Afghan Hound Times
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(Author, Stephanie Hunt-Crowley, 1999, Chandhara Afghan Hounds, USA ex UK)

Afghan Hounds were first introduced to the US in the 1920s but it was not until the birth of the first litter from Asra of Ghazni in 1932 that the breed started to gain a foothold. Year by year the annual registrations rose until they reached 218 in 1942 but the intrusion of WWII caused registrations to drop until 1945 when a burst of postwar activity culminated in 1946 with 462 individual registrations. The breed stood 40th in the popularity rankings. For the next 10 years the breed was fairly stable, registrations rising and falling and then gaining momentum for the next 5 years until they reached 831 registrations in 1961 - almost 40 years ago, and the breed was still in 40th place.

I myself had started breeding and showing Afghan Hounds at that time,and although I lived in England then, I had already started to correspond with breeders in the United States. In those days breeders and fanciers all over the world were proud of "their" breed and were excited when the breed was being introduced to or reintroduced to other countries - Australia, South Africa, Ireland... to name a few. We extolled the virtues of Afghan Hounds to those who asked about them. Then as now, there were breeders who failed to give the new owner all the necessary information for the successful raising of an Afghan puppy. Caring breeders on the other hand would tell the new owner everything they needed to know. One thing people did NOT do (in any country - as far as I could tell from all the people I correspondedwith - yes, I used the postal service just as we now use e-mail!!!) was to tell the world that Afghan Hounds were destructive impossible to house break, cannot be trained, will NEVER come when called, and require 4 hours grooming every 3 days.

Registrations rose every year for the next 13 years and for the first few years everything was well, but unfortunately by the early 1970s there were serious problems emerging. Not only did annual registrations peak at 10,918 individual registrations in 1974 (possibly representing anywhere from 12,000 - 15,000 registerable Afghan Hounds) but there were large numbers of puppies being born without papers. Many get-rich-quick merchants had added the breed to their production team and pet owners were breeding litters. Some (but NOT ALL) show breeders added to the problem by selling bitches with puppy back clauses in the sale agreement - which in turn encouraged the people who bought those bitches to do the same. The people involved only looking at what was happening at that moment and not the empirical consequences of their actions. Prices for puppies through the 1960s until the 70s had remained fairly steady, in the range of $300 - $500 for a puppy between the ages of 2 and 6 months. By 1973 it was possible to get a pet-bred puppy without papers for $100, advertised in your local newspaper.These puppies often went to unsuitable homes, and others went to homes that might have been excellent - IF the buyer had had a reputable breeder giving them help and advice, but when that was not forthcoming the owners would give up and pass the dog on to someone else. It was a bad time for many,many Afghan Hounds.

These days many people talk about those bad days - but most people in the breed now were not there then, and are only judging by hearsay, from people who heard it from people.... so let us take a look at what really happened.

People today think back to those bad days and rightfully do not wish them to return, but sometimes look at matters from the wrong perspective."Blame" has been laid at the feet of breeders generally without looking at the specifics. Breeders with the best will in the world did not have the tools then that we have now to limit the production of pet bred litters. Spaying and neutering was not a safe option - it was a high risk situation as the anaesthetics available were not something one wanted to use except in an emergency....and many dogs did in fact die under an anaesthetic. AKC had not yet brought in the option of Limited Registrations - so any dog or bitch sold to a pet owner either had full registration or no papers. Some breeders thought they would solve the problem by with-holding papers when selling to pet homes - but this in itself caused an unforseen problem that many people did not recognise. By selling a puppy without papers to a pet owner they were in effect telling that owner that it was OK to breed and sell puppies without papers!!!!! Of course, the pet owner would then find it harder to sell those puppies, and the price would drop from $100 to $50 until the pups were given away, or worse. Some breeders, newcomers especially, would have some success and want to place as many of their puppies as possible with other exhibitors and in order to do that would forgo the cash price and sell with puppies back. The process would then repeat itself and numbers increased exponentially taking the numbers from 4,605 to almost 11,000 only 5 years later. This enormous increase was NOT the result of actions of the established show kennels, but of production by commercial breeders and pet owners with some help from those required to fulfill puppy back contracts....and even the registration of litter lots imported wholesale from the UK and sold through pet stores such as Doktor's! Yes, back in the late 60s and early 70s there were puppy farms in South Wales with dealers/brokers supplying litter lots to pet stores in the USA and brokers in Japan.

Well, all good things come to an end - and so do bad things. When the gravy train slowed down, the commercial breeders backed away, and pet owners and back yard breeders who found out that selling puppies was possibly going to be a problem moved on to other things. Serious breeders retired and new breeders were afraid of the problems that their predecessors had experienced. Registrations began to fall..and fall. Registrations had held steady in the 10,000 range for some 4 years, with the breed ranking 28th and 30th in the popularity stakes, but in the 5 years from 1976 to 1981 they had dropped by half to 5,421. At the end of that 12 year period from 1970 - 1981 some 100,928 Afghan Hounds had been individually registered with AKC. There were also an uncounted number of registerable dogs whose owners simply never sent in the blue slip, and puppies born from unregistered parents,so the true total is unknown.

We can assume that at least half the dogs born during the "bad" times did end up in decent homes so it would not have been unreasonable to hope that the decline would start to level off - but that was not to be. Within another 5 years the annual registrations had dropped to 2,398 and the breed was in 52nd place. An interesting observation here - when one of the top contenders failed to win BIS at Westminster a couple of years ago there were public cries of what a relief it was, and how awful it would have been had an Afghan won BIS as it would have created a disasterous demand for puppies. Well, during the early 1980s numbers declined every single year by approximately 20% - and during that time Pepsi won BIS at Westminster...... Within another 10 years registrations had plunged to 1,131 in 1996 from 233 litters and the breed was in 81st place - its lowest position since 1930. Last year 173 litters resulted in 768 registrations.

For the past several years the specter of those "bad times" has overshadowed everything else, and ever decreasing numbers have been hailed as the best thing that could happen to the breed. People who did not even own an Afghan back then remind us constantly of the overpopulation 25 - 30 years ago, then proclaim that the answer to all our problems would be stricter breeder controls, greater breeder responsibility, and prohibiting as many people as possible from owning an Afghan Hound. We have been told that the best way to ensure that the "wrong" people do not purchase an Afghan Hound is to present a worst case scenario as to what would happenif they did in fact purchase one. Only if a potential buyer agrees to owning this potentially awful dog are they considered fit to own one! Personally if a potential buyer accepted the idea of a dog that could not be housebroken, destroyed the furniture and was basically untrainable - I would not sell them a dog!!!! Of ANY breed! Firstly I would not want any dog of mine living in a house that must already be a pit, with an owner that thinks there is no problem with owning a badly behaved, untrained dog, and secondly if they are in fact just agreeing for the sake of agreeing - they could lie about anything else. We are told over and over that we must keep the numbers down because there are very few people capable of owning this "special" breed - and discouraging people is thought to be more effective than learning whether or not a potential owner could in fact enjoy owning an Afghan Hound.

Too much was too much - but when is too little, too little??? Two years ago to ask this question was anathema - cause for being locked in the stocks and pelted with rotten tomatoes. We are reminded of the dogs that end up in rescue and are told that by discouraging people from purchasing an Afghan and reducing litters even further, we will have fewer dogs in rescue. This fails to take into consideration the fact that dogs that end up in rescue only do so when there is a problem with locating a breeder who will take responsibility. In other words pet store puppies, dogs from back yard breeders and rarely from a show kennel. Yes, there have been a few, but they have been the exception and not the rule. The situation we have now could in fact result in MORE dogs ending up in rescue. How? Because once again, the WRONG people are breeding and selling Afghan Hounds to the public. There are people who have owned Afghan Hounds before and those who are new to the breed who are, often unwittingly, buying from commercial breeders and BYBs because they have been unable to obtain one from a reputable breeder. Instead they turn to the internet, they locate breeders with a colorful website that never attend a dog show, sell puppies of dubious quality and provide inadequate owner support.

Over the past year I have heard the same stories over and over again from people that have contacted me looking for a puppy. Breeders that refuse to sell to anyone who has never owned an Afghan Hound before. Breeders that refuse to sell any puppies to pet homes. Breeders that just do not want to spend the time talking to potential buyers to find out who the people really are. Are all of these people unfit to own the breed? Someone suggested that an ideal situation would be that all people buying a puppy would have just lost their old Afghan of 15 years. Quite apart from problem of the eventual demise of all these people, what about the fact that they could not get one if they wanted? Assuming that an Afghan has a life expectancy of 10 - 15 years, if one takes the number registered between the years 1985 and 1990 one can assume that approximately 2,500 Afghan Hounds died last year. There were 768 registered.

I am NOT, repeat NOT, suggesting in any way, shape or form that anyone breed litters simply to satisfy the market for puppies. What I am saying is that we do need to take a good hard look at where we are going and the problems that we may face in the future. This extends from the probability of the commercial breeders and BYBs picking up the slack and selling puppies with FULL registrations to the pet market, to the problems breeders will (and already do) face when they have restricted themselves to the point that they have no choice within their own breeding program to be truly selective in terms of what they retain for future breeding purposes. With the breed being in a currently healthy state compared to many other breeds, few people seem to realise the potential hazards we face with recessives lurking in an ever contracting gene pool. All the diseases one hears of are sporadic with low incidence, and no fingers can be pointed in any one direction - but could be pointed at everyone. When breedings are limited to an extreme there could come a time for breeders that they are faced with using known carriers of disease because there is no other option.

Finally - something to ponder upon. As I said, at the end of the most prolific period in breed history there were over 100,000 registered Afghan Hounds in the United States - those under the age of 12 that were prematurely deceased being compensated for by those aged 13 and above that I did not add in to my total. In the years 1988 - 1999, the most recent 12 year period there were 16,948 registered. A mere 84,000 fewer alive today than there were 20 years ago

And you wonder where the majors went.........

Stephanie Hunt-Crowley
(Copyright: Stephanie Hunt-Crowley 1999)
Published here on AHT with permission of the author.

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