Desert-bred Saluqis

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Saluqis in the Countries of Origin - Iran

In Iran the word Saluqi is used only among the Arabic-speaking people in the area known as Khuzestan bordering Iraq. Elsewhere the mainly Farsi-speaking people use Tazi, which may derive from the same word meaning 'Arabian' or possibly from the word tazidan meaning 'to run'. In the Kurdish-speaking areas, the words Tazhi (in the Kurmanji dialect) and Tanji (in the Sorani dialect) are used. Here I shall use Tazi.

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Tazi calligraphy (C) SirTClark-2009)

I visited Iran a couple of times in the mid-1960s when I was living in Dubai and then in 1973 I drove with my family the length of Iran over about two weeks. Unsurprisingly I did not see a single hunting hound, as they are kept hidden away behind compound walls like a closely guarded treasure. So it was not until May 1999 and a three-week journey around Iran that I saw my first hounds in Tehran at the home of Lev and Margret Tamp, whom I had previously met in England.

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The Tamps' hounds in 1998 - courtesy of M. Tamp
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Taufan - May 1999
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Salima
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Samsam

At the time they had three striking youngsters - Salima (cream), Samsam (black-masked red) and Taufan (mainly black) from a litter sired by a black Kurdish dog. All their hounds were used for hunting from horseback. When we went back to Tehran in September 2005, they had matured beautifully, so it was all the more sad to hear later that only Taufan had survived a terrible virus.

Margret Tamp took me to their farm outside Tehran. On another farm nearby she showed me a grey Tazi bitch tied to a tree which had two brindle puppies about a year old, a dog and a bitch. Margret had not been able to establish the sire.

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Nervous brindle bitch

Kordestan

It was in September 2005 that we undertook a visit to the north-west of Iran - Kordestan, as it is called in Farsi. Along a route that took us to several astounding archaeological sites we met up with Margret Tamp and Ali Golshan in Sanandaj, where we visited the astonishing Tazi kennels of Jamil, known as 'The gazelle of the desert' from his feat in his youth of running down a gazelle and catching it with his bare hands. A door in a blank wall took us into a courtyard milling with so many Tazis of all ages and colours that it was difficult to count them all. Apart from a couple of smooth puppies, they were all lightly feathered, well-muscled and of an average size of about 25-27". Some had cropped ears, but only if they had been raised in the surrounding Kurdish villages. Jamil did not practice cropping.

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Some of the hounds in the yard
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Debutant hunter, 15 months old
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Year-old dog

Jamil invited us to go hunting on a nearby farm, where he was keen to try out two beginners, a red and white particoloured dog and a cream dog, both about 15 months old. We also took his favourite almost black dog and another mature cream dog. At the farm Jamil and his father set off at a brisk walk over the surrounding hills. It was still quite hot and the hounds could find nothing, so they came back. Then Jamil realised the young cream dog was missing. He raced back over a hill and found the dog but it refused to come back with him. In the end he decided to leave it there as he thought it would find its way to the farmhouse.

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The dog that went astray

We were due to leave early the next morning for a day's hunting on the way to Bokan but were delayed while Jamil went looking unsucessfully for the missing dog. So by the time we reached the undulating fields it was already hot. In addition to Jamil's favourite black dog, which was a renowned hunter, and the particoloured youngster, some villagers arrived with another black dog and a powerfully built cream dog. I took a vantage point to follow the men as they walked up but it was in vain: it was much too hot and nothing was stirring. All the hounds wanted to do was to flop in a nearby stream.

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One of the villagers' hounds
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Cooling off

It was clear from what we were told that in the Kurdish part of north-west Iran the Tazi is still thriving in the villages and hunting with them continues, especially in the winter when the snow shows up the prey's tracks. At our next stop at the ancient site of Takht-e Soleiman my first enquiry produced information on Tazis at the very next village and on the way there I spotted one running loose in a field. I had the impression that it would not be difficult to find more in the area.

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Village Tazi near Takht-e Soleiman

Elsewhere as we left the Kurdish the area we were not so lucky and all my enquiries were in vain. As Ali Golshan told me on the basis of his extensive enquiries across the country, the situation overall is not good. No doubt many factors are responsible: the decline in game, pressure on the land from a growing population, climate change, movement of people to the towns and the more conservative attitude of the authorities towards dogs of any kind, which includes laws banning people from walking their dogs in the streets or riding with them in their cars.

With such thoughts in mind, it was an even greater pleasure to round off this visit with an excursion to the narrow canyon north-east of Tehran near Firouzkouh, where an extraordinary relief sculpture in the rock face at Tang-e Vashi shows the esteem in which Tazis were once held, with the Qajar Fath Ali Shah riding out to hunt deer with his Tazis.

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Fath Ali Shah relief, Firouzkouh
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Prancing Tazi, Firouzkouh

Other articles:

1. Tazis in Iranian Kurdistan - The Performance Sighthound Journal, Vol.3, Issue 1, 2006; and as Kurdische Tazis in Iran in Der Windhundfreund, Nr. 278, 2007