsheim throughout the entirety of the Dureigh breeding program (some 40 years in duration).
INBREEDING - Ms Floresheim told the Abram's that you don't inbreed to create show dogs, you inbreed for breeding stock. Reigh Abram goes on to say that Dureigh didn't inbreed (a couple of exceptions she mentions later) but Dureigh "linebred". Reigh explained "We only inbred so we could set our head type so close that we couldn't lose it. Reigh maintains Dureigh was successful with this strategy and that they were very careful about outcrossing so as not to lose the Rudiki influence.
SUCCESSFUL BREEDING SHOW DOGS - Reigh stated, "If you get ONE exceptional puppy out of a litter, I think you've had a successful breeding. People expect to sell a whole litter as show dogs. You'll seldom get that".
MOUNTAIN VS DESERT TYPE TWO DIFFERENT BREEDS OF DOGS - Reigh states "We always felt that Rudiki was elegant and typey and a beautiful Afghan, but he still needed a little more soundness, a little more bone. We tried to breed to get that in the first litter we bred. Of course we tried to combine our Arthea and Five Mile Afs and that didn't work at all. We got either all Arthea or all Five Mile or mongrels out of our Ch Cainbrook's Karajiam. He was what was considered to be a mountain type. He was heavy coated and short-legged, with a shorter muzzle, a wider backskull, rounder eyes and a shorter neck. Against the desert type, they're completely different. From my experience I've always felt they weren't even of the same breed. The mountain type and the desert type are two different breeds of dogs. We had no success crossing them. I've never seen a cross I liked and other people tried it too."
BREEDING TO IMPROVE "SOMETHING" - "You're always trying to improve or you'd have no reason to breed. There's no reason to breed, as many people think now (1980's), to make money or to get a show dog. I think the ONLY reason you try to breed is to improve what you have. Since there's never been a "perfect" dog, you're always trying to improve something, there's always SOMETHING you'd like to improve. Reigh goes on to mention Dureigh Dragon Lady - "She was Rudiki but corrected, because she did have more bone and substance then he had". We never wanted to lose what we had (Rudiki legacy/type) and we hope we maintained it. Of course you have to realize our pedigrees still carry Rudiki in the fourth or fifth generations. We've bred very sparingly and very carefully because we didn't want to lose what we had.
OUTCROSSING - "People say we didn't outcross but if they look at our pedigrees they'll see that there was never a time in four generations that we didn't outcross. We outcrossed first to Kandar Of Riverside, then later on to Turkuman Tar Of Grandeur. We also outcrossed to BenGhazi's Mandingo and to Infashia Of Grandeur. We were always careful in our breeding program. Regardless of who was winning at the time, we always looked for a dog that was going to, hopefully, give us the things were trying to improve or change a little. Wins were of no concern to us". Neither however, were shown extensively, so they didn't compile records or anything. Still they were excellent specimens of the breed as far as we were concerned. We bred to Kandar of Riverside because he was the best dog we knew at the time - and that was in the beginning of our breeding program. Reigh explained - "We didn't know much about Afghans at the time (1940's) but Kandar was a beautiful showman with a gorgeous coat, and he was as sound as a dollar. As far as we knew Ethel had Afghans for many years and had owned several champions before she bought Kandar of Riverside, so we took her advice and bred to him and she was right. We got four beautiful bitches. The old breeders said it corrected the faults Rudiki was supposed to have had. They said Rudiki had a weak front and was too bitchy. In the bitches we seemed to correct that.
KNOWING THE DOGS IN THE PEDIGREE - "We tried to go back into their pedigrees and find out what the faults were behind them. Every line has faults (except ours of course) and you want to find out if that fault is perhaps a stranger to the line or if it's a fault that goes all the way back in the line, where you know, its almost impossible to get rid of it. If it's just a fault in that particular dog - perhaps he's loose or has a bad front that has been produced due to lack of exercise or something like that - I wouldn't hesitate to use him at all. In fact, we used BenGhazi's Mandingo who had a straight shoulder
When you're outcrossing, it's a matter of knowing the lines you're outcrossing into. Turkuman Tar Of Grandeur had faults but they weren't faults that were prevalent in Sunny's breeding, so we didn't get ANY of his faults. He had light haws, which, since we had Collies and haws are so offensive in Collies, we were really conscious of. We got no haws in that litter at all, and we didn't get them in Dragon Lady's litter. Old-timers say that if you get rid of haws in two generations you don't have to worry about them anymore.
THINGS DONT ALWAYS WORK OUT - We bred to Khalife (of Grandeur) because he was a beautiful Afghan. He was like Sunny's old time Afghans, like Silver Pearl and Blue Pearl. We bred a beautiful Swan Song daughter out of a bitch that was out of Golden Harvest. She had a beautiful head and was just a beautiful bitch, but it just didn't work for us. Khalife himself was a beautiful dog but it just happened to be one litter that didn't work for us, and it didn't work on down into the second or third generation. We still lost our heads. We didn't maintain OUR heads, and we didn't get Khalife's head. When we bred to Infashia it was entirely different. Unfortunately we lost the entire litter with restricted esophagi. I had heard of this problem in California. It was a problem when they bred blue to blue. We bred black to black but all the puppies came out blue with the exception of Sharike, and we lost them all.
GRADING PUPPIES - I don't think you can tell if a puppy is going to be show quality until it's seven or eight months old, but if your dogs are linebred and you KNOW your line's faults and good points, I think you can tell when they're 12 weeks old what its reasonable to expect them to do. Whether or not they do it is a different question, but it's reasonable to expect them to develop according to their background.
PEDIGREES TODAY (1980'S) - My objection to the pedigree we have today is that they're a mis-mash. You have no idea what line the puppy is going to lean toward by the time its 18 months old. It's hard. It's hard to evaluate puppies out of several different lines.
SELLING SHOW PUPPIES AND GUARANTEES - There's no way in the world I would sell a puppy and guarantee it to be show quality. No one can evaluate an eight-week-old puppy. That's why we see so many bad Afghans in the ring, and also why we see so many novices who are here today and gone tomorrow. Someone has sold them an eight-week-old puppy and told them it was going to be a great show dog, and....Even at four months, when we sell a puppy, we sell it as a "show prospect". And we ask the puppy buyers to bring the puppies back to us when they're six or seven months old and let us look at them. If a puppy hasn't turned out like we expected it to, even though we may know the puppy hasn't been given the proper exercise and it's something we can't control because you cant sell them and raise them for the people too, we would rather replace the puppy and give them another one. Old breeders say you have to ruin three dogs before you know what to do with them, and, hopefully, if they've already ruined one, they'll do better on their second one! They'll find out and understand what you've been trying to tell them
WHAT A PUPPY NEEDS - You can sit down and talk to them for six hours and explain to them what they've got to do and you can tell them they've got to fence in an area so the dog can have loose running exercise and someone else will tell them that they can tailgate a dog, or bicycle a dog, or get a tread machine and that the dog will develop properly. Well, this ISN'T what an Afghan NEEDS! An Afghan need to be put out where he can maneuver and run and turn and twist, and hopefully with another dog that will help to exercise him. When we bought our first Afghan from Marion she told us if we couldn't afford to buy two Afghans so they could exercise together, that we should go to the dog pound and get a mongrel. Marion said we should be sure we had it wormed thoroughly and that we should take it to the vet to be sure it was healthy. She said we needed to exercise our puppy and it's hard to exercise one by itself. It'll go out in the yard and just stay there - and that's not what an Afghan needs!
FEEDING AND NUTRITION - Dog foods nowadays are pretty good, but, of course, we supplement ours with meat. Afghans are after all, carnivorous animals and whether or not they need the meet, as dog food companies tell you don't, we still feel they need meat and cottage cheese and vitamins and eggs. We feel if they don't need it, they wont use it. Also I feel that our dogs are our children. I wouldn't want to be subjected to eating the same food every day so we vary their food. We add chicken or beef or eggs or cottage cheese so the food is varied. And we use vitamin supplements.
CARING FOR OLD DOGS - You know, dog shows aren't a dog's idea of life, and if a dog has given us puppies or we've used it at stud, or we've made a champion out of it, and it's gone to the shows, we feel it has earned our love and care until the day it can no longer be kept alive. Regardless of the fact that it might mean a little extra work to take care of an aged dog, you do it. I think you owe it to your dogs. We kept Windy alive (she died at age 15) nearly two years longer than we had hoped. She was happy and slept on the foot of our bed until she started having convulsions. We just couldn't bear to see her go through that.. so.... I think if they're given the proper foundation from the very beginning and all, outside of developing the same things that humans develop, dogs will live a long time. The owner of one of the kennels here in the Midwest gets the needle out the minute its decided the dog isn't wanted anymore, or the dog isn't going to be bred anymore. We just don't believe in that. Likewise, I can't put down a healthy puppy to sleep. I feel there are people in the world who will take that puppy and give it a good home and love it. Whether its a show dog or of any special interest to me, I brought the puppy into this world, and its up to me to see that the puppy is taken care of and provided for.
PUPPY PRICES - Ours go from $350 up, according to how good they are! Most of our puppies go from $350 to $500 for a show prospect. (Ed note. I took a median price of $400 in 1980, ran the inflation calculation against that which translates to $1,143 in today's value). In many instances, if we feel a person is really sincere, we'll take back a puppy or something in order to help him get started without too much money being invested. You have no way of knowing what that puppy is really going to do.
I always remember what Marion told me when she looked at my first puppy I brought from her. It was 11 months old then, and it hadn't developed as she had expected it to. She said her only regret was that she couldn't give us the year we had lost, although she could give us another puppy or give us our money back. I've always felt the same way. You sell a puppy for a large amount, hoping it will develop. If it doesn't, you've got someone with a broken heart on your hands. If you sell a puppy for a normal amount, the puppy buyers KNOW they've bought at the top of the pet price range and they're not going to go out looking for that dog to go Best In Show tomorrow! By selling puppies in this price range, we find you have a lot less headaches. You have a lot few dogs returned because they haven't turned out like the people expected them to. Especially with a persons first dog.
We try to get new people not to invest too much in a dog, because they don't know how to handle or condition a dog, they don't know how to raise it. We encourage them to buy a nice puppy at not-too-large a price and learn from that dog, how to show and the rules of the game, ad if they've bought a female, to be satisfied to wait until they breed their own show dog. Then they've got six or seven choices to make out of their OWN litters.
COLOR - I (Reigh) prefer a black and silver, perhaps because of Dragon Lady. My next choice, of course, is white. I feel white Afghans are extremely elegant. I LOVE a white Afghan. I also like black Afghans, for the simple reason that their coats seem to be of a different texture and they're easier to take care of. They don't mat (or at least our's don't) like a black masked fawn.
We were about the first people to finish a black Afghan in this part of the country. In the old days they used to put all the black Afghans to sleep. They culled them right from the very beginning. It was like a black Afghan wasn't purebred or something. We decided that since the Standard says any color is permissible, we were not going to put a black Afghan to sleep and, if we had a good one, we were going to show it. We finished Dark Victory without too much difficulty. From that time on it's been easier for people to finish blacks. In the early days you just couldn't do ANYTHING with a black at all.
The color I like least is the red brindle. I like certain shades of blue brindles too, but, as they say about good horses, there's never a bad color on a good animal. A good Afghan is a good Afghan regardless of what color it happens to be. You have a right to pick your own color. If you're really a sincere breeder, it doesn't make any difference what color the dogs are, you're looking for QUALITY.
Out of the old Arthea lie we had red brindle. In our very first litter we bred two red brindles and they both got their championships. This litter disproved one of the theories those so-called genetic experts throw around as they were out of black masked red dog and a self masked silver bitch. We have had very few of this color out of our Dureigh lines. We had several blue brindles but we haven't with the exception of the first litter we had, had too many red brindles. The geneticists say you can't get brindle unless you have a brindle parent, but that hasn't been our experience. We got four blue brindles in the litter Dwights Spirit Of The Dragon came out of, the litter was out of Blue Shay Of Grandeur and Song Of the Dragon and neither of them were brindled. Our answer from the Geneticist when we told him we got four bridles out of that litter, was that Taj who was white as snow, was a brindle, only he was so white you couldn't tell it. He was WHITE he was NOT brindle, and Kelly is NOT brindle, so it IS possible to get brindle puppies without brindle patterns. This brindle parent idea is a fallacy. You see children who take after their grandparents, so why shouldn't dogs take after their grandparents? If brindling is behind your dogs in your line, anywhere, I don't see why it, at some time or another, wouldn't crop up. There are other faults and defects that crop up in later litters, without the immediate parents having them, so why wouldn't the color also crop up?
The geneticist at Cornell told me, when I sat down to talk with him at great length, that there was NO way in the world to predict color in Afghans because records had not been kept on them long enough or drastically enough to predict colors. When we used to breed Collies, we would almost KNOW exactly what colors we were going to get, but you can't do this with Afghans. I get a little impatient with these self-appointed experts who look at a litter and tell some novice that its pups could not possibly be out of the dog stated. Baku was a black masked red, and, bred to any color, in most litters you'd find a blue. And why not? He had two blue sisters and his dam was blue! These "experts" do not stop to think of what they are doing to someone who doesn't know any better than to believe them.
SIZE - My ideal height is twenty-five and twenty-seven inches. I don't like big ones. I can tolerate a small one much quicker than I can a big one because as a rule, when you get them over 27 or 28 inches, you're also going to get coarseness and coarseness is something I CANNOT live with.
WINTER NOSE - The nose that darkens in the summer then lightens again in the winter. In light dogs you'll get it every now and then, but if a dog has good pigment, it's also going to have a good, dark nose. I don't feel a dog with poor pigment should be bred because I think you're going to get a problem in the next generation. I think it's a hard thing to correct. I've watched it over the years and it crops up generation after generation. They've tried any number of things to correct it, but either the dog is born with good pigment or it's not. Of course, you know, the English Standard doesn't object to a rusty nose or a liver colored nose. I suppose that from the beginning of time there have been rusty noses or that wouldn't be in the Standard for England. It's just like I said before when I was speaking about haws - haws are very offensive to me. Likewise, a light nose is offensive. The minute you look at a dog the first thing you see is his head and face. A big, round pink nose detracts from a dog. I don't think you should use a dog with this problem as breeding stock.
SERIOUS FAULTS IN THE AFGHAN TODAY (1980) - Shoulders and... Shoulders! The whole front-end assembly of our Afghans is bad, bad, bad.
(Front Assembly, neck, withers) I'm talking about the whole front assembly. In several lines the shoulders are completely out of line. They are too high and the neck set is wrong. That's why you see so many people in the ring stringing the dog up on a tight lead. They're trying to hold the dog's head up because the neck isn't set into the withers properly. The withers are too high, the upper arm is not sloped enough, and there's not enough layback. Our Standard says that legs are supposed to be well up under the brisket. Instead, it's CLEAR out in front of the brisket when it should be well up UNDER the brisket.
(Forechest, Brisket) They lack forechest, and some of them I've seen lately are barrel-chested. That throws the elbows out. The shoulder is trying to compensate for the barrel so they've hooked into the elbow. It's supposed to come straight down. An Afghan is supposed to be deep in brisket but not rounded out, except for the spring of ribs which are supposed to be sprung at maturity. It's not supposed to be rounded out and barreled.
(Coupling) - I don't like short-coupled Afghans. One of the things Mrs. Elliott stressed was the gazehound being short. Leon Hallenbeck agreed in his book on gait. He said that it would be impossible for the short-coupled Afghan to move because the rear would come up and overlap the front before the could get their fronts out of the way. I like to see a "houndy" Afghan that is just a little longer than it is tall. The Standard says -"square" but I think your best moving Afghans are just a bit longer than they are tall. If you've got reach in front, that front will be out of the way of the rear before it comes up to make the next step.
(General comments on the breed today, 1980) - Unless we have some very serious breeders who do just like they did when German Shepherds and Cockers went down.... We've got to have some serious breeding, and I don't know how they can do it because I don't know where they can go to get the dogs who can correct the faults they've bred in - unless they're able to import a dog that doesn't have the faults and I don't know WHERE they'd go to find one. The novices ask me and ask me where they can outcross or where they can go, and I just don't know. If you see a dog you like and then look at his pedigree you just have to turn thumbs down.
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