The Breed History
The Afghan Hound was first represented in Indian works of art dated 1809. The origin of the breed as the name implies was in Afghanistan and surrounding regions where they were bred for at least a few thousand years by nomadic tribes. Due to the variations of elevation and climate in this harsh wild region, some variation in breed type evolved, distinguishing it from the original Middle Eastern Sight hound. The specimens that became foundation stock for American and European breeding programs arrived in Scotland in 1920 (desert strain), and specimens from the other founding strain (mountain type) arrived in England in 1925. The AKC admitted the breed in 1926.
Breeding for Function
The mountain regions of the north gave rise to Afghans with heavier coats, more compact build and darker coat colors. The arid regions gave rise to a lighter build and color and a less dense coat. Historically this breed was a guard dog, a coursing hound, and even reportedly used for herding. As a coursing sight hound, the dog hunted alongside horsemen. Due to their speed and stamina they often worked ahead of the hunters and due to their agility, they were able to manage hunts over very rough terrain. The quarry varied depending on the locale, and may have included antelope and leopards. More recently, Afghan Hounds have been successfully entered in lure coursing and obedience, but many are now prized solely for their exceptional companionship qualities.
Height at Withers: female 24-26" (61-66 cm), male 26-28" (66-71 cm). Weight: females 50 lb (23 kg), males 60 lb (27 kg). Coat: The very fine silky, glossy and long haircoat is shorter on the face, though a long, soft topknot is present. Hair is short also over the topline (the Afghan saddle) in adults. They are shown in a natural unclipped coat. Though all coat colors are accepted except spotted pattern, the presence of white head markings is not encouraged. Puppies have soft fuzzy short hair on their saddles and faces (monkey whiskers) that is replaced by an adult coat at about one year of age.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: This breed is noted for the "far-seeing gaze", noble carriage and fine coat. Other key characteristics include prominent hip bones, large feet, and they appear to have an increased stifle angle due to the overlying haircoat. The skull is long and finely chiseled with a slight Roman nose; no pronounced stop is present. The occipital protuberance is prominent, the ears are long and pendulous and covered with long silky hair, and the leather is fine. Eyes are dark, almond-shaped, and almost triangular. The muzzle is very long in this dolichocephalic breed. The nose is moderate in size and black in pigmentation. Neck is long, arched, and the topline is level, though the loin is slightly arched, and there is a marked tuck-up in the abdomen. The thorax is deep, the forelegs straight boned and the radius is very long; tibia is also long, and the feet are well arched with lots of hair covering them, and large toes are present. Their gait is smooth, elastic, and high stepping with strides that cover great distance and seeming effortless. High head and tail carriage is notable. The tail is low set, curled at the end (donut tipped), and has minimal feathering.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Traits ascribed to this breed include: Strong independent streak, strong personality, somewhat difficult to train, and generally aloof with strangers.
These dogs have high grooming needs including daily brushing and regular bathing. They are low shedders. Some resources suggest snoods (hoods) to protect the long hair from soiling or getting in the mouth during mealtime.
These dogs have high exercise needs, and they need to be restricted to fenced enclosures or they will roam. They are very sensitive dogs. Some are good with children, some not. They do best with gentle, quiet children and early socialization is important. It is best to introduce them to other pets and children when the dog is young. Play activities and lots of attention should be provided to alleviate boredom.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Sight hounds have lower normal ranges for T4 and T3 concentrations compared to other breeds.
Echocardiographic Normal Values
Parameter Median (Range)
1.Weight (kg) - 23 (17-36)
2.Heart rate (bpm) - 120 (80-140)
3.LVPWD (mm) - 9 (7-11)
4.LVPWS (mm) - 12 (9-18)
5. LVD (mm) - 42 (33-52)
6. LVS (mm) - 28 (20-37)
7. FS (%) - 33 (24-48)
8. EPSS (mm) - 4 (0-10)
9. RVd (mm) - 10 (5-20)
10. IVSd (mm) - 10 (8-12)
11. IVSs (mm) - 13 (8-18)
12. AOD (mm) - 26 (20-34)
13. LAS (mm) - 26 (18-35)
14.N - 20
LVPWD, LV posterior wall dimension at end-diastole; LVPWS, LV posterior wall thickness at end-systole; LVD, LV chamber dimension at end-diastole; LVS, LV chamber dimension at end-systole; FS, percent fractional shortening; EPSS, E-point septal separation; RVD, RV chamber dimension at end-diastole; IVSd, interventricular septal thickness at end-diastole; IVSs, interventricular septal thickness at end-systole; AOD, aortic root at end-diastole; LAS, left atrium at end-systole; N, number of animals.
Anesthesia: Sight hounds require particular attention during anesthesia. Their lean body conformation with high surface-area- to-volume ratio predisposes them to hypothermia during anesthesia. Impaired biotransformation of drugs by the liver results in prolonged recovery from barbiturate and thiobarbiturate intravenous anesthetics. Propofol, and ketamine/diazepam combination are recommended induction agents.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 6.4% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 5.8% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Afghan Hounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Afghan Myelopathy (necrotizing myelopathy): Rare, autosomal recessive disorder of spinal cord degeneration. Onset at 3-13 months of age, rapidly progressing from paraparesis to spastic paraplegia. There is no genetic test available.
Corneal Dystrophy: A lipid, epithelial/stromal form of corneal dystrophy occurs in the breed. In most cases dystrophic change does not progress to the point of visual impairment. Reported in 9.15% of Afghan Hounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: 7.3% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Avg. for all breeds is 7.5%). Dorn reports a 1.8x odds ratio for developing hypothyroidism versus other breeds.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 3.43% of Afghan Hounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: The breed can develop rapidly progressive juvenile cataracts that begin as equatorial vacuoles between 4 months to 2 years of age and extend into the anterior and posterior cortex. A recessive mode of inheritance is suspected. Identified in 3.20% of Afghan Hounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Afghan hound with a cataract.
Laryngeal Paralysis: The breed is predisposed to acquired laryngeal paralysis due to reduced function of the recurrent laryngeal nerves in older dogs. Arytenoid lateralization achieves the best results as a method of surgical correction in severe cases, though increasing the risk of aspiration pneumonia.
Atrioventricular (Heart) Block: Afghan Hounds are found to be at increased risk of high-grade second- or third-degree atrioventricular block versus other breeds. Treatment is with a pacemaker.
Chylothorax: The Afghan hound is the breed most commonly affected with spontaneous chylous pleural effusion, accounting for 37.5% of all cases. Secondary lung lobe torsion is a frequent complication. There is no age or sex predilection for the condition.
Lung Lobe Torsion: Lung lobe torsion is rare in dogs and develops most frequently in large deep-chested dogs, particularly Afghan Hounds. Most cases in this breed were secondary to chylothorax. Prognosis after surgery is fair to guarded.
Demodicosis: Afghan hounds are predisposed to demodex infections. This disorder has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis.
Amyloidosis, Brachygnathism, Deafness, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, Fanconi Syndrome, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, Glaucoma, Intervertebral Disk Disease, Megaesophagus, Mitral Valve Disease, Narcolepsy, Shoulder OCD, Oligodontia, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Perineal Hernia, Prognathism, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Pulmonic Stenosis, Retinal Dysplasia, Umbilical Hernia, von Willebrand's Disease, and Wobbler Syndrome are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Arteriosclerosis with Arterial Obstruction: A 13-year-old female Afghan Hound with progressive left hind-limb lameness and absence of a peripheral left hind pulse was found to have advanced arteriosclerosis of the distal aorta, and left external iliac and femoral arteries. Diagnosis was confirmed by ultrasonographic examination of the abdominal aorta and its terminal branches.
Ganglion Cysts: Case study of a 4-month-old male Afghan Hound with subcutaneous ovoid cysts around the caudal right elbow joint and left ischiatic tuberosity. Surgical removal demonstrated abundant mucinous fluid and internal folding, without communication to the joint cavity. These ganglion cysts apparently resulted from the metaplasia of fibroblasts to secreting cells.
D-(+)-glyceric Aciduria: This rare condition was identified in a one year old female Afghan hound with a hepatopathy (increased ALT, bilirubin and bile acids). The hepatopathy resolved with supportive therapy, but the aciduria remained, suggesting that this may be a benign condition.
Congenital Central Diabetes Insipidus: Two Afghan hound sibling puppies showing signs of polyuria and polydipsia were diagnosed with this disorder.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for color and mask alleles is available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination (minimum of 1 year), and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend elbow radiographs, patella evaluation and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Tazi, Baluchi hound, Afghan.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 93 (631 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Afghan Hound Club of America Inc.: clubs.akc.org/ahca/
Afghan Hound Club of Canada: ahcc.ca
Afghan Hound Association (UK): ahaonline.co.uk
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