Information about the Saluki
The Saluki, also known as the Royal Dog of Egypt and Persian Greyhound is one of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dog. From the period of the Middle Kingdom onwards, Saluki-like animals appear on the ancient Egyptian tombs of 2134 BC. They have connections both to the Bible and Imperial China. Modern breeding in the west began in 1895 when Florence Amherst imported a breeding pair of Salukis from Lower Egypt and began working to popularize the breed. Salukis were recognized by The Kennel Club in 1923, and by the American Kennel Club in 1929. The breed is also the mascot of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
The Saluki is a sighthound and historically travelled throughout the Middle East with nomadic desert tribes over an area stretching from the Sahara to the Caspian Sea. They have been used to hunt quarry such as gazelles in the Middle East. Shaped like a typical sighthound, they come in two varieties, smooth and feathered. The feathered variety is more common, and the breed is known for the fur on its ears, tail and the back of its legs. Though they are an independent breed that needs patient training, they are gentle and affectionate with their owners. Health issues include cancer and cardiac problems.
Salukis are considered to be one of the oldest dog breeds in existence, with excavations of Sumerian Empire sites between 7000-6000 BC showing carvings and seals that look similar to the modern breed. Its name is thought to come from the ancient Arabian town of Suluk, Libya, although in the modern era it has also been called the Gazelle Hound or Persian Greyhound. From Sumer, the nomadic tribes spread the breed across the Middle East from Egypt and Persia, to as far east as Afghanistan and India, and as far south as Sudan.
They were considered to be the “Royal Dog of Egypt”. Salukis appear on Egyptian tombs increasingly commonly from The Middle Kingdom (2134 BC – 1785 BC) onward, and have often been found mummified alongside the bodies of the Pharaohs in the Pyramids. It was during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt that Salukis rose to their place of prominence, replacing the Tesem (thought to be similar to modern Pariah dogs, or a generic term for a dog).
Two Salukis, painted by the Xuande Emperor of China (1398-1435).
The breed is thought to be the type of dog mentioned in The Bible. Salukis have appeared in medieval paintings regarding the birth of Christ, including Paolo Veronese’s 1573 work the Adoration of the Magi (also known as the Adoration of the Kings), currently located at the National Gallery, London. Veronese also painted the breed into some of his other religious work, including The Marriage at Cana and The Finding of Moses.
Salukis had entered China by the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and examples of the breed were painted by the fifth Ming Emperor Zhu- Zha-nji-, known more commonly as the Xuande Emperor. The inscription on the painting reads “playfully painted by the imperial brush” in 1427. Additional red seals were added in later years by owners of the painting, which also reveals that the painting was in the Imperial Chinese collection in the 18th century.
Today, the breed is still held in high regard throughout the Middle East, and have been hunting dogs for nobles and rulers around the region. They are considered clean by the Bedouins, and are allowed to be in women’s quarters, while other dogs must be kept outside. This is similar to elsewhere in the Muslim world, with the breed proclaimed in the Koran as the “gift of Allah”. Sheik Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain during the 1930s, was known for a pack of Salukis that accompanied him throughout the Arab world on hunting trips. Following his death, his son Salman ibn Hamad Al Khalifa attempted to keep the lines pure-bred but they became interbred with other breeds. However, the pure-bred lines of the royal kennel were saved by the efforts of Dana Al Khalifa who was given two pure-bred puppies by the King, and about a decade later had around pure-bred Salukis registered with the Kennel Club of Bahrain.
The breed was first brought to Europe in the 12th century, with troops returning from the Crusades in the Middle East, as living proof of the pilgrimage. A dog noted as being a Gazelle Hound is featured in a painting of Henry IV, Duke of Saxony, painted in 1514, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The dog wears a collar decorated with a scallop shell, which was the badge of the pilgrim.
It was not until 1840, that the Salukis were first brought to England. Referred to as Slughis, they and the modern Sloughi were treated as the same breed, however in recent years genetic tests have shown that the two breeds are not interbred. 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 in 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 Saluki popularity did not take hold until the early 1920s, when officers returning from the war in the Middle East and the Arab Revolt brought their pet Salukis home with them.
One of these was Brigadier General Frederick Lance of the 19th Lancers, and his wife, Gladys, returned to Britain with two Salukis from Sarona, where he was stationed during the post-war occupation. The Lances were both keen hunters, and rode with their pack of dogs, including both Salukis and terriers, to course jackal and Dorcas gazelle whilst stationed in the desert. They imported a male, called Sarona Kelb, who became an influence on the breed in the West.
Together, the Lances and Florence Amherst mounted a campaign for recognition of the Middle Eastern breed, that coincided with the phenomenon of “Tutmania” caused by Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in late 1922. In 1923, the Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club was formed, and the Kennel Club granted official recognition to the breed. Popularity of Salukis dramatically increased, and the Saluki Club of America was founded in 1927, with recognition by The American Kennel Club following in 1929.
It should be the object of all those who import the Greyhounds of the East, and breed them in this country, to try to keep distinct the different varieties, which in many cases have been so carefully preserved in their own lands. The historic interest attached to each breed is alone a sufficient inducement to do so.
Florence Amhurst and Robert Leighton, The New Book of the Dog (1907)
Imports to England during the inter-war years were chiefly from areas of British military influence and commerce: Bahrain, Egypt, Transjordan, and Iraq. Both Florence Amherst and the Lances imported breeding stock from the latter two countries. Despite substantial populations of Salukis in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, none of these were imported to England.
English Salukis (chiefly descendants of Sarona Kelb) were exported to many countries, but by the mid-1930s, interest slackened, and with the outbreak of World War II, breeding and show activities almost entirely stopped. The number of litters was minimal, just enough to keep the breed alive. Food rationing reserved all edible meat for humans, and to prevent the Salukis from dying from starvation or being killed by bombs, some owners euthanized entire kennels. A small number of Saluki kennels survived the war, and along with fresh imports belonging to a second wave of soldiers returning from the Middle East, the slow process of re-establishing the breed began again.
The popularity of the Saluki in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club, has remained relatively stable over the past decade, with the breed ranked 107th in 1999, had decreased to 118th in 2008, but by 2008 had increased once again to 112th. Between 2000 and 2009, 1215 Salukis were registered with The Kennel Club in the UK, while this does not approach the numbers of the more popular breeds, it is in line with similar breeds in the Hound Group such as the Borzoi, which had 1399 puppies registered in the same period. In September 2007, The Kennel Club Art Gallery’s 12th exhibition celebrated the Saluki, The Saluki in Art showed a range of exhibits including terracotta and bronze works, along with contemporary artists and a range of trophies from Saluki breed clubs.
Salukis are “sight” hounds, which means they hunt by sight, run the quarry down, catch it, and kill or retrieve it. The normal size range for the breed is 23-28 inches (58-71 cm) high at the withers and 40-60 pounds (18-27 kg) in weight, with females being slightly smaller than males. The Saluki’s head is long and narrow with large eyes and drop ears. The tail of the breed is long and curved. It has the typical deep-chested, long legged body of the sighthounds. Their coats come in a variety of colors, including white, cream, fawn, red, grizzle and tan, black and tan, and tricolor (white, black and tan).
The overall appearance of the Saluki is one of grace and symmetry. There are two coat types evident in the Saluki gene pool, smooth and feathered. The feathered variety has light feathering on the back of the legs and thighs. The fur on both varieties is silky to the touch, and is low shedding compared to other breeds.
Historically, Salukis were used by nomadic tribes for hunting. Typical quarry included gazelles, hares, foxes and jackals. In one Bedouin method of hunting hares, the hunter rides close to the quarry on a camel while holding the Saluki, which he throws towards the prey while at speed, giving the dog a running start. Another method, primarily used in hunting gazelles, involved the use of a hawk to gouge out the eyes of the prey, so that a Saluki can then bring down the blinded animal.
A true modern Saluki retains the qualities of hunting hounds and may seem reserved and aloof. An independent breed, but gentle and affectionate, they can be difficult to train and any such training should be gentle and patient. They can get bored easily, and should not be left at home unattended for long periods. Sensitive and intelligent, the Saluki should never be trained using force or hard-handed methods, and typically does not enjoy rough games or typical dog games such as chasing sticks. Early socialisation is required to prevent shyness in later life. Given their hunting instincts, they are prone to chasing moving objects.
While the Greyhound is credited as being the fastest dog breed up to distances of around 800 metres (2,600 ft), both the Saluki and Whippet breeds are thought to be faster over longer distances. The 1996 edition of the Guinness Book of Records lists a Saluki as being the fastest dog, reaching a speed of 68.8 kilometres (42.8 mi) per hour. Due to its heavily padded feet being able to absorb the impact on its body, it has remarkable stamina when running.