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Angulation in Azawakh Setting Structural Dominos in Motion

One of the biggest misunderstandings I have seen recently regarding the Azawakh breed standard is the belief that Azawakh have a disproportionately long upper arm, which is what make them look leggy. I have also seen repeatedly the belief that high withers are overbuilt and incorrect for the breed, which shows a marked misunderstanding of why Azawakh have prominent withers (and hips).

Now this isn't to say they can't have a longer upper arm but it's not a typical breed trait. Firstly, if the dog had a longer upper arm, it would throw the dog out of balance. Particularly in a breed where the hips are not to be lower than the withers, adding length to the upper arm would need a corresponding change in the rear assembly.

Secondly, there's absolutely no language in the standard (in any standards including FCI) to support this view- a dog can be leggy without having literal elongated bones. And in my opinion, it shows a lack of understanding of structure.

Azawakh have very open angulation - 130* front and rear. Though it has long been proven unfeasible in real life, many standards for other breeds call for a 90* angulation front and back. With more angulation, the scapula lays back more along the spine and the upper arm returns to support the deepest part of the chest. More layback of the scapula exposes more of the neck and sets the front legs well behind the head and under the chest.

When you have 130* angulation, watch in the diagram below what happens. First, when you open up shoulder angulation the scapula pops up above the level of the spine. That standard correspondingly notes that the "Withers are quite prominent." This is why. That means from the withers you will see a bit of a slope down below continuing to the back. On dogs that have more angulation/shoulder layback you with see the withers are less pronounced (or to use the standard's word- less prominent). Incidentally though rear assembly is not the focus of this post this is the same reason you get prominent hip bones with open angulation, the iliac crest rises above the level of the spine.

Additionally with less angulation, the elbow will naturally drop down below the depth of the chest. In the drawing below the bones are the same length in both diagrams, but look how with the more open angulation it appears that the upper arm is longer. That's because what you lose in reach at trot is transferred to height at a stand. The same thing happens in the rear, which is why a proper Azawakh stack is under themselves.

Lastly, look what this does to how the front assembly fits on the dog. Notice how the whole assembly becomes more forward set and the front legs are no longer under the deepest part of the chest. Notice how the chest depth actually remains unchanged. Though I do believe Azawakh have a bit less depth of chest in general compared to other sighthounds, on the diagram I left the chest depth unchanged. That means the point of the elbow is well below the chest.

This is again an example of Azawakh structure working the same as other dog structure, their base form is just more extreme. Check a dog of a breed that calls for more angulation. If they are more open in the front than they should be the front assembly moves forward, the elbow moves below the depth of chest, and the chest appears to lack a bit of depth.

The picture is a diagram illustrating what changes 130* degree angulation makes to front assembly.

Second is an example of my Azawakh that has the most layback compared to an Azawakh with a breed correct front. The difference in the photos is not as pronounced because Amalu still is a fairly open angled dog compared to average but notice how much more her scapula lays along her spine (layback) and notice how it changes the visual appearance of her underline when compared to Gem.

In the actual picture you can see the diagram come to life. Notice how as the withers layback against the spine as the withers become more pronounced. As the front assembly angle increases, the prosternum becomes more visible, the upper arm begins to move toward the rear of the dog. In the dog on the left, the upper arm is still not in line with the deepest part of the chest. That is because the left dog is still not as angulated as most breeds, she simply has more angulation than is preferred in Azawkah. This return of upper arm obscures the shape of the underline, as well as making an Azawakh lower on leg (since much of the leg length is due to an Azawakh's open angles), and finally it creates the appearances of a deeper chest.

With all this talk of front assembly, it would potentially be easy to overlook rear assembly. However, to keep the dog in balance, rear assembly is equally important. Worldwide, the standard specifies that the angle through the croup to the first thigh should be 130* and the angle of the stifle should be 140*. This is necessary for the dog to be balanced. The Azawakh standard mentions on three separate occasions that the hips should never be placed lower than the withers. This will be the case in every case that I can think of provided the dog is stacked correctly for the breed and is balanced front to rear.

The standard is explicit that "hip bones [should be] visible" and also explicit that the rear assembly through the croup should be 130*, just like the front assembly. Just as with the front assembly, this means that the croup is set at a reasonably open angle, which causes the iliac crest rises above the level of the lumbar vertebra and should indeed be on the same plane as the withers.

Note how not just the angles of the bones change but how the iliac crest becomes more prominent the more open the angle. Now compare how this looks on actual photographs of the breed.

Again, as in the example of front assembly, the dog on the left does not have 90* rear angulation, so the photo is less of a dramatic difference. However, see how the pin bones tuck more into the dog's toplines. In contrast, the dog on the right has very visible hips. I will note, in this example the dog on the left is in a softer condition as she was in false pregnacy, but she was not overweight at the time, her hip bones are less visible because of a difference in conformation.

Here is an example of a dog who has both prominent withers and hips. Notice when the dog is properly balanced the hips are in fact not inferior to the withers. With this example, I will add the caveat that this dog was degloved before he came to me and has a 14" scar across his spine which does mar the continuity of his topline.

Credit OlyHillary Photography

While looking over the full dog, really take a moment to examine how the angulation effects the entire dog.

The open front assembly means:

  1. The full front assembly moves forward on the dog

  2. The scapula is place slightly above the level of the thoracic vertebra

  3. Limited prosternum becuase of the forward set shoulder

  4. More of the underline is revealed showing that the chest falls before rising

The open rear assembly:

  1. The iliac crest is placed prominently, slightly above the level of the lumbar vertebra

  2. The open croup angle leads to a low placed tail

  3. The stifle must open in angulation as well in order to keep the dog stable

  4. The dog naturally stands under themselves to keep their balance. This is how the breed should be presented in the ring.

All of those factors create a leggy dog whose organs are far away from the heat of the ground. Since front and rear angulation is open, the dog necessarily moves with less reach and drive. Trotting should still be easy and sustainable, but the dog must take more steps to cover the same ground as a dog of the same height with more angulation.

Credit OlyHillary Photography

While there are many hallmarks of the breed, angulation is the piece which helps all the other breed specific oddities make sense.

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