Widely admired for its beauty, speed, and endurance, the Saluki historically traveled throughout the Middle East with nomadic desert tribes over an area stretching from the Sahara to the Caspian Sea. As a result, different Saluki subtypes, varying mostly in color and coat, can be found across this widely scattered area.
The Saluki is a breed of dog known for speed, stamina and endurance. It resembles the Azawakh or Sloughi, which were commonly known as the Royal dog of Egypt. Until the designation of Sloughi as a breed, it was commonly mixed with Sloughis in England and some other European countries.
The Saluki is a sighthound bred especially for grace and speed. Although the greyhound is widely viewed as being the fastest dog breed with a top speed of around 45 mph (72 km/h), the Saluki is said to be faster, with top speeds of 48 mph (77 km/h). Testing this has proved difficult as Salukis show no interest in electric hares and therefore won't race greyhounds on a track. However, as their original use was for hunting desert gazelles with top speeds of up to 50 mph, the speed claim could be true.
There are two coat types evident in the Saluki gene pool: smooth and feathered. Smooth is a short coat over the entire body, and feathered is long hair on the ears, backs of the legs and tail. This hair can be of varying lengths and sparseness is not to be penalized. Both coat types exhibit the same qualities. In both varieties males may range from 23 to 28 inches at the top of the shoulder with females measuring somewhat smaller.
A true Saluki retains the qualities of hunting hounds and may seem reserved and aloof. They learn quickly but can get bored with repetition, so training sessions should be short and varied. Sensitive and intelligent, the Saluki should never be trained using force or hard-handed methods.
Salukis need regular exercise, but can behave quietly indoors. They are usually quiet and don't bark unless there is a reason, but they will "sing" (a high pitched howl, with oscillating volume) when they feel that something is wrong or when a member of the family is away for a long period of time. This "singing" can also be for bonding in the family (pack) group. There are salukis that have been taught to "sing" on cue. Salukis can get along well with children and can become protective, but the family must respect the dog's need for quiet and peaceful time alone to rest. Salukis have a fairly long life span, living an average of 12-13 years.
According to the National Veterinary Scholars, Salukis should not be allowed off leash. Salukis can have a strong prey drive as they are sighthounds and have an ancient heritage of hunting by sight (over 7,000 years). However, this does not mean that they cannot get along with smaller dogs, cats, or other small pets. Training and understanding of the individual saluki come into play when integrating a household of mixed species. The Saluki Club of America recommends a fence of at least five feet tall, as a Saluki can very easily jump anything lower than that.
The Saluki is the mascot for the Southern Illinois University sports teams and because of this connection, one of the new Amtrak trains serving Illinois is called the "Saluki," making this possibly the first Amtrak train to be named after a dog.
Red Hill High School in Bridgeport, Illinois, has also taken the Saluki as their mascot.
Alberto Giacometti's 1951 sculpture titled "Dog" was modeled after a Saluki.
Cross is a fierce female Saluki in the Japanese manga series Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin and its sequel, Ginga Legend Weed, both by Yoshihiro Takahashi. Her sons Ken and George play important roles in Ginga Legend Weed.
The Saluki has historically served as a courser, a speedy hunting dog that operated in packs. They often hunted in tandem with falcons which locate the prey and for the dogs to run down.
Salukis appear on Egyptian tombs from 2100 B.C. The dogs were so esteemed that they were often mummified like the bodies of the Pharaohs themselves. Numerous Saluki remains have been found in the ancient tombs of the Upper Nile region.
The name 'saluki' comes from the name of the ancient Arabian city 'Saluq'.
In Muslim cultures, dogs are often seen as unclean. A saluki, however, is given a different status by the Arab culture. The breed is treasured by the Bedouin for the white spot on the dog's chest. The Bedouin value them, breeding them for both beauty and hunting qualities. A saluki, instead of being viewed as unclean, often sleeps in tents with their owners, to be protected from the heat of the day and the cold of the night.
Salukis were first brought into England in 1840. There was no real interest however, until the Hon. Florence Amherst imported the first Arabian Saluki in 1895 from the kennels of Prince Abdulla in Transjordan. King Abdullah's hounds were probably originally from Kurdish areas of Syria.
As is the case with some other pedigree breeds in the United States, including the Basenji and Portuguese Podengo, the current domestic population of Salukis is descended from a small number of founders introduced into the country within the last 100 years, and must be carefully mated to avoid inbreeding. However, the original dogs imported into the US came from throughout the whole Middle East, a vast geographical area, unlike most other breeds that come from very small areas, so, worldwide, Salukis have the largest genetic base among purebreds. Recently, the AKC (American Kennel Club) has allowed the third generation of COO (Country of Origin) salukis to be registered after inspections by recognized judges so the DNA base will broaden.