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The Saluki: History & Origins

They Have Feathers?
Salukis come in two varieties - the Smooth, having short silky hair all over their bodies, and the Feathered. Yes feathered. This refers to the long silky hair fringes on the ears, tail and rear of the limbs. In Canada we see mostly the feathered variety, although evidence suggests that in their Region of Origin both smooth and feathered Salukis were equally desired and were even bred together.  Some Bedouin tribes kept only the smooth variety, and all Salukis were used for hunting, selected as breeding stock based on hunting abilities.  The differences in tribal types were not initially recognized when breeding was begun in other countries and continents therefore, the varied tribal strains were mixed producing any number of different color combinations appearing in the same litter.  

Some Saluki Coat Colours:

Red

Fawn

Cream

Golden

Tricolour

Black & Silver

Chocolate

Fawn Grizzle

Golden Grizzle

In 1919, the National Geographic Society's "The Book of Dogs" had this to say about Salukis,
under Persian Gazellehound or Slughi,

"This ancient race is one of the most peculiar, most beautiful, and most puzzling of dogs. His graven image comes to us as one of the earliest of man's essays in art, and is so easily recognizable that there is no doubt possible as to the archaic artist's model. Possibly no dog known has changed less from our earliest knowledge of it to the present day. The first peculiarity to strike is the curious combination of short, close body hair, with silky flowing fleece on the ears and long silken feather on the stern. Otherwise, he looks at first glance like a Greyhound. But, unlike other coursing dogs, the Slughi is short and straight in the body, though very long and rangy of leg. As he stands in profile the outline of fore legs, back, hind legs and ground form an almost perfect square. A fact tending to show the antiquity of the Slughi is that no combination of known dogs seems to be capable of producing a creature just like him."

Azawakh
It should be noted that there are several other breeds commonly mistaken for or thought of as a Saluki.  The Azawakh and Sloughi, though similar in conformation, especially to the untrained eye, are not considered the same breed as the Saluki.  There are visible differences in conformation to the trained eye and it is reported that there are genetic differences between them as well.  The saluki is also sometimes thought of as a shorthaired version of an Afghan Hound which is also an untruth.  There are several other breeds such as the Tazi and Rampur Hound that I am still gathering information on.
These three sighthounds along with the Saluki, grouped together because of their hunting technique and common characteristics, are considered separate breeds.  They may have at one time come from a common ancestor but when this ancestor was distributed across the globe these breeds evolved relatively independent of the influence from the others. There is much debate as to whether these "breeds" are indeed separate or variations (types) thereof and though their similarities may pertain to a common ancestry they undoubtedly pertain to the functions which these hounds perform.  They are all required to course prey at high speeds.  
Sloughi
Ch. Iroki 's Belphoebe at approx. 13 yrs
Ch. Iroki Belphoebe at age 13
Several features set the Saluki apart from other breeds including their outline, movement and temperament.   The few words of the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) Saluki Standard describe a powerful endurance animal, an intelligent, highly-bred, independent hunter who is built and moves like no other hound.  The beauty of the Saluki is synonomous with that of the Arabian horse; grace and symmetry of form, clean-cut and graceful.
Short silky hair on his body but much longer on the ears, legs and tail; slender well-muscled neck, shoulders, and thighs; arched loins; long tail carried naturally in a curve or circle with long silky hair hanging from the underside; the arched toes; the rather long head with deep far-seeing eyes; an expression of dignity mixed with gentleness.

I
n the smooth variety of Saluki, the body, ears, tail, and legs are coated with short smooth hair much like that of the greyhound or whippet. There is a greater size range in the Saluki than in any other breed, from 23 inches in height to 28 inches in the males, and females proportionately smaller. Salukis were bred for the most economical size depending on the amount of food available. Where gazelles were the size of jack rabbits, the Saluki was a small hound; where the prey included the wild ass, the largest or "donkey" Saluki was needed. The Saluki's sight is famous. He can see clearly for at least a mile. Rather than watch a near-by object, a Saluki can often be seen gazing at a bird very high in the sky or at a passing plane.  
<Back to the Main Index | Meet my Salukis or read on . . .
  Saluki Temperament
The Saluki is a proud animal with great depth of character and personality.  Salukis are truly a family hound and will not be happy if he cannot share family life. It is important that Saluki puppies be well socialized because they can have the tendency, having been bred for aloofness and independence, to be shy with strange people, places and animals. A well socialized saluki is comfortable almost anywhere.  Very little physical punishment is ever necessary for a misbehaving Saluki.  Their feelings are highly sensitive and for this reason, repetition of punishment for the same misdemeanor is seldom necessary. You may be shocked to know that Salukis hold a grudge if reprimanded and they will let you know for the next hour or so that you have insulted them. Oddly enough, if they've been punished for something which they know is not acceptable, they will most certainly apologize with a great deal of tail wagging.
 

Iroki Oberon aka Darby
Salukis are not often thought of by obedience trainers as intelligent because most people think of canine intelligence in terms of trainability.  The saluki is trainable but because of inherent behavioural attributes they rarely participate in silly tricks and often disobey when called off lead.  Lately, however, there are more obedience trained Salukis as the techniques for training become more reward oriented as opposed to punishment based. But the Saluki is first and foremost a hunter and the traits that the Bedouin bred for are deeply ingrained. Salukis can also be quite physically sensitive due to their low body fat ratio and can be very vocal about pain (even perceived pain).  
   

Lucy & Darby on the beach.
Iroki Bodicea & Iroki Oberon racing through the surf on BC's West Coast

To own a Saluki you should, ideally, have a large fenced yard. A Saluki pup is very fast so a secure yard is essential for safety, unrestricted exercise and your own piece of mind. The Saluki requires lots of exercise to build strength and stamina.

Salukis are considered a large dog. Once a Saluki puppy has outgrown his inevitable awkward stage he will readily learn respect for your home and furniture to become a well behaved considerate houseguest. Salukis are very gentle and sensitive, enjoy the creature comforts of domestication and appreciate being allowed on a piece of furniture but beware of allowing him to usurp this seat from humans for he may take this as an indication of who's boss. Despite the Saluki's size they are adept at curling into a tightly wound ball and will not eat you out of house and home. An adult Saluki's appetite is quite modest and overweight problems are rare.

If you are interested in learning more about the Saluki or possibly adopting one into your own life, please research carefully. The Saluki is a very special creature and deserves a home where it will be loved and cared for as well as appreciated for it's unique qualities - which do not appeal to everyone. Contact a reputable breeder and spend time socializing with and observing the behaviour of their Salukis. Be well informed and enjoy getting to know this most wonderful canine! Feel free to E-mail me for more information or for a Canadian breeder reference.
Early Man Needs Dog | The Ancients | Nomadic Peoples | Function & Form | Hunting Technique
Saluki Explorers | They Have Feathers? | Temperament | Salukis In Art | Resources & Breeders
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