This ancient hound resembles today’s Sloughi, Azawakh, smooth Saluki, and smooth Afghan, and it is impossible without any genetic study to know whether it was identical with any of these breeds or a breed of its own, or whether it was the ancestor of all lop-eared Sighthound breeds.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of dog is a Sloughi?
The Sloughi belongs to the FCI Group 10 of Sighthounds (which also includes the Afghan, Azawakh, Borzoi, Chart Polski, Galgo Espanol, Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Greyhound, Magyar Agar, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound, and Whippet).
More precisely it belongs to the “sub-population” of lop-eared Sighthounds (together with the Afghan, Azawakh, Saluki).
Although it has been recognized since 1935 internationally by the FCI and is recognized in the USA by most Kennel Clubs, the AKC is the only club that has not yet done so and the Sloughi is therefore considered to be a “rare breed” in the USA.
True Sighthounds, Sloughis have an excellent vision: they chase on sight anything that moves, however far away. Puppies are already interested by moving objects, even if it is a leaf in the wind.
A long-distance runner with strong stamina, the Sloughi is a tremendous hunter in open spaces. Although the breed hunts mainly by sight, it also relies on scent to do so.
Where does the Sloughi come from? What were they originally used for?
The Sloughi comes from North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. It is the hound of the Berber and Bedouin. In older times Sloughis were used to hunt fennec (desert fox), desert hare, gazelle, large mountain gazelle, ostrich, hyena, and jackal.
Today, it is mainly used to hunt desert fox and hare, rarely gazelle, and to protect herds from jackals. In Tunisia, it is said that only Sloughis, and crossbreeds that have Sloughi blood, will tackle the jackal.
Like the Saluki, Afghan hound and Azawakh in their respective societies, the Sloughi is highly treasured by its North African owner.
How are Sloughis with people, children, and other pets?
Sloughis are alert watchdogs. With people they do not know, Sloughis are usually aloof and cautious. They take time to warm up to strangers allowed to enter the house, and it is best to let the Sloughi approach the stranger at its own pace after it had time to observe this person, rather than to force an acquaintance on him/her.
Bedouins treasure this attitude and have bred their dogs accordingly. Just as Sloughis are protective of their household, so are often bitches with their whelps. It is best to present puppies to their potential new owner in absence of their dam.
Sloughis which have been raised in kennel situations, with little socializing, are typically very shy, nervous, freeze when confronted with new situations, and may snap because they are scared. However, they can be made to adjust, one step at a time, and with a lot of patience.
Well, socialized Sloughis can also be scared occasionally, the difference being that they adjust much more quickly to the new situation than non-socialized ones and that they often rely on their trust to their owner to do so.
With its owner, the Sloughi is gentle, affectionate, subtle and very loyal. Some Sloughis do not change owners with ease, having developed for once and for all a bond with one particular person.
Such bonds exist also between Sloughis. Sloughis get along well with children taught to respect them, and with other pets (dogs, cats, parrots).
Precautions are as follows: do not leave a Sloughi (or any other dog) with young children for a long period of time unattended, children can abuse Sloughis without realizing it, and the dog might want at some point to defend itself.
A Sloughi which is raised with cats will be great in the house with them, but may mistake them for a game outside, particularly if the cat runs away; some cats attack dogs and can inflict damage to their eyes and face with their claws. Similar precautions apply to Sloughis and parrots (the beak of large parrots can turn into a dangerous weapon).
Sloughis are intelligent and have a great need for freedom. They can however be well trained if disciplined fairly, consistently and gently, as they are sensitive to anger. Dominant animals need a firm hand.
How much exercise does a Sloughi need? Are they sensitive to cold?
A Sloughi, particularly young dogs, needs a daily run. They are good jogging partners. Once a Sloughi has had its exercise, it spends most of its time resting in the most comfortable spot, observing the household from a distance.
Regular exercise and being an integrated part of the family are prerequisites for a well adjusted Sloughi. Sloughis are intelligent and curious. They love to travel and be taken to different places with their owner.
It is not a good idea to leave a Sloughi to its own devices in the yard. A bored Sloughi will typically look for its own entertainment, not necessarily close to the house.
The Sloughi is a hound of the desert. It is unhappy in wet and cold surroundings. Although the breed develops a denser coat in winter, this is not a breed one should leave outside for extended periods of time in cold weather.
Sloughis usually enjoy a quick race in the snow, before coming back inside to warm up. They love to doze in front of the fire-place or snuggle under the bed blankets.
Should one crate Sloughis?
Sloughis typically need a lot of space around them. They tense up when in a crate for extended periods of time, and do not like it. Crates should be used only when house-training, for short periods of time for the dog’s own protection, or when traveling.
Although the theory is that a crate mimics a den, no canid stays locked up in its den for hours, and there is no reason why a dog should put up with endless hours of crating. Most people who have Sloughis crate them only when traveling by plane.
Some owners use crates to give a Sloughi his own private place to relax, but the door remains open most of the time, and the dog can go in and out as he pleases. If the Sloughi has to be crated, the crate should be as large as possible and padded with a mattress or blanket for the Sloughi to lie on.
At shows or coursing events, the best is to keep Sloughis in large secure play-pens or on a leash. The Sloughi is a watch dog, and even the gentlest of Sloughis may become territorial in its play pen and defend the area in which he is being kept (play-pen or car).
As a precaution, always wait for the owner to be there before approaching, on your own or with your kids.
Are there any special medical problems in the breed?
There are today no genetic diseases that are widespread in the breed, mainly because breeders in Europe cultivated a large gene pool.
Genetic deficiencies such as deficient immune system, balance problems, and hemophilia, occur in inbred lines.
Isolated cases of myocitic condition (atrophy of the jaw muscles) have been reported. Older animals commonly become arthritic. Cancer may affect some individuals. No case of torsion, or hip dysplasia, is known to the author.
Like other Sighthounds, the Sloughi is sensitive to anesthetics.
Under proper conditions, the life span of a Sloughi is 12-16 years.
Although small injuries can make them scream, Sloughis are often extremely stoic to more serious pain and do not moan or complain unless it becomes excruciating. As a result it is sometimes difficult to realize in time that they are seriously ill or suffering and to determine the cause.
A well socialized Sloughi, with a calm and confident owner, is not a problem for a Veterinarian to treat.
Origins and History
The exact origins of the Sloughi date too far back to be completely known and remain speculative. Representations of African Sighthound-like dogs date back to the 8th-7th millennium BC, and Ancient Egypt’s artifacts tell us how valuable straight-eared and lop-eared smooth Sighthounds were in those days.
The lop-eared smooth Egyptian Sighthound originated possibly from Asia but was also part of tributes to the Pharaohs from Nubia (South of Egypt).
In its countries of origin (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), the Sloughi is the only dog treated as family and allowed into the tent. For the Arab it is a noble animal compared to the other impure local dogs or “kelb”.
This is illustrated by such expressions as “Aada machi Kelb; aada Sloughi” or “this is not a dog, this is a Sloughi”. In these countries, the Sloughi is the only canine bred and selected with the same care as an Arabian horse.
A Bedouin would go without his own blanket to provide his Sloughi with warmth in the cold desert nights. Puppies were often breastfed by Bedouin women to help nursing bitches. A lost Sloughi was mourned like family.
Sloughis were often decorated with jewelry and amulets. Their legs are sometimes ritually branded by their owner, and the ears are cropped up to prevent them from being torn to pieces when hunting jackals.
Political upheavals disrupted highly sophisticated breeding by leading families. Because of a law introduced during French occupation which prohibited hunting with sighthounds and resulted in the shooting of these dogs on sight, and epidemic rabies, the Sloughi population was decimated.
In spite of efforts in Europe and North Africa, the Sloughi is still not very common and its breeders have an important responsibility in the conservation of this ancient breed.
The Sloughi is smooth, lop-eared, tall, leggy and racy, has a noble, somewhat melancholic, gentle and sad expression.
The Sloughi is squarish, somewhat higher than long. The top-line descends along the neck and straightens along the back. The withers are hardly visible and the top-line is almost straight from the base of the neck.
There is a slight curve over the loin. The croup is bony, the brisket is deep but does not reach the elbow. The underline is first straight (long sternum) then rising sharply to a well tucked up loin.
The ribs are flat then slightly rounded to the back, for this reason, the Sloughi, seen from the front, is more narrow than round-ribbed breeds. The musculature is very lean and dry.
Sloughis in perfect condition have flat, long and tight muscles, one can see their hip-bones and their spine-bones in the loin region, as well as the last free-floating ribs.
Shoulders are long and oblique, forearms bony and muscular, wrists supple and strong. Thighs are flat and muscular, seconds thighs long and well muscled, hock strong and well bent, pastern strong without dew claws.
Angulation in front and rear is moderate, feet are oval and webbed between the toes. In many lightly built Sloughis, the feet have the shape of a hare-foot. Nails are black or pigmented.
The tail is in line with the croup, curved at the end and held low, it should be thin and long enough to reach the hock.
The “desert type” Sloughis are more lightly built than “mountain type” Sloughis. Dogs, larger than bitches, usually look more strongly built and powerful than Salukis and Azawakhs, particularly the “mountain type” dogs. Bitches should be feminine, graceful and more refined than the dogs.
Dogs 25 to 29 inches (66 to 72 cm) at the withers, 30 inches (75 cm) common in “mountain type” dogs.
Bitches 24 to 27 inches (61 to 68 cm)
Ideally, for a male of 28 inches (70 cm), the length of the body should be 26-27 inches (67-68 cm). For a bitch of 26 inches (65 cm) the length of the body should be 24-25 inches (62-63 cm)
The coat is very short, dense and soft, the skin is fine and tight
The coat colors of the Sloughi blend with the North African environment: in the desert mainly the color of sand, often with a black mask, in rocky or mountainous grassy areas, black mantel or often brindle, an advantage to approach prey undetected.
Other coat colors are all shades from sand to red/fawn with or without black markings (black mask, black ears, brindle, black mantel, dark overlay). Red fawn with or without a mask and brindle on red with black mantel (the darkest coat) are few.
Black brindle and red-brindle are rare. A small white patch on the chest and few white hairs at the tips of the toes are tolerated.
The head in profile is long, refined, but rather strong compared to other Sighthounds. Seen from above it forms an elongated triangle from the broad skull to the tip of the nose. The stop and brows are barely pronounced, the muzzle roughly as long as the skull.
The ears are triangular, moderate in size, and rounded at the tip. They hang flat on each side. They can fold in action or when the dog is nervous.
The eyes are amber (topaz) to dark brown, often lined with black, and give the dog an often melancholy, sad and distant look. They are well-set in their sockets, in some cases not totally open as a result of slightly oblique eye-lids.
The teeth should be strong and white, none should be missing, with scissors or level bite. Some Sloughis have additional pre-molars 1.
Trot: the Sloughi has an effortless and floating gait. There is no exaggeration in extension, the front paw does not reach beyond the tip of the nose. There is no exaggeration in a drive, as a result of the moderate rear angulation. The head is held at a moderate angle to the body.
Gallop: Double suspension. Because of its squarish structure and more level top-line, the Sloughi does not flex its back as much as the Greyhound.
Light eyes (light amber); heavy head and body; stop too pronounced; bad proportions; bad topline; rounded ribs; not enough tuck; croup too oblique, insufficient or too narrow; tail too short, too furnished or badly carried; coat hard and coarse.
Ears erect, or with tips drooping forward, ears too long, rose ear.
Coat half long, feathering on legs or tail
Extensive white markings, white socks, color not in accordance with the standard.
Overshot or undershot.
Males should have 2 apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum
Sloughis are fast and highly efficient hunters. True Sighthounds, they have an excellent vision: they chase on sight anything that moves, however far away. The Sloughi is always on the alert for moving objects.
Most of the play among Sloughis consists in chasing each other. On a walk with a Sloughi off leash, the owner has to learn to locate a possible chase object before his dog does, in order to call him back in time to prevent the chase (for example when the “interesting” object is across a road and cars are driving by).
A well socialized Sloughi is affectionate, gentle, subtle and very loyal to its owner. Sloughis, which have bonded to a particular person, do not change ownership easily. With people they do not know, Sloughis are aloof and cautious, they usually do not like to be touched by strangers unless they have been introduced, gently, by their owner.
Sloughis are intelligent, curious, and independent. They can be well trained if disciplined fairly and gently, as they are sensitive to anger. However, do not expect from a Sloughi to take to training as a Golden Retriever or Border Collie would. Sloughis are reliable and alert watchdogs.
They like children brought up to respect animals, and harmonize well with other pets, such as cats, other dogs, and parrots when raised with them. They are sometimes edgy around small dogs which scurry and bark a lot.
Because Sloughis are tall, they may inadvertently be too strong when playing or running around with very small dogs. Sloughis develop friendships with cats, however, caution is necessary when cat and dog are outside. Sometimes a Sloughi will mistake its friend for a game, particularly if the cat runs away: this behavior invariably triggers a chase.
Sloughis have retained all their basic instincts. Parents of a litter often both defend it, as do unrelated adults. Mothers nurture their puppies well, bringing food to them when they stop producing milk.
Sloughis living together establish hierarchies stabilized by subtle behavioral rituals. Intentions and moods are displayed by a large variety of subtle postures, expressions, and sounds. Sloughis dig dens when they nurture puppies, to cool off in hot weather, or just for fun. They are very good jumpers.
Sloughis are tough, and even when they suffer intense pain, they hardly show it. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult to realize in time that a Sloughi is ill and in pain and to determine the reason.
They can, however, be very vocal after small injuries. A well socialized Sloughi who bonded to a calm and confident owner is not a problem for a veterinarian to treat, even when the treatment is not very pleasant. It seems to understand that it is being helped.
Because of its short coat, the Sloughi is very clean, it has no “doggy” odor except when wet. It just loves warmth and comfort and needs protection from wet and cold. Daily exercise is necessary to its well being.
The Sloughi is often confused with other smooth Sighthounds
What are the differences between the Sloughi and the Greyhound?
Compared to the Greyhound, the Sloughi is built more on a square than a rectangle, it has more tuck, the forehead is larger, the ears are longer and drop on each side of the head, instead of being folded and pushed back as in the Greyhound.
The coat colors of the Greyhound vary more than those of the Sloughi, with large quantities of white absent in the Sloughi. In well-exercised individuals, the Greyhound looks much more muscular, the Sloughi leaner.
Seen from above, the Greyhound is much wider than the Sloughi. The Sloughi is slower, averaging 28-31 miles/hour, but has more stamina. The racing style of the Sloughi looks more “pulled together” as a result of its squarish structure, the Sloughi does not flex its back as much as the Greyhound.
What is the difference between the Sloughi, the Saluki and the Azawakh?
The Sloughi originates from North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia), the Azawakh from Central Africa (Mali,Cha, Niger Burkina-Faso), The Saluki from outside and East of Africa (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey), the Afghan Hound from Afghanistan.
The indigenous Salukis of Iran /Irak and the indigenous Tazis of Afghanistan as these 3 countries have common borders.
Inherited differences between these 4 breeds are at different levels
1) Blood proteins
According to the comparative studies of K.Bruchmüller on the blood proteins of various Sighthounds and other dogs, these 4 breeds have distinct genetic profiles. More specifically, the Sloughi and the Azawakh, both African Sighthounds, are the only Sighthound breeds to date in which an additional allele B was found on the Glucose-Phosphate-Isomerase (GPI) locus.
This allele had been found otherwise in the fox, the jackal, the coyote, an Italian wolf population and a few dog breeds (German Shepherd, poodles, Epagneul papillon).
The Saluki and the Afghan hound were the only Sighthound breeds with a third allele C on the Esterases (ES) locus, and the Greyhound was the only breed with only allele A, the remaining breeds having alleles A & B on that locus.
Further, the Afghan hound and the Borzoi have an additional allele B on the Tetrazoli umoxidase (TO) locus, not seen in the Saluki. The Saluki, the Afghan hound, and the Borzoi have an additional allele B on the Glucose-6-Phosphat-Dehydrogenase (G6pd) locus, whereas the Azawakh, Greyhound, and Sloughi have only the allele A on that locus.
The Afghan hound is the only Sighthound examined in this study in which only one allele B (no allele A) was found on the Postalbumin 1(Pa1) locus. The Greyhound and the Borzoi are the only Sighthounds in this study with a third allele C on the Leuciaminopeptidase (Lap) locus.
The blood proteins of the Sloughi and Azawakh are almost identical whereas each other breed shows a difference on at least one locus. In spite of these differences, the Afghan, Azawakh, Borzoi, Greyhound, Saluki, and Sloughi all have one thing in common: All show alleles A & B on the Postalbumine 3 (Pa3) locus.
2) Coat texture
Sloughis and Azawakhs are always smooth, Salukis are either smooth or feathered, Afghan hounds are long-haired. However, there is a variety of smooth Afghans, not yet recognized by the FCI. Such smooth Afghan hounds offered to the French President George Pompidou by the king of Afghanistan.
Siblings with both kinds of coats can be found in the Saluki and the Afghan hound, not in the Sloughi and the Azawakh. The fact that long-coated show Afghans once in a while throw smooth puppies is a reminder that the breed still carries that characteristic in its genes.
3) Coat color
These 4 breeds have been bred in distinct coloration patterns (for the sake of consistency I refer here to the FCI standards for these 4 breeds): The Sloughi is always solid with no extensive white markings (a white patch on the chest and few white hairs at the tip of the toes are overlooked).
There are no parti-colored Sloughis, i.e no extensive “Irish” or “piebald”. Colors are all shades of light sand to red with or without a black mask, black ears, brindle, dark overlay, and black mantel. The typical colors are sand/brindle/black mask or sand black mask.
The Saluki is found in any color except brindle, the black mask is very rare and not found on sand (creme) coats. The Saluki can be parti-colored or white or grizzle. Although the brindle is not allowed in the standard of the Saluki, some tazis found in Turkey, Iran, and Irak are brindle.
The Azawakh is red or sand, with black mask, dark overlay or brindle. It has extensive white markings such as white socks, white blaze, white tip of the tail, extensive white throat patch. In Africa, other colors are found which are not recognized by the FCI standard for the breed such as partial color and black & white.
The Afghan hound can be found in all coat colors, with black mask, brindle, black ears, black mantel, and grizzle (domino).
Although there is a certain degree of variation within each breed with some overlap in the looks of some individuals of each breed, the body proportions, topline, underline and angulations of these breeds are different.
The Azawakh is built on a standing rectangle. The top-line descends along the neck, at an angle over the withers, and straightens along the back. The hips are slightly higher than, or level with, the withers, the croup is bony, the brisket does not reach the elbow, the underline is first falling then rising sharply.
The Sloughi is squarish, slightly higher than long. The top-line descends along the neck and straightens along the back. The withers are hardly visible and the topline is almost straight from the base of the neck.
There is a slight curve over the loin. The croup is bony, the brisket does not reach the elbow, the underline is first straight (long sternum) then rising sharply.
The Saluki is squarish to slightly rectangular. The top-line descends along the neck, at an angle over the withers, and straightens along the back. The croup is bony but often more rounded than in the previous 2 breeds.
The brisket usually reaches the elbow, the underline rising evenly from the elbow.
The long coated Afghan hound is difficult to assess, because of the long coat which hides many features of the body structure. In more general terms, the Afghan hound is squarish to slightly rectangular with a topline descending along the neck, at an angle over the withers and straightening along the back.
The croup is bony. In smooths, and in dogs with a somewhat longer coat, the few pictures available show a brisket which reaches the elbow, the underline rising evenly from the elbow.
Salukis and Afghan hounds are usually more angulated in the rear than Sloughis, which are more angulated than the Azawakh. Salukis and Afghan hounds usually have larger ears than Azawakhs which usually have larger ears than Sloughis.
Sloughis, particularly the males, have larger and stronger heads than Salukis and Azawakhs. Sloughis are usually bigger and look more powerful than either Salukis and Azawakhs. Sloughis and Azawakhs are leggier and usually have more tuck than Salukis and Afghan hounds.
All 4 breeds have a very noble and impressive bearing. The expression of the Sloughi is gentle and melancholy, almost sad. The expression of the Azawakh’s almond-shaped eyes is intense and somewhat feral, the expression of the Saluki is thoughtful and alert, the expression of the Afghan hound is alert, dignified and sometimes haughty.
5) Natural gait The Azawakh has a flashy and springy gait, head and tail held high. There is no exaggeration in extension. As a result of its “standing rectangle” structure, the racing style of the Azawakh is an upright gallop.
The Sloughi has a smooth, floating, effortless gait, tail held low, head at a moderate angle to the body. There is no exaggeration in extension, the front paw not reaching beyond the tip of the nose. This type of gait enables an animal to cover large distances without tiring.
The racing style resembles more that of the greyhound but looks more pulled together as a result of the squarish structure of the Sloughi versus the “lying rectangle” structure of the Greyhound. Because of its straighter topline, the Sloughi does not flex its back as much as the Greyhound.
The Saluki has a light and effortless gait, in which the degree of reach and drive varies between the extreme extension, front paws reaching beyond the tip of the nose, of some modern show dogs, and the more moderate gait of the so-called “old fashioned” or “desert breeds”, which resembles more that of the Sloughi.
Like in the Sloughi the tail is held low and the head is at a normal angle to the body.
The Afghan hound has a stylish, smooth and springy gait. Like in the Azawakh the head and tail are held high. Like in the Saluki, some modern show Afghans have a longer striding trot than dogs imported from their country of origin.
The racing style is difficult to analyse and compare as it is hampered by the heavy coat, and the information is unavailable for the smooth Afghan.
According to studies which clocked the speed of these 4 breeds on oval tracks in Germany, the Sloughi and Saluki are basically identical, the Azawakh is slower and the long-coated Afghan hound even more, however not excluding the possibility that the smooth could be faster than the long-coated Afghan.
All 4 breeds are good watchdogs, with the Azawakh being probably the most protective. All are aloof towards strangers. All are excellent hunters.
Where they come from, the Sloughi, Azawakh, and Saluki usually hunt in open spaces (desert or open plains or steppe), they also protect sheep and goat herds from jackals (Sloughi and Azawakh) or other local wild canids (Saluki in Turkey).
The long coated Afghan hound was used to hunt in tough mountainous terrain, whereas the smooth and somewhat longer coated varieties more often hunted in the open plains. All are or were highly treasured by their respective societies.