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Afghan Hound Times Icon    Myths, Legends and Reality
(By Steve Tillotson, January 2013)

I included the extract below as an example of the difficulty of differentiating between mythology and reality. I previously documented some of the difficulties with Legacy writings here because our prime sources on the history of the breed are often writings from the 19th century. Writing in that era excelled in quoting from the classics, poetry, legends etc, irrespective of the value of the quotation, irrespective of the fact that the quotation is open to wide variations in interpretation, not only linguisticly (translating Greek, Latin to English) but literarily (ie what the meaning of the orignal was). Edmund Hogan in his book on the history of the Irish Wolfdog makes numerous references to ancient writings, which he offers up as evidence of the antiquity of the Wolfdog. Unfortunately, some of his translation of both language and meaning are incorrect (a common problem with 19th century writers). Sadly, subsequent writers pick up on these 19th writings and take them as fact, thus proliferating this flow of mis-information. I found the extract below during my research which raises another issue - was there some factual event behind the mythology/legend?

We have encountered several examples of myth-information on the breed, and have included some of these items further down this page

1. Extract from the papers of the "Cork Historical and Archaeological Society - 1902"
by Mr Hackett (Irish Wolfhound Discussion)

"Among the Tore legends is the following one. A chief named Gowan sallying out from Gowan Castle met his sister Finngal, who told him of her gloomy forebodings respecting him; he informs her that a monstrous black pig having ravaged Limerick, Leitrim, and Sligo, his wise men announced that where the pig had passed through would be subsequently subjected to horrible cruelties, massacres, and misery. The monster having entered Donegal was now ravaging from Ballyshannon to Glentees; and he was determined to save his country by slaying the pig. His sister, more alarmed than before, urges him to return home; but he resists and follows the pig through the mountains from Glentees to Lough Muc, south of Lough Finn. Finngal follows the cry of the hounds till she reached Glenfinn, where to her right was Lough Finn. There she heard her brother's voice across the lough encouraging his dogs far away on the hills. Turning her steed, she heard her brother's cries of distress, but imagined that they proceeded from the spot she had left. She then determined to cross thp lake, but on approaching the shore her horse stumbled, she fell on the rock, and perished. Her body was buried on the side of the lake, where a mound called Fingal's Grave marks the spot. A stone called Fingal's Stone indicates the place where she died, and from her the lake is called Lough Finn. Gowan overtook the pig at Lough Muc, stabbed the monster with his dirk, but was himself gored to death by the pig, who, rushing into the lake with the dirk in his side, was drowned. Over the grave of Gowan a heap of stones was raised called Gowan's Stones. All the townlands where each hound was killed bear its names. That some remarkable event did occur which gave rise to this legend, Mr. Hackett considers, is beyond doubt. I think, he further says, that the so-called hounds were pagan priests, and Gowan and his sister, Fingal, probably an eminent priest and priestess. It is singular, he continues, how this name Finn enters into so many of these Tore legends. Fionn was asked in the Agallamh why he did not destroy the Piast at Glendaloch as he did all the other Adarachts of Ireland. We may remark also that in the Imokilly legends it was from Ballyfinn he first set out on his expedition against the boars of Imokilly, when he slew the Tore that flourished at Glen Torcin, now Glenturkin, near which is shown the grave where Fionn buried the boar at Fin-ure. It was after that that he crossed Cork harbour and landed at Cuaneenrobert. He then sojourned at Rathfean, and thus far fought single-handed; but at Fahalay (Fatha or Foicead nalaog) all his warriors joined him. There is a Glen-a-muck-dee at Gurtagrenane, near Ringabella (beyond Crosshaven)."

My cynicism sometimes gets the better of me. But the above gave me some pause. Mr Hackett states that the story above, may well have some basis in fact (ie some event occured that later became an embellished myth or legend regarding Fingal). Importantly he mentions that the so-called hounds may have been pagan priests, and Gowan and his sister may have been an eminent priest and priestess.

When reading writings by 19th century writers who cite ancient writings in support of their opinion, we should remember that ancient writings can be interpreted "literally" or "literarily,". The below is a good example of this. Reading it literally then hounds are hounds. Reading it literarily then hounds may have been priests. So when we read "stories" about Irish Wolfdogs and conversations between Ossian and St Patrick we would be wise to remember the difference between literal and literary. Mythology and legends are not facts and should not be presented as such, they are "stories". Those writers that quote such stories and use them as "evidence" are usually struggling to make a believable case for their opinions...

Some short modern stories or myths -

2. Rathmullan Irish Wolfhounds by Alex Scott

This one from Alex Scott, Kennel Manager, Rathmullan Irish Wolfhounds, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1930's
(AKC Gazette, May, 1934)

"One day, Scott had the entire lot of hounds out for a run. Suddenly, he came upon a pack of wild dogs, of mixed breeds, that one finds sometimes in that part of the country. These dogs had been harassing the ranchers, killing cattle and running down horses. As soon as he saw these marauders, Scott called in his hounds. All except a young one, Gareth, came to heel immediately. Curious, Gareth went near the pack, and when he turned his back, two jumped on him.

For a second it seemed that the whole pack of seven would wipe out the lone wolfhound, but Gareth held his own. Within two minutes of the wildest sort of action, he had flung into the air four wild dogs. The three others put tails between their legs, and fled. Discovery proved that all four dogs that Gareth tossed into the air were dead of broken backs."

I find the above entirely believable. I believe a large Irish Wolfhound has the strength to pick up a wild dog and toss it into the air. Can it pick up a "wolf" in its jaws and toss that up in the air... cynicism prevails here on that potential

3. Leopard Killing Afghan hound by (various) breed book authors

The breed books written in the 60's and 70's repeat a story that the Afghan Hound "Khan of Ghazni" was a leopard killer and was reputed to have killed a leopard single handed.

In 1970 a group of Afghan Hound enthusiasts visited the person who owned Khan and imported him from Afghanistan to England in the 1920's (Major Amps) and asked him about this story. Major Amps responded "he wouldn't recognize a leopard if he saw one".....

4.Breed dates back 4000 yeas, Afghan hound was dog on Noah's Ark - Lewiston Evening Journal, Dec 29, 1956, Afghan Hounds by Lewis L Incze

The Afghan hound is fortunate enough to have an authentic recorded history covering about 4000 years before Christ. The engraved relics of Middle East cultures prseserved sufficient documentation about this dog in order to establish now that his shape, size and general proportions did not change during the centuries and it is alleged to have been the dog taken along in Noah;s Ark at the time of the Flood.

His beautiful long hair constantly grows until his maturity at the age of two years. The Afghan hound is the fast dog in the world, it cn attain a speed of 45 miles per hour and keep it up for 30 minutes without slackening. I tlao is one of the most enduring dogs for extreme heat and cold which is explained by his place of origin.

Originating in Afghanistan, this hound of tremendous height and imposing general appearance is now a sacred anmal of the Afghans and as such it cannot be taken out of the country, Yet the breed made its appearance in this country about 30 years ago.

Although it is ot used for hunting snow leopards and tracking lions and gazelles here, it has preserved well its specific characteristics under atteentive breeding, Its life expectancy is 18 years and the bitch has eight to ten pups in one litter

5. Myth Information about Afghan hounds Egyptian Orgins and Noah's Ark -Reading Eagle October 21, 1939 by Lilly March

Unless I am very much mistaken, to most of you who attended the Berks County Kennel Club's dog show several weeks ago the Afghan hounds were a breed definitely new in the flesh. You had earned in recent yeas to become vaguely familiar with them thorugh pictures, but they seemed a rarity you weren't like to come into actual contact with: and if you thought about them at all, other than extremely casually, you probably decided that they were something new i8n dogs, and just let it go at that

That, at any rate, is a fair sample of how my mind worked on the subject, and it was very surpirsing to me to learn through Mrs Lauer J Froelich and her daughter, Marianne, who now own thre of them, a little bit about this dog's amazing history

Far from being a new breed the Afghan is one of the oldest dogs known to man, and has been bred for centuries in the mountains of Afghanistan, and by the Arabs and Egyptians. According to ancient legend Noah took a pair of them with him on the ark, allthough they actually are a comparative innovation here and in AEurope, and were not shown in the United States until 1926. tHE Afghan, the heaviest coated member of the greyhound family, a reserved and alof dog, is noted for a singular devotion to its master, and is a courageous and intelligent watch dog.

On first sight - this is a purely personal reaction again - Afghans have such an eerie, foreign appearnace that one is likely to overlook their wistful, appealing expression, their lovely coloring and their soft liqud eyes - all attributs which, coupled with excellent character traits, make them particularly loable when you have become familiar with them

6. Afghan hounds depend on sight rather than scent (and and attack their quarry in pairs) Kentucky New Era April 14 1939

The Afghan breedm one of the purest and most ancient, is the product of natural developent. But little known in this country, it belongs to the greyhound family. I has a long silky coat with especially heavy feathering on the ear tips, tail, legs and top of the head, where it forms a kind of top-knot

Early information on the breed is very meagre and the Afghans themselves seem to have little knowledge of its origin. They claim with all seriousness, however, that Noah took a pair of these dogs on the ark.

This statementis, perhaps not as fantastic as one might suppose, asserts P Hamilton Goodsell in the Detroit News, for the breed is undoubtedly closely related to the Saluki of Gazelle hound of Egypt, Syria and Persia, which in turn is known to have flourished in the Near East and from time immemorial

It is difficult to determine which breed is the older, or whether the Afghan hound found its way west to become the Saluki or vice versa

Sufice to say that the type of the Afghan hound has not changed within the memory of man. They have been used in their native land for hunting for centuries, dependig on sight rather than scent. They are used in couples, the male attacking the quarry at the throat, and the temale, the hinder part. Their game consists of deer, jackal, fox, etc, and they have been known to bring down and kill leopards

7. Afghans a reald oldtimer/Rock carvings in Balkh Afghanistan - The Pittsburgh Prewss April 20 1939 by horace Lytle

An Afghan hound is distictive because of his eccentric appearance. Here we have a dog of the greyhound type, but smothered in long hair on the lower pars of the body. The ears are well feathered and drooping. Curiously enough, the whole length of the back is smoth, though the sides and underparts as well as the legs right down to the ground are protected by a profuse coat. The face is smooth, but there is a tuft of softhair on the top of the skull. The expression might be characterised as wistful as if the dogs mind were cast back into the dim ages of the past. The tail which is set on rather high, is carried up a little and curls round a the end. It looks to be inadequate to the rest of the body, but it at any rate serves to distinguyish him from the Saluki

In his native country the Afghan hound is used by the sporting sirdars and shikaris for coursing hasre, fox, small mountain deer, wolf or jackel. After the World War, Major Bell Murray started a kennel of these dogs in Scotland. He had the type the we believe to be correct, the characteristic coat of a rich red color and dogs well nigh perfect in action

The possible origin of the breed gives scope for speculation. We are inclined to the view that it is an offshoot of the Salukis, having reached Afghanistan by way of Persia in the remote ages. Others contend that it is a distinctive breed, claiming that it is the oldest form of greyhound type. It is said that rock carvings discovered in Balkh, which are of undoubted antiquity, show these dogs, That in itself possibly may support the theory that they are allied to the Salukis

It may be said that the forgoing argument cuts both ways, and that the dogs of the greyhound type may have been discovered in Bactria and transplanted in a westerly direction. Against such a line of reasoning, we may set the knowledge that dopgs of a somewhat similar character were familiar in Egypt and neighboring lands long before Cyrus founded the Persian monarchy in the fifth century B.C.

Stories can be fun, but they are not historical facts of evidence..

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The "myth" of the Sinai Penninsula (by Steve Tillotson, November 2013)

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