Desert-bred Saluqis

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Saluqis in the Countries of Origin - Turkey

My first visit to Turkey was in May 1973, when I drove with my family across the country from the Greek to the Iranian border. We saw many colourful sights, but no hunting hounds. Then in 1985 I was posted to Baghdad for five years and during this time we drove across Turkey three times and paid a shorter visit once more. On one of these visits we were looking at the great castle at Dogubayazit when a very pregnant smooth grizzle hound walked across in front of me. Later as we were driving down from Diyarbakir we came across a farmer driving a cart with two hounds trotting beside it and a small puppy sitting on it. Another time we went up into the mountains from Diyabakir and saw a Tazi in a Kurdish village. So I knew they were in the area but because of the conflict there over the last 20 years or so it has long been difficult to go into the villages to get a closer look.

But first, how should we call these hounds? As I discovered on recent visits to Turkey, the word Saluqi is used only by the Arabic-speakers in the areas adjoining Syria. Elsewhere the Turkish word Tazi is used (the last letter has no equivalent in English but sounds like -uh), except in the Kurdish (Kurmanji) -speaking areas, where Tazhi is used. I shall keep to Tazi.

South-western Anatolia

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Sultan Bayazit out hunting, reproduction in original stone paints by an unknown Bosnian artist

I should really start in Istanbul, because it was in the Topkapi Serai that I was delighted to find two large colour transparencies showing Sultan Bayazit II out hunting with Tazis. One of them showed exactly the same scene that I had found some years ago in Sarajevo, Bosnia, painted by an unsigned artist using stone paints as in the original miniature. It was a useful reminder that we were dealing here with hounds that have for long held a special position in Ottoman history.

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Smooth crop-eared bitch, Konya

As is clear from the miniature, ear-cropping is an old tradition in Turkey but when Edgar Berghaus was doing his research in the 1980s he did not find any examples of it. I was intrigued to find therefore that in Konya itself several of the hounds had cropped ears. Edgar Berghaus had also not seen any smooths, yet I found slightly more smooths than feathereds. He further found a preponderance of black, black and white and cream colours; whereas I found a number of grizzles and no creams at all. Clearly times are changing.

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Smooth Tazi near Konya
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More typical black feathered dog near Konya

I also noticed that some of the hounds had rather turned back ears,which seemed to be a purely local feature.

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Smooth bitch with turned back ears near Konya
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Feathered dog with turned back ears near Konya

There were plenty of Tazis in the villages around Konya, where the conditions are ideal for hunting. Here, on the edge of the vast Anatolian plain, the hounds can run free of the danger of traffic. Certainly the hounds that I saw were well looked after; indeed all of them were wearing coats even though the daytime temperature was beginning to warm up in April.
I also visited two Gypsy families in old Konya where they told me that with better communications it was now easier for them to bring in Tazis from other parts of Turkey. This may explain the advent of smooth hounds to this area.
Among the strangest of the Tazis that I saw was this very hairy dog, with a pronounced top-knot, in kennels at the Seljuk University, where they run a large-scale programme to preserve the Kangal (Karabash and Akbash).

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Very hairy Tazi, Seljuk University, Konya
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Akbash shepherd dog, Seljuk University

South-eastern Anatolia

The following year we returned to south-eastern Anatolia, which we had crossed before but had never had time to explore its many impressive archaeological sites. We chose the spring when the vast plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which run down into Mesopotamia, is covered with brightly coloured wild flowers. It is also a good time to see puppies!
While cruising along a road close to the Syrian border I spotted a familiar shape in a small group of houses. It was a strongly-built, smooth, particoloured dog. The appearance of my camera was enough for the villagers to bring out a smooth grizzle bitch and a smooth black and fawn puppy. The external appearance of these hounds matched that I am accustomed to see across the border in Syria. This is hardly surprising given that the Kurds here have good contacts with Kurds on the other side and exchange hounds with them.

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Smooth hound near the Syrian border
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Smooth grizzle bitch

In the interesting old town of Sanliurfa a contact at the University took me on a tour of some of the villages to the north where we saw many fine hounds, nearly always accompanied by a chained Kangal guard dog. Here we saw the more traditional Turkish feathered hound side by side with smooths, Ear-cropping was very common.

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Crop-eared smooth dog near Sanliurfa
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Feathered dog with hennaed feet

I was still hoping to see some young puppies and in a little hamlet by the lake behind the great Ataturk Dam I was not disappointed. A farmer brought out from a shed five two-week-old grizzles, whose ears had already been cropped and had healed. The farmers lead a pleasant existence here, fishing in the lake, growing cotton and wheat and hunting whenever they have the opportunity. Their hounds looked healthy, strong and beautifully balanced. 
There seemed to be no shortage of hounds in this area and my guide told me of other villages where they were to be found but my time was running out.

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Two-week-old puppies
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Sire and dam of the pups

We went on to Diyarbakir, a walled city of forbidding aspect, and soon found a guide to take us into the surrounding villages, where we saw a number of hunting hounds of excellent quality. They were mainly of the smooth, grey grizzle variety, but here and there we found a few feathered examples. For further photos see - http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbsaluqis/

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Typical smooth grizzle, south of Diyarbakir
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In a nearby village
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Smooth pregnant bitch with her feathered mate
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Feathered hound coloured with henna

My overall impression of these two recent visits to parts of Anatolia is that the Tazi is thriving, particularly in the South-east, where the huge irrigation projects over the past 20 years has transformed agriculture. The result as far as hunting is concerned is that there is now more ground cover and food for wildlife and an incentive therefore for keeping Tazis.
Turkey has applied to join the European Union and, if succesful, this will mean that a Country of Origin will be included for the first time in Europe, making access to this rich gene pool easier for those who wish to draw on it.

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Kurdish nomads setting up camp near Hakkari
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Kurdish nomads milking sheep near Hakkari
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Washing the pots and pans

I was keen however to go into the area SE of Lake Van and to see the Tazis of the Kurdish nomads. An opportunity arose in May 2011 and I was able to drive into parts which had been closed for years as a result of the armed insurgency there. Although I found nomads leading their traditional lifestyle with their herds of sheep, it soon became clear that the whole area had undergone fundamental change because of the insurgency. Many of the people have been forced to abandon the mountains, where they had traditionally practiced transhumance with their flocks, and to migrate in their thousands to such towns as Van, where the population has exploded to over a million. Everywhere I asked about Tazis I got the same answer that people no longer kept them because of their changed lifestyle. After much searching and questioning I was eventually shown one elderly 'Tazi' in a village near Kars. I heard of a few others but could not succeed in tracking them down. There may well be some tucked away in remote villages but clearly they are no longer in the numbers that once existed and still exist in adjacent areas of south eastern Anatolia. More pictures are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbsaluqis

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Elderly crop-eared 'Tazi' near Kars
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Shepherd with Kars (Caucasian) shepherd dogs below Ararat
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Our car below Mt. Ararat

Other articles
1. In search of Kurdish Salukis, Sighthound Review, Vol.2, Issue 4, winter 2012