The sleek and graceful Saluki has hunted with mankind for thousands of years. Because the history of this ancient sighthound reaches back long before the invention of breed clubs and written breeding records, the breed’s origin is veiled in mystery. Here are 10 interesting facts about the exotic Saluki.
1. The Saluki is one of the oldest known breeds of dog.
There is robust archaeological evidence of the Saluki that dates back at least 5,000 years. Images of slender dogs with feathered ears, tails, and legs have been found on various artifacts in the Middle East, such as tomb paintings and mosaic sculptures.
2. The Saluki is sometimes referred to as the royal dog of Egypt.
Egyptian nobility considered the breed to be a valuable and honored companion, and they were known to mummify the dogs in the fashion of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The remains of dogs have been found in the tombs of the upper Nile.
3. Arab tribesmen highly valued Salukis, and they were thought to be a gift from God and called “el hor,” which means the noble.
The tribesmen equal attention to the breeding of their Salukis as they did to their Arabian horses, prizing speed, endurance, and a keen hunting instinct. Salukis are still used for hunting today in the Middle East.
4. The Saluki is a member of the Hound Group and is known as a sighthound.
Sighthounds rely on their eyesight, rather than their noses, to find prey and then use their tremendous speed for the chase and capture. Because Salukis are too fast for humans to keep up with, they work alone. This has given them an independent personality.
5. The grace and delicate appearance of the Saluki contradict its stamina and strength.
These dogs were bred to chase prey over long and difficult ground, so they are not as fragile as they look. Salukis can run 30-35 miles per hour, and some breeders say Salukis can run almost 50 miles per hour, which explains why Arab tribesmen used them for hunting gazelle. Henna or nut oil was applied to the dogs’ feet to harden them and prevent injuries.
6. Salukis need to run at least once or twice a week.
Simple walks around the block are not enough to satisfy their needs. So a Saluki owner benefits from a very large fenced yard or regular access to a similar area for exercising his dog. However, the fence needs to be at least five feet high, and preferably six, because Salukis are phenomenal jumpers and can easily clear anything shorter. They will chase most small animals, sometimes catching and killing them. You can teach a Saluki obedience in a controlled situation, but in an open field, especially if there’s a squirrel in sight, he may not return to you consistently when you call.
7. The coat of the Saluki is short, soft, and silky and can be either feathered or smooth.
The feathered variety has feathering, or longer hair, on the ears, tail, and on the thighs and backs of the legs, whereas the smooth does not. Both have “hare feet” – pads between their toes that allow them to run in deep sand. The coat sheds very little and only requires weekly brushing, twice weekly for the feathering. Salukis come in many colors and patterns, including white, cream, fawn, golden, red, grizzle and tan, tricolor, and black and tan.
8. According to the breed standard, the Saluki’s expression should be dignified and gentle, and their dark-to-hazel-colored eyes should appear deep, faithful, and far seeing.
They are curious dogs, and their loyalty helps them become lovingly attached to their human family. Although they are devoted to their owners, they are also independent souls who can be aloof and cat-like. It’s important to stay patient and positive with your Saluki to maintain his interest and ensure training success. Proper socialization will help this sensitive hound develop confidence.
9. Despite their desert history, Salukis enjoy living a life of luxury.
Due to their lack of natural padding, they appreciate soft surfaces to lie on, such as the couch, an easy chair, or your bed. But don’t forget that they are high-functioning athletes that benefit from a variety of mentally- and physically-challenging activities. They excel at lure coursing, agility, exhibition jumping, and flyball, for example. Salukis can live 10 to 17 years if kept healthy and in good shape.
10. These dogs had names that reflected their character and good qualities.
As valued family members, names were considered very important. Sometimes it took months to find just the right name for each dog. For example, Salukis’ names included: Nimran (panther), Saqar (falcon) and Khataf (snatcher), Lateef (friendly), Sougha (the gift), Sharrek (partner), Shihaab (shooting star), Shadeed (strong) and Reasha (feathered).