noble sighthound of Asiatic origin is the traditional companion of the
nomads of North Africa
Sloughi rightly deserves its reputation of being the most intelligent of
the sighthounds. Alongside the Afghan and the Persian, it is one of the
three sighthound breeds originating from Asia; however it was the Arabs
who turned it into that masterpiece of beauty and efficiency, bringing
it with them when they conquered northern Africa. The Sloughi, in these
areas therefore, little by little took the place of the local lupoid
sighthound breeds with their pricked ears and upturned tails that we
find portrayed in Saharan cave paintings from the Neolithic age and in
the iconography from ancient Egypt. A dog built for speed as well as
stamina, thoroughbred in outline and aristocratic in movement, the
Sloughi – a smooth-coated and generally sand-coloured sighthound – is
first and foremost a hunting animal, made for chasing the gazelle –
hence its typically functional morphology. Independent and proud, it is
neither submissive nor docile. In order to love it, one has to
recognise and accept its free spirit and the need for independence that
it has acquired as a result of being accustomed to living in wide open
spaces. Indeed, for many centuries, it has been the traditional
companion of the nomads of Saudi Arabia and North Africa, who consider
it to be "noble" ("el hor" in Arabic) as opposed to dogs known as "kelb"
and considered despicable.
it so happens that this dog born to hunt is also excellent at guarding.
Mr. Robert Mauvy, current president of the Sloughi Club, tells how he
has many times had the occasion in Africa to see Sloughis leave a choice
spot that they were occupying under the tents to join in with the "kelb"
and, alongside them, face up to an intruder, whether human or animal,
who might be approaching the campsite, and then return in a dignified
manner to watch over their masters again once everything had returned to
It was in
the Middle Ages, at the time of the Crusades, that the Sloughi was first
introduced into France. One can read that the Sloughi was frequently to
be found, sculpted in marble or granite, at the feet of the reclining
figures on tombstones although, in fact, these sighthounds resemble
Greyhounds far more closely than Sloughis. It is a strange thing, but
the Sloughi is relatively little represented in France where, however,
it has no problem in becoming acclimatised. In fact, there is no doubt
at all that a good number of breeds in existence today owe a fair amount
to the Sloughi for their speed and for certain morphological
characteristics. It can be found today in all areas of Islamic
civilisation – from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, and in particular
in sub-desert areas such as the Saharan borders of North Africa,
Tripolitaine and Libya. It is
also encountered in the Middle East, where it coexists with dogs of a
similar morphology, but with longer hair and fringes on ears and tail –
which are in fact Salukis.
Showing itself affectionate only towards its master, indifferent towards
towards those whom it believes
animated by bad intentions, it
is in effect an excellent guardian.
Although they adore the chase and wide open spaces, they also appreciate
their comfort and adapt well to life in an apartment.
The Sloughi is clean, quiet and above all superbly decorative.
The [French] Sloughi Club (1) was founded in
1935, in Toulon, by Miss Turcot, a
relative of the Concorde pilot. She was active in looking after
it until the war in
1939, date at which Mr. Sénac-Lagrange
took over from her as chairman,
followed by Mr. Charles Duconte.
At the club's last annual general meeting,
there were one hundred and seventy members.
According to the file of all dogs listed by the
club, one will find no more
than four hundred and fifty
Sloughis in the whole of
Europe, three hundred of which
were in France. Only one hundred and fifty
six are recorded in the stud book.
Mr. Robert Mauvy,
the club's chairman, has this to
say: "The Sloughi's general
appearance is that of an exceptionally aristocratic looking dog in its
stature, its profile and its
gait. Its musculature is lean and its tissues are extraordinarily fine.
The head - long, fine and chiselled - is in proportion to the
slenderness of the animal.
Seen from the front, it widens outwards from the nose to the
occipital bone. The cranium is
harmoniously rounded where it falls towards the first cervical vertebrae
between which is found a relatively pronounced depression
as in all such elegant breeds. The parietals follow the line that
curves away from front to back. The
lips are fine and slanted,
although covering the slight bulge of the canines. There must be
a correct scissor bite as behoves an animal that grasps its prey while
The eye is very beautiful, very dark,
well framed in the socket,
not bulging. Depending on the
dog's feelings, its expression at rest can be distant, nostalgic just as
much as it can be affectionate or indeed terrible.
It is the contractions of the
muscles that give this face
its expression rather than the eye itself."
It appears alas, as deplored by Mr.
Jean-Marie Devillard, the Club's
secretary, that this magnificent breed is threatened with disappearance.
"Sloughis, and above beautiful
Sloughis, have become extremely rare, in
Europe as well as their
countries of origin. In France, for
example, out of the some three hundred specimens that can still be found
there, only a hundred or so are worthy of reproduction."
Sloughi's decline in North
Africa is explained by the loss of its
prestige status (it was a
prerogative of noble families),
but above all by the loss of its use for hunting.
Indeed, hunting with Sloughis
is in theory prohibited across North Africa.
Such dogs are no longer jealously guarded as they were in earlier times
- any that were seen roaming were slaughtered while any that escaped
that fate tended to reproduce haphazardly, out in the wilds...
Hence an impoverishment and inevitable degeneration of the breed.
There are however a few kernels of pure Sloughis still
remaining in North Africa.
That is the reason why the
Club has just set up a network of
correspondents in the three North African countries and
in the Middle East. This network of
correspondents makes it possible to collect
observations made on
Sloughis in these countries, on the different types encountered, on
breeding methods, on
types of food,
Mr. Pérignon, member of the Club Committee, points out: "Such
contacts and exchanges of
information with the Sloughi's countries of origin are of
fundamental importance since it would be
aberrant to want to conduct French breeding in an autonomous manner -
without organising exchanges of animals with such countries and without
regularly replenishing the European population."
long distance runner
Deprived therefore of its atavistic activity - hunting -
in the three North African countries that make up its area of dispersion,
Sloughi has maybe found a replacement activity in the form of
Basically a long distance runner, the
Sloughi can maintain a speed of
55 to 60 km/h. Sighthound racing enjoyed a certain
vogue in France during the period between the two world wars.
Although such events are still disputed, they do not provoke the same
infatuation as then - plus it is now mainly
Whippets and Greyhounds that take part. In Germany, however,
Sloughis can still take their chances.
They are much used on racetracks and have just been awarded their
However this is really only a replacement activity, since the
sloughi is more a hunting dog than a racing dog.
Still very close to nature despite thousands of years of domestication,
the Sloughi - however noble he might be and totally devoid of servility
- needs to survive.
That is why the
Club that watches over the breed is looking out for any well-intentioned
people likely to help it in its task.
(1) [French] Sloughi Club, the only club affiliated to
the Société Centrale Canine (French Kennel Club). Chairman:
Desaix, 63200 Riom. Telephone
Secretary's Office in
288.83.40 et 847.04.97.