The large, yellow machine readied the desert racetrack for its final preparations while a worker manually sprinkled off a finish line chalk mark. The big screen TV scene panned the starting line of anxiety-high Salukis while their handlers struggled to keep them in check prior to the start.
Seconds later, they were off! All eyes were on the jumbo screen down on the track as the dogs bounded forward in lightening speed along the 2 km (1 ¼ mile) desert sand track. The graceful animals raced competitively in an attempt to catch the live gazelle served up as bait suspended from a speeding truck well in front of the race pack. Of course, the dogs were never able to catch up, and as the first Salukis crossed the finish line, workers had already raised the gazelle up and out of the dogs’ reach. A camera mounted near the finish line recorded the race times, although for some reason, the winning times were never broadcast to the spectators.
Not every dog enthusiastically participated however. During the six heats, some of the “competitors” gave up and leisurely trotted down the track, some even stopping well back of the finish line. Before long, all of the dogs were loaded into their owner’s vehicle and driven away ending their day’s performance opportunities.
Historically, nomadic tribes used Salukis for hunting. Typical quarry included gazelles, hares, and fox. In one Bedouin method of hunting hares, the hunter rides close to the quarry on a camel while holding the Saluki, which he throws toward the prey, giving the dog a running start. Another method, primarily used in hunting gazelles, involved the use of a hawk to gouge out the prey’s eyes, so that a Saluki can then bring down the blinded animal. Neither method is practiced publicly today.
According to research, a true modern Saluki retains the qualities of hunting hounds and may appear reserved around strangers. Early socialization is necessary to prevent timidity and shyness in later life.
Salukis are easily bored, and should never be left unattended for long periods. Highly sensitive and intelligent dogs, physical force or harsh training methods should never be used. Typically, Salukis do not enjoy rough games or common dog games, such as chasing sticks, yet, given their hunting instincts, they are prone to chasing moving objects.
While the Greyhound is credited as being the fastest breed up to distances nearing 800 meters (2,600 feet), both the Saluki and Whippet breeds are thought to be faster over longer distances. The 1996 edition of the Guinness Book of Records lists a Saluki as being the fastest dog, reaching a speed of 68.8 kilometers (42.8 miles) per hour.Due to its heavily padded feet that absorb the impact on its body, the Saluki has remarkable stamina when running.
Today, the breed remains highly regarded throughout the Middle East, and have been hunting dogs for nobles and rulers around the Gulf region. Bedouins consider the Salukis clean and the dogs are allowed to be in women’s quarters, while other dogs must be kept outside, according to Arab culture.
Salukis are “sight” hounds, which means they hunt by sight, run the prey down, catch it, and kill or retrieve it. The normal size range for the breed is 23–28 inches (58–71 cm) high between the shoulder blades and 40–60 pounds (18–27 kg) in weight, with females slightly smaller than males.The Saluki’s head is long and narrow with large eyes, droopy ears, and a long and curved tail. It has the typical deep-chested, long legged body typical of animals that hunt via sight rather than smell. Their coats come in a variety of colors, including white, cream, fawn, red, grizzle and tan, black and tan, and tricolor (white, black and tan). The terms ‘grace’ and ‘symmetry’ often describe the dogs’ overall appearance.
The Saluki, also known as the Persian Greyhound and Royal Dog of Egypt, is one of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dogs. Though they require patient training, Salukis are said to be gentle and affectionate with their owners.
The name ‘Saluqi’ has no clear origin but many theories. Modern science claims the origins of all dogs are from eastern China, but no one knows where the Saluki originated. Nomadic tribes spread the breed across the Middle East from Persia to Egypt to as far east as Afghanistan and India, and as far south as Africa’s Sudan.
The dog’s image is evident in many cultures from petroglyphs and rock arts in Golpaygan and Khomein, Iran that shows saluki-like hounds and falcons accompanying hunters chasing prey (ca. 8000-10,000 B.C) to recent Sumerian empire excavations, estimated to range from 7000-6000 B.C. Saluki-like images adorning pottery have been found on Egyptian tombs dating to 2100 B.C. In addition, mummified Salukis have been found alongside the bodies of the Pharaohs in the Pyramids.
Historians also believe the breed is the type of dog mentioned in the Bible. Salukis have appeared in medieval paintings depicting Christ’s birth, including artist Paolo’s 1573 work The Adoration of the Magi. Veronese also painted the breed into some of his other religious works, including The Marriage at Cana and The Finding of Moses.