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10 Elegant Facts About the Afghan Hound

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These silky hounds are bound to turn some heads. Learn more about these elegant dogs. 

1. THEY'RE ONE OF THE MOST ANCIENT DOG BREEDS. 

This dog breed is so old, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it originated. Legend has it that the Afghan hound was the dog rescued on Noah’s Ark. More likely, the dogs came over into Afghanistan with Alexander the Great’s army. (There are rock carvings showing the distinct-looking dogs in caves in Afghanistan to support this theory.) Many experts point to the saluki as the ancestor of the Afghan hound due to their closeness in appearance; both have been referred to as the Persian greyhound. 

2. THEY WERE USED TO HUNT. 

These graceful dogs might look like they were bred for a life of luxury, but originally they were used to aid hunters in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan. Once on the chase, the dogs cornered animals (such as leopards) and kept them at bay until their owners could catch up. These clever dogs are capable of hunting and thinking independently, which means they need very little direction out in the field. 

3. THEY’RE AS FAST AS RACEHORSES. 

The average Afghan hound can reach speeds of up to 40 mph. For comparison, that’s about as fast as a purebred racehorse. The fastest horse in the world can only reach 43.97 miles per hour

4. IT’S ALL IN THE HIPS. 

The Afghan hound is not only quick, but also incredibly agile and able to turn on a dime. Their unusual hip placement—they are higher and wider apart compared to other breeds'—allows them to make quick turns and maneuver around the uneven terrain of the Afghani mountains.

5. THEY’RE SIGHTHOUNDS. 

The Afghan hound is a member of a group of slender dogs known as sighthounds. This group includes the greyhound, whippet, borzoi, and saluki. As the name suggests, they have great vision. These dogs have dolichocephalic heads, which gives them a field of vision of 270 degrees

6. THEIR SILKY COAT DOES MORE THAN LOOK STYLISH. 

The most distinctive feature of the Afghan is its long, flowing fur. The silky mane certainly looks regal, but it has a more important function: The fur keeps the dog warm even in the harsh Afghani climate. 

7. PICASSO WAS INSPIRED BY HIS.

Picasso's love of dogs is well-known. In the artist’s lifetime, he kept all sorts of breeds, from terriers to poodles. He was especially close with a dachshund named Lump, but his other favorite was his Afghan hound, Kabul. Kabul appeared in many of his paintings with his wife, Jacqueline, and his statue Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center) is inspired by Jacqueline, but features the long nose of his Afghan hound.   

8. BE GENTLE WITH THEM.

Afghan hounds are a sturdy breed and generally don’t have many health concerns; on average, they live to the ripe old age of 14 years. That said, they have a very low threshold for pain and will whimper at even the slightest injury. Keep that in mind while cutting your Afghan’s nails. 

9. ALWAYS KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THEM. 

Afghans are sighthounds, and that means they like to run. Like other dogs in their class, if they see something they want, they will take off after it. It’s important to keep Afghan hounds in fenced-in areas or on a tight leash. It’s not uncommon for the dogs to run across the street without looking both ways. 

10. THEY SMELL.

Afghan hounds are also sometimes referred to as “the scented hound.” The dogs have scent glands in their cheeks that emit a pleasant, musky odor. 

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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