Magyar Agár

Catharine Hennessy
Dr Catharine Hennessy (DVM, North Carolina State University)
 
Photo of adult Magyar Agár
Kacer / Wikipedia.org

The Magyar Agár is an elegant sighthound originating in Hungary. This ancient breed is at least 1,000 years old and was used originally for hunting hare and later deer. These rare dogs are more common in Europe but a few enthusiasts in North America maintain breed standards and a studbook. Similar to greyhounds, Magyar Agárs have incredible stamina and can run 30 to 50 km in a day, keeping pace with equine hunting companions. They are intelligent, affectionate, and are easy to train.

As with other sighthounds, these dogs are calm in the house, preferring to sleep much of the time. But, they do need extended periods of exercise daily to prevent boredom. They make great companions for distance runners and bicycle enthusiasts. They have little interest in playtime, such as ball chasing and other games. Magyar Agárs are reserved and somewhat shy toward strangers but are calm and patient with children and other dogs. Their lifespan averages 12 to 14 years.

About & History

The earliest evidence of the Magyar Agár dates from the tenth century in archaeologic digs of the Carpathian Mountains in countries that border Hungary. They likely arrived in northeastern Hungary accompanying the early Hungarian tribes in the ninth century. These early tribes (Magyars) were nomadic and settled in multiple areas of what is now Hungary. Initially, the Agars are believed to have lived and hunted with the Magyars in the Carpathian Basin, the Great Alfold, and Transylvania.

Hunting transitioned in Hungary from sustenance to sport and the Magyar Agárs responded to the change due to their intelligence and adaptability. Initially, these sighthounds (or more specifically, gazehounds) hunted small and medium sized game by sight instead of scent. As hunting changed, they were used to dispatch larger game, such as deer, shot from horseback. These dogs were owned by peasants and nobility alike, as anyone in Hungary could hunt with a dog companion. The Magyar Agárs owned by nobility were much larger in size and were used to hunt larger game. The peasant dogs were used to hunt hare and other small game and were smaller. In some areas, the Magyar Agárs roamed the streets where true socialism allowed for community ownership. When a family needed a hunting dog, the Agars were taken from the street out into the field to procure the evening meal and then returned to the street after the hunt.

Greyhound bloodlines were introduced in the 1800s to improve the speed of the Magyar Agár breed and these are the dogs that remain today. The smaller peasant dogs became extinct and the larger dogs owned by nobility and crossbred with greyhounds remained. Today, the dogs are popular in Europe for racing and remain useful in sport hunting. While this breed is not recognised by the American Kennel Club or the Kennel Club, they can be shown in smaller kennel club groups, rare breeds, and are accepted by several amateur racing events.

Appearance

Magyar Agár Large Photo

Magyar Agárs are medium to medium-large sized dogs, slightly longer than tall in stature. While they resemble greyhounds, there are distinct differences. The head is more wedge-shaped, and the length of the muzzle is about half the length of the head. The forehead is wide, leading to a pronounced stop. The nostrils are large to accommodate improved airflow during exercise. The eyes are medium-sized and dark, and the ears are large and thick (when compared to greyhound ears). The ears rise when alert but are not completely pricked. The jaws are strong and muscular, with a scissor bite.

The neck of the Magyar Agár is of medium length and muscular, without folds, and leads to a deep, well-sprung chest that accommodates a large heart and lungs for distance running. The ribs extend far back and lead to a tucked abdomen. The back is strong and straight leading to well-muscled loins. The tail is long (compared to the greyhound), and slightly bent, hanging down to the hocks. When exercising, it is carried level. The legs are long, straight, lean and muscular.

Magyar Agárs are 22 to 31 kg in weight. Males are slightly larger than females, with average height of 65 to 70 cm. Females are 62 to 67 cm in height. Coat colour and patterns are widely variable, including black, black and tan, brown, blue, blue-white, grey, red, tricolor, and any of these colours combined with white. Coat patterns are solid, brindle, ticked, or parti. The coat is short and dense (unlike the finer coat of greyhounds), and many individuals develop an undercoat in the winter. Magyar Agárs have a long, ground-covering stride, with plenty of elasticity. While not as fast as greyhounds, they generally have more endurance, covering a longer course before tiring.

Character & Temperament

While originally developed for hunting, Magyar Agárs have a wonderful temperament for family pets. These dogs are intelligent and reserved, although not shy. They are loyal and protective but not aggressive. Magyar Agárs are generally fond of children and enjoy spending most of their time lounging in the house with the family. This breed does well with other dogs and can be fine with cats if introduced early and properly trained. Caution must be exercised though since they are bred for hunting hare and may give chase.

Magyar Agárs do not require hunting activities to be happy, but they do require daily vigorous exercise. Owners should plan for at least an hour walk daily, and most individuals would benefit from running activities, such as distance running or accompanying a bicycle rider. Unless very well trained, Magyar Agárs should be kept on leash during walks to prevent chasing of smaller animals that they might perceive as game. They are not prone to displaying symptoms of separation anxiety.

Trainability

Magyar Agárs are easily trained due to their intelligence, especially with the correct motivational techniques. Early and continued socialisation is critical for maintenance of training and good behavior. Recall is usually not an issue for these dogs.

Health

At 12 to 14 years, the Magyar Agárs typically live longer than their greyhound cousins. A few health problems have surfaced and their prevalence should be monitored in breeding individuals and lines of related dogs.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – This is a genetic disease of many breeds, and Magyar Agárs have been affected by this condition. While not common in this breed, the presence of affected individuals in breeding lines indicates a heritable trait that can be passed to younger generations. This disease causes irreversible blindness and cannot be prevented. Breeding stock should be screened for the disorder.
  • Hypothyroidism – Immune destruction of the thyroid gland has been noted in Magyar Agárs. This disease typically has an onset of 2 to 3 years of age or older, affects females more frequently than males, and causes dramatic slowing of metabolism that requires daily supplementation. Again, breeding individuals should be checked for this condition.
  • Epilepsy – This condition is characterised by aberrant activity in a group of cells in the brain, causing seizures in the affected individual. The seizures can affect only a portion of the body (focal) or can be generalised (tonic clonic). The condition is usually controllable with medication but can be shocking and scary to owners. If a severe seizure continues untreated, it can lead to brain damage to the dog. Any individual with a history of seizures should not be bred. There is no effective screening test for this condition.

Exercise and Activity Levels

As stated previously, Magyar Agárs have an incredible amount of endurance for physical activity. Similar to greyhounds, they are generally content to lie around most of the day. But these dogs need a lengthy period of exercise daily (at least an hour) to keep them healthy and happy. Long walks (at a minimum) or running must occur for their well being. They are generally not interested in chasing a ball or alternate forms of exercise.

Grooming

Magyar Agárs have an easily maintained short coat. They shed consistently but minimally throughout the year, and do not require regular brushing or bathing. The nails should be clipped regularly if they are not worn exercising on pavement.

Famous Magyar Agárs

Magyar Agárs are well-known and loved in their native Hungary, but no famous individuals exist outside of its borders.

Cross-Breeds

Other than the cross-breeding with greyhounds intentionally performed in the 1800s to increase the size of the breed, there are no known other cross-breeds with Magyar Agár bloodlines.

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