History and origin of the Magyar Agár

The Magyar Agár is our national breed with a true Hungarian origin. Like the Erdélyi Kopó, the Magyar Agár is also an ancient breed. A well know fact is that sighthounds, as a dog group, is the oldest to be developed for hunting. The evidence for this conclusion includes numerous ancient paintings and other artwork that portray sighthounds being used for hunting wild game. The breed’s hunting abilities have been deeply developed over the centuries. Because of the consistent hunting methods used for over a thousand years, the Magyar Agár has become a very independent and autonomous hunting breed with a huge need to run. Over the centuries the Magyar Agár has been able to pursue and catch the running prey. The breed was used for hunting hare, fox, deer, wolf, and antelope. The Magyar Agár’s nose is not well developed, but it wasn’t ever needed; it could not be efficiently used because of the high speed required during the chase for game. It simply was not a necessity for the hunt. The eyesight, however, is very well-developed as are all sighthounds who work with their eyes. The breed’s speed was, in essence, the ancient version of the firearm – a speeding Magyar Agár being the bullet. The hunters followed the very quick hounds on horseback.

 

The common ancestor of sighthound breeds like the Greyhound, Borzoi, Afghan, Saluki and Magyar Agár is the ancient hound from Egypt. As the Magyars migrated from Asia to Europe, they probably hunted with Asian sighthounds, or hound-like dogs. The evidence of the Magyar hunting with sighthounds can be traced back to the Khazar Empire (7th to 10th centuries, CE). When the Magyars entered the Carpathian Basin in the ninth century the Agárs were accompanying them. The botanical and geographical circumstances in the Carpathian Basin were not ideal for hunting with the Agár when the Magyars settled. Hunting with this sighthound became easier when deforestation occurred on the Alföld. The earliest written documents about Agárs are from St. István’s era (997 to 1038, CE). According to oral tradition, the importance of using the Agárs, Kopós and falcons in hunting increased in the Árpádian era (late ninth and early tenth centuries, CE). The early history of the Agár continued through the Anjou dynasty (1308 to 1395, CE). King Matthias (1443 to 1490, CE) loved hunting with Agárs. There are written documents by Janus Pannonius (1434 to 1472, CE) and Bálint Balassi (1554 to 1594, CE) about the Agár hunting as a peculiar passion of the Hungarian nobility. During the Turkish occupation of Hungary, Agár hunting remained a fancied type of hunting. It was very popular among the nobility and became an aristocratic privilege.

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As Agár hunting became an aristocratic sport, it had it’s own language and it became a favorite game in feudal Europe. For example, the phases “füzérre szoktat” and “nyeregre szoktat” are methods to teach the Agárs how to follow the horse in a calm manner. Another example, the term “Corka” is the name for the double leash used for a brace of Agárs. Agárs were not “taught” for hunting; rather the Magyars used the word “hajszol” which means “to rush”, implying that these hounds are natural hunters. Before the hunt the hare is “introduced” to the hounds. If there were more hunts on the same day, the Agár became tired and so it was “out of breath.” If the young Agár was tired and gave up the hunting, it then went back to the horse where it “went on the bust.” Agárs use their eyes by hunting. As the hare “busts” or “pulls out” from the warren, the Agárs “scamper” or “pick up”, and finally “reach” the prey. The first Agár to reach the hare is the “vág rajta”, and when the hare jumps aside the Agár is “túlhajtódik” which means “to have overrun.” If the hare will be closer to the other Agárs because the "vág rajta" has "túlhajtódik", the hunters say “reá hajlik” which means the first Agár gives the hare to the second Agár. “Forgatás” (to roll) occurs when the Agárs reach the hare and overtake it. The Agár “kertel” (shuffles as in card shuffling), if it turns in the same direction as the hare; and if the hare stumbles, the Agár overtakes the prey in which case the Agár has “átszárnyalja” (wings through) the hare. A “guard” is the Agár that does not allow the others to catch the hare. A “győzős” (the winner) is the Agár that starts the hunt with a slow run and gradually increases it speed. A “sebes” (quick) Agár is the opposite.

A brace of Agárs who are running parallel to each other are “zsinórban hajt”, and if one Agár is following the other they are said to be “kolbászt csinál” or making sausage. Orrán viszi a nyulat translates to “to bring the hare on its nose” which means the hare is caught without the Agár “rolling it.” The Agár who is tired and returns to the horse and hunter is “nyeregbe szorult” (caught in the sable). The golden ages of the Agár hunting were the 18th through the 19th centuries in Hungary when there were fantastic numbers of available prey. This era ended in the early 20th century when the Magyar Agár was cross-bred to the Greyhound. Towards the end of the century the number of purebred Magyar Agárs tragically waned as the result of warfare and political upheavals. The population was transformed to a weaker and vulnerable form of its formal self, but it still carries the characteristics of the ancient Agár. The Magyar Agár, as compared to the Greyhound, is still an cross-country breed. The years of the so-called “anglomania” (enthusiasm for the Greyhound), makes the work of modern breeders difficult to resurrect the ancient, original look and characteristics of the breed.

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During World War II the Magyar Agár population was decimated. Everyone thought that the breed had become extinct, but some hounds appeared in Nagyecsed in 1963. This region was part of the Károlyi property. The breeding started up with those Magyar Agárs and in the year 1966 the FCI recognized the breed. From that time, the breed is very successful and is bred in more and more European countries. Nowadays the Magyar Agár is a strong, muscled runner. The strong front, the body proportions, the stability and the angulations enable the Magyar Agár to be a hound with speed and endurance. The general size is 65 to 75 cm. It is bigger and stronger than the Greyhound, and it has floppy ears. The skull is strong and wide, the muzzle is strong but not rude and tipped. Teeth are strong and correct, the nose is black. Eyes are dark and its expression is intelligent and alert. The body is long, deep and rather flat, the tail ends at about the hocks. The skin is firm, the hair is short but coarser during the cold winter. The traditional “yellow pea” brindle color still exists, but nowadays all the known sighthound colors are allowed, except for blue, blue-white, brown, wolf-grey, black and tan, and tricolor. Being the traditional Hungarian breed, it needs special care by all means to conserve and protect the breed. The Magyar Agár’s temperament is friendly, they are intelligent and easy to handle. They are alert and are a good guard dog for both the individual and the household.

From the book “Fergeteges Örkségünk”.