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Through the civilisations, the saluki maintained its importance as a coursing (chasing) hound. The Egyptians called them the Royal Dogs of Egypt, and only the nobility were permitted to have them. Mummified remains of Saluki hounds have been discovered in tombs with their masters.
From the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, traders carried the Saluki throughout the Middle East where they became the treasured hounds of the nomadic tribes - the Bedouins. The Bedouins carefully bred Salukis for thousands of years with speed endurance in mind, and they presented them as gifts to kings and nobles in other lands, Hamad explained.

The Arabian Bedouins still hunt with the Salukis in packs of between two and six hounds, and they train their Salukis to hunt with falcons as part of a team. Their intelligence and independence enables them to successfully operate in the hunt without direct supervision of their masters. The Saluki is more affectionate towards his master than a father is towards his son, and truly can be regarded as man’s best friend. Hamad explained that the Salukis ate what their masters ate, sharing their tents and their food. Milk headed the diet list, followed by rice, dates olives chicken and meat. Today although prepared foods are used in Hamad’s breeding kennels, he has not abandoned some of the traditional ways of feeding. Water is always kept in a clay pot, which ensures that it stays fresh and cold in the heat. A few drops of rose water or leqah -(water flavoured with palm tree blossoms), will be added for taste. A Saluki will never drink dirty water and will refuse stale food or milk if someone has put his hand in it.

Today’s Bedouins still hunt with their Salukis. The Empty Quarter in the Arabian Desert (Rub Al-Khalee) is their favourite hunting ground, where tents and villages around the edges of this remain strongholds of Saluki breeding. Hunting is mainly pursued between October and March when it is relatively cool and often wet, but the best time is in the spring. ‘The hunters keep young hounds at home until they are about a year old, just for running with an older experienced courser in the field. The youngsters seemed to pick up the idea fairly quickly. They lope next to the car at an easy pace of 50Km per hour, and the maximum speed 75Km per hour… (50 to 75km/h)’ Hamad explained.

‘Salukis need a lot of exercise’ Hamad added ‘however they do not run mindlessly like Greyhounds. This inbred intelligence makes it difficult, if not impossible, to have Salukis run in races with Greyhounds. On the course, the quick thinking Saluki will cut across the racing track ring to grab the mechanical rabbit, whilst the greyhound will continue to run round and round the track never catching the elusive robot rabbit’ Hamad laughingly told me.

The Salukis are trained to hunt with jerboas (desert rats) before moving onto other game such as jackrabbits, hares, foxes, coyotes, wild cats, gazelle, deer, sage hens and other birds. They are often taken on hunts in tandem with falcons where the keen-eyed birds spot and hover over their prey in the air like a beacon, whilst the Saluki speeds off in the direction of the target - often kilometres away- as the hunters follow on their horses or camels. The Saluki’s feet, which are flatter than those of a greyhound, have thick springy pads which enable them to travel long distances over the sand. The Bedouins used to apply henna or nut oil to harden the Saluki’s feet to avoid injuries whilst hunting in the harsh desert. Their slender yet forceful paws can dig a tunnel ten feet long with openings at both ends. Their long and powerful jaws (which Arabs describe as ‘laughing jaws’) maintain a powerful grip on prey. Hamad jokes that many a pigeon has been plucked of their feathers when they are caught flying too low past a Saluki!


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