Salukis, the Arabic hunting dogs

Salukis the Arabic hunting dogs - Bedouin

Salukis, also known as the desert dogs are considered the world’s oldest breed of domesticated dog. Research has shown that the saluki probably emerged as a breed in ancient Mesopotamia (now modern Iraq) and spread across the Middle East including the United Arab Emirates.

Salukis the Arabic hunting dogs - Bedouin
Image Source

Salukis were a big part of Bedouin culture; they were used for their brilliant hunting skills and became valuable members of Bedouin families. Bedouin were the nomadic desert dwellers who traversed the Arabian desert with their animals for centuries. Salukis have a similar look and build to greyhounds, with a slender body and pointed nose. Their naturally slim frame is what makes them so fast, reaching speeds up to almost 80km/h (50 miles p/h).

In the past, Bedouin hunted with salukis in packs of 2-6 dogs. They trained their dogs to hunt with falcons as a team. The falcon would fly and spot the prey from above, and hover over the prey to indicate its location. Salukis would then race towards the prey which could sometimes be as far as a few kilometres away. Their stamina to sprint across the desert is truly impressive. The Bedouin hunters would follow on their camels to the prey. The most common prey hunted in the desert were Arabian gazelles, desert hares, houbaras and sometimes foxes.

Salukis the Arabic hunting dogs - Bedouin
Hamad Al Ghanem owns about 80 of the dogs, which run free at his desert home. Image Source.

These dogs were not only exceptionally fast making them ideal team mates for hunting, but they were (and still are) also very affectionate and loyal. They have a friendly nature and are usually sociable with people, including children and other dogs. Their outgoing personalities and desire to be around people is what also makes them such lovable family dogs.

Bedouin documented a lot of their life and traditions through oral storytelling, often in the form of poetry, star gazing and dance. Salukis are often mentioned in Arabic poetry and artworks showing dogs with the close resemblance of salukis have been discovered dating back to 6,000 years ago.

Salukis the Arabic hunting dogs - Bedouin
Artist: Donald Grant, View of a Bedouin Tribe and Two Saluki Image Source

Nowadays, hunting is banned in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates for conservation reasons. Salukis remain cherished in Emirati culture and are still part of today’s society. At the Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience, you can meet a saluki dog during the Bedouin falcon show. During the falcon show, the Bedouin will demonstrate ancient training techniques with the falcon and the saluki. Learn about this Bedouin hunting technique, watch a falcon fly and meet a Bedouin’s beloved saluki.

Salukis the Arabic hunting dogs - Bedouin
Bedouin falcon show with salukis at Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience

11 Facts about saluki dogs:

  1. Salukis rely on their eyesight, rather than their noses, to find prey and then use their tremendous speed for the chase and capture.
  2. Salukis can run almost 80km/h (50 miles p/h), which explains why Bedouin used them for hunting gazelles.
  3. Henna or nut oil was applied to the dogs’ feet to harden them and prevent injuries.
  4. Salukis require a lot of exercise and need to run at least once or twice a week.
  5. The coat of the saluki is short, soft, and silky. It can be either feathered (longer hair) or smooth.
  6. Salukis come in many colours and patterns, including white, cream, fawn, golden, red, tricolour, black and tan.
  7. Salukis can live 10 to 17 years if they are looked after well and kept healthy.
  8. As valued family members, the saluki’s name was very significant and it often took a few weeks for the Bedouin to come up with the right name to reflect their dog’s character.
  9. Salukis are very good jumpers and can easily clear fences up to 5 ft (1,5metres).
  10. Salukis were bred to chase prey over long and difficult ground, so they are not as fragile as they look.
  11. Salukis are very slim and usually weigh between 18kg-30kg (40-60 pounds).