Saluki Dog Breed Information

Last Updated on

Saluki dog

Salukis were and are bred in Middle-East as a hunting/companion/guard dog. They primarily hunt by sight, and to a much lesser degree by smell, and thus are very aware of their surroundings.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Saluki around children? Other pets? As a watchdog?

The Saluki can be quite tolerant of children and can be accused of “licking the baby” too much. As with any breed, the temperament of the puppy in question can determine how it will interact with children.

Salukis can be territorial while claiming “their” children and protecting them from a “Saluki-perceived” harm. They can be protective of other pets in the household as well. In the Middle-East they have been used as flock guardians.

This does not mean that they can be trained as watch/guard dogs like a Doberman or Rottweiler. It is from the Saluki’s sense of loyalty and companionship to their owner that this tendency can be attributed. Salukis can be temperamental and will become quite emotionally attached to their owners.

Are they noisy? Do they have any bad habits?

Salukis tend to bark only when there is something worthwhile to bark at (unless one has fallen into bad habits out of boredom). They are very athletic, easily able to clear high fences unless the owner has taken proper precautions to see that this does not occur.

They are not usually nuisance diggers but can create large pits to escape summer heat if left out of doors.

Also, if not exercised enough, your Saluki may excavate your backyard and garden into W.W.II sized foxholes.

Is the Saluki a good house-dog?

The Saluki is an extremely clean dog with little to no odor, and minimal shedding due to the short coat. In general, a Saluki kept indoors sheds a little all year round. Salukis are not generally thought of as outside dogs and they tend to not do well in that kind of situation.

They do not drool, except in anticipation of food. They are generally easy to house train. They will take over the furniture unless their owners discourage this habit from puppy hood. A happily wagging tail will easily clear off low coffee tables.

Many Saluki owners have learned the “seven-foot rule”; if you don’t want the hound to get whatever the item is (butter on the counter, leftovers on the stove, the roast thawing on the counter) put it out of reach — at least seven feet from the floor.

Are there any special feeding problems?

Some Salukis can be finicky in their eating habits and periodically fast. Most Salukis eat less than other breeds of dog and drink less as well. This is evident in Arabian horses and camels as well.

One of the most often heard questions by a Saluki owner is “Don’t you feed that dog? It’s so skinny, I can see its bones.” The answer is –Yes, I do feed it. All that wants.

It also runs approximately 35 mph. Salukis and sighthounds in general have the smallest amount of body fat of all the dog breeds. When spayed or neutered they may gain weight and the coat may become fuzzy.

Are there any special medical problems?

Due to lack of body fat, Salukis are sensitive to anesthetic agents. This is true of most, if not all, the sight hounds. They also can have reactions and intolerances to some worming and flea products.

In particular, the wormer known as TASK is not recommended for use on Greyhounds. As a general rule if the label states not recommended for use on Greyhounds don’t use it on a Saluki.

The #1 cause of death in Salukis is Hit By Car.
The #2 cause of death is Old Age (average life span 12-18 yrs).

Thyroid: Some Salukis may be affected by low thyroid function. This can be detected by blood tests and can be corrected by oral medication. This condition may be seen in older animals whose hormone level has decreased, and also in neutered animals.

Cancer: Cancer has been reported at an increasing rate; many of the animals affected have been at 4 yrs of age.

Heart Conditions: The Saluki is a tremendous athlete; if given the opportunity to fulfill his hunting instincts, the heart may become enlarged.

As with any breed, regular annual checkups and proper follow up with diet and medication (if necessary) are recommended.

How much exercise does a Saluki need?

Salukis love to run. They will run just for the thrill of it. One to two miles or more at a time. They can make excellent jogging companions. In the Middle-East Salukis were and are kept by the Bedouins, a pastoral nomadic people, and thus would travel numerous miles over the yearly trek.

Are they energetic or hyper? Are they high-strung?

A young Saluki can be a very energetic fellow. In general, they mature into lovely calm dogs. Salukis have an instinct to chase moving objects and they can learn what is acceptable to chase and what is not. As a general rule, at the age of two, they begin to settle down and continue to mellow significantly each following year.

What were Salukis originally used for?

Salukis have keen hearing, but when in pursuit of “game” exhibit “selective deafness” (which is usually infuriating to the owner who is calling their hound at the top of their lungs with no noticeable result).

When the dog has stopped running and is standing still is the time to attract the dog’s attention by both calling it and making waving motions with your arms. Their native quarry includes hare, gazelle, and bustard.

This Saluki breed guideline listed below has been accepted and approved as of May 10, 1994, for use in the evaluation of the Saluki breed at International Middle Eastern Coursing Hound Association (IMECHA) conformation shows.

Additionally, it is supplemental information for use in the conformational judging of Salukis at the International All Breed Kennel of America, Inc. (IABKCA) and Alle Rasse Gruppe (ARG) shows.

This guideline was developed by the members of the IMECHA. IMECHA is the parent Saluki breed group to IABKCA in association with the Union Cynologie International e.V. (UCI) located in L”hne, Germany.

Description & History

Breed History

Saluki dogThe Saluki is one of the most ancient breeds of hunting hounds. Paintings of and references to Salukis have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, Sumerian buildings, and Assyrian temples.

This places the age of the Saluki, as a distinct and domesticated breed, at approximately 7,000 years and it has remained relatively unchanged to the present day.

From ancient to modern times the Saluki has been used to hunt gazelle, hare, bustard (a type of bird), jackal, fox, and wild ass. The hunting style of the Saluki is to sight and run the game down, catch and retrieve it.

It is a multi-game, multi-terrain coursing hound. In more recent times (the past 2,000-3,000 years) the Saluki has been kept by the nomadic Bedouin tribes of the Middle East to hunt game animals to provide meat for the cook-pot.

With the advent of Islam, dogs were, and are, considered unclean beasts. However, in the case of the Saluki, an exception was made. By the Bedouin, Salukis are considered the Gift of Allah to his children.

They are allowed in the tents and considered special companions. It has been said that the Bedouin will never sell a Saluki, but will give one as a special and precious gift.

The questions that might come to mind in regards to the Saluki are:

  • What do the Bedouin look for in a Saluki?
  • Why do the Bedouin want a particular look or type?
  • What do the Bedouin consider good function?
  • What types do different Bedouin tribes have and breed for?
  • For what purposes are the different types used?

Most of these questions can be answered by studying the terrain, climate, and game available in the various regions that Salukis are found. It must also be kept in mind that Salukis do not have a “Country-of-Origin” per se, but rather a “Region-of-Origin.”

Historically Salukis can be found ranging from Iran, Iraq and Turkey in the North, throughout the Arabian Peninsula in the South and East, and into Egypt and across North Africa in the West. Interestingly enough, the overall picture of Saluki structure is consistent throughout these areas with a wide variety of breed types.

In the following sections are points found to be consistent throughout the region and can be interpreted as the “Region-of-Origin Saluki standard,” as well as Bedouin lore from the various sources listed in the references.

In considering the qualities listed throughout this guideline: Imagine yourself at the edge of an Arabian desert where you will be camped for three weeks. You have all of the general camping gear you need but your food supply is limited to 55 gallons of water and 10 pounds of rice.

Standing beside the tent are six Salukis, you have your choice of three, two of one gender and one of the other. Keep in mind you will use these Salukis to provide meat for your cook-pot as well as their sustenance.

Which ones do you feel can do the job that they were bred to do; hunt by sight, run the game down, catch and retrieve it?

Breed Description

Overall Appearance

In the show ring, the overall appearance of the Saluki is one of grace, symmetry, and a well-conditioned athlete. The impression given is one of the ability to hunt and kill efficiently.

While on the coursing field the impression becomes a reality with the addition of an intense desire, drive, and focus that is not seen in the show ring. Combined, these qualities comprise undeniable Saluki breed type and function.

The Smooth Variety exhibits the same qualities with the exception of feathering. In both varieties, males may range from 23 to 28 inches at the top of the shoulder with bitches measuring somewhat smaller.

Head and Face

The head should be longer than it is wide for breed type. Wedge-shaped when viewed from above with adequate width of backskull for attachment of the jaw muscles. This is for clamping power when making a kill.

In profile, the head will again be wedge-shaped with a slight stop at the eyes. The top of the skull should not be domed and be almost flat (in keeping with the “wedge” shape). The eyes are almond shaped in the Saluki and are set into the skull (not protruding/bulging) at a slightly oblique angle to the face.

The color can range from light honey to dark brown. The set of the eyes and their lashes protect them from sand and sun glare. The expression is that of a keen hunter. It can be said that the Saluki will have a definite Eastern/Oriental appearance about the eyes.

Tribal Lore: The Bedouin prefer a lighter color to the eye. They say the Saluki can see better and farther.

The bony ridges in the muzzle will provide for an appearance of refinement and chiseling to the face. The tightness of the lips to the cheekbones will give the appearance that the Saluki is smiling.

The lips should be close to the cheek and not drooping – a clean, dry mouth. Tribal lore: At least five hair warts should be on the face — two on each cheek and one or more on the chin. However, two or three on the chin is most desirable.


A pigment of the nose is black to the liver. In older Salukis, a graying in black noses may be seen. The eye rims in darker pigmented Salukis will appear as if they have been painted with kohl (a kind of black makeup made from antimony that Middle Eastern women use to define the shape of the eye).

Tribal lore: a mottled or pink nose is very undesirable as they cannot stand the sun.

Teeth and Bite

The teeth must be strong and white with scissors or level bite. Full dentition is desirable. Tribal lore: The hound should have what the Bedouin describes as laughing jaws for a powerful bite.

When running, the mouth will be wide open and the lips will be pulled back. It is this action and the set of the jaws that are referred to as “laughing jaws.”


The ear leather should be “drop-eared,” also known as “floppy-eared.” The leather should be of sufficient length to reach the corner of the mouth, but not so large as to hinder the hound while coursing and catching a game.

The ears should be set high on the head, typically well above the eye line. The ears are very mobile and will allow the ear leathers to almost touch each other behind the backskull when pulled back and up.

Depending upon the Saluki’s mood, the ears may also be held in positions known as “airplane ears” (the ears will resemble a set of bent airplane wings due to a fold in the leather and alert positioning), “mouse ears” (the ears are pulled up, as if to touch over the crown, and forward framing the face; a very alert and inquisitive position), and “rose ears” (the ears are folded, pulled towards the back, and held next to the head similar to a Greyhound’s).

The texture of the feathering must be silky (quantity is not important). This feathering is absent, of course, in the smooth variety with the exception of short to moderate length guard hairs sometimes called “lashes.” A few of the Bedouin tribes would crop ears.

This practice is more common in the northern areas, particularly among the Kurds. Cropping was done for a variety of reasons: to prevent the ear leather from being torn while hunting predatory game such as jackal and fox; for beauty; for protection against damage from thorn bushes; for identification (cutting only one ear or only part of the leather); for speed; for alertness.

Some Salukis imported from the Middle East have had cropped ears.


The neck should be moderately long, supple, and well muscled. The throat latch (the area where the head and neck join) should be fine for mobility of the head in making the catch of the game.

Front Assembly

The chest at the heart girth should be deep and with sufficient width (spring-of-rib) for endurance in the chase. When viewed from the front the chest bone (sternum, a.k.a. keelbone) and points of the shoulders should be visible, while the area below them (the forechest) will be somewhat filled in.

Tribal lore: Belief is that if the width is too wide (barrel chested) the Saluki will lack speed. If the width is too narrow (slab sided) the Saluki will lack endurance.

The forechest should be moderately narrow in proportion with the size of the Saluki. This is for speed. The width is linked with the placement of the shoulders on the body, i.e. too far forward can create a “narrow front,” too far back can create a protrusion of the sternum several inches beyond the points of the shoulder known as “pigeon breasted.”

Keep in mind that a balance between “spring-of-rib” and the placement of the shoulder assembly creates the proper width. It has also been observed that when while moving on harder terrain a looseness in the front assembly may appear.

However, this looseness will disappear when the hound is moving on loose sand. Thus, the front assembly is compensating for the movement of the sand under the Saluki’s feet and there is a purpose to the looseness.

The forelegs should be straight and long from the elbow to the wrist with a slight slope in the pattern to the foot. The pattern must also be strong.

The slope and strength of the patterns are for shock absorption while running as the wrist can be hyperextended at almost a 90-degree angle when the foot is in contact with the ground and the front assembly is in follow-through from extension to flexion.

A slight toeing-out of the foot is not uncommon. The bone of the limbs is oval tending towards bladed (not round in appearance as in a working dog) with fine quality, however, it is very dense and strong for its size.

Like the Arabian horse, Salukis possess subtle power and strength.


The foot should be shaped as the foot of the hare (two middle toes longer than the outside two); this applies to both front and rear. The rear, however, will be slightly less noticeable. Tribal lore:

The feathering between the toes and pads is for protection against the hot sand. Some Bedouin will apply a henna pack (a dried and crushed plant mixed with water) to the Salukis’ feet; this is to toughen the pads against cuts and abrasions during a hunt or trek.

The henna pack will typically extend to slightly above the wrist on the front legs and almost to the hock on the rear.

Back and Loin

The back should be well muscled with an unmistakable arch over the loin. A good arch lends itself to muscular conditioning more than skeletal structure. It should be noted that the length to height ratio can vary from region to region.

In the more northern areas, the Saluki can measure slightly longer than tall. While in the southern regions this measurement can reverse itself, more tall than long. In addition, a more square variety can be found throughout.

In other words, the measurement from the top of the scapula (shoulder) to the ground typically equals the length of the dog as measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of the rump.

Each variation can have its advantages on the coursing field: more long than tall can be better over mountainous terrain, more tall than long can have greater sprint speed, and a more square Saluki can have better endurance and speed on long courses.

All are correct in keeping with breed type. The waist (tuck up/loin) should be pronounced. Tribal lore: The loin should be no more than what a man can grasp around with his hands (thumb to thumb and second finger to the second finger).

The males will be slightly bulkier than the female, but overall the fineness applies to both. This is for greater speed.

Rear Assembly and Angulation

The hip bones should be prominent. When viewed from the rear the croup should appear to have a trapezoid shape. When the hound is standing naturally, the rear quarters should be higher than the fore (the arch in the loin will add to this height) — this height is due to the rear length of leg and is for springing ability and length of stride.

Tribal lore: A man should be able to place four fingers between the hip bones. This will show the agility and speed ability of the hound.

The 1st and 2nd thigh should be moderately long and well muscled with the hocks moderately low to the ground in relation to the length of the thighs. The whole showing moderate angulation in balance with the forequarters.

When standing in a show-stack position, the tips of the toes on the front feet will be in a plumb line with point of the shoulder and the front edge of the hind toes should be in a plumb line with the point of the rump (the point of the ishium on the pelvis) and the hocks should be perpendicular to the ground.

This overall moderation of angulation is for endurance, agility, and speed.


The tail is set low on the croup and carried in a curve. When the Saluki is in motion the tail may be carried in a low curve, elevated curve, or up and curved over the back (gay tail), but it should not be carried without a curve i.e., straight up, straight out from the back, or hanging limp –straight down.

In the feathered variety the hair on the underside of the tail is silky, not bushy. The smooth variety can range from a shorter brush like feather (not bushy) to a short smooth coat. Tribal lore: The tail should be of sufficient length to come between the rear legs, up around the loin and touch the spine.


The working gait of the Saluki is a double suspension gallop (all four feet are off the ground in flexion and extension) and they are considered the endurance runner of the dog world. In peak condition, the Saluki can attain speeds of 35 to 40 miles-per-hour and keep it up for up to five miles in pursuit of its quarry.

The double-suspension galloping style will give the appearance of the Salukis’ body flying over the terrain with no wasted motion and appearing almost effortless. In addition, the head will be almost level with the spine as will the tail.

Both will have a small amount of pumping motion as the Saluki’s body is flexed and extended. In the flexed position the spine will be curved so that the rear legs will be brought forward to the point of almost being in front of the shoulder assembly.

In extension, the front and rear assemblies are almost level with the spine. The double-suspension gallop is unique to the Saluki and other sighthounds and is the only time when reach and drive will be exhibited.

Movement at a trot can give the appearance of floating over the terrain (another appearance of effortless movement). This can be almost a prancing type of step with the head up and the tail carried higher than or at the level of the back.

This type of movement is generally seen in play or courtship and it can also be displayed in the show ring and it is not a hackney gait. Movement with the head and tail at an lower level-more in line with the spine-and the legs moving so that the feet are closer to the ground is used for traveling miles.

In other words, trotting with no wasted effort – a conservation of effort/energy. It can be seen that when a Saluki moves in such a manner it will single track – the feet will move closer together almost as if they are converging along a line one foot in front of the other.

Also, when walking at ease the Saluki will frequently walk a few steps with a movement resembling the camel’s – a pace, the right fore and hind move together and left fore and hind move together. All of these types of movement are correct.

Soundness in Saluki movement refers to it being free from injury, disease or lameness. It must be kept in mind that a Saluki is bred for hunting at a gallop and movement at a trotting gait will not indicate how it runs.

The most important points to consider in all forms of movement are balance and moderation. Only when these are present will the desired effortlessness-in-movement appear.

Coat Texture and Colors

Coat texture is smooth and silky. Woolly feathering on the shoulders and thigh may also be present. Puppies have a tendency to have body wool as well. All colors are acceptable.

Tribal lore: Generally the Bedouins are not concerned about coat or colors as these do not influence speed, stamina or hunting skill which are the main criteria for judging a hound’s qualities.

However, through the years the following have come to be known among Saluki fanciers as alleged Bedouin lore special markings and their meanings: A small patch of white hairs in the middle of the forehead is called “The Kiss of Allah.”

This Saluki is blessed and is very special. — A small patch of white hairs low on either side of the neck is considered “The Thumb Print of Allah ” and marks the Saluki as especially blessed.

(This mark can also appear as a small indentation in the musculature along the forward edge of the scapula; this also appears in Arabian horses).  A white streak on the neck along the spine, as opposed to a white collar marking, is called a fast mark and indicates that the Saluki will be an excellent courser.

A white tipped tail means that the Saluki will be an excellent hunter.


Salukis are known for their aloofness with strangers, regal bearing, and apparent farsightedness. However, with their own family or someone that they know, they can be outgoing and affectionate companions.

The Saluki has not only been bred by the Bedouin as a hunter for thousands of years, but as a beautiful, elegant, intelligent, loyal companion, and protector. Their native intelligence can be quite remarkable and they can think their way through situations if given the opportunity.

Salukis know their own kind (meaning sighthounds in general and Salukis in particular) and can have little tolerance for other breeds of dogs. In addition, they can be protective of their families and friends (in the Mid-East they are sometimes used to guard the home/tent).

The Saluki temperament does not lend itself well to kennel situations or heavy-handed methods of training. Salukis can be quite sensitive and become emotionally attached to their owners. In the obedience ring, they tend to not do as well as other breeds because they can be easily bored.

However, if a strong bond with their owner is evident they will do what is asked of them to please him or her. Like the Arabian horse, they can be a friend and companion with undying loyalty.

However, due to their level of intelligence, this loyalty is not linked with unquestioning obedience.

In the show ring, due to the Saluki’s aloofness with strangers and seeming farsightedness, it is not unusual for them to tend to draw away from a strange hand reaching for their head or face. This is the exception rather than the rule and they should not be penalized for this response.

In addition, Salukis should be approached from the front, with slower movements. However, aggressive or vicious behavior should not be tolerated.

Other Information and Considerations

It has been noted on the coursing field that when a Saluki has lost sight of the quarry it will leap or “spy-hop” in an effort to become sighted again. This is very similar in appearance to a gazelle leaping while running (jumping or springing with all four feet at once).

This spy-hop, or “sproink” as it is sometimes called, can be as high as seven feet and is a hunting characteristic of the Saluki.

Comments and References for Guideline Development

The books and publications listed below delineate what some Bedouin tribes look for not only in Salukis but their horses and camels as well. All of these species have been bred to exist under inhospitable conditions for thousands of years and the Bedouin have developed specialized breeding formulas for optimum survival.

The consistent points that can be seen in the Bedouin programs for the Saluki, Arabian Horse, and Dromedary Camel are the elegance, grace, symmetry, and beauty possessed by each; one is just larger or smaller than the other.

In respect of the Bedouin’s long history and the original purpose of the breed, one should not presume to try to improve upon what they have already perfected; breeding goals should emphasize the preservation and maintenance of the high standards the Bedouin have attained.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.