Azawakh is a breed of greyhounds, originally from Africa. They have been used as a hunting and guard dog for centuries, as although they do not have such a high speed as other greyhounds, they are able to withstand high temperatures and are very hardy.
These dogs are surprisingly smart, hardy and fast that combine hunting qualities with the characteristics of an excellent watch dog and a great friend. The specimens of the breed are very serious and interesting at the same time. In addition, the Azawakh dog needs training, which is a fascinating process through which the owner reveals the multifaceted nature of the animal.
History of the breed
Azawakh was bred by nomadic tribes living in one of the harshest places on the planet. Unfortunately, their culture did not leave many archaeological finds, they did not even have their own written language.
As a result, nothing is known about the history of the breed until the beginning of the 20th century. Only by indirect information and remains can we judge the origin of these dogs.
Although the exact age of the breed is unknown, the Azawakh is one of the oldest breeds or is derived from them. There is still controversy among researchers, but basically they agree that dogs appeared about 14,000 years ago, from a domesticated wolf, somewhere in the Middle East, India, China.
The petroglyphs found in the habitat date back to the 6th-8th century BC, and they depict dogs hunting animals. At that time, the Sahara was different, it was much more fertile.
Although the Sahel (home of the Azawakhs) is far more fertile than the Sahara, it remains a harsh place to live. There are no resources for people to keep many dogs, and the place is only for the strongest. Nomads cannot afford to raise all the puppies to find out which one is the best.
In the first months, the strongest puppy is selected, the rest are killed. When the summer is rainy, two or three are left, but this is very rare.
For us this may seem wild, but for the nomads of the Sahel it is a harsh necessity, plus such selection allows the mother to give all her strength for one puppy.
For cultural reasons, males and bitches are often left only when they are needed for birth.
In addition to selection by human hands, there is also natural selection. Any dog unable to deal with high temperatures, dry air and tropical diseases dies very quickly.
Plus, the animals of Africa are dangerous, predators actively hunt these dogs, herbivores kill during self-defense. Even animals such as gazelles can kill a dog with a blow to the head or hooves.
As in the rest of the world, the task of greyhounds is to catch fast-running animals. Azawakh is also used, it is capable of very high speed at very high temperatures. They keep their speed high in heat that would kill other greyhounds in a matter of minutes.
However, the uniqueness of the Azawakhs lies in the fact that they perform security functions. Traditionally, they sleep on low rooftops, and when a predator approaches, they are the first to notice it and raise the alarm.
The flock attacks and can even kill an intruder. Although they are not aggressive towards a person, they are masters of anxiety and raise it at the sight of a stranger.
The Azawakh was isolated from the world for centuries, although it certainly crossed with other African breeds. In the 19th century, European imperialists controlled most of the Sahel, but did not pay attention to these dogs.
The situation changed in 1970 when France abandoned its former colonies. At the time, a Yugoslav diplomat was in Burkina Faso, where he became interested in dogs, but the locals refused to sell them.
These dogs were given, and the diplomat received a girl after he killed an elephant that terrorized local residents. Later she was joined by two males. He brought these three dogs home to Yugoslavia and they were the first representatives of the breed in Europe, they became the founders.
In 1981, the Azawakh was recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale under the name Sloughi-Azawakh, and in 1986 the prefix is dropped. In 1989, they first enter the United States, and already in 1993, the United Kennel Club (UKC) fully recognizes the new breed.
In their homeland, these dogs are used only for hunting and work, in the West they are companion dogs, which are kept for pleasure and participation in the show.
The Azawakh looks very much like other greyhounds, especially the Sloughi. These are rather tall dogs, males at the withers reach 71 cm, females 55-60 cm.
At the same time, they are incredibly thin, and with such growth they weigh from 13.5 to 25 kg. They are so thin that it will seem to the casual viewer that they are on the verge of death, but for them this is a normal state.
Plus, they have very long and very thin paws, this is one of the breeds that is significantly higher in height than in length. But, despite the fact that the Azawakh looks skinny, in fact, the dog is athletic and hardy.
The head is small and short, as for a dog of this size, rather narrow. The eyes are almond-shaped, the ears are of medium size, drooping and flat, wide at the base.
The coat is short and thin throughout the body, but may be absent on the belly. There is controversy over the Azawakh colors. Dogs living in Africa come in every color you can find.
However, FCI only admits red, sand and black colors. In the UKC and AKC all colors are acceptable, but since almost all dogs are imported from Europe, red, sand and black predominate.
Azawak is a tireless and high-spirited runner. The dog develops a speed of up to 65 kilometers per hour and can continue the chase for about 5 hours in a row.
Temperament and distinctive character traits
Varies with different dogs, some Azawakhs are more brave and stubborn, but in general the old European lines are more docile than those imported from Africa. They combine loyalty and independence, are very attached to the family.
Azawakh forms a very strong attachment to one person, although it is normal to relate to other family members. They rarely show their emotions, and mostly quite closed, like to spend time doing their own thing. In Africa they do not pay attention to them, and do not caress them.
They are very suspicious of strangers, although with proper socialization they will be neutral towards them. Most of them make friends very slowly, even after prolonged contact. They take new owners very badly, and some do not accept them even after long years of living.
Sensitive, alert, territorial, these dogs are excellent guard dogs, ready to make noise at the slightest danger. Despite the fact that they prefer to contain the threat, if circumstances call for, they will attack.
Relationships with children depend on each particular dog, when they grow up together, the Azawakh is friends with children. However, running and screaming children can turn on the hunter instinct, chasing and knocking down. In addition, those dogs that are new to children are very suspicious of them, do not like noise and sudden movements. These are not the kind of dogs that enjoy the violation of their privacy, rough treatment and noise.
In Africa, in villages, they form flocks, with a social hierarchy. They are able to live with other dogs, and even prefer them. However, for existence a hierarchy must be established, most Azawakhs are very dominant and will try to take the place of the leader.
This can lead to fights until the relationship develops. As soon as the flock is formed, they become very close and in large flocks they are practically uncontrollable. They do not like unfamiliar dogs and can fight.
Most of the breed can be trained to ignore small animals like cats. However, they have a very strong hunting instinct that is practically uncontrollable. They will chase any animals within sight, and even if they are friends with a domestic cat, they can catch up and tear the neighbor’s cat.
Born to run, and to run fast, the Azawakhs need a lot of physical activity. It is absolutely necessary to load them so that the bad energy goes away, otherwise they themselves will find a way out for it. They are not suitable for living in an apartment, they need space, freedom and hunting.
Potential owners should be aware of several character traits of this breed. They do not tolerate cold well, and most of the Azawakhs hate water.
They do not like even the slightest drizzle, most will bypass the tenth way to a puddle, not to mention swimming. In Africa, they found a way to cool down – by digging holes. As a result, these are natural-born excavators. If left alone in the yard, they can completely destroy it.
Those who personally met the Azawakhs say that these dogs do not allow strangers to pet them. They literally jump aside. But in the show ring, well-trained greyhounds stand motionless like statues.
It is not necessary to take care of the African greyhound like other hounds of the brethren – the pet is unpretentious in everyday life, but this does not mean at all that you can forget about it for a week. This is especially true for exhibition specimens, which are subject to increased requirements. To meet them, the owner must remember the following things:
- Azawakh eyes are the most vulnerable spot due to the specific structure of the eyelids. For the prevention of discharge, it is advised to use special drops once a week.
- Combing – only with special silicone gloves. Extremely short coats rarely shed, but scrubbing dead areas twice a month will not hurt.
- African greyhounds are very fond of swimming, and will happily dive into the nearest accessible body of water. At the same time, washing with shampoo is recommended no more than once every three weeks.
- In winter and in the cool off-season, it is better to buy an insulated waterproof cape for the Azawakh. Not the fact that he will like it, he will have to accustom.
Azawakh dogs have a very high pain threshold. They may get hurt and not notice it. Therefore, after active walks, it is necessary to inspect and handle abrasions or other injuries.
It is impossible to feed the Azawakhs “with everything”, an excess of calories will surely backfire on early obesity and heart problems. A sample menu for a week looks like this:
- High quality balanced dry food, selected according to the characteristics of the breed. It is not recommended to buy cheap feed below the super-premium and holistic categories.
- Natural treats for enriching the diet with vitamins and minerals, for natural teeth cleaning and training encouragement.
Health and disease
The health of the Azawakh is strong, the puppies grow into reliable and hardy hunters with practically invulnerable immunity to most infections. The only weakness of the breed in the Russian latitudes is instability to cold winter, due to which hereditary and acquired ailments can be aggravated against the background of improper care or unbalanced feeding.
The most common diseases of the African greyhound recorded by veterinarians:
- Hip dysplasia (in puppies bred from the French line);
- Epileptic syncope (hereditary pathology of Yugoslav nurseries);
- Heart failure over 5 years old.
In addition, hounds often die from the effects of volvulus at any age if the owners do not control the amount of food they receive in their daily diet.
The life span of the Azawakh is up to 12 years, long-livers are rare among this breed. Starting from 5-6 years of age, it is recommended to increase visits to the veterinarian for routine examinations up to three times a year, even if there are no symptoms of violations.
Education and training
The widespread belief that it is impossible to train an Azawakh due to natural stubbornness is very popular among dog breeders. However, even from such a wayward dog, ideal partners and companions are obtained, both during life in the city and in a private house:
- The hound should have its own place, ideally an outdoor enclosure with space for movement and an insulated windproof booth with a thick bed inside. Living in an apartment often leads to the unintentional destruction of furniture.
- Socialize your puppy from the very first days of life. Otherwise, the grown dog will become a classic egoist who avoids human society.
- Teams are allowed to be taught for 5-6 months. Best of all, Africans perform a race for a plate and other toys.
- The walk should be at least one and a half hours in the morning, and 2 hours in the evening. Lack of physical activity leads to nervous disorders.
- Any hooliganism and aggression towards strangers must be punished. A well-bred Azawakh suffices a stern remark in his voice.
So, if you haven’t changed your mind about buying an Azawakh puppy, remember:
- These are born hounds – active, loud and wayward.
- You will have to walk and run with them for a long time, at least 3 hours a day, if not more.
- An African greyhound in an apartment is like an elephant in a china shop – it is better to start them with the expectation of living in a private house.
- Take care of winter clothes – this is a breed from hot latitudes, in Russian conditions it will be cold.