History of the Saluki ‚ Its Origins

Photo © Burchard

Just about every breed of dog has a documented man-made origin. The Saluki does not. Almost every breed of dog can be traced to an irrefutable source. The Saluki can not. The Saluki's origins, geographic location, time, predecessors -- are all shrouded in mystery and myth. What is accepted as fact is that the Saluki has been associated with the Middle East since antiquity, and that in pre- and recorded history it has been used for hunting. A rich visual record of the breed goes back at least 5,000 years. At archaeological sites in many areas of the Middle East, ancient images of Salukis have been found on seals, in tomb paintings, mosaics sculptures, and on household objects. The breed was held in great esteem, called "el hor" (The Noble) by the Arabs and was bred as carefully as the famous Arabian horses, with speed and endurance in mind. Valued and honored companion to Egyptian nobility, the Saluki could well be called "the royal dog of Egypt", and was known to be mummified like the Egyptian Pharaohs. The Saluki occupies a unique position in the lives of its Eastern, often Muslim, owners. Ordinary dogs are considered "unclean" and may not be touched, but the Saluki is permitted into the tents of nomads and the courtyards of settled breeders. Prior to and during the 10th century, hunting poetry extolled not only the prowess of the breed in the chase, but its physical attributes and companionship. The Saluki retains this esteem even today and continues to be valued and used for hunting in most of the regions where it traditionally worked, side by side with its master, as a source of pleasure for its beauty and athleticism. This is a testimony of the Saluki's enduring value to those who created it.

History of the Saluki - in the United States

The breeding of the Saluki in the West began in 1895 whent the Honorable Florence Amherts requested her friend, Wilfred Jennings-Bramly obtain specimens of the breed for her. He arranged for two puppies from the Tahawi tribe in Lower Egypt to be shipped to her home in Norfolk, England. In 1919, the glamorous Ch. Sarona Kelb was bred in Damascus and later was brought to England by Brigadier-General F. Lance. This dog became a very successful show dog and sire. The Saluki or Gazelle Hound Club of England was founded in 1923, at which time the Kennel Club of England officially recognized the breed and the official standard was adopted.

Although the first Saluki recorded in America was a silver-gray brought here by clipper ship from Thebes in 1861 by Col. Horace N. Fisher (Boston), the breed as we know it started to become established in the mid-twenties and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1927, also the year the Saluki Club of America (SCOA) was formed. A few individual importations were made earlier, but their blood was not carried on and no progeny were registered. Senator Macomber of Rhode Island was possibly the earliest serious breeder and exhibitor, showing nice strings at Westminster and Boston. Another was Col. Brydon Tennant from Virginia. Their stock was largely from the Sarona kennels of General Lance and the Grevel kennels of Miss Barr. Miss Evelyn Southwick and Dr. and Mrs. Booth continued Senator Macomber's plan of line-breeding after his death in the early thirties.

In Massachusetts, Mrs. Hills (of Redledge) imported among others several Amherstia Salukis, and later helped to start the famous Diamond Hill kennels of Edward K. Aldrich, Jr. in Rhode Island in 1932 which eventually housed as many as 50 Salukis. Mr. Aldrich was to breed many famous dogs, including Ch. Marjan II, (the first Saluki to win an all breed Best in Show in America and win the Group at Westminster), who started Anna Marie Paterno's El Retiro kennel, and also Ch. Valda, foundation of Mrs. Esther Knapp's Pine Paddocks kennel. The basic Diamond Hill line was later bred sparingly by Dorothy Redinger (Woodlake) and Carol-Ann Paice Lantz, and also by Audrey Hollis Benbow who added the English Mazuri bloodline to her Diamond Hill Hadji (the first Canadian Saluki Champion), to produce the foundation bitch of Wayne Jensen's Jen Araby kennel on the west coast. From the latter came the first Saluki of the Srinagar kennel.

By good fortune, Mrs. Knapp obtained two desert Salukis from the kennels of King Ibn Saud of Arabia in 1945, the crop-eared male, Ch. Abdul Farouk of Pine Paddocks, and the lovely blonde smooth female, Ch. Lady Yeled Sarona Ramullah. So beneficial was this infusion of new blood that the American Kennel Club made a special ruling whereby descendants of the pair could be officially registered here. It was only the second time in the history of the AKC that such a ruling was made. From Abdul's grandson, Ch. Abdul Farouk III of Pine Paddocks, Mrs. Knapp bred the outstanding Saluki Ch. Ahbou Farouk of Pine Paddocks, who was undefeated in the breed and received numerous Hound Group placings in addition to 38 Group firsts and 12 all-bred Best in Shows. The combination of the Farouk blood and the basic Diamond Hill line was also used successfully by Edith Browne Mason (Springtime), by Marjorie Kemm to produce the first American-bred American and International (Europe) CACIB Champion Anfa's Sarona, and by Nicky Peters Heifetz, who founded her Warm Valley kennel on it in combination with her English Windswift import.