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The Afghan Hound Standard
By (Kim Crysell, Badshah, NZ)

Kim Crysell and his first Afghan Hound
Ch Recklaws Rizelle
Afghan Hound Times photo - Kim Crysell and his first Afghan Hound Ch Recklaws Rizelle

Briefly outline your own background in the breed

My early and fairly tentative interest in the breed arose out of Desiree's very decided interest, during the late sixties in Robin Walker' bitch Ch Jeddah Azir Of Kazah, bred by Marie Howitt. Jeddah whelped a litter in 1969 and we obtained a bitch puppy Recklaws Rizelle later that year. Our interest in the breed developed quickly as did our growing understanding of the Afghan. Then following the learning curve of coming to grips with breed type, kennel style, grappling with the standard and encompassing it with the breed books, a growing availability of breed magazines as well as a developing correspondence on the breed with Marie Howitt, all helped.

Our Afghan family grew quickly and continued to expand over the years and through all the original Badshah gang, has of course long gone, many of their relations are in residence. During the past twenty or so years we have purchased, bred and exhibited a goodly number of Afghans. Apart from bringing us a great deal of pleasure as a family many of them have given me genuine pleasure to watch in the show-ring to name just a few seems unfair but the following come readily to mind:

Ch Kazah Nazzia
Rasul of Gilzai
Ch Bletchingley Ottoman
Ch Zarya of Badshah
Ch Khalif of Badshah

My wish to judge dogs was not backgrounded by our Afghan involvement but was the result of a much wider interest in pure-bred dogs. I obtained NZ Kennel Club approval to award challenges for the Hound Group in 1975 and over the years have moved steadily on to obtain the other groups.

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

The present NZ standard contains less detail than I would like to see but for all that it is an adequate medium to judge the breed against. I'm sure most judges would acknowledge that the real understanding to judge a breed completely cannot come from a study of the standard alone, but developed through a mixture of involvement, reading and re-reading breed articles, breed magazines and newsletters and through reading the many quality breed books that are available. A genuine grasp of dog anatomy and construction is a must to put the standard into perspective.

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?

One area of the standard I am told that causes problems for the non-breed judge, is the brevity of the section on movement. It is reported that the first UK standard was written in 1912, the next adopted in 1925 and the briefest mention of movement was included under "General Appearance" - "a combination of speed and power -" A new standard was introduced in 1927 and a brief reference to movement was included under expression in motion his head and tail carried high, springing gait" - not particularly detailed or helpful

The 1946 standard did give us all a little more direction by stating in the section on general appearance "The gait of the Afghan hound should be smooth and springy with a style of high order." The present NZ standard uses this description, the revised English standard made no change to the section on movement, using this same wording. The Americans, from 1926 through to 1948 used a standard said to have been provided b y the Afghan Hound Club of England. With no mention of movement other than under general appearance "-looking a combination of speed and power: Contrast all these descriptions with the section on movement drafted by the Afghan Hound Club of America and adopted by the American Kennel Club in late 1948. Gait - When running free the Afghan hound moves at a gallop, showing great elasticity and spring in his powerful stride. When on a loose lead the Afghan can trot at a fast pace; stepping along, he has the appearance of placing the hind feet directly in the footprints of the front feet, both thrown straight ahead. Moving with head and tail high, the whole appearance of the Afghan Hound is one of great style and beauty."

Constance O Miller and Edward M Gilbert Jnr. in their book "The Complete Afghan Hound" have taken five tight print pages to discuss movement. I take two quotes to illustrate - "The reachy-moving Afghan is at his best in the large variety group rings, where his impressive stride can be utilized. The Afghan hound should pick up his feet purposefully and cleanly, never shuffling across the ring. This calls for great elastic spring in the lifting stride, but definitely not to be confused with the faulty "Parade Horse" type of knees up prance that lacks forward extension. Correct front leg spring arises from strong flexion of the pasterns as the foot lands on the ground. In the rear quarter there should be similar good flexion and noticeable kick-back of hocks. High knuckled toes are important as "splay" feet are commonly found on dogs lacking in springy stride, as is the "broken down pastern" with its weak and floppy action. With all this springy leg action the aloof body appears to be "floating" smoothly projected by its own momentum over the shock absorbing reach and lift of the legs."

"A head and tail high Afghan Hound is no less than awe-inspiring. As for the standard we can only wish that the last sentence under "Gait" might have been expanded to read, "The whole appearance of the Afghan Hound is one of great style, agility, purpose and beauty."

This is the type of information needed to provide the non-specialist judge with the basis for gait appreciation and understanding.

I recommend this book to anyone really interested in the breed.

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?

I prefer to judge movement in a generous ring which allows the dogs to trot at a "smooth balanced gait" - there is nothing to be learnt from the "flying trot" which is the fashion with some exhibitors and some judges. Like most sighthounds the Afghan does not react well to judges approaching directly and brusquely from the front, then reaching briskly forward to examine the head or bite. I make it a practice to approach quietly and obliquely.

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

I have watched the judging of Afghans as well as judging them myself in Australia and while our dogs would in the main fit into the Australian All Breed show scene, their top dogs over the years clearly would have the edge on our top winning dogs. In fact I suspect if we were to look back over the past twenty years or so I think we'd find a large percentage of our top winning dogs and bitches have been Australian bred.

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.

There is no doubt in my mind that the New Zealand specialist judge has no ability to influence the future direction of the breed and that it as it should be. I suspect the New Zealand Afghan judges wouldn't collectively judge the breed half a dozen times a year and while their placings might be of passing interest within the "breed" their individual and collective decisions have absolutely no impact on the breeds overall direction and development.

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 breeds reduced popularity in NZ has overall pleased me. The many litters produced through the "golden years" provided many very good dogs. Indeed without the many litters the range of good dogs would not have been possible but the breeding also had produced many poor quality afghans, worse, the breeds popularity saw too many dogs forced to endure a miserable existence with owners who had little or no understanding of the breed and little wish to learn. The present situation of generally low entries, yet with a range of good afghans still shown in most areas has seen afghans less regularly pressing for in-show awards, but I don't consider that a major problem. I believe breed numbers will increase again in the future and with those numbers an increased share of the In Shows - if that really is important.

Following on from this - what as a breeder/exhibitor are (or were) your expectations of breeder judges and what can exhibitors expect from you as a breeder judge?

Re breeder judges (dare we call them specialists) There were no New Zealand Judges in this category when I exhibited. What can exhibitors expect from me - no favours if the exhibit is sound, typical and well presented they have every chance. Exhibitors should pay more attention to the procedure of the judge during the examination of their dogs, this should give an indication of the judges ability to assess the animal. As a spectator I have heard exhibitors make remarks regarding the judging of their dogs "oh he/she didn't like my dog because...." This is an assumption and not a fact. If you know why and would like to know, after the group or Best In Show judging take your dog with you and ask the judge, its that simple.

Most exhibitors can remember afghan hounds frequently taking Best In Show awards at All Breeds Championship show, yet 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?"

The breed has less depth now and does do less winning than in the halcyon years. But I suspect some of that was a product of the time. The Afghan, suddenly captured the public fancy and quite rightly dominated the Hound Group. Afghans became the key entry at many All Breed shows. They were the glamour breed and everyone expected them to do well and as we know they often did. The numbers and quality in all breeds fluctuates over the years and I don't have any doubt that Afghans have a longterm future on the NZ show scene.

If you feel there is a problem with quality today in the breed, wherein lies the answer? What must the exhibitor, the breeder and the judge alike do to ensure improvement?

The breed here and overseas is in the long haul, in the hands of the small groups of, in the main, careful and dedicated breeders who continue over the years to develop the breed. It is a fact that some of these breeders are also judges and that may well bring measurable benefits to their own breed understanding and to their breeding.

Name one Afghan hound who has left a lasting impression, or who you consider was a truly great afghan hound

I could with little hesitation name a dozen dogs and bitches who over the years have left a lasting impression on me, but after a good deal of soul searching I cannot name one of them a "truly great afghan." The title, "truly great" would find few deserved nominations in any breed. The top in-show winner, the most challenges - that we could answer fairly readily but wouldn't have us any closer to answering the question. Ask me which afghan I can recall most readily, that I could quite promptly answer.

Kim Crysell, Badshah, NZ, 1991

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