Q: I’ve heard that the Afghan Hound breed of dog has been around for centuries, and that they were originally bred to hunt leopards. Leopards? You wouldn’t think it by looking at them. What’s up with that?

A: According to dog breeding experts, Afghan Hounds are indeed thousands of years old and were originally bred as hunting animals. Their original prey? Leopards in the rugged mountains of what are now Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Afghan Hounds usually grow to be about 3 feet tall, weighing between 50 and 60 pounds. They’re known for their agility, endurance and cunning. They were first imported to the Western world when British soldiers brought them back to England during the early 19th century. Originally, there were two types of the breed — a mountain version and a desert version. They’ve since been interbreeded.

As for the hunting, Afghan Hounds were used by royalty and commoners alike. In many villages, the dogs were semiferal, providing game for themselves and the villagers. In one breeding book, there are stories of individual Afghan Hounds running down leopards, “seizing the cat by the neck above the shoulders and biting through the spine for a kill.”

According to several dog reference books, an Afghan Hound can run at speeds of up to 40 mph, make a broad jump of 20 feet and jump 7 feet in the air. Really.

Today, they’re mainly kept as domestic pets, though they’re notoriously hard to train.

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