Salukis are considered to be one of the oldest dog breeds in existence. The name Saluqi has many theories. Linguistics agree the word Saluqi in Arabic is an adjective referring to where an individual was from. Sir Terence Clark reports on four possible locations for the place Saluq including today’s Yemen, Iraq and Turkey.
Modern science tells us the origins of all dogs are to the east in China, but we do not know where the origin of the Saluki is located. All along the Silk Road his presence was known for almost as long as the dog has been domesticated, a testimony to his function as a hunter and his beauty as a companion. His image is found in many cultures. There are petroglyphs and rock arts in Golpaygan and Khomein in central Iran that shows saluki-like hounds and falcons accompanying hunters chasing preys (ca. 8000-10,000 BC)., recent excavations of the Sumerian empire, estimated at 7000-6000 BC have saluki like finds. Saluki-like images adorn pottery found in Susa. and are found appearing on the Egyptian tombs of 2100 B.C.
The nomadic tribes spread the breed across the Middle East from Persia and Egypt, to as far east as Afghanistan and India, and as far south as Sudan.
They were considered to be the “Royal Dog of Egypt”. Salukis appear on Egyptian tombs increasingly commonly from The Middle Kingdom (2134 BC – 1785 BC) onward, and have often been found mummified alongside the bodies of the Pharaohs in the Pyramids. It was during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt that Salukis rose to their place of prominence, replacing the Tesem (thought to be similar to modern Pariah dogs, or a generic term for a dog).
The breed is thought to be the type of dog mentioned in The Bible. Salukis have appeared in medieval paintings regarding the birth of Christ, including Paolo Veronese‘s 1573 work The Adoration of the Magi (also known as the Adoration of the Kings), currently located at the National Gallery, London. Veronese also painted the breed into some of his other religious work, including The Marriage at Cana and The Finding of Moses.
In China examples of the breed were painted by the fifth Ming Emperor Zhū Zhānjī, known more commonly as the Xuande Emperor during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The inscription on the painting reads “playfully painted [by the] imperial brush” in 1427. Additional red seals were added in later years by owners of the painting, which also reveals that the painting was in the Imperial Chinese collection in the 18th century.
Iran has a long and rich visual history with the Saluki, from early representations on pottery found in Susa, miniatures painted by Master Kamal Uddin Behzad, book illustrations By Abd al-Wahhab ibn ‘Abd al-Fattah ibn ‘Ali (1516). It is an illustration from manuscript of Khamsa (Quintet) of Nizami, metalsmithing from the reign of the Injuidprince, Jamal al Dine Abu Is’haq, created between 1342 and 1353. One of the more amazing pieces of art in Iran is the Savashi Canyon Relief, carved around 1800, commissioned by Fath Ali Shah Qajar to commemorate his hunting exploits.
Today, the breed is still held in high regard throughout the Middle East, and have been hunting dogs for nobles and rulers around the region. They are considered clean by the Bedouins, and are allowed to be in women’s quarters, while other dogs must be kept outside. Sheik Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain during the 1930s, was known for a pack of Salukis that accompanied him throughout the Arab world on hunting trips. Following his death, his son Salman ibn Hamad Al Khalifa attempted to keep the lines pure-bred but they became interbred with other breeds. However, the pure-bred lines of the royal kennel were saved by the efforts of Dana Al Khalifa who was given two pure-bred puppies by the King, and about a decade later had around pure-bred Salukis registered with the Kennel Club of Bahrain.