The Saluki may be the oldest breed of dog; its history can be traced nearly 7000 years, and it is definitely one of the earliest breeds to diverge from wolves. Historically the breed’s purpose was coursing and hunting in packs, sometimes in tandem with falcons to locate the prey for the breed to chase down. The breed once traveled with nomadic desert tribes throughout the Middle East. The breed appears inscribed on Egyptian tombs, and bones of some Saluki have been found in the tombs of the Upper Nile region which were mummified like the bodies of the pharaohs. This breed differs from most ancient breeds in its value. In Muslim cultures, most dogs are seen as dirty; this breed, however, is treasured for its beauty and abilities. Some Saluki were even allowed to sleep with their masters, which was unheard of for animals during that period.
The breed was first brought to England in 1840; there was no interest at the time, until some Saluki were imported in 1895 from the kennels of Prince Abdulla in Transjordan. Currently, the breed’s U.S. population is descended from only a handful of founders.
The breed resembles breeds which were once Royal dogs of Egypt. It is bred not only for its appearance and grace, but also for its speed. The Saluki can run at least 48 miles per hour, and can run constantly for nearly five miles. It is a sight hound which hunts efficiently due to its drive, focus, and speed.
The breed stands 23 to 28 inches tall and can have either a smooth or feathered coat. The feathered coat type has long hair on its ears, tail, and the backs of its legs. The smooth coat has a short coat over its entire body.
The Saluki is a reserved, intelligent breed. It should be carefully and gently trained, and its training sessions should be kept short as the breed becomes bored with repetition. The breed needs regular exercise, but can remain calm and quiet indoors. The breed does tend to get along with children and can become quite protective of its family. It generally is not loud, unless it feels as if something is wrong, or if a family member is away for a long time. When this is the case, the breed sings, or howls. This behavior is something innate in the breed which is also used to bond with its pack group. The breed should now be allowed off leash due to the strength of its hunting instincts. It is also recommended that the breed be kept in a yard with a fence of at least five feet tall.
The breed typically lives for 12 to 13 years. The Saluki is a generally healthy breed, but it may be sensitive to anesthesia.