The Independent Voice of the Afghan Hound Breed
45th Year Of Publication
AHCA SPECIALTIES - A BRIEF HISTORY
Ruth Weddle, Our Afghans, November 1998 Issue
Introduction (extract from "In The Beginning", by Ruth Weddle, Our Afghans, November 1998 issue). - In the early days arguments grew hot and heavy about what was the correct type, and who was the true keeper of God's blueprints.
As we all know, this led to the creation of standards, and to showdowns in rings all over, where impartial judges are supposed to this day to determine who is the soundest, the most beautiful, best youngster, oldster, champion producer or whatever. If Afghan Hounds were mere curiosities in the rings at first, they soon turned into Group and BIS snatchers in all-breed shows. Yet the greatest honor of all was to compete for recognition against the best of one's peers. Thus, with Afghan Hound lovers clubs springing up all over the country, it was only natural that matches and specialties became must do events. The most coveted of all in this country started up in 1940, The Afghan Hound Club Of America's National Specialty.
And that is this months (November 1998) special topic, going from the very first to last years National, with the crème de la crème presented for your enjoyment in a picture gallery all their own. Obviously, this was a labor of love, which I could never have pulled off by myself. So I want to take a moment to thank a team of true aficionados who supported this effort by digging into their own archives, for the historical information it took to pull this issue together.
First and foremost STEVE TILLOTSON (England), who researched the pedigrees and took on the enormous challenge of converting the photos in this issue via computer magic from at times poor source material to decent quality. KAREN ARMISTEAD who filled some lacunae in the lineup from the archival photo and slide collection. BOB BROWN who generously shared his picture trove to plus in the last missing winners so we could complete the slate, and JILL COURT, (JC Graphics, England) whose graphic artistry produced the format of our Honor Roll. What's left to say? Sit back and enjoy! Ruth Weddle
Following the above preamble we move on to the main article "AHCA Specialties - A brief History by Ruth Weddle - Let's go back and see how this annual and at times bi-annual special effort by our Parent Club evolved. To do so we need to recall the reasons for the formation of The Afghan Hound Club Of America and its stated goals as embodied in the constitution. Simply put, the AHCA was chartered to preserve and protect purebred Afghan Hounds and to bring their natural qualities to perfection; to encourage the organization of independent local Afghan Hound Specialty Clubs, to urge Afghan Hound breeders to adhere to its AKC approved Standard and encourage sportsmanship at show; and to conduct sanctioned matches and specialty shows under AKC rules.
In past OA'S we profiled some of the founders of our parent club - most recently Dr Beck (July 1998), and Dr Gertrude Fisher Kinsey (April 98 - by way of preserving historical information which might other be lost to todays fanciers. Both of these early Afghanites deserve special mention within any historical review of AHCA specialties. Dr Beck, 2nd President of the AHCA, Judged our very first AHCA Specialty in 1940 (and drew the honor again in 1955); and Dr Kinssey's lovely sound bitch, Ch Hazar, took BOB at the second AHCA Specialty. (Dr Kinsey too became a noted j udge, including at the prestiteous Westminster Show). As a footnote on Specialty judges, did you know that all AHCA Specialty shows were in the hands of esteemed US Afghanites and experts wich one exception, the year A British judge did the honors, Mr Stanley Dangerfield.
For the first thirty years, the Afghan Hound Club of America held its annual Specialty on the East Coast - a benched show which brought out great entries from all the major U.S. Kennels. Looking back at OA's early show reports, starting with the late 60's, we find exhibitors and spectators braving snow, sleet, rain and winds to get to the show - hoping to keep carefully groomed show coats pristine. Quite a picture at times; imagine carrying grown Afs in arms, protected by plastic and umbrellas! In all it was clearly a great opportunity for all to enjoy the company of peers while watching the breed's best do its best among top competition. The National Specialty schedule was disrupted only once in 1944, when wartime gasoline and other shortages made a "gathering of the clan" impossible.
Some vivid memories of Specialties past in that arena involve two of our "cover girls" for this issue; the fiercely competitive yet civil rivalry between two ultimate showman in the ring; Sunny Shay and Kay Finch. Dressed to the nines, spotlight on their entrances into the ring, these two ladies were forever courting the crowd (not to mention the Judges) with their performance and their excellent homebreds, taking turns at top honors at Specialties and Westminster. Yet for all their cut-throat competition in the ring, they appreciated each others lines and were not above combing them for the greater good of the breed with the result that such matings enhanced both their lines and provided quality foundation stock to a new generation of fanciers.
By 1972 the AHCA board decided to face new realities and acknowledged the need for greater exposure to "Af-ficionadoes" all over the country, which resulted in the addition of "Floating Specialties" to the show calendar. The first of them was held in California, and from there Specialities started to "float" all over the country from Florida to Texas to California and Arizona and many points in between, Much of this had to do with the proliferation of local and regional clubs and the need to provide exhibitors who were not independently wealthy and couldn't tell their bosses they'd need time out to head for New Yorkto…WHAT? A DOG show?…. with an opportunity to attend national specialties on their home turf.
The development spawned another which will be taken one step further at this year's Tucson Specialty; a competition between host clubs to put on the best, biggest, most educational (or fun) events for their visitors, ranging from symposia to the addition of many events unknown at the inception of the specialty phenomenon. Thus we now have Junior Handling competitions and obedience trials, lure field tests, coursing champion trials. Breeders Cup competitions, rescue parades and for the first time ever; this years Triathlon Competition. Who knows whats next; Agility tests?A Good Citizaen tests? We'll just wait and see
We were pleased to attend a number of major specialties over the years, both as exhibitors and observers, and to share the cameradery that is inherent in gatherings of people with shared interests. Have things changed a lot since then> We'll see. Perhaps the days when you owned and showed your dogs and progressed from class placements to greater honors if you had a good specimen are over. A look at todays show catalogs seems to suggest that it takes a whole consortium to get a puppy started on glory road. Has amateur participation yielded to the business of show "biz"? I'm headed for Tucson with an inquiring yet open mind and shall let you know in our next issue. Until then - hope to see you in Arizonas
Ruth Weddle, Our Afghans, November 1998
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