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The Saluki: Majestic Dog of the Nile

The Saluki was the favorite hound of the ancient Egyptian ruling classes, owned only by the nobility and quickly got the name of “Royal Dog of Egypt.” Admired for their beauty, speed and endurance, Salukis were so highly regarded in Egypt that their bodies were mummified like those of their Pharaohs and carvings as well as painting were made of them.

The Bedouin, nomadic desert Arabs who consider the Saluki as “a sacred Gift of Allah,” have been breeding them for both beauty and hunting qualities for over 2000 years. They never sold their dogs, but only gave them, as gifts, to those deemed truly worthy. As an honored member of the tribe, they often sleep in tents with their owners and given names such as Daughter of the Tent, Son of the Desert, Desert Eye. Salukis with a patch of white in the middle of the forehead, considered as a “the kiss of Allah,” are especially valued.

The saluki breed belongs to the hound group, and within the hound group, the breed is part of the Sighthound or gazehound division. Salukis, like other Sighthounds, hunt using sight instead of scent to find and run down prey. According to the Saluki Club of America (SCOA), the first saluki in America arrived in Boston in 1861. The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted the saluki as an official breed in the hound group in 1929.

Until DNA research development, many dog fanciers claimed their dog breed, such as the basenji, saluki, Pharaoh hound and Ibizan hound, were featured in ancient carvings. DNA tests proved the case for the basenji and saluki as being part of the 14 ancient breeds created by the earliest 4 splits from wolves. Saluki and Afghans were in the fourth split. Saluki breeding in Europe began in England in 1895. The Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club of England began in 1923 and obtained recognition by the Kennel Club of England, according to SCOA.

Possibly the oldest breed of domesticated dog, the Saluki has been used down through the centuries as a sight hunter of gazelles, boars, jackals, foxes, and hares. Still used to hunt hares today, it is also commonly bred for racing on a round or oval track equipped with a mechanical rabbit.

Like other sight hounds, salukis have independent personalities and their hunting instincts result in chasing things that move. According to the AKC, they are cat-like and require patience when training. A saluki needs exercise to avoid boredom. Lure coursing is a favorite sport with many Sighthound owners. Events and training can be located through the SCOA website and regional lure coursing clubs.

Salukis are tall, 23 to 28 inches at the shoulder, but are not heavily built. Average weight is 30 to 65 pounds for dogs with bitches typically smaller and shorter. According to the AKC breed club standard, the nose should be black or liver colored and eyes dark to hazel. The saluki tail is low. The feather coat variety has silky feathering hairs on the bottom side of the tail, legs and back of thighs. The smooth coat variety does not have feathers.

Saluki coat colors are white, black and white, cream, fawn, golden, red, grizzle and tan, tri-color (black, white and tan). Grizzle is a banding pattern with black or red and white hairs. Salukis have various markings including white collars, feet, splotches and spots.

Healthy well-bred salukis live an average of 13 to 15 years with many living longer. Common health issues include heart problems and autoimmune disorders. Saluki and other Sighthounds may respond to some drugs and anesthesia differently than other dogs, due to lower body fat and liver metabolism. Owners should discuss the issue with their veterinarians.

For more information on this beautiful breed, check out this LINK.

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