Interpretation/Comments on Breed Standards/USA/UK Afghan Hounds (Will Hally 1941)

(Will Hally, judged the breed at Crufts in 1927, which was the first year that Afghan classes were scheduled. Will Hally was an important influence in publicising and promoting the breed in the UK in its foundation years).

In 1941 Will Hally reviewed the comments made by a Mr Charles Hopton on aspects of exhibiting the Afghan Hound, in particular on some points of the breed standard. The following is an extract of his review.

In modern times, there has been an ongoing debate about differences between the UK/US Afghan - this is not new! This very issue was raised as early as 1941 as is evidenced from the following extract from Will Hally's breed notes in "Our Dogs" dated 1941.

"In his references to trimming and action, Mr Hopton raises two very important points. It is not always fair to take one's impressions from photographs, but from the many I have seen of American Exhibits of this breed, it seems to me that our friends in the States are "grooming" their Afghans into what are perilously near being caricatures of their race. Indeed, the photographed Afghans look as artificial as cinema stars on the screen, or, alternatively they give the impression of being destined for a box at the opera on a gala night, only requiring a necklace, and perhaps a tiara to complete the picture. The Afghan is a rough, tough dog, and it was never meant to be what those American photographs depict it as being. Admittedly, those Afghans look lovely, but they are smoothed-out and titivated to an extreme that is totally contrary to the true ideal".

"That phrase "with a graceful outline" which Mr Hopton quotes from the American standard was in the standard of our pioneer organisation, the now defunct Afghan Hound Club, but allthough it was never misinterpreted here, it does look as if it were being so in the States. The Afghan has a "graceful outline" but all the same, "graceful" is not the most appropriate word to apply to a rugged breed such as this. Anyway I prefer the wording of our present organisations (the Afghan Hound Association) standard in this respect: "The whole appearance of the dog should give the impression of strength and activity, combining speed with power. The object of the dog is to hunt is quarry over very rough and mountainous ground, a country of crags and ravines". Mr Hopton is strongly against the over trimming of Afghans, but he suggests "the removal of whiskers or smellers and ragged feathering on the feet". But why remove what is absolutely essential to the dog as a coursing hound in its native land? The "rugged feathering on feet" is very necessary to protect the feet in the hard going of Afghanistan and the Afghans feet are a very important part of it. And once we start snipping bits off here and other bits off there where is the trimming to end?"

As for action, the quotation I have just given from our Associations standard is itself a clue to that. The orthodox hound action would not take the Afghan very far "over very rough and mountainous ground, a country of crags and ravines"; It therefore has an action which is unique and is possessed by no other canine breed. The standard description is "springy gait" and that is a high-stepping action - not the extreme of the hackney, but sufficient to carry the dog over very rough, rock-strewn ground, where the going is uneven at every step. The Afghan is not a short-stepper by any means, but, in comparison with other hounds and other working breeds, it is very decidedly a high stepper"

Editor Notes - The above was written in 1941 at which time the prevailing standard was the Afghan Hound Association one, developed in 1927 and destined to last until 1946 when it was replaced by the current (revised 1986) standard. The competing standard (Denyer), developed in 1925 become defunct in 1931. Allthough the AHA/1927-1946 standard existed, it was not universally accepted. A consensus standard in the UK was not agreed until the 1946 one was adopted by the Kennel Club in 1950 (subsequentially revised 1986).Also, noting the references to the USA standard, this didn't exist in 1941 as the USA standard was not agreed and approved until 1948. Interestingly, according to Miller and Gilberts book, the AHCA received a proposed standard submitted by Mrs Porter in 1941 - so the USA too was struggling due to lack of a consensus standard. In the same year (1941) as Will Hally bemoaned the trimming of Afghans the AHCA declared a ban on all trimming of Afghans.

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