Modern combined DNA and archeological research suggests that the Saluki is one of the most ancient breeds of dog, the primal sighthound, descended directly from the Asian Grey Wolf many thousands of years ago. Subsequently, it spread through the Middle East where it became the hunting dog of desert Bedouin tribes who kept the breed bloodlines pure until the present day. Images of the Saluki are depicted hunting gazelle on Tutenkhamun's hunting chest and one is engraved on one of his solid gold ceremonial staffs. Salukis are also portrayed in other Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and on other Middle Eastern artefacts, and a mummified Saluki dated circa 3600BC is on display in Cairo Museum.
The breed was used by the nomadic tribes in the desert to hunt hare and gazelle, hence its other name, the Gazelle Hound. Hunters often used falcons to locate prey in the desert, carrying the Saluki on their camels until it was spotted whereupon the Saluki, quite literally, hit the ground running and would pursue the prey until it was worn down. Typically, the Saluki did not kill the prey but stunned it, after which it could be dispatched by the hunters in accordance with Muslim tradition.
The Saluki is fit for purpose, showing conformation which can best be described as that of a lean, running machine. It is designed for both speed and stamina, having a refined, long head with strong jaws, a long neck, deep chest providing heart and lung room, moderately angulated quarters and a long tail which acts as a rudder and brake. The Saluki has other features which are well adapted for desert life. It has a single coat which does not retain sand or mud, long eyelashes and well lubricated eyes to flush out sand, and thick soled feet with webbed toes to enable it to run on rocky and hot desert terrain. There are two coat types, fringed, which has long silky hair on the ears, elbows, hocks and tail, and smooth. The breed exists in many different colours and colour combinations, including all shades of pale cream, gold, red, chocolate, and black. Colour combinations include particolour, tricolour and grizzle. Solid black Salukis are not found and brindle is not permitted in the UK breed standard.
The Saluki also has the largest size range of any breed, from 23 to 28 inches with bitches proportionately smaller, which reflects the many different kinds of terrain the breed hunted over throughout the Middle East.
The Saluki is gentle, somewhat reserved with strangers, intelligent, very independent and not particularly obedient. It is not an easy breed to train and this feature, combined with its phenomenal speed and stamina, need for regular free exercise and powerful hunting instinct, means that it is unsuitable for a sedentary lifestyle and cannot easily be managed unless it has regular access to fully enclosed, livestock free exercise areas. However, unlike many hunting dogs, the Saluki, having traditionally lived with Bedouin women and children, is not suited to kennel living.
As an ancient natural, as opposed to man-made breed, the Saluki is essentially healthy. Hip and elbow dysplasia, found in other breeds, are virtually unknown, and eye problems are rare.
Umbilical hernias at birth are not uncommon.
Heart conditions such as Cardiomyopathy and Long QT syndrome, both of which may result in sudden death, are known in the breed, and in recent years there appears to have been an increasing incidence of formerly unknown and/or uncommon auto-immune diseases but this trend is consistent with that found in other breeds, and is not specific to the Saluki.