Purported to be the oldest recognized breed of dog, legend also says that the Afghan Hound was the breed that Noah took on the Ark. Images of Afghan type dogs have been found on the walls of ancient caves in the Middle East. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th and early part of the 20th centuries that several of these unusual dogs were imported to England and it wasn’t until 1931 that Zeppo Marx (of Marx Brothers fame) brought a pair for breeding to the United States. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why would anyone ever want to own an Afghan Hound? If you’re a dog lover and have an eye for beauty and glamour, an Afghan Hound might appeal to you. Aside from the fact that they are drop-dead gorgeous animals, why would a person be tempted to purchase one of these unusual looking dogs?
Just seeing an Afghan Hound and admiring their exotic looks is one thing, but living with them and caring for them is an entirely different matter.
My initial introduction to the breed was at the New England circuit in Vermont in 1953. When I saw my first real live Afghan Hound, I knew I had to have one. It wasn’t until ten years later that I was able to acquire my first Afghan Hound. It wasn’t until that time when that puppy stole his way into my heart that I became truly aware of the breed’s character.
The Afghan Hound is not an in-your-face breed. The fact, that their personalities don’t need constant attention appeals to me. They are by nature independent and somewhat standoffish. The Afghan Hounds I’ve known (and have owned me), have been my friends, and are happy with kind words, and a pat on the head. However, they don’t need you to play with them all the time. The Afghan’s aloof personality charms me. That is not to say, they don’t like attention—but it has to be on their terms.
Their independent nature has labeled them dumb in some circles. Because they don’t train like a Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd or Golden Retriever, they have often been categorized on the low end of intelligence ratings. Somewhere in their beautiful heads, they think they know better, can do it better their own way and are infinitely smarter than you. In fact, they just might be. They certainly don’t play by the same rules as most people (and dogs) understand them.
Sighthounds need exercise—walking on a leash is good for your dog and for you. Running at full tilt in an enclosed space is also good. Lure coursing is also great fun for your dog. I must commend the American Kennel Club for bringing Agility, Rally, and Lure Coursing in addition to Obedience to the competitive arena, along with the conformation end of the sport. Nowadays, just observe Afghan Hounds in Agility, Obedience, Rally and Lure Coursing. They love the work, and are remarkable to watch.
Training methods have evolved over the years. If you can fool an Afghan Hound into thinking he/she originated the idea, the battle is mostly won.
Susan Zoppe—now retired from performing, had a circus act with seven Afghan Hounds for nearly 40 years (not all the same dogs, of course). Her Afghans performed flawlessly and with great precision. I have seen them perform with tails wagging, as they go about their business in the ring, happy as they can be. Susan has trained them with patience and love, and the job they do is unique and amazing.
If you think you might enjoy living with this independent breed of dog, by all means, you should have one. But aside from that unusual temperament, be prepared for the time-consuming grooming side of the Afghan Hound.
That glamorous coat that is an absolute wow factor when you first lay eyes on the breed, is a lot of laborious work, with some coat textures more so than others. Be prepared for a bath every week or so. Brushing and blow drying take a great deal of time. However, if a dog is trained from puppyhood to have its feet handled, to stand or lie on the grooming table for hours on end, then there should be no problem. If the dog is allowed to run in your fenced back yard, the long coat can hide a multitude of foreign objects and/or parasites that might climb aboard. The Afghan Hound is definitely not a wash and wear dog.
Afghan Hounds can be extremely clever escape artists. Climbing over six foot fences with ease, and going under fences where there doesn’t seem to be any place to slip through are just a couple of challenges you might encounter. Some people I’ve known have even covered their kennel run tops with chain link in order to prevent untoward flights. All Afghan Hounds are not escapees, but there are enough so that you might think twice.
One of the neatest traits of the Afghan Hound is their persistent sense of humor. They are born clowns, and never cease to amaze with their clever, funny antics. On the other hand, some of their ruses are not so funny, particularly if you are the victim. In retrospect though, you have to laugh at the cleverness of these indomitable hounds. I recall once putting some frozen chicken out to thaw, way back in the corner on the kitchen counter, surely out of reach. Wrong! A short time later, I returned to the kitchen to find one of my darlings, all fours up on the counter chewing on the frozen package. There goes our dinner, I thought, but waste not, want not. I cooked the bird and gave it to the dogs.
I realize everyone has their favorite breed of dog—the special breed of dog that they love to pieces and could never replace. While some people do not have the time and temperament to live and work with an Afghan Hound, if you think you do, you’re in for a most adventurous and pleasant surprise!
About the Author
Susan Howell Hamlin (Sue) has been interested in and involved with dogs since childhood, and with Afghan Hounds for over 57 years and is best remembered for her top winner Ch. Ninth Turn Argus. Sue has been judging Afghan Hounds (plus four other sighthound breeds and Lhasa Apsos) since the early 70s, and is the former editor of Topknot News, the newsletter of the Afghan Hound Club of America, Inc. Retired from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Sue stays active in the Elmira community, and is the author of a book about her family’s hotel where she grew up in Plattsburgh, NY. Another collaborative effort about the Civil War in Elmira is in the works.
Red-tailed hawk, Sue,
and Ninth Turn Black Market—dam of Ch. Ninth Turn Argus