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Breed Spotlight: The Saluki



Carved Saluki hounds in Qubbet el-Hawa
History

The Saluki's ancestors were bred in the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture originated. Dogs looking similar to Salukis are shown on wall carvings of the Sumerian empire (present-day Iraq), dating from 6,000 to 7,000 BCE. The ancient skeletal remains of a dog identified as being of the greyhound/saluki form was excavated at Tell Brak in modern Syria and dated to approximately 4,000 years ago. Salukis and similar breeds were increasingly depicted on Egyptian tombs from the Middle Kingdom (2134 BC–1785 BC) onward, however it was during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt that the Saluki rose to prominence, replacing hunting dogs called tesem (similar to modern pariah dogs or Pharoah Hounds) in ancient Egyptian art. The variety spread southward into the Sudan.


Similar to the Afghan Hound, although to a far greater degree, the Saluki was revered in the ancient Middle East and was considered a gift directly from Allah to the Muslim people. Raised alongside the family, this was the only breed (aside from the occasional Afghan Hound) that was allowed indoors in the Muslim home, as all other breeds were considered unclean. Salukis were bred to work with hunters to chase and take down gazelle, hare, large wild cats, and other game. They are a member of the sighthound group, meaning they hunt primarily by eyesight and not by scent. As evidence of the Saluki's apparent divine cleanliness, they are among the few dog breeds which do not produce an odor. They have historically been used in conjunction with falcons by Arab hunters. This tradition continues today.


It was not until 1840 that Salukis were first exported to England. They and the modern Sloughi were treated as the same breed; however, recent genetic tests have shown that the two breeds are genetically separate. The first successful modern breeding line of Salukis began in 1895, with Florence Amherst (daughter of the 1st Baron Amherst of Hackney). Having seen Salukis on a Nile tour that year, she imported a breeding pair from the Al Salihah area of Lower Egypt. A champion of breed purity, she struggled alone for nearly three decades, and real popularity of the Saluki in Europe did not take hold until the early 1920s when officers returning from the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I and from the Arab Revolt brought their pet Salukis home with them.



They were subsequently exported to the US and were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1927 but remained relatively unknown to the public. The popularity of the Saluki in the United States, according to the AKC, has remained relatively stable after the 1990s. The breed ranked 107th in 1999 and decreased to 118th in 2008, but by 2009 had increased once again to 112th. Still considered a very uncommon breed, they are unlikely to be available from unethical breeders or puppy mills, which is not only wonderful for the future health of the breed but for potential buyers. Saluki puppies generally cost between $1,800 to $3,000, which is very reasonable for a well-bred puppy from health tested parents.


Salukis playing

Presently, Salukis are among the most frequently rescued dog for international rescues out of the Middle East. Rescue organizations work with shelters in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman to find the Salukis adoptive homes in Europe and North America. These Salukis are often referred to as "abandoned," but the according to the volunteers working in these areas many of the dogs are simply permanently separated from their families through no fault of the family. Details of these separations are almost always unavailable, but at least some are considered to have a regional political causation.



A smooth Saluki
Food

In 2014, a DNA study compared dogs and wolves for AMY2B (alpha amylase 2B), which is an enzyme that assists with the first step in the digestion of dietary starches and grains. An expansion of this gene in dogs would enable early dogs to exploit a starch-rich diet as they fed on refuse from agriculture. Data indicated that the wolves and dingo had just two copies of the gene and the Siberian husky that is associated with hunter-gatherers had just 3–4 copies, whereas the Saluki, which was historically bred in the Fertile Crescent where agriculture originated, has 29 copies. The presence of AMY2B in canines varies widely from breed to breed, but all dog breeds that exist today have a higher number of copies than wild canines. This is because, to whatever extent is true for each individual breed, they have been developed by humans and ate what humans ate, thus slowly evolved to not only tolerate the addition of things like grains in their diet but actually benefit from them. There is a prolonged and heated debate about whether grain inclusive diets are appropriate for domestic canines, and even within the sighthound enthusiast community it fiercely rages on. However, as indicated above, the science indicates the viability of these diets.


A feathered Saluki adult male
Grooming

The Saluki is remarkably simple to groom. I would recommend regularly combing through the feathering on the ears, tail, and legs if you have a feathered Saluki. They also come in a smooth coated variety with no feathering. The short parts of the coat can be brushed with a soft-bristle brush to help remove dead hair, but this is a minimally shedding breed. This breed also does not produce much dander, making it a potentially good choice for individuals with canine allergies. As previously noted, the Saluki also does not have an odor, so bathing due to stench is not really a concern. Be sure to keep the ears clean and relatively dry, as bacteria and yeast can build up inside the ear due to the drop ears.



Temperament

These are a bit odd, with numerous eccentricities that you are unlikely to find in many other breeds. They tend to be aloof with strangers but are devoted to family. They are not particularly affectionate in the same way as a more demonstrative breed like the Golden Retriever. This is a breed that will relish sitting by your side on the sofa, but not on your lap. Salukis are quiet in the home, extremely gentle with respectful children, and good with other dogs. They make adequate watchdogs and will alert you to strange activity on your property, but they are not good protection dogs. In a high stakes event where protection is needed they are likely to flee.



Exercise

Salukis must get a chance to run for extended periods every day. Given this chance, they are moderately obedient, as long as they happen to want the same thing you want.


If given adequate exercise, this breed is typically easy to live with, not destructive, relatively obedient (for a sighthound), and them and the family will be at their happiest. Otherwise, the Saluki can become a behavioral nightmare.


Salukis like to lounge and love to run but live to chase. Make no doubt about it, this quiet, gentle dog with the big innocent eyes is a serious hunter at heart and will kill wildlife that may find its way onto your property, as well as stray cats. Take precautions concerning this prey drive.


This is considered an extremely healthy breed. There are not many health concerns, which tends to be typical of ancient breeds as they've been selectively and wisely bred for thousands of years.


Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Cardiac Exam

  • Thyroid Evaluation


The above health tests are easy to verify. Any breeder who health tests will be eager to show you proof of health testing, usually by sending you a link to the parent's profiles on the OFA website. Any breeder who gets cagey about health testing or says they did the tests but didn't send them in to OFA for certification is not on the up-and-up and should be avoided.





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