Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saluki, the Royal Dog of Egypt

By Ruthie Bently

The Saluki is one of the oldest known dog breeds in the world, named for the ancient southern Arabian city of Saluq, which no longer exists. The breed is known as the “Royal Dog of Egypt,” since the nobility were the only people allowed to own them. Their mummified remains have been found in the tombs of pharaohs as well as many tombs of the Upper Nile, and there are several carvings of King Tutankhamen with his favored Salukis. Some Saluki likenesses have been dated back to 2100 B.C. More recently excavated tombs dating between 7000 and 6000 B.C. Sumaria also contain Saluki carvings. The Saluki is known by other names as well: the Arabian Hound, Persian Sighthound, Gazelle Hound, Persian Greyhound, and the Tanji.

The Saluki is native to eastern Turkestan to Turkey, though due to the nomadic existence of their owners they ranged from the Caspian Sea to the Sahara desert. Historians believe they are related to the Afghan Hound and date back to Alexander the Great’s invasion of India in 329 B.C. Considered a sacred gift from Allah, they were only offered as gifts and never sold. Bedouin tribes regarded a Saluki with a white forehead patch as special, and it was believed that they wore “the kiss of Allah.”

The Saluki is a member of the Hound group; they were recognized by the AKC in 1929. Salukis may be shown in two varieties: smooth or coated (with leg feathers). Allowable colors are black and tan, grizzle and tan, golden, tricolor, white, red, fawn and cream. Males weigh between 29 and 66 pounds and are between 23 and 28 inches tall at the withers, with females being slightly smaller. Health problems may include eye ailments and cancer, and they are susceptible to sunburn. Their life expectancy is between ten and twelve years.

The first Salukis imported into England in 1840 were known as Persian Greyhounds. After seeing Salukis while on a tour of the Nile, the Honorable Florence Amherst imported the first breeding pair of Salukis from Arabia, which came from the Transjordanian kennels of Prince Abdulla. She tried unsuccessfully to improve the popularity of the Saluki for almost thirty years, and got assistance from Brigadier General Frederick Lance and his wife Gladys, who brought home two Syrian Salukis from Sarona, Palestine where he had been stationed. The Lances’ Saluki “Sarona Kelb” significantly influenced the Saluki breed. 

Salukis are equally at home in both the show ring and at lure coursing events, and have also been used as racing dogs. They are avid sight hunters and their stamina and tenacity belie their fragile appearance. Salukis can run at 40 mph in short bursts, and are not allowed off lead in some countries. They are best known for hunting gazelle due to their ability and speed over rough terrain, and they have been used to hunt hare, jackal and fox. Due to their strong hunting instincts, they may injure or kill other small pets in the home, though they may get along with cats.

Salukis do best in a fenced yard with some space to run. They should not be let off lead due to their tendency to chase what they see; once a Saluki sights prey they will give chase and will ignore commands to return. They need the equivalent of a five mile walk or run daily and since they love to run, will happily jog alongside a bike. Salukis are not recommended for apartments.

A Saluki needs a firm hand during training and does best with patience, compassion and consistency rather than severe methods. They make an obedient dog, are independent and can become distracted from time to time. They are affectionate and may bond to one family member; multiple Salukis in a household do well together. If you would like to live with a dog of truly royal lineage and love exercising, the Saluki may be right up your alley. 

Picture courtesy of Cori Solomon.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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