The Saluki is a breed of dog developed from sight hounds, that was bred by Nomadic tribes to run down game. The dogs ancestors were originally bred in the Middle East in an area known as the Fertile Crescent.
Images of running dogs with long narrow bodies adorn pottery found in Susa, Iran, that dates back over 6,000 years. Dogs looking similar to the Saluki are shown on the wall carvings of the Sumarian empire (now Iraq), dating from 6,000 to 7,000BC. Similar looking dogs were also depicted on Egyptian tombs from 2134BC onward, and their mummified bodies have been found buried with Pharaohs.
Fast forward a few thousand years, to the 16th century, where legend maintains that returning crusaders brought Saluki type dogs back to Europe with them on their return from the Middle East. In 1514 a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder shows Henry IV, Duke of Saxony with a dog, thought by some to represent an ancestral Saluki.
During the 1930s, Sheik Hamad ibn Isu Al Khalifa, king of Bahrain was known for a pack of Saluki’s that accompanied him on his hunting trips. After he passed away, his son Salman ibn Hamad Al Khalifa tried to keep the lines purebred but they became inter bred with other breeds. The purebred lines were saved by Dana Al Khalifa, who was given two purebred puppies by the king, about a decade later they were registered with the kennel club of Bahrain.
It wasn’t until the 1840s that Saluki’s were first brought to England, though the first successful modern breeding didn’t occur until 1895. Florence Amherst, daughter of the first Baron Amherst of Hackney, having seen Sulaki’s on a Nile tour was so impressed she imported a breeding pair from the Al Salihah area of Lower Egypt. Despite her best efforts, the Saluki didn’t really gain popularity until the early 1920s, when officers returning from the Middle East after World War I, brought their pet Saluki’s back with them.
Popularity of the Saluki, dramatically increased and the Saluki cub of America was formed in 1927, Saluki’s were recognised by the UK Kennel club in 1923 and by the American Kennel club in 1929. The Saluki is also the mascot of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Salukis are sight hounds (they hunt by sight rather than by scent), and they run their quarry down to retrieve it. The average size of the modern male Saluki is 23 to 28in (58 to 71cm) high at the withers and 35 to 65lb (16 to 29kg) in weight, the female Saluki is slightly smaller.
The head of the Saluki is long and narrow with large eyes and drop ears, the tail is long and curved. It as the typical deep chested, long legged body associated with sight hounds. The coat comes in a variety of different colours including, white, cream, fawn, red, grizzle tan, black and tan ant tri colour (white, black and tan). There are two coat types, smooth and feathered, the feathered coat often as light fluffing on the back of the legs, thighs, ears and sometimes the throat, the fur on both is silky and doesn’t shed much compared to other breeds.
While the Greyhound is regarded to be the fastest dog breed, both the Saluki and the Whippet are thought to be faster over long distances. In 1996 the Guinness book of records, listed a Saluki as being the fastest dog, capable of speeds reaching 68.8km/h (42.8mph). Due to its heavily padded feet being able to absorb the impact on its body, the Saluki as amazing stamina when running.
The Saluki as retained the qualities of hunting hounds and may seem reserved around strangers. They are an independent, head strong breed, that can be difficult to train, and they cannot always be trusted to return to their owner when off the leash. Training methods should always be gentle and patient, the heavy handed approach just doesn’t work.
Saluki’s should not be left alone for long periods, as they get bored easily, they are however generally calm and quiet as adults, making them well suited to life in apartments and family homes. Given its hunting origins the Saluki is prone to chasing other animals, such as cats, birds, squirrels and even bugs.
The average lifespan for a healthy Saluki is 12 to 14 years. In 2006 a breed specific scientific study, conducted by the Kennel club and the British small animal veterinary associations scientific committee found several health issues. The primary cause of death was that of cancer, which was responsible for about thirty five per cent of deaths, the most common forms being liver cancer and lymphoma. The secondary cause of death was heart related with forms such as heart failure, cardiomyopathy and heart murmurs. Old age was listed as the third most common cause of death.
The Sulaki breed as the joint (no pun intended) lowest breed ranking for hip and elbow dysplasia, the breed scores an average of five points, with zero being low and one hundred and six the high.