The standards call for a hound from 33 to 55 pounds (15-25 kg); its height is 24 to 29 inches (60-74 cm). The coat is very short and almost absent on the belly. Its bone structure shows clearly through the skin and musculature. Its muscles are "dry", meaning that they lie quite flat, unlike the Greyhound and Whippet. In this respect it is similar in type to the Saluki.
In Africa, Azawakh are found in a variety of colors such as black, red, blue fawn (that is, with a lilac cast), grizzle, and, rarely, blue. The Azawakh in its native land also comes with various white markings including Irish marked (white collar) and particolour (mostly white) Because of this wide color variation in the native population, the American standard used by the AKC and UKC allows any color combination found in Africa.
Colors permitted by the FCI breed standard are clear sand to dark fawn/brown, red and brindle (with or without a dark mask), with white bib, tail tip, and white on all feet (which can be tips of toes to high stockings). Currently, white stockings that go above the elbow joint are considered disqualifying features in France, as is a white collar or half collar (Irish marked).
The Azawakh’s light, supple, elastic gait is a notable breed characteristic, as is a "bouncy gallop" or, more succinctly, as "boing".
Azawakh have no known incidence of hip displasia. There is a small occurrence of adult-onset ideopathic epilepsy in the breed. Wobbler disease or cervical vertebral instability does rarely occur. Some breeders believe this is a largely developmental problem where puppies grow too quickly due to a high-protein western diet.
Like the Basenji, the Azawakh bitch often has a single annual estrus. Unasisted birth of healthy puppies is the norm. Litter sizes are usually from 4 to 6 puppies but litters as small as 2 and as large as 8 occur.
Azawakh need a fairly high level of exercise and should have regular runs off lead in large enclosed areas to run off steam. The dogs are very social and emotional. They need a master that provides firm but fair leadership. Azawakh thrive companionship of other Azawakh.
Azawakh have high energy and tremendous endurance. They are excellent training companions for runners and are nearly impervious to heat. They will happily run in weather over 100 degrees Farenheit that would kill a Greyhound. They love to dig holes in the garden, which is great excercise for both dog (digging) and owner (filling).
Many Azawakh detest rain and cold weather.
Azawakh are pack oriented and form complex social heirarchies. They have tremendous memories and are able to recognize each other after long perionds of separation. They can often be found sleeping on top of each other for warmth and companionship
In the common era the Sahel dogs are almost totally isolated from northern dogs by the Sahara, but the ties to the pariah dogs to the south are extremely close. Azawakh are virtually indistinguishable from the Sahel pariah dog population from which they are drawn. In addition to a basic physical structure, the Azawakh share a number of unique traits with the pariah dogs:
Throughout the Sahel, very elegant puppies can be found among rustic siblings. The Sahel nomads do not have the same breed concepts as in the West and, unlike the Bedouin of the North, do not recognize a strict separation of al hor (noble) from kelb (mongrel) dogs. The nomads act as an extra level of selection on top of the intense natural selection pressure of the Sahel environment. The approach to selection is diametrically opposed to Western breeding. Instead of selecting which dogs to breed upon maturity, they decide which puppies should live. This approach has the advantage of maintaining a large reserviour of genetic variability and resilience.
The peoples of the Sahel control dam lines and cull puppies heavily at birth according to locally held aesthetic criteria that we do not fully understand. In the Sahel, color is not a selection criterion. The alpha male dog from the local population is usually the sire. Unless it is a wet year, only one puppy from a litter might be selected to live. Females are usually culled unless the family projects a need for more dogs in the future.
Bred by the Tuareg, Fula and various other nomads of the Sahara and sub-Saharan Sahel in the countries of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and southern Algeria, the breed is used there as a guard dog and to hunt gazelle and hare at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. The austerity of the Sahel environment has ensured that only the most fit dogs survive and has accentuated the breed's ruggedness and independence. Unlike some other sighthounds, the Azawakh is more of a pack hunter and they bump down the quarry with hindquarters when it has been tired out. In role of a guard dog, if an Azawakh senses danger it will bark to alert the other members of the pack, and they will gather together as a pack under the lead of the alpha dog, then chase off or attack the predator. The Sloughi, by comparison, is more of an independent lone hunter and has a high hunting instinct.
They are relatively uncommon in Europe and North America but there is a growing band of devotees. Azawakhs have a range of temperaments from lap dog to quite fierce. Lifelong socialization and firm but gentle handling are critical. Well socialised and trained, they can be good with other dogs, cats, children, and strangers. Azawakh may be registered with the FCI in the USA via the Federación Canófila de Puerto Rico (FCPR) European FCI clubs and the AKC recognize the FCPR as an acceptable registry. The AKC recognizes Azawakh as a Foundation Stock Service breed and they are eligible to participate in AKC-sanctioned performance events. Azawakh may be registered with the UKC and ARBA. The breed is not yet registered by CKC. Azawakh are eligible for ASFA lure coursing and NOFCA open field coursing events.