Saluki

Introduction | History & Health | Temperament & Personality | Breed Standard

Saluki

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Introduction

The elegant, aristocratic Saluki, also called the Persian Greyhound, Arabian Hound, Gazelle Hound, Saluqi, Tazi, El Hor ("The Noble One") and The Royal Dog of Egypt, is one of the world's oldest domestic breeds. Some say that it dates back to a time before ancient Egypt, which was one of the earliest of all human civilizations. Its name probably comes from "Saluq," a long-gone Arab town. Salukis are sighthounds that were bred by nomadic tribesmen to chase down, restrain and kill rabbit, fox, deer and even the swift gazelle. Desert-bred Salukis are still used for hunting in the Middle East and in the West. The Saluki was (and still is) prized for its keen eyesight, exceptional agility and remarkable speed. Their exotic looks – lean, graceful and feathered with the silkiest of coats - also make them popular show dogs. The Saluki may appear delicate, and to some even skinny, but this should not fool you into thinking that it is fragile. This is a powerful athlete with the strength and stamina to tirelessly cover uneven and dangerous terrain over great distances in pursuit of its pray.

History & Health

History

The ancestry and historical background of most domestic dogs usually can be traced with some degree of accuracy. Not so with the elusive Saluki, whose geographic roots and heritage are shrouded in mystery. This breed's origin pre-dates recorded history. What is known is that Salukis have lived in the Middle East since antiquity, and that they have been treasured by nobility and prized by nomadic hunters for thousands of years. Carvings from the Sumerian empire, estimated to have been created between 7000 and 5000 B.C., have been found in tombs and other excavation cites in the upper Nile region, depicting dogs virtually identical to the modern-day Saluki: Greyhound-like, with softly-feathered ears, legs and tails. Representations of Saluki-like dogs have been found on sculptures, royal seals, mosaics, pottery and other objects that are millennia old. Well-preserved mummified bodies of these dogs have been found in tombs and other burial sites, reflecting the esteem in which they were held by the nobility of ancient civilizations. The desert tribes that developed this breed were nomads that took the Saluki from the Caspian Sea to the Sahara. There were some natural variations in coat, size and type of the Salukis, depending upon the local weather, game and terrain.

In addition to being loyal companions to noblemen and nomads, Salukis were used to hunt rabbit, fox, jackal, gazelle and other fast-moving ground prey. They excelled at this due to their exceptional eyesight, agility, endurance and speed. Although they hunt primarily by sight, Salukis also have a fair nose for scent. The Saluki's popularity survived the rise and fall of ancient Egypt. Some scholars recognize Biblical references to Salukis, and others believe that the Koran describes them as sacred gifts from Allah. For centuries, the breed has enjoyed special status among followers of Islam, who may touch them and let them live in their dwellings, including in women's quarters, because they are considered to be "clean," unlike other canines.

Salukis, then called Persian Greyhounds, first appeared in England in 1840. The breed's popularity got a boost in 1895, when Lady Florence Amherst imported a pair of Arabian Salukis to Norfolk, England. The breed still remained relatively obscure until the 1920s, when Saluki breed clubs were established on both sides of the Atlantic. The Saluki/Gazelle Hound Club of England was founded in 1923, the same year that the Kennel Club of England officially recognized the Saluki as a distinct breed and adopted the first official breed standard.

Although the first Saluki may have arrived in America in the late 1800s, the breed as we know it today became recognized much later. The Saluki Club of America (SCOA) was formed in 1927, the same year that the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed as a member of its Hound Group. Rhode Island's Senator Macomber and Col. Brydon Tennant of Virginia were among the first serious Saluki breeders and exhibitors in this country. Their stock came largely from the Sarona and Grevel kennels. The famous Diamond Hill Kennels in Rhode Island started in 1932, eventually housing up to 50 extremely high-quality purebred Salukis. A Diamond Hill dog, CH Marjan II, was the first Saluki to win an AKC all-breed Best In Show and Group I at Westminster. Marjan II was one of the foundation dogs for the El Retiro and Pine Paddock Kennels. Diamond Hill Hadji was the first Canadian Saluki Champion. Esther Bliss Knapp imported several fine desert Salukis to her Ohio Pine Paddock Kennels in the late 1930s and early 1940s; those dogs and their progeny are behind many of the finest Salukis in America today.

Saluki numbers waned during World War II, and many were lost to starvation, bombings and euthanasia. However, devoted breeders did what they could to save the breed from extinction. Fortunately, they were successful. The United Kennel Club formally recognized the Saluki in 1956, as a member of its Sighthound and Pariah Group. The Saluki is also recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club, as a member of the Hound Group. Salukis have slowly but steadily grown in popularity and number world-wide. Today, they are still used for sight-hunting in the Middle East and in the West. They are extremely strong competitors in lure coursing and other competitive canine events, including in the conformation show ring.

Health Predispositions

Salukis are fairly healthy dogs that live to about 12 to 14 years of age. The three main breed health concerns are cancer, heart problems and autoimmune disorders. Specific abnormalities in these areas include: 1) Cancer: mammary tumors, hemangiosarcoma, liver, spleen and skin masses, lymphoma, leukemia and squamous cell carcinoma; 2) Cardiac: heart murmurs, congestive heart failure, heart valve disease, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects (ones that the dog is born with), verrucous endocarditis (mitral valve insufficiency); vsdd3) Autoimmune disorders: autoimmune hemolytic anemia, autoimmune thrombocytopenia. Other disorders that Salukis may be predisposed to include Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism), hypothyroidism, color-dilution alopecia, dermatitis, black hair follicular dysplasia, ceroid lypofuscinosis, seizures, retained testicles, cataracts, deafness and adverse drug reactions.

Like other willowy sighthounds, Salukis have a low ratio of body fat to lean muscle mass, which can affect how their bodies metabolize drugs and combinations of drugs, especially fat-soluble anesthetic, sedative or tranquilizing drugs such as thiopental, pentobarbital and halothane. Veterinarians treating Salukis may need to make special accommodations for surgery or other procedures that require sedation or general anesthesia. Owners of Salukis should discuss this with their veterinarians, as they may not know how sensitive Salukis can be to certain medications. Salukis are also prone to sunburn, especially on their long, thin muzzles, and should be protected from prolonged sun exposure.

Temperament & Personality

Temperament

Reserved, sensitive and gentle, the Saluki is an increasingly popular pet. These are extremely bright, even-tempered, loyal animals that are affectionate but not overly demonstrative and watchful but not aggressive. They are curious, clever and can be a bit mischievous. Salukis usually are fairly independent and aloof around strangers. They often become attached to one family member and show little interest in the others. Despite their relatively unpampered nomadic background, Salukis appreciate the finer things in life, like snuggling on a sofa or soft bed. They also love and need vigorous outdoor activities. Naturally clean and odor-free, Salukis are easy to integrate into an active household. However, a person who wants a dog that instantly obeys commands and comes on recall every time should not get a Saluki. People who can't exercise their dog every single day and use patience and positive training methods for the life of the animal shouldn't get a Saluki. This glorious, glamorous animal is just not a dog for everyone. Potential owners must make sure that the breed's unique characteristics will fit with their lifestyle.

Activity Level

Because the Saluki is such an active breed, it is not a good choice for apartment-dwellers or small urban homes. Salukis need more than just a daily walk. They need to RUN! Their ideal home is in a fairly isolated, low-traffic area with plenty of room to stretch their legs at full speed as often as they want to. Without a fully fenced yard (at least 5 feet high), owners must be prepared to walk their Saluki on leash several times a day, rain or shine, day and night. They also will need to find it a safe confined area for running free. Remember, these are finely-tuned hunting hounds, not couch potatoes. They require vigorous physical and mental challenges to keep them content and in tip-top shape. In other words, a tired Saluki is a happy Saluki. Some owners exercise their Salukis alongside their bicycles; others engage them in long games of Frisbee or fetch. Salukis perform at the highest level in many competitive canine sports, which is a great way to focus their attention and energy. These include lure coursing, fly ball, tracking, exhibition jumping, open field coursing, track racing, agility, utility and obedience. They also are extremely competitive in the conformation ring. Salukis are easily distracted, especially if they see anything resembling prey. Since the breed has been clocked at 40 miles per hour, chasing a Saluki is usually futile.

Trainability

Salukis are highly intelligent. However, they also are extremely sensitive. Any training of a Saluki must be done calmly, gently and respectfully to avoid frightening the dog, making him overly shy or causing resistance and retaliation. Consistent positive reinforcement, and a healthy dose of patience, are essential. As someone put it, "the Saluki is a devoted partner but a reluctant slave." In a controlled environment, with proper patience on the part of the owner, most Salukis can master standard obedience commands. However, there are no short-cuts to training this breed. Owners always need to be conscious of their dog's hunting instincts and prey drive. If a Saluki sees a squirrel running along a fence-top, it's a good bet that it will bolt after it, regardless of any prior training or commands from its owner. This isn't a sign of disobedience or dumbness on the dog's part; it is just the inherent nature of the breed. Unfortunately, Saluki's also won't pay attention to traffic when chasing their prey. The leading cause of death for this breed is not old age or illness; it is being hit by cars.

Behavioral Traits

Salukis are exotic, beautiful, athletic and spirited. They are clean, don't shed much and draw lots of attention from passers-by. However, they are not Labradors or Golden Retrievers. In other words, they are not always easy-going, friendly, unflappable around kids and stable in unfamiliar situations. At their core, Salukis are hunters that for thousands of years have been purposefully bred to have a virtually unbreakable prey drive. They will pursue anything that is furry and fast. If they catch their target, they usually will kill it. Most Salukis are not trustworthy off-leash, especially around traffic, as they are much too fast for a person to catch if they decide to take off. Salukis like to sleep on beds, couches and chairs instead of floors. They are capable of performing high leaps to grab any enticing tidbits they see on the kitchen counter. Many Saluki owners follow what they call "the seven-foot rule": they keep any desirable objects at least seven feet beyond their dogs' reach. Salukis don't do well being left alone or confined in crates or kennels for extended periods. A lonely, bored, inactive Saluki can quickly turn into an anxious, depressed and destructive Saluki. Left alone all day in the back yard, a Saluki can create craters in the grass and garden. They also can bark and howl incessantly, which neighbors usually don't appreciate. They need some outlet for their enormous energy. Owners should give their Saluki lots of exercise before leaving it alone, and should also provide it with a rotating range of toys and chewies to occupy its time. If possible, a return visit during the day is helpful. Another option is to hire a dog walker. If a safely fenced yard or some of these other solutions are not viable, prospective owners should consider another breed, or get a cat.

Breed Standard

Head
Long and narrow, skull moderately wide between the ears, not domed, stop not pronounced, the whole showing great quality. Nose black or liver. Ears Long and covered with long silky hair hanging close to the skull and mobile. Eyes Dark to hazel and bright; large and oval, but not prominent. Teeth Strong and level.

Neck
Long, supple and well muscled.

Chest
Deep and moderately narrow.

Forequarters
Shoulders sloping and set well back, well muscled without being coarse. Forelegs Straight and long from the elbow to the knee.

Hindquarters
Strong, hipbones set well apart and stifle moderately bent, hocks low to the ground, showing galloping and jumping power.

Loin and Back
Back fairly broad, muscles slightly arched over loin.

Feet
Of moderate length, toes long and well arched, not splayed out, but at the same time not cat-footed; the whole being strong and supple and well feathered between the toes.

Tail
Long, set on low and carried naturally in a curve, well feathered on the underside with long silky hair, not bushy.

Coat
Smooth and of a soft silky texture, slight feather on the legs, feather at the back of the thighs and sometimes with slight woolly feather on the thigh and shoulder.

Colors
White, cream, fawn, golden, red, grizzle and tan, tricolor (white, black and tan) and black and tan.

General Appearance
The whole appearance of this breed should give an impression of grace and symmetry and of great speed and endurance coupled with strength and activity to enable it to kill gazelle or other quarry over deep sand or rocky mountains. The expression should be dignified and gentle with deep, faithful, far-seeing eyes. Dogs should average in height from 23 to 28 inches and bitches may be considerably smaller, this being very typical of the breed.

The Smooth Variety
In this variety the points should be the same with the exception of the coat, which has no feathering.

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