14 DESERT SIGHTHOUND
THE DESERT SIGHTHOUNDS
"It is of course possible that the Saluqi of times past was used in a much wider role than is customary today. In Central Asia for example it seems it is indeed a much more versatile hound using scent as well as sight to locate its prey. However in desert conditions there is not much scope for scenting game; whereas the open terrain is conducive to hunting by sight...It is a well-known phenomenon that faculties atrophy if they are not exercised. So it is just possible that in earlier times the Saluqi hunted both by scent and by sight."
hose words of Terence Clark & Muawiya Derhalli in their 'Al-Mansur's Book On Hunting', Aris & Phillips Ltd, 2001, tell you a lot about desert sighthounds.
There is no single type of Saluki. Most of the hounds I've seen in middle eastern countries have been smooth-haired (the Nejdi type), not feathered (the Shami or Syrian type). The smooth coat is dominant. In the pedigree world we have smooth and feathered hounds registered as Salukis, with the smooth-coated Sloughi (from North Africa) listed as a separate breed. The Arabs there however referred to them as mogrebi or western. The Tuareg Sloughi, sometimes known as the 'oska', is classified separately in some countries as the Azawakh Sloughi, from the valley of that name in Mali and Niger. Both the Azawakh and the Sloughi have been found to possess an additional allele on the glucose-phosphate-isomerase gene locus, not found in other sighthounds but also featuring in the jackal, suggesting a separate origin. Circassia, in the Caucasus, was once famous for its sighthounds; but Circassians can be found in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey too. The Shilluk greyhound from the plains of the White Nile in Southern Sudan is more Saluki-like than Greyhound-like. The Poligar and the Vaghari of India too have a distinct smooth Saluki look to them.
The Chippiparai, the lurcher of the south, is described as being Dobermann-like in outline, but usually white in colour and used mainly for hare-hunting. They are regarded as the most intelligent and biddable Indian breed, being used as police dogs in some areas. The Poligar Hound is the Greyhound of Southern India; they have been called the lurcher of India, used on fox, deer, jackal, and, in packs, on boar. For generations this breed was used for pig-hunting on foot with spears, rather as the ancient Greeks hunted them. Around 26" at the shoulder and weighing between 40 and 45lbs, they are thin-coated but the coat has a stiff wiry texture, harsh to the hand when back-brushed. They are famous long-distance runners but sadly for a delicate constitution, needing careful rearing.
Natural selection has not only eliminated inheritable diseases and provided a natural resistance to internal and external parasites, it has created a virile, healthy, functionally excellent animal, repeating the formula applied automatically by primitive dog breeders all over the world. It is only in the highly civilised countries where, paradoxically, sickly short-lived dogs are bred from because they are handsome or conform to a rigid blueprint. There is nothing exaggerated or extravagant in the Africanis; their coats adapt to the seasons, they move with great economy of movement and their owners have no obsession with ear carriage - their dogs can have drop ears or erect ones. These dogs have survived in a harsh setting and are genetically important.
Also from Africa come the Azawakhs, a breed that has lived for thousands of years with the nomadic tribesmen of the Berber and Tuareg. Azawakh means 'land of the north' and spans Niger and Mali. Unusually for a sighthound breed the Azawakh is also used as a herding dog and watchdog. If the Sloughi is the Arabian sighthound, then the Azawakh is the African one. Their temperament is alleged to be more feline than canine, perhaps from their natural aloofness and independence of mind. Looking taller than the other sighthound breeds, they have thin skins, a prominent sternum and very deep chest and a very high tuck-up, making some look almost skeletal. Body ratios are considered important in this breed: height of chest/ height at withers = about 4:10, length of muzzle/length of head = 1:2 and width of skull/length of head = 4:10. Often confused with the Sloughi, especially the desert type in this breed, the mountain type of Sloughi being taller and more robust.
The desert sighthounds of the world are true lurchers; most are unrecognised and unregistered, but they have been carefully bred to function. They should never be underestimated as highly effective hunting dogs, surviving hard times in tough places.