Breed Profiles
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Get to Know the Saluki: Sleek, Svelte, and Swift

This tall, skinny breed of dog was originally an ancient Middle Eastern desert hunter.

 |  Aug 11th 2014  |   8 Contributions


"Yes, we really do feed him."

"Yes, she's supposed to be that thin."

If you own a Saluki, get ready to say these things a lot! If Greyhounds are the models of the dog world, then their cousin, the Saluki, is the Twiggy of the dog modeling world.

More interesting things about the Saluki:

  • The thin appearance is normal and self-imposed. Most Salukis are not big eaters. Ideally they should have three vertebrae, three ribs and both hipbones showing -- but just slightly.
  • The Saluki comes in two coat types: feathered and smooth. The smooth is caused by a single dominant gene.
  • The feathered has long silky hair on his ears, tail, between his toes and on the backs of his legs. He can sometimes have a fuzzy coat on his chest and thighs. As puppies, or when spayed or neutered, they may grow long hair over most of their body. The smooth has a short hair all over.
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(Photo courtesy Caroline Coile)
  • The feathered may be confused with the Afghan Hound, but the feathered Saluki has long hair only on his ears, tail, backs of legs and between toes, and almost never comes in brindle or solid black. The Afghan never comes in spotted or chocolate.
  • The smooth may be confused with the Greyhound, Azawakh or Sloughi. Unlike the Greyhound, the Saluki has drop ears, and is usually smaller. The Azawakh tends to have longer legs compared to his height than a Saluki, and often comes in brindle. The Sloughi tends to be heavier boned, and may have a black mask.

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(Photo courtesy Caroline Coile)

  • The Saluki is one of the most ancient breeds, according to DNA studies and ancient Egyptian carvings. The breed developed over a wide expanse of the Middle East, which is why it varies so much in size and looks.
  • The breed was bred to run down gazelles and hares in the desert, often with the aid of falcons. Less commonly the dog was used to catch wild ass and desert foxes. Salukis are still used today in the Middle East to chase gazelle. They are often muzzled so they don't kill the gazelle.
  • The Salukis was referred to as "el hor" (the noble one). They were an exception to the Muslim rule that dogs are unclean. They were allowed to sleep in their nomad owners' tents and were doted upon.

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Khyber the Saluki. (Photo courtesy Caroline Coile)

  • Salukis appear in many ancient and Renaissance works of art.
  • Salukis can still be found in the Middle East living with nomadic tribes, who use them to catch food, and also owned by royalty, who use them to course for sport.
  • The Saluki is also called Persian Greyhound or Gazelle Hound.
  • The Saluki is a member of the AKC Hound group, and considered a sighthound -- a hound that hunts by sight rather than scent.
  • The Saluki is the endurance runner of the sighthounds, and is the fastest dog after about a quarter mile.
  • Salukis tend to be aloof and independent.

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Khyzi the Saluki atop a car. (Photo courtesy Caroline Coile)

  • Saluki rescues are being imported to the West from some Middle Eastern countries.
  • The Saluki is one of a very few breeds in which unregistered dogs can be imported and added to the AKC gene pool.
  • Four Salukis have won the Hound group at the Westminster dog show, but none has yet won Best in Show there.
  • The Saluki currently ranks as the 115th most popular AKC breed, down from 110th a decade ago.

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Prophet the Saluki. (Photo courtesy Caroline Coile)

  • The Saluki is the mascot of Southern Illinois University.
  • Celebrities who have owned Salukis include Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, and, well, that's it. And that's not even totally certain. Ken Paves, hairdresser to the stars, owns three Salukis.
  • There is a type of yarn named Bernat Saluki yarn. We have no idea why. If anyone knows, please fill us in!

Do you own a Saluki? Have you spent time with one? Let's hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you'd like us to write about, let us know that, too!

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier

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