Among the most eye-catching of all dog breeds, the Afghan Hound is an aloof and dignified aristocrat of sublime beauty. Despite his regal appearance, the Afghan can exhibit an endearing streak of silliness and a profound loyalty.
Since ancient times, Afghan Hounds have been famous for their elegant beauty. But the thick, silky, flowing coat that is the breed’s crowning glory isn’t just for show ‘ it served as protection from the harsh climate in mountainous regions where Afghans originally earned their keep. Beneath the Afghan’s glamorous exterior is a powerful, agile hound ‘ standing as high as 27 inches at the shoulder ‘ built for a long day’s hunt. Their huge paw-pads acted as shock absorbers on their homeland’s punishing terrain. The Afghan Hound is a special breed for special people. A breed expert writes, “It’s not the breed for all would-be dog owners, but where the dog and owner combination is right, no animal can equal the Afghan Hound as a pet.”
This is a very old breed. In fact, some authorities maintain that the Afghan Hound is the oldest breed of purebred dogs. (An ancient myth says that a brace of Afghan Hounds represented the canine species on Noah’s Ark.) Because the breed predates written history by a few thousand years, and because it was developed in some of the world’s most remote locales, its exact time and place of origin within the vast area that is now Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan will never be known. What we do know is that for centuries Afghans were rugged, fleet-footed hunting companions and status symbols of royals, tribal chieftains, and aristocrats in Asia’s mountain kingdoms. Afghan Hounds belong to the subcategory of hound breeds known as sighthounds, dogs who rely on their panoramic vision and explosive speed to spot and pursue their prey.
A fixture of Eastern culture since the dawn of civilization, the Afghan hound didn’t make its entrance on the stage of Western history until the late 1800s. It was then that English officers returning from the British Empire’s farthest corners introduced the breed to Europe. By the early 1900s, the Afghan was a preferred breed of the British gentry.
The AKC registered its first of the breed in 1927, but not until the early ’30s did the breed really catch on with U.S. breeders and owners. Among the most important dogs of those early years in America were a breeding pair imported from England by Zeppo Marx, the youngest of the wacky Marx Brothers. Since then, the Afghan’s fame in America has been built on his sterling qualities as a pet and his show-stopping presence in the ring. The giant sculpture by Pablo Picasso in Chicago’s Daley Plaza depicts Kabul, the artist’s much-loved Afghan Hound.
What To Expect When Caring For an Afghan Hound
Owning a dog is not just a privilege; it’s a responsibility. They depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more. When you take a dog into your life, you need to understand the commitment that dog ownership entails.
Sighthounds such as Afghans have naturally low stores of body fat, so they tend to be sensitive to anesthesia; breed experts recommend seeking out a sighthound-savvy veterinarian for surgical procedures. Like other deep-chested types of dogs, Afghan Hounds can experience bloat, a sudden and life-threatening swelling of the abdomen, and owners should educate themselves about its symptoms and what to do should bloat occur.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Thyroid Evaluation
Afghan puppies have short, fuzzy coats (including adorable facial hair called ‘monkey whiskers’) that require little maintenance. They don’t stay that way for long, however. As is to be expected, the long, silky coat of an adolescent or adult Afghan requires regular grooming. Several hours per week of brushing are needed to keep the hair free of tangles and mats, as well as to remove any debris. Keeping the hair clean and mat-free is the key to keeping the Afghan’s glorious coat looking its best. Regular bathing, with shampoo and conditioner, is also required. Like all breeds, Afghans should have their nails trimmed and their teeth brushed regularly.Among the most eye-catching of all dog breeds, the Afghan Hound is an aloof and dignified aristocrat of sublime beauty. Click To Tweet
Because Afghans are sighthounds, bred to hunt and chase prey by sight, they will have a strong instinct to run off in pursuit of perceived prey; walking off-leash is not advisable. Short walks do not provide enough exercise for this athletic breed, and some owners take their leashed Afghans on long runs once they reach maturity. Ideally, an Afghan should have the opportunity to run full out several times a week in a large, enclosed area. Afghans are tall, lean, and strong, which makes them excellent jumpers, so their exercise area must have a high, secure fence.
Afghans are independent, dignified, and aloof in general, but they are affectionate and extremely loyal to humans they have bonded with. This loyalty can make it difficult for an adult Afghan to adjust to a new home. On the other hand, it can make them fairly easy to housetrain, because they want to please their owners. Unless obedience or agility competition is a goal, teaching basic commands such as come, sit, and stay is generally sufficient. Afghan Hound owners are often quick to point out that no amount of training will overcome the breed’s hunting instinct to break off on a high-speed chase.
The Afghan Hound should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). As sight hounds, Afghan Hounds have naturally svelte physiques, and their protruding hipbones are a unique breed characteristic, not a sign of being underweight. That said, Afghan Hounds are athletic, active dogs, so be mindful that your dog is getting enough good nutrition to meet his needs. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.