The Saluki is one of the world’s oldest dog breeds. For thousands of years, this slim yet rugged breed served as the hunting hound of kings—and today they remain fast, agile sprinters who love a good chase or romp outdoors, while at the same time making gentle and loyal pets with warm, faithful eyes and an undying devotion to their families.
Group: Hound Group
Weight: 40 to 65 pounds
Height: 23 to 28 inches (male), females tend to be smaller
Coat: Feathered or smooth
Colors: White or cream, fawn, black and tan or grizzle and tan, golden
Life Expectancy: 10 to 17 years
Characteristics of the Saluki
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These slender yet muscular dogs have been bred for their strength, speed, and endurance. Built like strong, balanced athletes, Salukis have long been revered throughout history for their grace and beauty. Historically referred to as the Persian Greyhound or the gazelle hound, their ancient history can be difficult to trace. However, experts believe the roots of the Saluki breed might extend as far back as 7000 BC.
Once considered the royal dog of Egypt, some historians have suggested that the Saluki is actually the oldest dog breed—and that their origins may trace back to 329 BC when Alexander the Great invaded China. There are depictions of dogs resembling Salukis that appear on Egyptian tombs dating 4,000 years ago, and carvings from the Sumerian empire that also feature dogs with a strong resemblance to the Saluki.
The Saluki and other sighthounds were the favorite pets among kings like Egyptian pharaohs as well as other notable historical figures like Alexander the Great, and are believed to have originated in the Middle East, Egypt, and Asia since long before the Pyramids were built. Particularly widespread throughout Egypt, this breed was revered and cherished; in fact, their bodies were often mummified just like those of the ancient pharaohs. Nomadic Muslims, who generally considered dogs to be unclean animals, considered Salukis a gift from Allah. Some historians believe the breed may take its name from the ancient city of Saluk in Yemen, or possibly from the city of Seleucia in Syria.
Thanks to their incredible speed and agility, the Saluki was often relied on by the Arabs to hunt gazelle, the fastest of the antelopes. As a sighthound, a breed that hunts by sight rather than scent, the Saluki is also known for having remarkably sharp vision and the ability to run their quarry down to kill or retrieve it. In contrast to its graceful and elegant appearance, the Saluki is known to be able to hunt gazelle and other animals and possess a rugged, brute strength that’s able to withstand even the harshest conditions, such as deep sand or mountainous terrain.
The Saluki’s first known presence in England dates back to 1840. The breed wasn’t established until after World War I when many British officers returned from the Middle East with these dogs. Today’s Saluki remains true to its ancient ancestors, from its sleek physique and warm eyes to its sophisticated and dignified persona.
The Saluki breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1927.
With a long history of running and tracking animals, the Saluki will require daily exercise and walks for both its physical and mental well-being. An ideal pet for runners or active families, Salukis should ideally live in a home with a large fenced-in yard for their safety. Without the proper exercise and stimulation (lots of playtime and plenty of safe toys and bones to chew), Salukis are known to be adept at either escaping or becoming destructive. Considered an independent (and sometimes aloof) breed, many Saluki will prove somewhat difficult to train—they like to think for themselves and may need more persuasion than other breeds. However, like most dogs, most Salukis should respond well to positive reinforcements like treats and praise.
Salukis can have either a feathered or smooth coat—either will require weekly brushing, with special attention paid to long ears and tails,—and they do shed less than other breeds. The breed is known for being a clean dog that's free from most typical canine odors, and thus requires infrequent bathing. Saluki owners should be mindful about trying to keep ear feathering outside of their bowls while eating.
These beautiful dogs are known to be both reserved and affectionate and offer devoted companionship to their families. While the Saluki as a breed isn't overly demonstrative, they will form deep bonds with their humans and are susceptible to separation anxiety when left alone for long periods of time.
Their high activity level means they won’t do well in an apartment and without plenty of walks (or runs) and time spent outdoors. Thanks to its speed and natural inclination to chase and hunt deer, squirrels, or any other wildlife, a strong leash, attentive owner, and safe, enclosed places to roam outdoors are must-haves for this breed.
These quiet, sensitive dogs can become timid and shy without early socialization. They make excellent family pets, as they may be fearless while hunting they are otherwise gentle and unaggressive. They’re perfectly happy to cozy up to their humans on an oversized couch or bed (in fact, soft, plush surfaces are a favorite for these dogs due to their lack of body fat and extra cushioning).
However, the Saluki may not necessarily be the ideal choice for homes with young children; while tolerant, they can sometimes prove too active for young kids. They also prefer the companionship of other Salukis, but can can get along with most other breeds as long as they do not have particularly dominant personalities.
Common Health Problems
Salukis are known to be free from many common genetic diseases, and generally can be expected to enjoy a healthy, active life through their old age. However, heart conditions such as arrhythmia or enlarged hearts or other defects, as well as some autoimmune and blood conditions, have been associated with the breed. Cancers including hemangiosarcoma or osteosarcoma, mammary cancers (when not spayed early in life), and lymphoma have also been seen in Salukis.
Because of their high activity levels and tendency to run vigorously, Saluki owners should always take precautions to prevent gastric torsion, also known as bloat. Caused by running and playing too soon after eating, the condition is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate veterinary intervention.
Diet and Nutrition
The Saluki should perform well on any high-quality commercial or home-prepared diet (with veterinarian supervision). The appetite for this breed is known to vary greatly from dog to dog, so owners of Salukis with increased appetites should be mindful about overfeeding to prevent weight gain and related issues. Fresh water should be made available at all times to this large, active breed.
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
When determining if the Saluki is the right dog for you, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other Saluki owners, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. Check out these other similar dog breeds.