Why is it brief? It is brief because, in the 1920s, there were multiple types of Salukis being imported from a wide region of the world, from North Africa to the Middle East and surrounding countries—a huge geographic area. In order to ensure that the 1923 British breed standard encompassed the various regional types of Salukis without competing minutia, its description covered all the types of Salukis at that time, and so it was brief. The American Saluki standard duplicated this in 1927.
Does this mean every Saluki you see today is correct, just a different type? No, of course not, but it does mean that it is important to educate ourselves if we want to understand what is correct and what is not. The Saluki standard is the oldest unchanged Sighthound standard in America and the oldest unchanged Saluki standard in the English language.
The Saluki, feathered or smooth, needs to remain in its original forms, which means it needs to remain an athletic dog that is a successful hunter—especially known for its long-distance hunting capabilities at high speeds. Their origins, in hot to temperate climates and from sand to rocky hills and mountains, meant they had to be quite versatile—and the dogs that were the most successful hunters in each of these types of regions were the ones selected for breeding. If a hound could not contribute to the cooking pot, it was not part of the breed’s future. This basic wisdom resulted in a variety of regional types, but there is some definite consistency among these in structure. Let’s look at the picture described in words below as well as the photographs included here.
What does the Saluki standard tell us? The word you find the most in the standard is “moderate.” Being a judge myself, I have discovered that different breeds use the word moderate to mean slightly different things, so we have to get past that conundrum and see what the word means in Salukis. Usually, flashy dogs—those that immediately grab your eye in the ring—are not the moderate ones. Extreme specimens may have sweeping rear ends or a majestic and unnatural periscope of an upright head carriage or Tremendous Reach And Drive (TRAD) or some other exaggeration. The next time you are watching Salukis, try focusing on those dogs that are moderate, balanced, without exaggerations—and have easy, light movement at a trotting pace.
There are additional descriptions in the standard that can be difficult to interpret if you have no references as to how these words are used in relation to Salukis. Photographs can assist by giving us an illustration of that language. This helps us to become familiar with the types of Salukis that were originally imported and bred—and their counterparts in more recent times. To demonstrate this, here are photos of Salukis from the first half of the 1900’s. There were different types in the original imports from the Middle East just as there are in the more recent photos, but let’s look for what they all have in common. For the more recent dogs (Salukis of the past 50 years) I’ve chosen Salukis that have either won frequently under well-respected Saluki breeder-judges or have been successful at open field coursing, or both. What do all their structures tell us? Square or just off-square, a tiny bit taller than long or a tiny bit longer than tall. Hip bones and scapulas are approximately the same distance from the ground to reflect a balance front to rear. The “shoulders sloping and set well back, well muscled without being course” means the whole front assembly is set well back onto the body and the scapula lies onto the body. This, combined with a correct hip and rear structure, sets up a good topline. We do not want to see a
noticeably steep “ski slope” coming off the neck, which often means the scapula is not well laid back, the front assembly is too far forward, there’s a roached or flat back or, worse, a falling-off topline. Width to the first and second thighs showing good muscling is important, as are “…muscles slightly arched over loin.” What drives this hunting machine is power, and this takes muscles! A “long, supple and well-muscled” neck that is wider at the base is able to grab and carry prey on the run. Moderate angles in the front and rear legs reflect the words, “Hindquarters—Strong, hipbones set well apart and stifle moderately bent…” And then you look for the balance in front by the return of the upper arm. Feet are described as, “Of moderate length, toes long and well arched, not splayed out, but at the same time not cat-footed; the whole being strong and supple…” This equates to a more hare-like foot with well arched toes that can take miles of punishment, which means the pads of the feet must be thick. Flat or splayed feet or thin pads cannot do this. An S-curve underline underneath a chest that is “deep and moderately narrow,” combined with a flexible spine, assists with the double suspension gallop for hunting prey. Although a group of twelve photos cannot show you every correct structure, it can give your eye a good idea of how similar these types actually are (both in historical and in more recent times) and, thus, what to look for in the ring.
For those of us who hunted live game for many years with our Salukis, watching great athletes perform from a hundred different bloodlines is an education. It gives one insight into why many Salukis perform exceptionally well at this type of hunting and some do not. Though this breed has been called “elegant,” this term can also be associated with the excessively thin or fragile—and these words absolutely do not describe a correct Saluki. No Saluki (or any Sighthound) that hunts successfully for most of its life is fragile. Salukis need to be a lean and muscular, hunting at high speeds over difficult terrain for very long distances, type of dog. The standard specifically calls this the “…impression of grace and symmetry and of great speed and endurance coupled with strength and activity to enable it to kill gazelle or other quarry over deep sand or rocky mountains.”
Combining a physique equipped to do its job for a lifetime, with a natural instinct and great desire, you have the Saluki breed—successful for well over 5,000 years! This is the Saluki to preserve.