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Breed Spotlight: The Azawakh

Updated: Jun 4


The breed is considered very rare in both Europe and North America, but there is a growing group of devoted enthusiasts. The AKC recognized the Azawakh as a member of the Hound Group in 2019, but many within the US are imported and therefore carry an FCI registration (sometimes only and FCI, sometimes in addition to AKC). Due to this recognition, they are now eligible for AKC lure coursing and NOFCA open field coursing events.


Bred primarily by the Tuareg and Fula, nomadic tribes of the Sahara and surrounding areas within Niger and southern Algeria, the breed known by the Tuaregs as ”Oska” was used there as a guard dog and to hunt gazelle and hare at speeds up to 40 mph. The harshness of the Saharan environment has ensured that only the most fit dogs survive over the centuries and has accentuated the breed's ruggedness and independence. Unlike some other sighthounds, the Azawakh is more of a pack hunter and they bump down the quarry with hindquarters when it has been tired out. Chases can last for quite some time - far longer than sighthounds such as the Afghan Hound would be able to last.


A Brindle Azawakh with Saharan Nomads

In role of a guard dog, if an Azawakh senses danger it will bark to alert the other members of the pack. They will then gather together as a pack under the lead of the primary dog and proceed to chase off or attack the predator or trespasser.


Unlike other sighthounds, the primary function of the Azawakh in its native land is that of a guard dog. It develops an intense bond with its owner, and tends to be reserved to very standoffish with strangers.



Azawakh have high energy and tremendous endurance. They are excellent training companions for runners. Many Azawakh dislike rain and cold weather, but can withstand intense heat from overhead sun. They can often be found sleeping on top of each other for warmth, even in already warm conditions.


Azawakh are pack oriented and form complex social hierarchies, and this includes their humans. They have tremendous memories and are able to recognize their canine and human housemates after long periods of separation.





Very slim and elegant, many people who are not accustomed to seeing thin sighthounds are often shocked to see an Azawakh, mistakenly thinking it is underfed. Its bone structure shows clearly through the skin and musculature. Its muscles are thin, never bulky like sighthounds such as the Whippet. In regards to musculature it is similar in type to the Saluki. The coat is very short over the entire body, and almost absent on the belly. Grooming is astoundingly simple; go over the body with a soft bristle brush and bathe when necessary.


Some conservationists support the idea that in Africa, Azawakhs are still found in a variety of colors such as red, blue fawn (oft referred to as lilac in the US), brindle, blue, and black, all with various white markings. Because of this wide color variation in the native population, the American standard used by the AKC and UKC allows any color combination that is found in Africa. But many other registrations around the world strictly restrict color variations, often only permitting only the common red color with white socks.


Azawakhs are an incredibly healthy hound, partially due to the harsh environment from which they originate. There is a small occurrence of adult-onset idiopathic epilepsy in the breed, but this is considered rare. Wobbler disease, or cervical vertebral instability, is also very rare. Otherwise, they are not considered to be predisposed to any known ailments. This breed is so healthy that it is one of the very few to have no recommended health tests prior to breeding, although many ethical breeders still health test for various issues that face other sighthounds.


A four-month-old Azawakh

If you decide to take the leap of bringing home an Azawakh, one of the most important things you can do is maintain a connection with your breeder. There is limited firsthand knowledge out there on this breed, and having a connection to someone who can help you if an issue arises can be priceless.






Recommended Health Testing:

  • None so far!




Resources:

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