History of the Saluki

Ancient Origins

The Saluki, also known as the Persian Greyhound, the Royal Dog of Egypt, and Arabian Gazelle Hound, is the oldest dog breed, with its origins tracing back to ancient Mesopotamia. Historical records suggest that Saluki have been revered for thousands of years, dating back to at least 7,000 BCE. Saluki-like dogs are depicted in ancient Egyptian tombs, and they were often found mummified alongside pharaohs, indicating their esteemed status.

(Article about oldest breed--2021; afton to find mummified saluki)

Middle Eastern Roots

The breed's name, "Saluki," is thought to derive from the ancient city of Saluq in Yemen or from Seleucia, a city near the Tigris River. The breed was traditionally associated with the Bedouin tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, who valued the Saluki for its exceptional hunting abilities. Salukis were used to hunt game such as gazelles, hares, and other desert-dwelling animals, relying on their keen eyesight and incredible speed. Salukis are still used in Arabia for hunting and also in tribal parts of India. There is also anecdotal evidence that Salukis were used for hunting tigers and wild boar in some instances to protect villages.

Characteristics and Appearance

Salukis are known for their elegant and graceful appearance, characterized by a slim yet muscular build. They have a distinctive long, narrow head, large eyes, and long ears and tail. In the West, their coat is usually feathered, but there is a smooth variety and they come in several colors, including white, cream, fawn, golden, red, grizzle, and black and tan, as well as a combination of these and parti colors. Some breed standards asks that a Saluki’s look is as if gazing into eras past. Height variations are extreme, running from 23”-29” with bitches considerably smaller.

AKC Breed Standard

UK Kennel Club

"Dog" by Giacometti


Cultural Significance

In the Middle East, Salukis were considered noble and were often given as gifts to royalty and honored guests. They were considered "clean" animals, unlike other dog breeds, and were allowed to live inside the tents of their owners and often slept alongside the women of the tribe. The Saluki's status as a noble and revered breed was further cemented by its depiction in art and literature throughout the region.

More Saluki History

Salukis in Art

The Saluki, with its rich history and striking appearance, has been a prominent subject in art for millennia. Tracing its origins back to the ancient Middle East, this breed is one of the earliest domesticated dogs, revered for its hunting skills and elegant demeanor.

In ancient Egyptian art, Salukis were frequently depicted in tomb paintings, carvings, and statues, often accompanying pharaohs and nobles. These depictions highlight their sleek, elongated bodies and distinctive, feathered ears, emphasizing their beauty and agility. Salukis were considered symbols of divine favor and were often associated with the god Anubis, reflecting their esteemed status in Egyptian society.

Persian art from the medieval period also showcases the Saluki, with intricate miniatures and tapestries illustrating their role in royal hunts and leisure activities. The detailed brushwork and vibrant colors of these pieces capture the breed's grace and fluidity in motion, underscoring their importance in Persian culture.

During the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Europe, Salukis appeared in hunting scenes and noble portraits, symbolizing wealth, power, and sophistication. Artists such as Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Joshua Reynolds included Salukis in their works to convey a sense of refinement and high social standing. The breed's elegant form and serene demeanor made it a perfect subject for the era's emphasis on beauty and grandeur.

In modern times, Salukis continue to inspire artists across various mediums. Contemporary painters, sculptors, and photographers celebrate the breed's timeless elegance and athleticism, often using it as a muse to explore themes of grace, loyalty, and the enduring bond between humans and dogs. The Saluki's rich history and aesthetic appeal ensure its lasting presence in the world of art, a testament to its enduring legacy and universal admiration.

Introduction to the West

The Saluki was introduced to Europe in the early 20th century. British officers and diplomats stationed in the Middle East were given Salukis as gifts and brought them back to England, where the breed quickly gained popularity among dog enthusiasts. The Saluki was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom in 1923, and by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1927.

AKC--Saluki Introduction

Modern Day

Today, the Saluki is admired for its beauty, speed, and grace and deep companionship. It is a popular breed in dog shows and has maintained its reputation as a skilled hunting dog. Despite its ancient lineage, the Saluki has adapted well to modern life, although it still retains its independent and somewhat aloof nature, a characteristic that harks back to its tribal origins in the desert where their masters were also aloof. However, some modern-day Salukis have adopted the extroversion of their American families and are amazing with children.

Salukis continue to be cherished pets and are celebrated for their historical significance and timeless elegance. Their unique combination of speed, endurance, agility, beauty, and character ensures that the Saluki remains one of the most fascinating and enduring breeds in the canine world.