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The Afghan Hound Standard
By (Lyall Payne, Bletchley Hall, NZ)

"Trip" (NZ CH Zarafshan Ego Tripper)
with his 2 year old daughter
Bletchley Hall Fire-Song
Afghan Hound Times photo Bletchley Hall Fire-Song

Briefly outline your own background in the breed

I first saw an Afghan about 1968 and purchased Azzar Of Calcutta (Legend of Salguod ex Sharoda Of Chaucer Lodge) in 1971, while I was still at school. Handling dogs for others (Mostly Crysell's Ch Kazah Shaz Ranee to her biggest wins) I really began for myself with my next dogs, three progeny of Ch Kazah Sheer Khan (Shaz's brother). All three became Specialty Best In Show winners and from here "Bletchley Hall" has continued to today.

As a judge, what is your opinion of the afghan hound standard as a descriptive medium to work to when judging the breed?

The standard evolved over several decades and writings, but has remained unchanged now since 1946. The Kennel Club (England) recently revised parts of if. The ensuing outcry from breeders world-wide past and present forced some of the changes to be rescinded. The New Zealand standard is the same as the 1946 English version. It is the misinterpretation, rather than the interpretation, that causes the occasional problem. Such commonplace terms as "the square afghan" and "short-backed" are terms foreign to the standard.

Selecting important aspects of the standard, which do you feel rate the most important when judging, why and how would you rate these qualities against each other? Do the same criteria apply to you as a breeder?

I rate movement most important in this breed. It is one of the less-defined areas of the standard, though great emphasis is put o it. In conjunction with good movement go so many typical breed characteristics. The proudly carried head, the raised (and ringed) tail. Clearly, this hound is an active, fit powerhouse that carries himself with grace and pride in being, showing great purpose of action

He is after all a hunter, a killer, a great stayer over the vilest of terrain. He must be able to do what his fore-bears have done in their homeland for thousands of years. Even if he must be bathed and groomed weekly as well! He also looks typical of the breed. An Afghan Hound is not unsound. Therefore we have no conflict between type and soundness. The elegance of the breed is brought about by the frequent use of the word "long" in our standard. "Skull Long", "Foreface Long", "Neck long", "Shoulders long", "Great length from hip to hock", "Pasterns Long", "Hindfeet long".

Importantly, these long sloping pasterns may be bare. Curiously, it seems only the really genuine lover of the breed appreciates bare pasterns, or cuffs as they are sometimes referred. The back is of medium length (not short and not long). The tail itself should not be too short. Head and expression is one of the most varied aspects of this breed. Expression, partly due to eye-shape, colour (and golden colour is permissible) chiseling and head-shape itself - also has intangible qualities to it. The whole exuberance, far-seeing aloof nature of the hound should be in evidence. As a breeder I look for the same. In a puppy I look for carriage, and that intangible expression - evident even in the very young, despite head shape being far from adult. Thick, long, strong leg bone mounted on four huge feet, is a vital indicator of the direction maturity will take.

Are there any facets to judging the afghan hound that you feel are unique to the breed and what allowances do you make for these features, as a judge in the show ring?

Movement and temperament. To assess movement in fairness, a large ring is essential and as he is aloof with strangers and suspicious of their approach, should never be approached in a forthright frontal manner. The dog will without failure back away. That's unless he has taken on the "poodle-like", tail-wagging temperament so despised by the true afghan fancier. The Afghan can be a clown, but always with a proud and dignified sense of occasion. He expects to be treated the same.

The size of most of the show rings today cannot do justice to an Afghan movement and that combined with poor handling can see many a good dog ending up further down the placings than he rightly should. I often feel that some thought o the part of the show manager by putting Afghans and larger breeds, toward the end of a group and enlarging the ring at that point would be a good idea.

Of course it is not always possible to do this but in many cases it is. Judges can also play a part in insisting on a larger ring where possible. I have never been able to see reason for walking dogs in the ring. I have asked other judges the reason for this but I am not convinced it is necessary

If you have seen/or judged afghan hounds in other countries - how do you feel the dogs compare?

I have seen Afghans in NSW, Western Australia, throughout Great Britain and at major shows in California. Making comparisons is not easy as generalizations take command. The top dogs in all countries would compete well here, as indeed there are dogs here that would compete very well in the countries mentioned. I do think we are fortunate in some ways for our geographical isolation. The fads and fashions in the breed take longer to filter to our shores and thus can be analyzed much more fully before becoming integrated into our hounds.

Exotic colours and lavish coats, do not influence me - these seemed to be most in evidence out of NZ but I found a wider assortment of heads and sadly the eye shapes were rounder, lack of underjaw was common as were broader and shorter muzzles

In this country I would have to say poor shoulders and fronts are very much in evidence. It is very interesting to note it is one line but while careless breeding continues, these faults can only multiply. Again it goes back to thoughtlessness on the part of the breeders. I am not saying it is intentional but the breed has suffered badly. The remedy can only be for serious breeders to study the breed. We all make mistakes, but having made them it is the ability to recognise those mistakes and not repeat them that makes the difference between a conscientious breeder and others.

How do you feel dogs compare over the years in this country?

Numbers are less now, but proportionately the better dogs have remained much the same. Five or six best in show winners would grace open dog class in the days of 60/70 breed entries. Now 1 or 2 will be there in an entry of 20. In the past the breed probably did more Best In Show winning than reflected the overall quality of the breed. A more realistic situation exists today.

Having bred afghan hounds yourself and then asked to make judgment on the breed in the show ring, how do you feel judges influence the direction a breed is going and have they (or you) influenced the afghan hound breed in particular.

Judges can only assess the dogs put before them and it is my experience that only a handful of enthusiasts have remained with this breed over more than a decade. Therefore we have few breeder-judges. In England the all rounder seldom judges Afghans, breed specialists adjudicating at almost all shows. The "long term" genuine specialist has firm ideas on most matters afghan and will breed with stock that fits their pre-determined ideals. The judges assess this stock as it comes to hand in the show-ring. Judges "move" exhibits here - more so than in many countries. Sometimes slowly, to examine "lift" and that "style of high order". The upright pasterned dog will jar considerably during the normal reconnaissance type gait (that at which we show our dogs in the ring), and the often coupled upright shoulder will not cover ground in comparison to the correctly structured animal. Occasionally, compensating factors, such as a well laid back shoulder with an upright humerus, may provide a far-reaching front gait on a dog. But in profile (on the stack) the terrier nature of this assembly is clearly visible.

Afghan Hound numbers in the show ring rose until the late seventies and have fallen ever since - what effect has this had on the breed in this country>

The dramatic numbers change in the last decade and a half, has had little effect on the breed here. Apart from 1 or 2 imports in the seventies, most dogs descend from lines already established here by the end of the sixties. (Or alternatively are very recently established). Most of the successful dogs of the 70's and the numerous imports were never bred from or their lines rapidly lost. The breeding plans of the major concerned kennels have been individually developed and as a result we still have quality dogs in the ring today.

Most exhibitors can remember Afghan Hounds frequently taking Best In Show awards at All Breeds Championship shows, yes statistics show this to be rare today, why is this so? Is the breed poorer today or have other breeds improved at a greater rate?

I do not feel there is a problem with quality in the Afghan hound. The original attributes of type, temperament and movement have been retained from the earliest imports from Afghanistan. As a breeder I see my task as one of preserving those qualities - not trying to change them. This is not a "developing breed". Individuals will be improved in the attempt to grain the perfect personification of the standard and the breed as a whole has that potential. Name an Afghan Hound who has left a lasting impression, or who you consider was a truly great afghan hound

Ch el Tazzi Tama at the first show I attended leaves the most vivid impression of an Afghan hound, in my mind. Ch Kazah Sheer Khan has my greatest respect as a producer, and Am Ch Fox Run's Revolution and Eng Ch Viscount Grant are "great" Afghan Hounds.

Lyall Payne, Bletchley Hall, NZ, 1991

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