The royal dog of Egypt, the Saluki, may be as old as the oldest known civilization. Historians have identified it as a distinct breed and type as long ago as 329 B.C. when Alexander the Great invaded India.

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Photographer: Pepper Nix

Hounds shown on the earliest carvings from the earliest known civilizations look more like Salukis than any other breed: they have a Greyhound body with feathered ears, tail, and legs. Exactly the same hound appears on the Egyptian tombs of 2100 B.C. and more recent excavations of the still older Sumerian empire, estimated at 7000-6000 B.C., have produced carvings of striking resemblance to the Saluki.

The name Saluki is derived from the ancient city of Saluk in Iraq southeast of Baghdad. The breed has a number of names throughout the Gulf - e.g., Tazi in Persia Sloughi in North Africa (Morocco), Azawakh in Mali and other parts of Africa, Salaq in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, and in Armenia to the west of the Caspian Sea.

As the desert tribes are nomadic, the habitat of the Saluki comprised all the region stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Sahara, including Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Anatholia and Persia. The types varied mostly in size and coat. The Arabian-bred Saluki is of a smaller type with less feathering on the legs and ears than the Persian variety.

Photographer: Pepper Nix

The Saluki was the only dog of the time allowed to sleep on the carpet of the Sheikh's tent. So great was their esteem for the breed their bodies were often found mummified like the bodies of the Pharaohs themselves. Their pictures appear in ancient Egyptian tombs dating from 2100 BC. This breed is thought of by the Muslims as a sacred gift of Allah, so these dogs were never sold but offered only as a gift of friendship or homage.

The earliest written reference to the Saluki is found in the verses composed by Abu Nawas, a ninth century Arab poet, and Al Jahiz who wrote Animals Book. In one of Nawas’s poems, written in praise of the Saluki, he enumerates the following qualities:

I will sing the praise of my Saluki whose owner’s good fortune is assured by his tremendous effort.
All the good things they have come from him…
My Saluki’s excellent conformation is pleasing to the eye, also the receding corners of his mouth and his long muzzle,
Deers are in trouble when he is hunting …
What a fine Saluki you are, without equal!
(Translation by Hamad)

Arabian Saluki Center

In another verse Abu Nawas describes the movement of a Saluki:

Like an arrow it was sent,
Tearing away from his own skin,
Lightening like a cloud

Photographer: Shot On Site

Having tremendous speed, the Saluki is a brilliant desert hunter capable of incredible agility over rough terrain. He was used to course and bring down the gazelle, the fastest of the antelopes.

It is recorded that the Pharaohs rode to the chase with their hawks on their wrists and Salukis on the lead. It is also believed the Saluki was used on jackals, foxes, and hares.

Salukis were first brought into England in 1840: a bitch owned by Sir Hamilton Smith, a dog in Regents Park Zoological Gardens, and one owned by the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth. They were then known as Persian greyhounds since these three came from Persia.

During World War I English Army officers stationed in the East brought other specimens home as either prizes of war or the gifts of friendly tribes.

Photographer: Pepper Nix

Photographer: Shot On Site

On his native heath the Saluki gets no pampering. He lives hard, and it is a case of survival of the fittest--one reason for his strong constitution and sturdy frame, enabling him to stand any cimate in unheated kennels. His feet are hard and firm, and the hair between the toes is a great protection. In all his running and dodging over the roughest kind of ground and rocky country, he never damages pads or toes.

His beauty is that of the thoroughbred horse: grace and symmetry of form; clean-cut and graceful; short silky hair except on the ears, legs, and tail; slender, well-muscled neck, shoulders, and thighs; arched loins; long tail carried naturally in a curve with silky hair hanging from the underside; the arched toes; the rather long head with deep, far-seeing eyes--an expression of dignity mixed with gentleness.

Photographer: Shot On Site