by Michelle Jones

Those unfamiliar with the Saluki may mistake him for a shaved-down Borzoi. In reality, the Saluki is likely to be the most ancient dog breed in the world today. His picture adorns many a Pharaoh’s tomb as well as artifacts from Macedonia, Persia,  the Ottoman Empire and Babylon…This extraordinary sighthound probably got his name from an ancient Arab civilization called Seleucia. With his keen, alert, sharp eyes, he was used to spot and run down gazelles, foxes and hares in the desert, often working with their master’s hunting falcons. Muslims of that era considered dogs to be unclean, but made an exception for the elegant, graceful and extremely intelligent Saluki, whom they called el hor the “noble one.” A dark-coated Saluki with a white patch under his chin was said to be blessed by Allah.

Bedouin tribes roamed the Middle East with their prized Salukis for thousands of years, which accounts for their wide-spread distribution throughout the area. Since no other dog was allowed to mate with a Saluki, he has maintained his pure-bred status since antiquity. He only came to the attention of the Western world in about 1900 and was recognized by the AKC in 1928.

The Saluki is a strikingly beautiful dog; tall, with a short smooth or fluffy coat and fluffy ears and tail, with a long, straight muzzle and deep, penetrating brown eyes. His aristocratic stature and regal bearing make him exciting to watch when he is running full speed towards his prey, making wide strides with his slender but muscular legs, chest and haunches. Today he is primarily seen in lure coursing and open-field coursing trials where he is a formidable competitor, usually holding many championship titles.

In temperament, the Saluki is aloof and reserved with strangers, but with his family he is affectionate and loyal without being overly demonstrative. He prizes quiet companionship with his family and is extremely gentle with children. With his sensitive nature, he does not like rowdy play or harsh punishment; this tends to make him shy or timid. He’s a good watchdog but has few protective instincts.

Considering his ancient breed instincts, the Saluki will easily become bored and crowded living in an apartment. In the city, he needs a large, well-contained yard from which he cannot escape. Outdoors, the Saluki will chase anything that moves, including cars. This is particularly dangerous since he usually does not come when called off the “chase.” His thin, Greyhound-style build can propel him into great bursts of speed right into the path of an oncoming truck; thus, when outside his yard it’s essential for him to be leashed. Since el hor was allowed to sleep in his Arab master’s tent, the Saluki likes to be outdoors during the day but sleeping indoors at night. A desert-bred dog, he does not tolerate cold well.

The Saluki has several health concerns that potential owners must know: because of his thin build, he needs to sleep on a padded surface to prevent callouses. His major health concerns are the development of cancer, heart and thyroid problems. Vets know that Salukis must be anesthesized with caution, not tolerating sedatives well.

 The Saluki is as proud and independent as he is beautiful; he was born to think for himself rather than taking orders! He will never be an obedience champion, but what he lacks in trainability he more than makes up for with his gentle, loyal companionship.