Something I run across a lot as a crossbreeder is the statement that one cannot breed dogs without a ‘standard’, preferably written by a committee, made official by a breed club, and associated with a registry for purebred dogs. This statement is always made as definitive, concrete, a Truth of the Highest Order. In other words, with no standard one would simply not be able to produce anything like a functional dog, or even predict what kind of traits you will get. I guess basic biomechanics and genetics aren’t things.
I find this amusing. A breed, especially a breed with a closed stud book, is like a cake mix that comes in a box. You have a limited set of ingredients, so as long as you follow the directions on the box (the standard), you will get something close to the picture on the front. Once you step outside the box, you have to rely on recipes (knowledge of how gross traits are inherited) to make your cake, but you can add any ingredient you like if you think it would make a better cake. This is cool because you can experiment to get what you want, but if you’re an idiot you can also produce a cake that no one will eat, unlike the box cake, which always turns out pretty much the same. A lot of the work of purebred breeding (depending on the breed and the breeder, of course) is due to the icing, the nitpicky cosmetic details like roses or piping, stuff that doesn’t affect the basic taste of the cake.
(This is me simply amusing myself with a long way of saying that people who breed crosses or mixed breeds are generally more concerned with gross traits than with details like eye shape or tail carriage. I almost used Hamburger Helper instead of cake, but I don’t like casseroles.)
Anyway, I decided to write a semi-serious joke standard for my Afghan/Saluki crosses and backcrosses, based on the FCI standard format. It is based on what I have learned about what I want and how to make it, from two litters of crosses and two backcross litters, one each way. Come back in ten years after I’ve learned more and there may be amendments. Pictured are some of my ‘ideal’ first cross Afghan/Salukis, or Halfghans.
THE UNOFFICIAL ‘STANDARD’ OF THE DESERTWINDHOUND, AKA HALFGHAN, AKA WEASEL (LONG STORY AND NOT PARTICULARLY RELEVANT)
ORIGIN: BFE Texas, United States of America
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE UNOFFICIAL YET EXTREMELY WORDY AND PROBABLY TOO LONG STANDARD: 09/17/2014
UTILIZATION: Running and chasing dog. Makes a nice pet if you like the type.
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY: An Afghan hound named Zora thought it would be a dandy idea to conceive pups with a Saluki named Victor in the middle of a massive windstorm. Lo! The Desertwindhounds, also known as Halfghans, were born! And they were awesome. Usually a first cross between a Saluki and an Afghan hound, a Desertwindhound can also be a backcross to either breed, or any combination of drop eared sighthounds as long as it meets the points set forth in the standard. The Desertwindhound is a type, NOT a breed, and should not be confused with breeds kept within closed stud books and bred to very narrow physical specifications. It has variety.
GENERAL APPEARANCE: A large, lightly coated or smooth drop eared coursing dog capable of the speed and agility necessary to take a variety of traditionally coursed game over varying terrain, or to chase plastic bags, toys, or fellow dogs in an entertaining manner. Hardy and able to deal with adverse weather or uncivilized conditions with minimal support, the Desertwindhound should have the appearance of a country of origin Afghan hound. It is rustic, not the type of dog you would see with people who wear $200 jeans or who have phobias about dirt, and should never appear as if it was grown in a vat at the Fabio factory.
BEHAVIOUR AND TEMPERAMENT: Reserved with strangers, affectionate with family. Loves to run and chase things. Not overly sensitive to adverse situations. Intact males may be tetchy with other intact males, but should not be starting fights. Bitches can undergo a sensitive phase during adolescence but should grow out of it. Can take up to five years to ‘grow up.’ Tends to howl, and steal food or objects if the opportunity presents itself. Frequently boings on its hind legs when excited, and may talk as well. Will bark at unauthorized intruders. May bark at small animals outside the fence that you cannot see. Loving but not clingy, loves to be with you but understands the concept of ‘go outside and play.’ Prone to goofballery and digging large dens. If you want a dog that likes every Tom, Dick, and Harry while staying velcroed to your hip awaiting your pleasure, the Desertwindhound is not the dog for you.
Skull: Balanced between muzzle and skull. No pinheads.
Nose: One. Two nostrils and a good sense of smell should be present.
Muzzle: Long but proportionate to skull. Muzzle and skull should form a wedge shape from above.
Jaws / Teeth: Scissor bite preferred. Level bite causes worn down incisors and should be selected away from. Lack of premolars acceptable but full dentition preferred because missing teeth look a little peculiar. Canines must form a correct bite to hold struggling game or recalcitrant toys. Strong jaw musculature for a good grip. The angle at which the upper and lower teeth mesh should not cause excessive wear on the incisors or canines. Mouth should need minimal maintenance to remain healthy.
Eyes: Two are required for binocular vision. Should be able to see small moving objects over long distances and be highly attracted to motion. Dark skin pigment preferred to reduce sun glare. Light eyes are preferred because they look cool.
Ears: Two drop ears. The coated version should have some hair on them, but not so much as to create a very heavy ear and compromise air flow. Minimal hair under the ear opening. Highly mobile, perky ears are preferred over droopy boring ears due to greater cuteness.
NECK: Should be in proportion to the rest of the body, strong enough to grab moving game, long enough to reach small game while running. Giraffe and/or ewe necks are no. If it makes you think ‘OMG, that’s a long neck,’ it’s too long.
Back: Short, well muscled. Can have prominent muscles over the withers. Or not.
Loin: Muscular, slight arch preferred, flexible for the contraction phase of the gallop and for curling up on the bed.
Croup: Definitely has one. Should have adequate space for muscle attachment. Hips will protrude in direct proportion to how high the iliac crests are.
Chest: Should not be so broad that it interferes with the stifles while galloping, nor so narrow as to appear two dimensional. Egg shaped in cross-section. Can reach the elbow. Or not.
TAIL: Waggy. Coated version should be feathered.
Shoulder: Muscular and elastic. Scapula length should be in proportion with the humerus so the dog can get his front legs under him, no table leg outlines. Since standing very still is not the main function of the Desertwindhound, the angle formed by the scapula and the humerus when standing still is of no particular interest. A straight front is not penalized as long as the dog can get his feet under him without contortions.
Upper arm: Long enough that the dog can get his forelegs under his shoulders.
Elbow: Slightly turned out elbows not penalized as long as function is not affected.
Forearm: Forelegs straight. Feet can converge when standing naturally.
Metacarpus (Pastern): Can be upright. Sloping pasterns should have springy ligaments to produce good energy return. No floppiness or weakness.
Forefeet: Strong pads not prone to wear and tear. Strong elastic ligaments on flexible toes. Not so much hair between toes and under foot on that debris or mud accumulate. Feet may turn out slightly. Dewclaws should not be removed.
General appearance: Well muscled. Dog should be able to get his hind feet under him easily and without awkwardness. Can have high butt, hindquarters can be higher than fore quarters when the dog is standing naturally.
Stifle (Knee): Should have two bendy ones that move without side to side wobbliness.
Hind feet: Good pads not prone to wear and tear. Strong ligaments on flexible toes. Not so much hair between toes and under foot on coated version that debris or mud accumulate. Preferably not located in the next county when standing naturally.
GAIT / MOVEMENT: Trot should be efficient, without excessive reach or motion that wastes energy. Ligaments should be springy, no loose noodly flappy flingy movement. Gallop should be effortless, with long strides, ability to make tight turns and quick direction changes, and good jumping ability. Structure should be durable, not easily injured by normal activity. A certain boinginess, giving the impression that the dog is ready spring into activity, is preferred because it’s pretty, but not necessary. Absolutely none of that slow motion galumphing that some Afghans do, and none of that high kicking with the hind feet, either.
Coated version: Fine coat on sides, fore- and hindquarters, feathering on legs, tail and ears. Fluffy ascot in the underside of the neck. Hair on feet and between toes. Coat is longest over the elbow and stifle joints, not more than five inches. Body coat should be shorter or absent. Can have a topknot. Should shed in the summer. Coat can get heavier in cold environments. Coat texture should be easy to keep free of mats and debris without frequent grooming or bathing. Thin coat is preferred over thick insulating coat to avoid excessive heat build up during activity. Less hair is always preferable to more hair. Amount of hair should be no more than can be easily and quickly trimmed with scissors in a pinch. Cottony coats are crappy and should be avoided. A short coated saddle is preferred but some fuzz is okay, too. Bitches can get quite naked after a heat cycle.
Smooth version: Short haired over the entire body.
Colour: Any color or pattern is fine as long as it does not affect the health or function of the dog.
Height at the withers: 23” to 30”, females usually smaller. Larger dogs should never be clumsy oafs, small ones should never be fragile and easily broken.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health, welfare, and function of the dog. The Desertwindhound should be an easy keeper and health or behavioral conditions that work against this should be penalized when making breeding decisions.
that’s neat but have u considered not breeding more dogs when there are millions of dogs on the street or in high kill shelters?