With their elegant build, delicate flowing coat, and large dark eyes, there are few breeds in the world that can touch the Afghan in terms of sheer beauty. But their strong instincts and independent nature make them a more difficult dog to keep as a companion.
Keep reading to find out if you have what it takes to tame one of these regal hounds and if they would truly make a good fit for your family.
General Characteristics of the Afghan Hound
- Other names: Persian Greyhound, Barukzy Hound
- Height: 25 to 27 inches
- Weight: 50 to 60 pounds
- Lifespan: 12 to 18 years
- Origin: Middle East
- Colors: All colors acceptable except all white or large white markings
- Activity level: Moderate to high
- Grooming needs: High
- Best suited for: Experienced owners
The Affie is regal and elegant with an intense gaze and a quiet disposition. They tend to be aloof with strangers but loyal and silly with those they know well. “Afghan Hound at Dog Show” by Corinne Benavides / CC BY-NC 2.0
The History of the Afghan Hound
Hounds have been used by peoples in the middle east to aid in hunting for as long as there has been a written record. Sighthounds, especially, were a favorite for flushing hair and other small game across the unforgiving terrain. But how long, exactly, the Afghan Hound has existed is unknown.
DNA evidence suggests that this is one of the oldest dog breeds out there. Stories from areas like Afghanistan and Persia tell of long-haired, fleet-footed dogs helping hunters for hundreds if not thousands of years.
There are and have always been a number of sighthound-type dogs used by tribes throughout the Middle East. At what point some of these started to take on the characteristics of the modern Afghan is much harder to decipher, however.
Regardless of when this dog gained its elegant coat, long, curled tail, and majestic air, we do know that the Afghan and its forebearers were bred as speedy hunters that could cover a lot of ground in very little time.
The Afghan was perfectly bred for this purpose. They have large paws that worked like shock absorbers across the harsh terrain of the high Hindu Kush mountains. Their long coat provided protection from cold temperatures and chilling winds. While their slender bodies and long legs gave them the power and aerodynamics to catch even the fastest of game.
Everything about the Afghan was chosen through selective breeding to make them the ultimate hunter’s companion in the harsh climate of the Afghanistan mountains. Their slender body and long legs help them run incredibly fast while their long coat protects them from the elements.
While these dogs may have long been championed by their owners and even by royalty in the area, their introduction to the world didn’t come until the 1800s when Brittish soldiers started bringing the dogs back from what was then Brittish India.
During the early 1900s, the elegant hounds became quite popular at dog shows, which were just starting to gain a fanbase. It was during this same time that the Affie started growing in popularity in America as well.
While these dogs all looked similar enough to be considered a single breed, there were some differences in the lines being brought out of Afghanistan. Dogs from lower elevations tended to have lighter, more feathered hair and a much more pronounced saddle of short hair on their backs compared to dogs from higher elevations. These mountain types also tended to have longer hair on their neck and face.
Today’s Affies still show some of this variation from line to line, though it is much less pronounced than it once was. But no matter which type you look at, it is easy to see why these dogs captivated so many during the turn of the last century and why their popularity has continued to grow even as their use as a hunting hounds has diminished.
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Check out the video above to see some of these gorgeous dogs in action.
The Temperament of the Afghan Hound
The Afghan was bred for its innate speed and intense instinct to chase and catch small game over all other personality traits. Because of this, these hounds tend to be aloof, independent, and stubborn in the home.
But that isn’t to say they don’t make great companion dogs for the right owner.
Despite being reserved with strangers, these dogs tend to get very attached to their owners and family. When they feel comfortable with the people they are with they often turn into clowns and enjoy playing and goofing around.
When around those they don’t know well, they are much more likely to be standoffish, preferring to show their elegant side rather than their silly one. Their bond tends to be so strong with their owner that they often struggle to adapt if they are rehomed.
Outside the home, these hounds are always looking for something to chase, so it is important to keep them on a leash. They do need to stretch their legs, however, so having a large, fenced backyard, or a nearby enclosed park is a must.
While they may look like a haughty pooch in the show ring, it’s important to remember that this dog was bred for their intense instinct. Never is that more evident than when their gaze locks on a moving object in the distance. “Afghan Hound for BC Comp” by Dave Pearce / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
If your hope is to train a solid recall with your Affie, your time may be better spent elsewhere. These dogs have historically had to follow few commands, relying instead on instinct to complete a task, so learning new behaviors is not their strong suit. While some might consider the Afghan dull, including Stanly Coren who listed the Afghan dead last in his rankings of breed intelligence, the truth is they are just not wired to follow direction.
They are known for their independence and for being on the stubborn side. While this may seem a tough combination for a companion animal, there are plenty of dog owners out there who wouldn’t have it any other way. If your hope is to find a dog that will follow you wherever you go and hang on your every word, this is not your dog.
But, if you want a graceful canine that demands respect and gives it in return, you are likely to find years of happiness with an Afghan.
Health Issues Common to the Afghan Hound Breed
Overall, the Affie is a fairly healthy breed with a long lifespan for a dog in its weight class. But there are a few health issues to be aware of before you bring one of these sighthounds home.
Here are the most common afflictions found in the breed.
- Eye issues
- Laryngeal paralysis
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Hip dysplasia
- Central diabetes insipidus
Like all sighthounds, the Afghan is unusually sensitive to anesthesia. This is due in large part to their naturally low body fat content. If you plan to spay or neuter your Affie, or have any other surgery come up, it is important to find a vet that is familiar with putting these dogs under in order to avoid a possibly fatal outcome.
The ancient Affie is one of the oldest dog breeds. This long genetic history combined with intensive selective breeding for only the healthiest and most capable coursing hounds means that today’s Affies are relatively healthy compared to other purebreds. “Afghan Hound” by Wings and Petals / CC BY 2.0
These dogs are also one of the breeds at greatest risk for chylothorax, a condition that can cause the lungs to twist inside the chest cavity. Like bloat, which involves a twisting of the stomach, this condition is likely to be deadly if left untreated.
In dogs suffering from the condition, the thoracic ducts leak large amounts of chyle fluid into the dog’s chest. Not only does this set up the right environment for lung lobes torsion, but it can also cause scarring and hardening of the organs.
Luckily, this condition can be fixed with surgery if caught early. Choosing a competent and reputable breeder can also reduce the risk of ending up with a puppy prone to this condition.
If you would rather adopt an Afghan Hound than purchase a puppy, it is possible, but be aware it will likely take some extra work to welcome this dog into your house given their uniquely tight attachments to their owners and their standoffishness with people they don’t know. That said, bringing a homeless Afghan into your family can be a fulfilling experience.
Do Afghan Hounds Do Well With Children and Other Pets?
Just as they are with most people, Affies can be reserved around children. While some will open up and show their goofy side with the younger members of their family, others are too easily overwhelmed by activity and noise to join in the fun.
How well your hound will do with kids will depend largely on their innate personality and how much time you spent socializing them with children when they were puppies. But even the most well-socialized Afghans should be watched closely with babies and toddlers who don’t know how to respect the boundaries that this elegant dog is likely to want in place.
Affies were often used in small packs to course large areas of land. For this reason, this breed is generally pretty well behaved with other dogs. However, socializing your dog with others at a young age will help them to be well-adjusted and social adults. “Afghan Hounds” by Tym / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
As for other dogs, Affies tend to tolerate interactions with canines fairly well. Puppies and adolescents are much more likely to play with other dogs than adults, but all ages tend to be tolerant of canine family members assuming they had good social interactions when they were young. Though, housemates that are overly rowdy or rough may present a problem.
When it comes to smaller furry family members, having an Afghan Hound join the family as well is not generally recommended. These dogs have a very high prey drive and will chase just about anything that moves including cats, bunnies, and ferrets. And, given their speed, they rarely lose that race.
What to Consider Before Bringing Home an Afghan Hound
Think an Afghan is the right hound for you? Here are a few more things to consider before bringing one of these regal hounds home.
It should come as no surprise that the Affie Hound is a dog with a good amount of energy. Everything about them, from their metabolism to their muscle structure was selected for during centuries of breeding to create the perfect canine sprinter. As a companion dog, this need to explode in bursts of energy can lead to serious destruction if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise.
While a long walk is a great start, what these dogs truly need is some time to sprint in a large enclosed space. Better yet, consider getting your Affie involved in dog sports. While their inability to quickly pick up on new obedience commands can make competitions like agility or rally tough, they are a shoo-in for coursing events and can even do well at flyball if you have the skill to train them.
While these dogs may look like they were created to be put on display, it’s important to remember that they were bred to cover long distances with impressive speed during hunts. That drive to work means these dogs require a lot of activity.
When it comes to training the Afghan Hound, it is best to set your sights low. Focus on training basic commands like sit, stay, and come. Expect to have to go through quite a few repetitions before your hound starts to understand what you want from them. If you can stay positive and motivate them with a tasty treat or a lot of energy, you’ll have better results.
>>>Ready to get started with training? Here are the essential tools for training success.
To instill general polite behaviors in your hound and set ground rules, it is important to be consistent and firm from the moment you bring them home. These dogs have a tendency to be withdrawn and can become neurotic, so a lighter approach tends to lead to much better outcomes than a heavy hand.
The elegant coat of a full-grown Affie takes a considerable amount of care to keep it looking its best. You will need to do a full brushing at least a few times a week as well as more frequent baths. Because their hair is more human-like than fur-like, using a quality dog-safe conditioner in addition to shampoo is a must to keep the coat shiny and smooth.
Like all dogs, Affies also require nail trims about every month and a half, especially if they are not getting a lot of exercise on rough surfaces. You should also check their ears frequently for signs of infection.
When your Afghan Hound is at their ideal weight, their hip bones should protrude and be easy to see. While their shaggy coat will cover most of the rest of these sharp angles, you should easily be able to feel their ribs and shoulders. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will be a constant battle to determine how thin is too thin and making sure they aren’t gaining excess weight. Luckily, like most sighthounds, Affies tend to be picky eaters and won’t typically overeat.
>>>Looking for a quality food for your Affie? Check out our review of Orijen dog food.
They will do well on any high-quality dog food. For young dogs and those competing in coursing trials, make sure to find a food that is high in both quality animal protein and in fat to help support their hyperactive metabolism.
The coat of a young Affie is soft and fluffy and easy to maintain, but don’t expect it to stay that way. Once the adult coat comes in, it needs frequent brushing and bathing. “The Son” by Yuankuei Cheng / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
You can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for one of these sophisticated dogs, with show quality puppies going for quite a bit more.
Overall, these dogs tend to be fairly healthy and are easy keepers, but do consider their longer lifespans when planning out your budget.
10 Fun Facts About the Afghan Hound
Now that you know what it takes to own an Affie Hound, here are some fun facts about the breed.
- The famous painter Pablo Picasso owned an Afghan Hound who he frequently used as a muse for paintings and sculptures.
- The Bakhmull is a variant of the traditional Affie that is most frequently bred in Russia. It is said to be more comparable to the original hounds used in the Middle East than today’s more popular Affie type.
- In 2005, scientists in South Korea cloned the first dog, an Afghan Hound named Snuppy.
- These dogs didn’t just hunt small game. They were also capable of cornering larger animals, like leopards, until their handler could finish the job.
- Like most sighthounds, these dogs have a panoramic view of the world. This 270-degree vision allows them to easily sense and track movement even at a great distance.
- While they may not be quite as fast as a Greyhound, the Affie Hound can reach speeds comparable with a racehorse.
This fleet-footed dog can reach speeds up to 40 miles an hour in pursuit of small game.
- These dogs have a unique odor when compared to other dogs. It is a musky smell, but not altogether unpleasant.
- Affies have wider and higher set hips than most dogs, which allows them to turn on a dime without losing a lot of speed.
- They can come in just about any color, though it is almost impossible to tell a brindle dog since the long coat tends to wash out the pattern.
- All Affie Hounds have an extra long tail with a distinctive curl at the end that is unique to the breed.
Before You Go
Not sure you have what it takes to tame the independent and driven Affie? Here are a few more breeds you may want to consider.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.