Desert-bred Saluqis

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Saluqis in the Countries of Origin - Iraq


Saluqi from Kubaisa, by the Euphrates

Iraq is known in Arabic as Bilad al-Rafidain - Land of the Two Rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, but away from the fertile valleys which they water the terrain varies from the almost barren deserts of the south and west to the high, often snow-capped mountains of the north. Across such a geographical range it is unsurprising that the Saluqis also vary considerably in type, although the distinctions between them are now less clear than was probably the case when the inhabitants were more settled than they have been in the last half century.
Let us take a tour through those parts of Iraq where I found significant populations of Saluqis, starting in the northeast at Kalar, where Tayra and Ziwa came from.

Typical Kurdish hounds at Kalar

The hounds of Kalar originated mainly with the Kurds who were displaced from the border with Iran but through coming in contact with the Arab and Turkoman communities in their new environment they have probably absorbed some different traits. The main type was a quite big, by Eastern standards, strongly built hound only lightly feathered, as shown above. Bitches were about 25" square and dogs about 27" square on average.

However there were also some smooth, slightly more refined hounds, such as this hound that was also unusually coloured. Solid blacks were a rarity anywhere in Iraq.

Less typical smooth hound

A more typical smooth hound

Return from the hunt

Whenever I was in the vicinity of Mosul I would try to pay a visit to a passionate hunter called Subhi, whom I chanced to meet one day when I was with some archaeologists near the largely Turkoman town of Telafar. Subhi had a farm nearby, where he kept a line of Saluqis that he had inherited though his father and grandfather. They were all smooths as he regarded feathering as a sign of crossbreeding. He hunted on horseback in the surrounding countryside principally hare but also fox for the fur and even occasionally wolf.  
On my first visit I could scarecely believe my eyes when he opened the gates to the courtyard of his house where in a spacious pen were at least half a dozen hounds of various ages and colours, including a remarkable brindle, one of a litter of 8 that he had bred from a red dog and a tricolour bitch, which he thought had some connection with Turkey. We went out with his pack and my two hounds for a couple of hours' sport so that I could see how well they worked in the local terrain.
On another occasion I found that he had kept two puppies for me from a beautiful black and silver bitch and a cream dog. He had even left the ears intact, although he customarily cropped his hounds' ears. The female was very nicely built but the male looked underdeveloped and as I was looking for a male at the time I had to decline the gift. The dam was in season again and was wearing a coat that came down to the ground across her hindquarters to prevent any accidental mating.

Chastity cloak

Some of Subhi's pack

When exploring the western frontier town of Rutba for vestiges of the old British Nairn Bus Company I was introduced to a famed local hunter with falcons and Salukis called 'Dalli'. He was a real character and spent most of the winter months hunting gazelle alive to help stock a reservation not far from the town. He would use his Saluqis to run the gazelle to the point of exhaustion when he could collect them and put them in the back of his pickup.  

Ready for the hunt

His Saluqis were mainly of the robust feathered type that are commonly found in Rutba, which is quite high and gets very cold in winter.

Dalli's hound

Rutba hound guarding sheep

Dalli's hound

Typical Rutba hound

On later visits I discovered that Dalli's feathered hounds had been replaced by smooths, one was wearing a coat and making the most of the winter sunshine. Another was still a puppy, which I was very tempted to acquire, but Dalli was away from the house and his wife could not take the responsibility for handing it over.

Dalli's new hound

Dalli's puppy

One of my favourite hunting grounds was along the Euphrates to the west of Baghdad, especially around the small town of Kubaisa. There were always lots of Saluqis in among the palm plantations.

Typical Saluqi of Kubaisa

The Saluqis here were mainly feathered and would go out on a daily basis with the children shepherding the flocks to pasture in the surrounding gravelly desert.

Shepherd boys and their Saluqis

It was in Kubaisa that I met my first 'Luqi'. A nice Saluqi bitch had been mated with a Saluqi but it seems one of the guard dogs had slipped in and mated her a second time. The result was a litter of pups some of which developed into normal Saluqis but others develped the coarser traits of the guard dog. Over time I watched the puppies grow and when they were old enough to hunt the crossbreds came with us as they had a better nose for prey in the scrub and would even dig out prey from holes.

The dam and her two Saluqi puppies

Luqi from the same dam

On the edge of Kubaisa was a settlement of Turkomans displaced from the Kirkuk area and among them were some keen hunters with two fine Saluqis. When we went hunting, my Tayra impressed them so much that they wanted to use on her a powerfully built black dog called Howa (Wind), but the timing was never right. I was in any case more in favour of their other very fast dog called Bora (Storm).

Walking up near Kubaisa



In between these populations of Saluqis there were many other small settlements where I would come across a surprising range of Saluqis belonging to the various communities of which Iraq is made up.
One such community was a Shebek village by the Tepe Gawra archaeological site, not far from Mosul. Here I came across another brindle, a crop-eared puppy, the only one in a litter from a beautiful tricolour bitch. I found another brindle in a small community of displaced Kurds in Chamchemal, when I happened to be there to monitor the local elections.

Shebek brindle

Brindle at Chamchemal

Sometimes I would just happen to be driving by the pet market in Baghdad, which was always full of exotic creatures, and would spot a Saluqi. Once I found a puppy there which matched exactly what an archaeologist was looking for to take back with her to the USA. I bought her and took her home only to find the poor creature's pads were torn, probably from being dragged over the hot tarmac by the little boy who owned her. However Ataliya, as she was called by her new owner, flourished and eventually made her way to the USA.


Then I discovered one day as I walked my hounds along the road in which I lived in Baghdad that an Iraqi airlines pilot with several Saluqis also lived there. He had a particularly nice young grizzle bitch, which he had bred himself, but his busy schedule left him no time to exercise his hounds properly. 

Grizzle bitch in Baghdad

I had so many unusual encounters with Saluqis in Iraq that I could include many more examples but I mention one more as it had an echo many years later. One day we were invited to a lunch party in a garden in Baghdad by an Iraqi married to a German. We took our Saluqis along to run in the garden, where they were introduced to the hostess' young white Saluqi from Sulaimaniya in Kurdistan. Recently, some 20 years later, I was asked by a German correspondent if I had any pictures of a white Saluqi that she had heard I had seen in Baghdad before it was imported to Germany. Here is the picture I sent her. 

White Saluqi from Sulaimaniya

Sherwana Castle, Kalar


In September 2013, I returned to Kurdistan for the first time since 1989. I had hoped to revisit Kalar, where my first Salukis originated. I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the Jaff family, whose castle dominates Kalar, and they facilitated my visit there, but sadly they told me there were no Salukis left there any more, because of a hunting ban. I found out subsequently that there are still some in the small villages roundabout. However my disappointment was compensated by a wonderful day in the country outside the capital, Erbil, where one breeder offered me this nice tricolour bitch, while some other hunters put on a mounted hunt in traditional stile.

Tricolour bitch
Mounted hunter with Saluki

Elsewhere, it was clear that the hunting ban is having the effect of turning some people away from breeding Salukis, but such an old tradition dies hard and here and there there are still pockets where they continue be raised and used but less obviously than before. In the mainly Christian town of al-Qosh I met an enthusiastic breeder who told me that, because of the hunting ban, he now owned only one Saluqi, which he was very keen to sell me. She was a pretty smooth called 'Lasti'.


Iraq in other articles

1.Salukis in Iraq - The Saluki, Summer/ Autumn 1987
2.Iraqi Salukis in their natural habitat - then and now - Saluki Heritage, Issue 15 Autumn 1988
3.Hunting with Hawk and Saluki in Iraq - The Saluki,Summer/Autumn 1989
4. Puppy tales from Iraq - SPDBS Newsletter, Vol.8, No.1, 1998; and in Saluki Heritage, Issue 19 Autumn 1990
5. Coursing in Iraq - the real thing - ASA Newsletter, Spring 1990
6. The Salukis of Kalar - The Windhound, Summer 1992