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Magyar Agár Breed Standards

FCI Breed Standard

UKC Breed Standard

 

Tom's take on the breed standard

I have found it easiest to use a simple metaphor in explaining the difference between the Magyar Agár and the Greyhound, and in the process describe the breed.  For you purists out there – please forgive me for taking this tact.  Take a greyhound and stretch him out a few inches so that his length is greater than his height.  Throw a large triangular-shaped head on him with some floppy ears.  And then add a significant amount of bone and muscle.  I have heard some observers use the phrase “they’re like a Greyhound on steroids” when comparing the Agár to Greyhound.

Gil the MA sandwiched between two Greyhounds. Note the more robust frame and larger head on the MA as compared to the Greyhounds.

The Magyar Agár is a lot of hound.  If you like a robust dog that can go with you while you’re on horseback for 30 or so miles – the Magyar Agár is for you.  After all, this is what the Hungarians bred them to be: hounds accompanying them on long horseback rides across the Hungarian plains.

Magyar Mayhem!

Although the Agár is ideally a country hound, they make wonderful city dwellers as well, just so long as they can get plenty of exercise.  And this is the key in sharing your life with an MA.  They need a lot of exercise.  They are also very rugged.  If you keep your MA outside all the time they will be very healthy in all seasonal weather if they have a suitable dog house and water.  We know one MA owner who became interested in the MA when he used one in a dogsled team! Thankfully he always made sure the MA had a racing blanket and came in at night from the cold.   Like all sight hounds they prefer the “master’s” bed to sleeping outside.  Our MA girls like to stay outside during the day but come in at night to be with us.

Belle, Gator and Willow with Toby the whippet

History of the Breed

The Magyar Agár is a long distance racing hound. He was bred to be a dispatcher of game shot by horseback riders on an open plain or open stand of hardwood timber. Hungarians tell me that the MA was expected to accompany the hunters for distances of usually 30 kilometers (19 miles) and up to a maximum of 50 kilometers (31 miles) in a day. The game in most cases was hare and deer. Through most of Hungarian history the Magyar Agár was not solely owned by the nobility. Every Hungarian, if he so wished, could own and hunt with an MA. Although the MA was not limited to some cultural or aristocratic status, the MAs found with the nobility were much bigger than those of the landed peasants. Magyar Agárs owned by the peasants were known as Farm Agárs or simply as Hare Catchers. These smaller versions of the MA are now extinct. Today the MA is popular with European racing and show ring enthusiasts who are untiring in their support for this rare breed.

The modern Magyar Agár (MA) is a robust and energetic sighthound which resembles the modern English or American greyhound (see figure 1). The word agár in Hungarian means gazehound or windhound. For example the Afghan Hound in Hungarian is Afghan Agár. Magyar, of course, is the Hungarian name for Hungary and for the nomadic Eurasian tribe that settled in the Danube River basin in 896 AD. Therefore there is sensitivity among some Hungarians when the MA is referred to as the Hungarian greyhound rather than gazehound or windhound. We will return to this point shortly.

Figure 1: The Magyar Agár or Hungarian Gazehound is similar to the American or English Greyhound but it is more robust with a longer body length to height ratio, and a larger head with floppy ears. This is Jule (Devaj Torpedo) owned by Friederike Honstetter and Karl Sewastianiuk, Germany

Tradition tells us that the Magyar Agár first arrived in northeastern Hungary and the Great Alföld (Hungarian Plain) a little over a thousand years ago. Although they have lived throughout the Great Alföld, they have had a strong hunting history in the three counties of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, Hajdû-Bihar1 and Somogy (see figure 2).

The breed has always been popular with Hungarians and I commonly hear about their memories of the MAs. For example, a close friend tells me of spending her childhood summers in a small country village where MAs roamed the streets and fields. As my friend says, these were true socialist hounds during Hungary’s socialist era; they belonged to no one and they were free for the taking. Every day a grandpa, uncle or father would grab one or two MAs and off to the fields and woods they would go to hunt for hares and thereby provide meat for that evening’s meal. In addition to being available for hunting, the village MAs were remembered as gentle hounds that stayed close to young children as the children played. Unfortunately the MAs also stayed too close to chicken hutches and at times they were suddenly unpopular due to their taste for socialist chicken.

Figure 2: Counties of Hungary (map source: www.wikepedia.com).

Physically the Magyar Agár has a similar conformation to the greyhound standard2. The major differences between the MA and the greyhound are the large head with floppy ears, a body that is longer than it is tall, longer tail, courser coat and a heavier musculature. The amount of “greyhoundness” in the MA is the point of controversy among European breeders and enthusiasts. This issue revolves around the fact that greyhounds were bred with MAs in the 1800s and early 1900s. Some prefer an “old fashion” variation of the MA with its robust frame and musculature. One example of this variation is Bitter-Lemon Baka in figure 3. Some FCI judges recognize the “old fashion” version as the best for the standard3 while others do not. Bitter-Lemon Baka has won many show ring titles in Hungary and he is renowned as a runner who “runs like the devil.”

Figure 3: Bitter-Lemon Baka is a handsome example of what some Magyar Agár enthusiasts believe represents the old fashioned agár with the heavy musculature, coat and head. (Photo provided by Dr. Maia Mozes)

The Magyar Agár is, historically speaking, a breed with a history that is eleven hundred-years old. There are oral histories that indicate that the Magyar Agárs were with the Hungarians (i.e., Magyars) much earlier when this nomadic tribe lived in the Ural Mountain Range of Eurasia. But there is currently no empirical evidence to help prove this hypothesis. The earliest archeological evidence for the Magyar Agárs has been found in the Carpathian Mountain Range located along the northern and eastern Hungarian border (see figure 2).

Historians have a good perspective of the Magyars and in a sense the Magyars were the Hell’s Angel’s of the early Medieval Age. The agárs by association with these mercurial nomads were part and parcel of the Magyar’s reputation. The following quote from Johnson (1996) gives us a perspective of the cultural environment that the early MAs lived in:

“The Magyars, a nomadic tribe that made its debut in Europe in 896 AD by spilling over the Carpathian Mountains onto the Hungarian Plain, were a wild and recent addition to Central Europe’s collection of peoples. With distant roots somewhere in the depths of Central Asia, these combative nomads spoke a language from the Fino-Ugric family that was incomprehensible to their neighbors. Their eventual settlement on the Hungarian Plain in the central Danube Basin…took the Magyars quite some time to abandon their nomadic ways.”

Johnson’s description of the Magyars can give the impression that their livestock and hounds needed to be able to depart at a moments notice. The horse used by the Magyars when they first arrived was technically a pony from the Eurasian steppes. The dogs that accompanied the Magyars were a variety of oriental breeds that became part of the Magyar horde as it traveled from the Eurasian steppes and into Central Europe. Did the Magyar Agárs exist before the Magyars reached the Carpathians? Currently this remains open to debate. With time the horse evolved into the Hungarian Horse and the Magyars became the premier cavalrymen of Europe known as the Hussars. The agárs conformation from the Medieval to the Modern Age has remained the same until the introduction of the greyhound in the 1800s. To the Hungarians the Hungarian Horse, Hussars, and Magyar Agárs are interconnected through their rich history.

In summary, the Magyar Agár is a breed from Hungary with an eleven hundred-year history. This large gazehound when compared to the greyhound has a heavier musculature, thicker coat, longer than taller body, longer tail and a larger head with floppy ears. The MA has been used by Hungarians of all different social-economic strata ranging from the nobility to the landed peasant. Its primary role in life until modern times was to dispatch hare and deer for hunters on horseback. Hunts were typically 30 to 50 kilometers and the MA was expected to keep pace with the horses. These are truly rugged long-distance sighthounds.

Johnson, L.R., 1996, Central Europe (Enemies, Neighbors, Friends): Oxford University Press, New York, 339 p.

1 The Hortobagy Puzsta District is one of many homes of the MA. This UNESCO heritage site is located in Hajdû-Bihar.

2 The FCI standard is provided at the end of this article.

3 The FCI will be convening a panel of Magyar Agár judges in 2008 at a meeting on the Bodensee of Southern Germany to discuss and better define the MA standard.

 

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