The exact origins of the breed date too far back to be completely known and remain speculative. Representations of African Sighthound-like dogs go back to the 8th-7th millennium BC. and artifacts of Ancient Egypt show us how valuable straight eared and lop-eared smooth Sighthounds were in those days. The smooth lop-eared Sighthounds of ancient Egypt are thought to have originated from Asia (east of Egypt), but they were also part of tributes to the Pharaohs from Nubia (South of Egypt). This ancient hound resembles today’s Sloughi, Saluki, Azawakh and smooth Afghan, and it is impossible without any genetic study to know whether it was a breed of its own, whether it was identical to one of these 4 breeds, or whether it was the ancestor of all lop-eared Sighthounds.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Sloughi was almost extinct. Political upheavals had disrupted highly sophisticated breeding by leading families. A French law introduced during French occupation which prohibited hunting with Sighthounds had resulted in the shooting on sight of these dogs. Epidemic rabies had further decimated the Sloughi population. In spite of dedicated efforts which started at the end of the 1960’s in Europe, North Africa and the USA, the Sloughi is still not very common, and its breeders have an important responsibility in the conservation of this ancient breed.
The Sloughi’s native countries are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. It is the hound of the Berber and Bedouin who have always highly treasured the Sloughi’s tremendous hunting skills, beauty and loyalty and treated him like family.
In the old days, the Sloughi used to hunt desert hare, fennec (desert fox), gazelle, large mountain gazelle, hyena, ostrich, and jackal. Today it hunts mainly desert hare, fennec, rarely gazelle, and protects the goat and sheep herds by hunting their predator the jackal. Like all Sighthounds, Sloughis are open space hunters which rely on excellent vision, speed and stamina to catch their prey. They chase on sight anything that moves, however far away. Although the breed hunts mainly by sight, it also relies on scent and sound to do so.
The Sloughi is also an alert watch dog, which remains aloof and cautious with people it does not know. Sloughis take time to warm up to strangers allowed to enter the house, and it is always best to let them do it at their own pace. With its owner the Sloughi is gentle, affectionate and very loyal. Once it has bonded with someone, the Sloughi does not always change owner with ease. Bedouins treasure this attitude and have bred their Sloughis accordingly.
© Dominique Crapon de Caprona, PhD
Reproduced with Kind Permission