Page 80 - ShowSight Express, June 8, 2020
P. 80

The Sighthounds’ origins span a large geographic area, from Saharan Africa and the Middle East, to Central Asia and the Euro- pean continent. What they all have in common is being purpose- fully-bred for the pursuit of various sizes of game through the use of sight and speed. They vary between those that are smooth-coated and those with varying degrees of longer or coarser coat. While some breeds with long or coarse coats were developed to withstand cold and sometimes damp climates, at least two of the Sighthound breeds were refined and used within these same cold climates, both with short, smooth, close coats (Greyhound and Whippet). Com- mon to all the Sighthounds, however, is a distinct and degreed aloofness and independence that is breed dependent, and a double- suspension gallop that is their stock in trade. The functional work- ing physical requirements of Sighthounds is tested in American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), AKC lure coursing field tri- als, and North American Sighthound Field Association (NOFCA) open field coursing events. In other countries where the coursing of live game is forbidden, lure coursing field trials are also held for Sighthounds and some of the multi-sense hounds.
Some of these Sighthounds are still being used in their countries of origin to perform the work for which they were bred, namely the Azawakh, Sloughi, Saluki and, to a much lesser extent, the Afghan. What was, and in some cases still is, common to these four breeds is the nomadic lifestyle of the regions that they inhabited. Therefore, within each of these four breeds there is some degree of type-style heterogeneity while still maintaining distinctive breed type.
In reviewing the Afghan Hound, importations to England were known as early as the 1880s. With the English importations after World War I, two type-styles (mountain and desert) were noted, with the desert style being more sparsely coated and the mountain style more heavily coated. Knowing the regional origins of these two styles clearly pointed to the functionality of the depth of sub- stance and coat quantity. The desert style came from the border of Afghanistan and Balochistan, whereas the mountain style was
from the mountainous regions to the northeast of the country. Consequently, the two styles were crossed in England where very few were maintained in the pure strain or style of their origins; the desert style being lighter in bone and coat, and the mountain style heavier in bone with larger feet and more profuse hair coat. It is reported that the last of the purebred Afghan Hounds left Afghani- stan in the early 1960s, though their genetics still exists in some European countries.
Numerous articles have been written over the years detailing the changes to Afghan Hound style and quality. One has to question whether the Afghan imports of long ago would be competitive in today’s show rings. Conversely, one has to ask whether today’s show dog would still be able to do the job for which it was bred. Photo- graphs of Afghan Hounds from long ago show a hound that was squarely built with a wedge-shaped head housing a strong underjaw and displaying a characteristic Eastern expression. Its hindquar- ters appeared well angled, but not excessive, and its coat displayed the peculiar hair pattern characteristic of the breed. This pattern included a natural saddle of short fine hair, a silky topknot of hair surmounting the top of the back skull, and silky hair of not exces- sive length on the rest of the body and legs. Today, one occasion- ally sees what is commonly termed a “patterned” Afghan Hound having a more extensive natural saddle of short hair that can come down the shoulders and the thighs, bracelets of short hair on all four pasterns, and a shorter, sparser silky hair coat. Its exotic East- ern appearance harkens back to very early Afghans and is treasured by breeders today.
Afghan Hounds compete in lure coursing field trials as well as open field coursing (live game). There is some style diversity between those directed solely at coursing events and those used strictly for show; however, there are a number that are dual champions, hold- ing bench and field championships. The strict coursing dogs appear to be a bit lighter in substance and have less rear angulation than the show dogs, and are definitely in harder physical condition. The coat is not as profuse on the strict coursing dogs as on the show dogs. While the Afghan has never been a speed demon in the field, it holds its own in agile maneuverability and endurance, things that would have assisted it in doing its job in its country of origin.
The Saluki has a long history of hunting with its masters, be it in pairs, trios, and sometimes with a falcon. Sir Terence Clark, a retired British diplomat, has spent many years with Bedouins in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula and has traveled extensively in that area as well as in Iraq and surrounds. He has written extensively on his experiences there and with Salukis, which he also owns. To this day, Salukis are still imported from their countries of origin. Several generations of offspring later, these may be registered with register- ing bodies that accept them. Salukis are used extensively in lure coursing field trials and open field coursing with many holding dual championships in bench and lure field trials. A few are also Cours- ing Champions (open field coursing) as well as bench champions.
When one compares old breed photos (as well as the photos from Sir Clark’s books and articles) with photos and live views of today’s Salukis, including those that are of desert-bred lines, there is little difference except for the amount of feathering in the feathered vari- ety and slightly less rear angulation on the whole of the desert-bred dogs. What one can’t see in static photos is the difference at the trot of the show dog, especially when exhibited at a speeding trot ver- sus the working reconnaissance trot of the open field coursing dog hunting for prey. I have been fortunate enough to observe Salukis loosed in areas with jackrabbits to see the energy-saving trot with just enough spring and economy of gait to propel them gracefully forward. Once seen, it is never forgotten. That trot, the amount of

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