Saluki: The World's Oldest Dog Breed
The Saluki is a dog breed that has been around for thousands of years. They became famous in history as dogs who were highly respected in the Middle East for their tremendous speed and ability to hunt gazelle over long distances and difficult terrain.
According to Guinness World Records, the Saluki is the world's oldest known breed of domesticated dog. Evidence traces the dog back to at least 5,000 years ago. Ancient images of Salukis have been found on seals, mosaic sculptures and tomb paintings at archaeological sites in many areas of the Middle East.
The name Saluki is believed to be derived from the ancient city of Saluk in Yemen. The dogs traveled throughout the Middle East with nomads, and were used to hunt and kill gazelle and other quarry in the desert over deep sand and rocky mountains. The dogs were held in such great esteem that they were referred to as el hor (The Noble) by the Arabs and were bred as carefully as the famous Arabian horses, with endurance and speed in mind.
The Saluki is the only dog considered to be clean by the Muslim religion. They were permitted to share the food and tents of nomads. Salukis were valued companions to Egyptian nobility, and could well be called "the royal dog of Egypt". Salukis were frequently honored with mummification after death, just like the Egyptian Pharaohs themselves.
During the 12th century, Salukis were brought to Europe by soldiers returning from the Crusades. They were brought to England in 1840, and a breeding program was started in 1895. In 1923, the Saluki Breed Club was formed and the Kennel Club granted official recognition to the breed. By the 1930s, interest in the breed weakened. During World War II, breeding almost entirely stopped, and many Salukis were euthanized to prevent the dogs from dying of starvation. A small number of Salukis survived the war, and a slow process of re-establishing the breed began again.
The number of Salukis in their native land have decreased - having been replaced by guns and jeeps. In the US, the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1927, the same year the Saluki Club of America was formed. Today, the popularity of the Saluki in the US has remained relatively stable.