Desert-bred Saluqis

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Saluqis in the Countries of Origin - The Arabian Peninsula

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Typical Peninsular hound

It is probable that at one time there were distinct populations of Saluqis with the Bedouin communities scattered acros this vast area, but today any such distinctions have become blurred, as the nomads have become for the most part settled and modern means of transport link them and their Saluqis together. Even in the more remote oases of the Empty Quarter you now find such a variety of hounds that have clearly originated elsewhere. However for me the hound in the above picture epitomises the typical strain that is still to be found in many parts of the Peninsula, with its muscular frame, short hair, rounded, wide skull and low set ears.  

Bahrain

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Shaikha Danah Al Khalifa's farm

When we left Baghdad for our new posting to Muscat in 1990, we drove down the Gulf in easy stages with our two Saluqis and stayed with friends on the way. After an overnight stop in Kuwait we continued on to Bahrain, which was my first diplomatic posting at the end of the 1950s, so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane. We made a point of calling on Shaikha Danah Al Khalifa, whom I had known through correspondence for some time, at her farm, where we introduced our Saluqis to her and her Saluqis. The hounds had a good run around and she remarked on my hounds' lovely light movement. Her hounds came from the then Ruler's kennels where a distinctive strain (see above picture) had been bred for generations.
Elsewhere on the island I also found some examples of the smooth Peninsular hound, typified by this nursing bitch.  

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Nursing bitch

A friend also had a couple of local Saluqis, which were of another strain, with possibly a hint of Iraq or Iran about them.

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A friend's Saluqi

Qatar

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Saluqis in Doha

We called on some of the shaikhs in Doha who showed us some of their hounds, both of the Peninsular strain and more exotic strains. On a subsequent visit to Doha it seemed to me that there were more exotic strains than ever - and not only of Saluqis! On one of our calls we were taken to see a Saluqi living harmoniously with a Cheetah! 

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Saluqi with Cheetah

There is still a lot of interest among the Qataris in traditional hunting with falcons and Saluqis and I was able to see quite a range of hounds on a couple of later visits there. They told me that they also organised each winter a gazelle hunt, using gazelle raised on one of the many enclosed farms.

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Some Qatari hounds

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Peninsular hound's head, Doha

In the spring of 2010 I paid a return visit to Doha but found to my disappointment that two of the shaikhs who had had Saluqis before had given them up in order to concentrate on their businesses. However all was not lost as a British friend of mine was working there as a veterinarian and introduced me to her own locally-bred Saluqi puppy and a Sloughi she had brought with her from Morocco.

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Saluqi puppy in Doha
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Elderly Moroccan Sloughi in Doha

The United Arab Emirates
In the late 1960s I lived for three years in Dubai but travelled frequently to all the individual shaikhdoms. Although I occasionally went out with the shaikhs and their falcons, I never saw a single Saluqi. Even today they are uncommon and are mostly to be found on the farms of some of the Shaikhs.

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Saluqis on a farm in Dubai

Some of the kennels on these farms are however large by any standards. I remember on one such farm in Abu Dhabi in the early 1990s losing count after seeing 70 hounds in sandy pens around an exercise square. They were mainly but not all purebred Saluqis and I could see here and there signs of crossbreeding with Greyhounds.

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Crossbred puppies in Abu Dhabi

But there was one superb dog of the Peninsular strain which really took my fancy. According to one of the kennel hands he had pulled down 12 gazelles in a single day while hunting in Sudan. My Tayra was at the peak of her season on that day, so I introduced her to him, but sadly she refused him.

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Gazelle hound at Al-Khazna, Abu Dhabi

On one of my visits to the Emirates in the early 1990s, I was introduced to an American diplomat who had previously served in Saudi Arabia, where he had acquired a feathered tricolour male and a smooth red and white female Saluqi. He had bred them and he showed me two of their offspring: a smooth tricolour and a most unusual feathered brindle. They later went back to the USA.
 

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Brindle in Sharjah

In the early 1990s I also saw some unusual hounds at the Al-Ain Zoo, adjacent to which a race track was established for both Greyhounds and Saluqis. Here is an example at the Zoo of what I saw. 

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At Al-Ain Zoo

In the interval Hamad Al-Ghanem at the Arabian Saluki Centre in Abu Dhabi has established an enlightened programme of breeding purebred Saluqis and of informing the wider public of their natural heritage. He has also firmly discouraged crossbreeding. The annual Saluqi Beauty Show as part of the Abu Dhabi International Hunting Exhibition, which I was fortunate to judge in 2008, gives a rare opportunity of seeing the range of strains in the region.
 

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The BIS at ADIHEX 2008

In the spring of 2010 I visited the extensive kennels of Shaikh Rashid bin Ahmed Al-Maktoum, who is a very keen hunter with Saluqis. While I was there he demonstrated how well Saluqis can jump. He ran with a Saluqi on a long lead at two sets of parallel bars used for horse jumping. Each time the Saluqi sailed over the jumps with ease. In the cooler weather his Saluqis take part in the new sport of gazelle chasing. A captive Reem gazelle is released on an area of flat desert and is given a start before a number of Saluqis are released after it. The winner is the hound coming closest to the gazelle before the end of the designated course of 2 to 2.5 km, when the gazelle is recaptured to run again another day. This is one way of maintaining the hounds' hunting capabilities in a country where hunting wild mammals is banned.

Flying Saluqi in Dubai
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Flying Saluqi in Dubai
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In December 2011 I attended some Saluqi races at Remah in Abu Dhabi as part of the International Falconry Festival in Al-Ain. On each of two days, the Saluqis ran in five races in batches of about 20 hounds over a slightly curved course of 1.5 km in pursuit of a stuffed gazelle on a boom over the track. The first four Saluqis in each of the 10 races went through to the finals which were run a week later during the Al-Dhafra Camel Festival. The Saluqis were mainly young and presented in beautiful condition, many with freshly hennaed feet. Many of them were clearly imports from Syria and Turkey, indicated by their cropped ears, and a number of owners confirmed that this was so. More pictures of the races are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbsaluqis/

Preparing for the start
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Away they go!
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Flying to the finish!

In February 2013 I had hoped to see some gazelle chasing with a young Emirati as part of his training programme for his Saluqis but nature intervened in the form of dense fog in the desert! When it eventually cleared it was too hot to run the hounds so we contented ourselves with seeing a camel beauty show and a visit to three Saluqi kennels in al-Ain with over 80 hounds between them. The hounds were kennelled around large sandy squares, where they could exercise from their individual pens. The hounds were nearly all originally imported from Syria and Turkey, because impatient for results the owners did not want to wait for the traditional process of selection, breeding and raising. However the presence of numerous puppies bred locally from them, partly because of the troubles in Syria, suggests a greater willingness to breed their own. They all looked in good condition but, as you would expect in kennels of this size, they were not as well socialised as hounds raised in individual households. Modern innovations included kibble food and a treadmill for training.

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Peninsular type

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Captive gazelle in Al-Ain

In February 2014 I was invited to judge the Saluqi beauty competition as part of HH Shaikh Sultan bin Zayed's Festival of Emirati Heritage at Sweihan in the desert in Abu Dhabi. The Festival was mainly about camels - for racing and showing - but the Saluqis were also there - both for racing and showing. Some 100 Saluqis participated in the races over 2.5 km, divided up into 10 heats, with the first three in each going through to the finals, run a week later. There were some superb hounds, many of them imported from Turkey and Syria.

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Lining up at the start
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An athletic import

When it was the turn of the Saluki beauty competition, we were presented with about 60 hounds, divided into four categories: male and female, feathereds and smooths. All the hounds were of hunting stock and their condition was therefore excellent. By western standards they were generally smaller and more compact; and the feathered ones had only sparse furnishings on ears and tail. The overall standard was very good and the first three in each category were excellent.

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One of the beauty contestants
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A feathered contestant
Turkish import, with only one ear cropped.
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While I was there, I also visited a number of Saluki kennels in the vicinity. Each held 20-30 Salukis. Most were imports from Turkey and Syria, typified by their cropped ears, but some breeders were now breeding on from their imports, partly because of the turmoil in the north of the region. The hounds were well cared for and in good condition (see more images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/99466864@NO2/).

Locally bred from Syrian imports.
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Locally bred puppies from imports.
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Saudi Arabia
While I was based in Oman in 1990-94, I also had opportunities for visiting Saudi Arabia and seeing some of the Saluqis there. On one occasion we drove all the way across Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Syria and back. Along the way we stopped at some tents of the Shammar from which emerged this magnificent Peninsular hound.

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Saluqi of the Shammar tribe

We also visited the oasis village of Anbak, where there was an ever-changing population of the still nomadic Al Murra tribe with their livestock and their Saluqis. These hounds were mainly of the smooth Peninsular strain but also included some feathered specimens among them. 

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Peninsular hound at Anbak

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Smooth hound at Anbak

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Feathered hound at Anbak

In the vast date plantations based on the oasis of Hofuf we pursued some young lads with a pair of Saluqis in the back of their vehicle. I stopped them eventually and they turned out to be from the Dawsari tribe with two Peninsular hounds in top hunting condition.

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Saluqis of the Dawasir at Hofuf

In the area known as al-Jawf in the North-west, the Amir at Sakaka gave us a guide to see some of the many Saluqis there. We saw both feathered and smooth hounds and among them a young puppy wearing a belt round its waist 'to improve its shape'. I have since seen such belts on puppies and mature hounds in other places: one explanation given was that it was for pulling the hound out of a hole if it was stuck! 

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Sakaka hounds

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Puppy with a waist belt

South of Riyadh we visited a recreational farm of one of the shaikhs at al-Kharj, where we saw a strange collection of different strains of Saluqi, with a striking red hound from California, some mixes of western imports and local hounds, two related brindles and lots of puppies. The owner was not hunting with them but kept them as part of his menagerie.

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Californian red and a brindle at al-Kharj

Back among the hunters at Anbak on another trip we found a completely different and much smaller collection of Saluqis. Some of the hunters complained that a ban on hunting except for certain months was a disincentive to keeping Saluqis (another visitor some years later found no Saluqis there at all).

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Puppy at Anbak

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A rare grizzle at Anbak

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Many hounds have smooth ears and a feathered tail

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A sturdy hound at Anbak

Oman

According to the Hon Florence Amherst in her book 'Oriental Greyhounds', there once was a distinctive type of Omani Saluqi which she described as 'not having much feathering on ears and tail'. At that time it must have existed in sufficient numbers to merit a mention as one of only four types of Saluqi. However the introduction of a ban on all forms of hunting in 1976 obliged hunters to dispose of their hunting hounds (and falcons) with the result that the breed became virtually extinct. When I lived there in the 1990s I found only one smooth Saluqi among the Duru' tribe, who had once been famous hunters, and it had been castrated and was being used as a guard dog. I also found a single puppy among the Al bu Shamis tribe near Buraimi, which, judging by its unusual black and white colour, had almost certainly been imported from outside. I further met a tribesman of the Al Wahaiba who had a pair of cream hounds, which he admitted had been imported from Saudi Arabia. The Royal Oman Police kept a few imported Saluqis and one of the Muscat shaikhs used one of them on a bitch imported from Abu Dhabi in an attempt to reestablish the breed. Even so it is likely that the total number in Oman today remains very small.

Old Saluqi from the Duru'
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Puppy with the Al bu Shamis
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Saudi Saluqi with the Al Wahaiba
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ROP Saluqi of possibly British origin

Occasionally you still see here and there semi-feral dogs that look as if they might be descendants of the Saluqis that were released to fend for themselves rather than be destroyed at the time of the hunting ban. Here is a group that was living off discarded fish pieces on the beach near Sur.

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Beach dogs near Sur

In December 2014, I revisited Oman, where I was told that Saluqis are as rare as ever before, though some enthusiasts in the area of Sohar on the northern Batinah coast were participating in races in the UAE. However, I did see near Muscat a fine litter of puppies, whose sire and dam had been  imported from the UAE

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Eight-month-old puppy
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A fluffy sibling
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Another sibling
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Other articles:

1. Lost in the Empty Quarter - The Saluki, Summer/Autumn 1990
2. Saluqis in Oman - PDO News, No. 2,1993
2. Farewell to Arabia - The Saluki, Summer/Autumn 1994
3. Naseem's tale - SPDBS Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1995
4. Letter from the Gulf - SPDBS Newsletter, Vol.9, No.2, 1999
5. Salukis of the Eastern Province - The Saluki, Championship Show Edition, 2006
6. Return to the Emirates - The Performance Sighthound Journal, Vol. 3, Issue 3, 2006
7. The Third Arabian Saluki Beauty Show - The Saluki, Crufts Edition 2009
8. The Empty Quarter Revisted - SPDBS Newsletter, Winter 2009
9. Black Salukis of Arabia, The Saluki, Championship Show Edition, 2011
10. A day at the races, The Saluki, Crufts Edition, 2012
11.Salukis in their natural habitat, The Saluki, Crufts Edition, 2014
12. Where tradition and change meet, ASA Newsletter, Spring 2014