The saluki is an ancient and uncommon breed that is both a remarkable hunter and loyal companion. These medium-sized dogs may appear lanky but are agile and athletic.
A favorite among kings, pharaohs, and nobles for chasing down speedy animals like gazelles, salukis are one of the fastest breeds for running long distances and masterful hunters. These qualities make them unsuited for apartment living or first-time dog owners, but if you live an active lifestyle in a warmer climate and have access to a big fenced yard, a saluki dog could be a good match for you.
Wherever they go, salukis command attention. They are graceful and elegant while also obviously swift and active.
Salukis are typically 35–65 pounds and 23–28 inches tall (females are smaller), making them medium-sized dogs who appear tall and very slender. "They are athletic and as young dogs often look 'skinny and immature.' This should be likened to a human in their pre- or early teens," says Starr White of Windstorm Salukis, in Ontario, Canada.
A saluki coat comes in two varieties, smooth and feathered, with the feathered variety having longer, flowing hair on the legs and ears. The coat doesn’t shed much and is easily kept clean with weekly brushing and baths when necessary. No matter the coat variety, salukis have “hare-feet” or hair on their paws and between their pads that helps them to run (and gain traction) in deep sand.
The most common saluki coat colors tend to be in shades of cream, tan, or fawn but salukis can come in grizzle (pattern appearing grey from a distance), red, golden, black and tan, and even tricolor (black, tan, and white).
Their sight is unmatched as the saluki can pinpoint quick-moving animals from long distances. They are not the kind of dog that will allow local creatures to venture unseen into your yard. Use great care and concern when introducing a saluki to a house with other pets.
A saluki's temperament is often described as catlike as they love to find a comfy spot on the couch, sunbathe, and enjoy quality alone time. They are unfailingly loyal to their owners with a gentle demeanor but these dogs are not likely to follow you everywhere you go or come every time you call. They prefer to enjoy a more independent life and because they can run like the wind, you may find you can't just let your saluki roam off leash or go for hikes in open areas. "They love to free run, but it must be done with great care as salukis run for joy and could easily cross a road. A large fenced area or protected area is ideal," says White.
An individualistically natured dog, salukis do best with consistent positive reinforcement training. Starting right away in puppyhood, and continuing through adulthood, salukis should be taught important life skills, especially walking on leash and coming when called. Extra care should be taken to socialize a saluki puppy, making sure they meet all sorts of animals and people, visit many different locations, and experience lots of new things before they mature.
“Salukis are athletes. They will do best with an active family—a family that wants to get out and do something, even in lousy weather,” White says.
Not a dog that will enjoy long days being kenneled, a saluki dog needs a relaxing home environment where they can stretch out and remain by your side when not out doing something adventurous. These dogs enjoy a cuddle session and time on the couch watching TV but may find the movement and loudness of small children alarming. Although they may at times be rather aloof, their amiable personalities help make salukis great companions for families with older children or single-person homes.
Salukis do well when they have access to plenty of exercise opportunities such as long walks, hikes, or even runs. They love the opportunity to run and chase and if they are not leashed when a bunny or deer happens by, your saluki will be off and running (cue the racetrack bell). This Olympic sprinter skillset makes them unsuitable for living in homes without access to large, fenced spaces. No small fence will do, either. This breed can jump high and fast, so you will need at least a 6-foot tall fence outside of the city and far away from traffic to keep them safe. Clocking in at 30–35 mph, a saluki can get away from you faster than you can say "Uh oh!" To enjoy their athleticism in a safe way, you can try out fun sports such as lure coursing (they excel at it!), agility, flyball, exhibition jumping, and even tracking.
Salukis do not require much time grooming and as far as dogs go, these canines are easy to keep clean. Weekly brushing helps to ensure their coats stay silky and shiny and nail trims every couple of weeks keeps their paws happy. Like with any breed, regular trips to the vet for check-ups, vaccinations, and preventative care are essential.
Because of their size and weight, a saluki should enjoy the squishy comforts of raised dog beds or couches to prevent sores and calluses forming on their more bony areas. These doggos will enjoy a good romp with you outside but should be allowed downtime and rest away from the hustle and bustle of life.
Salukis are adaptable but because of their size and coat, they are cold-weather intolerant. These dogs need a good coat and sweater if you live in places that get chilly. Although you don’t need to spend lots of time at a groomer each month, you will need to invest in proper gear for quality exercise such as a body harness, long-line leashes, and lots of interactive and enriching toys, plus that 6-foot fence around your yard.
“They are great running partners, but you cannot run with a puppy (of any breed) until it is mature and its growth plates have closed,” White says.
You will need to make sure your saluki has learning opportunities using positive reinforcement. Teaching your saluki to enjoy grooming sessions, trips to the vet, and to pick up on useful cues, are all crucial learning activities that help to keep your dog well-adjusted and healthy.
Being a bit more reserved than other breeds, salukis need substantial socialization that continues throughout their lives. Taking these guys to a training class once or the dog park every once in a while is not enough. You should plan to take your saluki pup to training classes and puppy socialization groups (and continue on into adulthood), making sure they know basic life skills and have learned how to properly interact with other dogs. You will need to spend ample time ensuring they have positive experiences that will go a long way in preventing behavior concerns.
You may discover salukis aren't ravenous eaters. They prefer a diet that is rich in protein and quality ingredients to keep their sometimes sensitive stomachs comfortable. And don't let their slim physique fool you—these dogs need a diet designed for large breeds. To help you find the best diet for your saluki it is best to consult with a veterinarian or reputable breeder who understands the specific needs of sighthound breeds.
Salukis are a healthy dog breed that can live a long life if provided quality nutrition and access to veterinary care and preventatives. They live 12–14 years on average and are generally free of series genetic disorders. Like with other sighthound breeds, salukis can develop heart conditions that appear at birth or later in life. And just like with all breeds, cancers such as hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma and lymphoma can occur. Female salukis may also be susceptible to mammary cancers.
A consistent concern for any breed that is a fast runner with a large chest, like the saluki, is bloat, or gastric torsion. This serious and life-threatening emergency can occur when a dog, even a perfectly healthy one, engages in significant activity after eating, so a responsible owner should be sure their saluki spends time resting after meals.
The saluki is an ancient breed, beloved by pharaohs, kings, nobles, and the elite. There is archaeological evidence of the saluki that dates back almost 5,000 years. Images of thin, fast dogs with feathered ears, tails, and legs have been found on historical artifacts in the Middle East. Egyptian royalty loved this breed, even mummifying their canine companions! The remains of ancient dogs closely resembling the saluki have been found in tombs across the Nile.
A saluki’s speed is one of the breed’s trademark qualities. These dogs have found talent and favor in hunting some of the fastest animals on the planet including gazelles (even being called a “gazelle hound”), hares, jerboas, foxes, and jackals. When used as hunting companions along the Arabian Peninsula, salukis would partner with falcons and hawks to locate and take down prey.
Salukis did not grace Europe until the mid-1800s. They gained popularity amongst English elite and were seen in breed exhibitions and accompanied their handlers on lavish hunting excursions. But it wasn’t until after World War I when many British officers returned with salukis from the Middle East where the breed became established. However, only a very small number of dogs were left after World War II and it took quite a few years before the breed was re-established in the West and Europe.
The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1929. The popularity of the breed has had many rises and falls, currently ranking 125 of 197 AKC recognized breeds.