Afghan Hound Breed History & The Legend of how the Afghan Hound became "scented"


There are many wild theories about the age of the breed, it has been stated that Mohammed owned an Afghan (or Tazi) and therefore Afghans, unlike most dogs, are allowed into paradise.

The Afghan Hound is one of the oldest sighthound dog breeds and genetic testing has placed the Afghan Hound breed among those with the least genetic divergence from the wolf on some markers; this is taken to mean that such dogs are descended from the oldest dog types, not that the breeds tested had in antiquity their exact modern form.

Once out of Persia, India and Afghanistan, the history of the Afghan Hound breed becomes an important part of the history of the very earliest dog shows and The Kennel Club (UK). Various sighthounds were brought to England in the mid-late 1880's by army officers returning from India (which at the time included Pakistan), Afghanistan, and Persia, and were exhibited at dog shows, which were then just becoming popular, under various names, such as Barukzy hounds. They were also called “Persian Greyhounds” by the English, in reference to their own indigenous sighthound.

One dog in particular, Zardin, was brought in 1907 by Captain John Barff from Chagai in the northwest corner of Baluchistan province, and became the early ideal of breed type for what was still called the Persian Greyhound. Zardin was the basis of the writing of the first breed standard in 1912, but breeding of the dogs was stopped by World War I and the breed literally disappeared in the Western world.

Out of the longhaired sighthound types known in Afghanistan, two main strains existing in the southern and western desert regions and the northern regions of Afghanistan and the surrounding areas make up the modern Afghan Hound breed. The first were a group of hounds brought to Scotland from Baluchistan by Major and Mrs. G. Bell-Murray and Miss Jean C. Manson in 1920, and are called the Bell-Murray strain. The kennel name for this group was “Cove”. These dogs were of the lowland or steppe type, also called Kalagh, and are less heavily coated. The second strain was a group of dogs from a kennel in Kabul owned by Mrs. Mary Amps, which she shipped to England in 1925. She and her husband came to Kabul after the Afghan war in 1919, and the foundation sire of her Ghazni kennel in Kabul was a dog that closely resembled Zardin. Her Ghazni Afghan Hounds were the more heavily coated mountain type.

At the end of the 1920’s breeders in the UK had bred both types together and the two strains ceased to exist. Only “blended Bell Murray/Ghazni” types existed with one exception. The Dutch kennel “van de Oranje Manege (vdOM) of Mrs. Eta Pauptit, bred only the Ghazni type she imported from the UK. Throughout the 1930′s – 1950′s the UK Afghan Hound was exported to the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Asia and all over the world. Thus, the Afghan Hound today in all countries trace back to these two groups of imports into the UK way back in the 1920′s.

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I will tell the legend of why some  Afghans carry a haunting odor with  them for life. Science being science will likely have a much more cut and dried answer to this question, I'll take the legend...

This is a story of a Princess, wonderful hounds, a very deep love and a promise kept.

It happened long ago, and very far away. Far away over the seas, over the mountains and valleys to a land called Afghanistan. Afghanistan borders on the country of China. It is a land of sharp crags, steep cliffs, and deep gullies. The soil is hard to till. It is also a land of stark beauty, a fiercely proud people and the ancestral home of our beloved Afghan Hounds.

A very long time ago, as we measure time, the Kingdom was ruled by a great Khan. Each day the Khan mounted his horse and rode out to meet with his people and see to their needs. He was much loved throughout his Kingdom because he had such a caring heart.

Each day his daughter Farrah rode by his side. She was a beautiful child, large dark eyes and braided black hair that hung to her waist. The people loved Farrah as they loved her father. Her eyes always laughed. Her hands always reached out in friendliness. Though she was young, she was learning the lessons of her father's example very well.

Farrah had another great love in her life, the magnificent dogs that ran beside them each day on their rounds. These beautiful hounds filled her heart with joy and they returned her love a hundred times over. Every day the Princess would pluck sprigs of Jasmine, which grew on the hillsides. Then, she would tuck a sprig under the collar of her most favoured. Jasmine was Farrah's special scent, it filled the air with it's musky and mysterious odor. She told her father how much it seemed to belong to the Afghan Hound. These dogs, in whose eyes you could see the reflection of hundreds of years gone by. Her father always explained to her how wise they were. When they were set on the hunt, following the hawk that led them until their prey came into their far seeing eyesight, they had to think for themselves. Racing over the mountain sides and deep gullies there was none who could keep up with them. Her father agreed that they were truly dogs of great mystery.

Princess Farrah grew to be a beautiful young woman. On days when her father was unable to ride out among his people, Farrah and her hounds went in his place.

As Farrah had grown, the people had only learned to cherish her more. They would call out greetings to her and wave as she rode by. She would quietly listen to any problem that was brought to her and she would take it to her father so that he could apply his wisdom and create an answer. Wherever the princess went, whether riding across the mountainside or strolling through the palace, she was accompanied by her beloved dogs. A head was never far from her hand. She would reach out and stroke this noble creature and this caring was always returned. A gentle rub of a head against her leg or if sitting, her touch would be acknowledged by a gentle breath of air across her neck as a dog placed his head on her shoulder.

Time passed and the princess was to be wed. Her husband to be was a handsome young prince from a neighboring kingdom. Like the Khan, the Prince too was a good man. He respected his people and admired their hard work and dedication to their land. As was the custom of their land, it had been decided long ago that these two would marry. From childhood he had heard Farrah's name. He had learned that she was beautiful and kind. He knew also that she was intelligent, she understood her people. He loved her deeply for all of her qualities, long before he met her.

Wedding preparations took over the palace. Even the dogs caught the excitement. They barked, jumped and ran with joy. Sprigs of Jasmine were everywhere. The beautiful and mysterious aroma filled the palace. Servants moved with light steps. No chore was too difficult or too tiring to be carried out. The wedding garments were ready. The palace sparkled. Tables were laden with food and guests were beginning to arrive from far away kingdoms. It was a magical time.

Suddenly the joy ceased. The palace was hushed. The Princess was ill. It struck without warning. One day she was laughing and dancing and the next she could not rise from her bed. The Princess' beloved dogs sensed that this was very serious. On silent paws they moved around her. Each in turn took his place at her side and pushed against her hand with his head. Farrah's treasured female, heavy with whelp, never left the foot of her bed, her head lay gently across the princess' legs.

The Khan was overcome by an all-encompassing sadness. The light that filled his life was fading. He sat on one side of her bed, the Prince on the other. Two powerful men, totally devastated by what was happening. Two powerful men, totally unable to do anything to stop what seemed to be inevitable. Their princess was leaving them and time was short.

Farrah opened her eyes and clasped the hand of her father in one hand and that of her Prince in the other. She pressed them to her cheeks and they could feel the warmth of her tears.

"I must leave you now," she said, her voice was soft and weak, "but I will come back to you and you will know that I am here".

How could this be? The two men looked at one another.

Again the halting whisper, "Believe me when I say, you will know that I am with you".

How could she be back with them and how could they know? They shook their heads. It is the fever, their eyes seemed to say. And then she was gone.

Great sadness filled the palace. Servants moved so quietly they appeared to glide over the floor. The laughter and joy so vibrant only days ago, was replaced by crushing sorrow.

It was only a few days after her passing that Farrah's favorite lady let it be known that her time to deliver had arrived. Ahmed, the trusted master of the dogs, was ready. Nothing must happen to this wondrous animal. All must go well. The puppies began to make their way into the world and as they did, Ahmed realized that something astounding was happening. He must get the Khan and the Prince. Immediately he arose and ran down the hall, calling for them to, "come, come quickly".

The two men followed the servant in haste and yet with great foreboding. Cautiously they approached the doorway. As they did, an all too familiar scent filled their nostrils; it was the scent of Jasmine. It could not be. The servants had removed all traces of Jasmine after the Princess died. There was none to be found anywhere within the palace walls. But the scent was here, in this room. Slowly, the two men approached the mother and her babes. The scent became stronger. They looked at one another in astonishment. They reached down and raised a small wiggling puppy. There it was....on the puppy's head, the scent of Jasmine.

Astonishment filled their faces. Now they knew. Now they understood. They had no doubts at all. The Princess had kept her promise. She was here. She had rejoined them.

Today, when a litter of Afghan Hounds is born, sometimes there is, hovering over them, around them and with them the scent of Jasmine. For those fortunate enough to experience this marvelous phenomenon, they too will know that the Princess has once again kept her promise.

Courtesy of Afghan Hounds International