This is a very elegant dog, with a peculiar temperament, and cunning developed in ancient times, when he lived with nomads.
If there was contest among all dogs to choose the most dignified one, the Afghan would surely win. Both in physical appearance and attitude, he is a true aristocrat. If this is not true with some individuals, then they are not the "real" Afghan.Even the standard shows this in some of its definitions: "the head is carried high; the distant look seems to see through people; smooth and elastic movements that demonstrate class." No wonder from time to time an Afghan paredes next to a top model in fashion shows. It is the prototype of canine elegance. To start with, it has an uncommon coat for a large breed - a long, thick, silky coat that sometimes reaches to the floor.
Some Afghans complement the beauty of the coat with a sophisticated touch: a mandarin (a small beard in the fashion of the ancieint mandarins). Though not all individuals present it, it is welcomed by breeders. Another exotic detail is the stripe of short and darker hair over the spine. The body of the Afghan is among the most refined in its species. The thin body, and the long legs make up an elegant figure. The tail is so surprising it is almost funny. Very thin, almost no hair, it is curled up as an interrogation mark.
Besides all that, the breed moves very charmingly: the steps are light, and tail is raised. When he stops, the posture is impecable: the neck is erect, and the Afghan looks around to check if everyone has noticed how charming he is. The class is there even when he lies down: he crosses the front legs and rests head over them. If he runs, the espectacle is complete. He seems to float in the air and the coat flies with the wind.
The Afghan has a "distant" temperament, but this doesn't mean he is not attached to his owner. On the contrary. Charles Harrisson, on the book The Afghan Hound, comments that the breed elects his owner when he's around 5 months old. If separated from him after this phase, the dog may refuse food and present behavior alterations. José Altair Azevedo de Moraes, from Kennel Hilmand's, Vitória, ES, tells that when he started breeding he sold a nine month old female, a sweet and calm individual. With the new owner, she cried all the time, destroyed things and continually tried to run away. On account of that, she was sold to somebody else, who also passed her on for the same reasons. Five months later, the solution was to give her back to the first owner. "As soon as she saw me she was literally histerical with joy, and her behavior went back to normal," remembers José. In fact, the typical individualism of the breed may lead to the false idea of disinterest for the owners. The Afghan does not demand physical closeness. As Charles Harrisson would say, "he maintains a constant contact, but from a distance."
It is not one of those who demand attention, jump and welcome the owners. When he wants to express affection, he is not effusive. "Mine welcome by rubbing their bodies delicately on my legs, and imediately after that, they go back to what they were doing earlier," comments Georgina Guimarães, from Kennel dos Guisos, Rio de Janeiro.
Besides, the Afghan not always, better yet, never, responds when called. He only looks at the owner, and continues doing whatever he was doing. It is his self-sufficient nature. Harrison tells us that when one tries to catch an Afghan the dog usually makes the person chase him for about 5 minutes. "He seems to want to reaffirm his independence; only when we give up, he comes to us."
The Afghan does not submit to anyone. All breeders agree that if one wants an obedient dog, he can't have an Afghan. "Though he understands very well what the owners wish him to do, he obeys only when he wants to," says Renata Prieto, judge of the breed.
Because he doesn't do exactly what the people around him want him to do, the Afghan was positioned in last place among 133 breeds, in capacity to obey, according to the book The Intelligence of Dogs, by Canadian writer Stanley Coren. The result: confusion. The press wrote that the Afghan was the stupidest breed on earth. The thing is, intelligence and obedience are different things, and many times don't go together.
If we analyse the origins of the Afghan, if he were obedient and submissive to human commands, then it would be stupid. The characteristic of the breed is its capacity to solve problems, deal with new situations and act strategically when facing them, with nobody's help. In Afghanistan, a mountainous region where the breed was developed mainly to hunt large animals, the Afghan had to do well on his own. The hunter didn't order anything, he just followed the dog. The dog was the leader; he decided the way, he avoided ravines and other obstacles, so common in the mountains. Besides, according to the bibliography, it seems that the breed got to Afghanistan with nomads who crossed the country on their way to China and India. At that time, the Afghan would have developed survival skills. He learned to steel food, treasures, and even horses, without being caught. A talent that all individuals, with no exception, present even today. "Once we were having lunch and one of them managed to take a whole loaf of bread off of the table, and no one noticed," remembers Ydenice Ribas Luiz Vianna, from Akhenaton Kennel, Guapimirim, RJ. "The Afghan keeps to himself until the oportunity comes, when he acts quickly, efficiently and silently." The breeder adds that if it is indeed caught, he let's go of the objetct, and looks as if saying something like "Who, me? No way!" Sonia Costa Pereira, owner of 4 Afghans, is also impressed with the cunning of the breed. She remembers that one of them managed to open the refrigerator to get food. "Another one, in order to sleep on my pillow, walks up to the terrace door, as if wanting to go out. As soon as I get up to open it, he runs and lies down on my bed."
The Afghan is a calm, and quiet dog. Though big, he adapts easily to small environments. Inside the house, he spends most of the time resting. Sheila Alves dos Santos Pineiro, her husband and 4 year old daughter share a one bedroom apartment with Sarah, an Afghan who has been with them for 10 years. "We never had any kind of problem, because she adapted very well," she tells. "Whenever she wants to go for a walk she pokes me with the muzzle, and looks at the door; but she doesn't do it more than twice a day."
However, resting is not all the Afghan does. All he needs is some freedom and space to demonstrate the other side of his personality: robust health and energy to make an athlete jealous. In ample spaces, he doesn't hesitate to start running. He loves running. It is one of the breeds used in canine races in Europe and the USA.
In case there is a lake around, get ready: he loves bathing, too. But it will take several hours to get his coat to look sharp again.
The Afghan cannot go without exercises. If there is no space where he lives, it is fundamental to go out at least once a day, for at least 30 minutes. Remember the breed does not come when you call, and maintains the explorer spirit of its origins. So, do not make the mistake of going out with him without a leash. Chances are you'll never see him again. Another characteristic is that it doesn't bark much. "My neighbors have never complained," says Sheila. "In fact, I think they have never heard any barking."
The Afghan used to hunt in a pack of hounds, so he gets along with other dogs. Though the felines were one of his ancient preys, he usually accepts the company of cats.
The breed ignores strangers completely. The habit of moving the head away if a stranger tries to caress him is legendary. Breeder Zorana Bielovic, from Kennel Stenara, São Paulo, comments that some individuals even snarl if a stranger insists on touching him. "One of my females attacks any stranger who is too close," says Georgina.
But, even the ones that dislike strangers the most, are no good as guardian dogs, for they only attack if they are threatened. "If a thief walks at a certain distance, they will do nothing," states Ydenice.
The Afghan's coat is one of the most exuberant among dogs, but at the same time, is one of the first in amount of maintenance work. That is why having this breed demands an essencial requisite: taking time to take care of his coat. And more: the Afghan is vain, to the point of being depressed if his hair is not well taken care of.
He needs a weekly bath. It takes about 3 hours to bathe, brush and dry him. He should be brushed twice a week at the most: the dog has to be clean, or else the hair splits, and he gets the aspect of a layered cut. Brushing takes at least half an hour. Use a brush with metal bristles. To help maintain the coat shiny, there is a specific dog food for animals with long hair. Do not use corn oil mixed with his food, for this may cause stomach problems.
During the summer the hair falls in more quantity, but not to the point of being spread all over the house like in the breeds that moult. In that period, he may be brushed every two days to remove hair.
The good old story of checking parents before buying the puppies is essential. Check if they don't have the most common flaws in Brazilian individuals, for they may be hereditary. José Peduti Neto and Neide Paduano, all rounder judge, name the two main problems. The first one is that there are individuals who have lost the correct angulation of the shoulder. This makes them carry the head lower, and prevents them from having the typical pose of superiority. The other problem is the sway back, curved downwards. "The Afghan must have a straight topline so it doesn't lose the lightness of his movements," says José Peduti. Hilda Drumond, all rounder judge emphasizes that the search for more refined heads has produced weaker maxilla, which is wrong, for it should be strong. The typically lateral eyes of the greyhounds, are many times frontal. "It is a problem around the world," she adds.
The Afghan puppy goes through a complete transformation until it reaches 2 years of age. Joan McDonald Brearley, author of The Book of the Afghan Hound, emphasizes: "anyone who has bred him from a young age, knows that the most fascinating part of infancy is to watch his metamorphosis." When it is born, it doesn't resemble an Afghan at all. It has a flat face, short muzzle and little hair.
The ideal age to purchase is between two and three months. At that time, he already has the face of an Afghan, and hasn't started the process of accelerated growth. It has a proportional body, except for the muzze, flat instead of pointed, until 4 months, and straight tail until 5 months of age. It is also possible to verify the definite color by observing which color predominates under coat (short hair, 2 or 3cm). The more dense, the better; this indicates that it will probably be abundant in the future. The eyes, which many times are blue at birth, present the definite color by then. The dark eyes are preferred, but golden are also accepted.
The 60 to 90 days old puppy must reveal the elegance of movements of the adults; if they do, this practically garantees the same elegance at an adult age.
After this age, he grows out of proportion. Up to 8 or 10 months, he looks like a typical unhinged teenager: too skinny, legs excessively long and disjointed movements. Anyone who sees him may doubt that he will soon have the elegance of the adult. It is even funny. The hair is about 10cm long, but fluffed up, in a Mohican-like hairdo. Between the 18 months and 2 years of age, they reach a reasonable length. Coat is at its best after dogs are 5 years old, if treated with all necessary care, of course.
The Afghan is a strong dog, provided that it is well fed, and maintained in good hygiene conditions. Even when it's sick, it demonstrates a high capacity of recuperation.
Because of the long ears, it is inclined to have otitis. Luis Alberto Cesar, experienced veterinarian of this breed, suggests that ears be weekly cleaned to lessen risks of infection. "Clean them with cotton embebed in vinegar and water." But, be careful not to hurt the internal part of the dog's ear. Get clinical help if you don't know how to perform this.
Luis Alberto observes that the Afghan has a natural inclination to have tartar, and consequently gengivitis, because of his acid saliva. "Take the dog to the veterinarian for dental hygiene every six months." In very serious cases, teeth may come out, and infection my spread and even kill due to heart, kidney or liver problems.
Veterinarian Silvio Lima Duarte comments that the Afghan grows too fast, and is inclined to have rachitis. This leaves him with bone malformation, and he will have difficulty to walk. In puppies it is possible to avoid or treat the disease. But in the adults, there is no cure, because bones are already completely formed. To avoid problem, feed him a good dog food, and, complement with calcium according with weight and age of dog. Vitamine D and sun bathing help. Veterinarian Luciane Behle says tumors are rather frequent in this breed. "Anemia, vomiting, and continuous bleeding are probable symptoms of the disease, which may be diagnosed through exams," explains Luciane. Some tumors may be eliminated surgically. Chemiotherapy and radiotherapy treatments are frequently used in the USA, but in Brazil they are rare.
There is no knowledge of any hereditary diseases of the Afghan bred in Brazil. In 1980, Charles Harrisson, in his book edited in Great-Britain mentioned the occurrence of juvenile cataract, which blinds dogs at a young age. He also mentioned the hip dysplasia, which causes a difficulty in the movements of the hindlegs. These problems were not observed by any of the breeders and veterinarians interviewed. They think maybe the dogs imported by our country may have come free of these problems.
CBKC No. 228 / 05.30.94
FCI No.228 / 06.24.87
Country of Origin: Afghanistan
General Appearance:Proud and dignified, combining great speed and power. Head is carried high.
Characteristics:Oriental expression is typical in this breed. His look is distant, and he may seem to look through people.
Temperament: Indiferent and dignified, with courage and determination.
Head and Skull:Long skull, not very narrow, with proeminent occiput. Long muzzle, with strong fangs and discrete stop. Skull is well balanced, topped by a topknot. Nose is preferrably black; a lighter color is acceptable in individuals with light color coat.
Eyes:Preferrably dark, but golden eyes are not penalized. Almost triagular, slightly oblique, from internal corner towards the external corner.
Ears:Inserted low and in the back of head, close to the face and covered with long and silky fur.
Muzzle: Strong maxilla, with a perfect, regular and complete scissors bite; level bite is acceptable.
Neck:Long, strong, carrying head high.
Forequarters: Wide shoulders, inclined backwards, well muscled, strong but not heavy. Straight forelegs, with powerful bones. From a front view leveled with shoulders. Well adjusted elbows, at the level of the thorax.
Thorax: Topline is straight and leveled, medium length, well-muscled, with croup slightly inclining towards tail. Straight and wide loins, preferrably short. Ilium proeminent and well separated. Ribs moderately well sprung and chest is deep.
Hindquarters:Strong, with stifles well arched and angulated. Long between croup and hocks, which are relatively short.
Feet: Forefeet are strong and great in size (in length and width), and covered with a long and dense coat. Toes are arched, metacarpis are long and flexible, pads perfectly touching ground. The hindfeet are not as long as the forefeet; characteristics of coat are the same.
Tail:Low insertion, and medium size, raised high, when in action, forming a final ring.
Coat: Long, and fine in the ribs, legs and loins. In adult dogs, coat is short and dense on the topline.
Color:All colors are accepted.
Size: Males, 68 to 74cm; females 63 to 69cm.
Gait:Smooth and elastic, with a high class style.
Faults:Anything in disagreement with this standard must be considered a fault, and should be penalized in the exact proportion of its seriousness.
Note:Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
For More Information: Afghan Hound Club of America, tel. (001708) 365-3647, 612 Tall Oaks Tr., Elburn, IL 60119, USA.
Reading Material: O Afghan Hound, Charles Harrisson, Editora Nobel, São Paulo, Brazil; The Complete Afghan Hound, Constance O. Miller and Edward M. Gilbert Jr., Howell Book House, New York, USA; The Book of the Afghan Hound, Joan MacDonald Brearley, TFH Publications, Neptune City, NJ, USA.
We would like to thank the people interviewed, and the assistance and tecnical review of Hilda Drumond, ACB's cynophilic director.
Research: Mariana Viktor and Rodrigo Flores. Text editor: Flávia C. Soares
Picture: Luiz Henrique Mendes
Owner: Kennel Stenara