Time-Worn Long Hounds: The Salukis of Ancient Egypt

The svelte and odd-looking  Salukis have been around since ancient times. Since the history of these dogs stretches back before the creation of breed clubs and reported breeding records, their origins are shrouded in mystery.  However, it’s worth mentioning that Salukis were revered by the Egyptian royalty once upon a distant past.

Let’s get to know these long bois of ancient Egypt. Imagine them prancing along with King Tutankhamun’s chariot on the way to battle. 

History of the Saluki Breed

Salukis are one of the oldest dog breeds. They were originally bred to chase foxes, gazelles, and hares. No wonder they’re so long legged! Those lengthy, nimble limbs sure did them well during the hunt. 

Adored even by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Salukis luxuriated in the desert palaces, safe from the deprivations common to other dog breeds. A stubborn breed, the Salukis live as if listening to commands is entirely beneath them.
Despite their bullheadedness and difficulty following commands, people who adore them appreciate and acknowledge their free-spirit and independence, together with their sophistication. 

The Salukis’ existence thousands of years ago were evident in the illustrations of athletic canines found in the tombs of Nilotic settlements, the ancient place that preceded what eventually became the nation we know today as Egypt, dating 7000 BC.

In Tutankhamun’s tomb was carved the boy king’s figure and his cherished long hounds, which all happened to be Salukis.

Salukis in Ancient Egypt

No other dog breeds hold higher regard among ancient Egyptians than Salukis. They were the true favorite companion animals of that ancient civilization. This breed was considered the Royal Dogs of Egypt. Ancient Egyptians revered their Salukis so much that when a hound in their pack passed away, the family mourned their death inconsolably as if a human family member left them. The grieving family members shaved their eyebrows off to demonstrate their respect to the dog’s departed spirit, all the while weeping and thumping the gong to signify their grief.

Some Salukis were even mummified to preserve their long, lithe forms, intricately conserved through secret embalming recipes like the Pharaohs whose lives they touched.  Archeologists have found a few mummified Salukis still wearing their collars, their names lovingly carved into the ancient material.

Characteristics of Salukis

Classy looking and energetic, the timeworn Saluki is commonly accepted as one of the oldest canine breeds. Long before the Egyptian civilization rose up from the banks of the Nile, roving Bedouin tribes had domesticated the Saluki, of sorts. They were allowed to sleep inside the Bedouin’s tent because of their status as beloved pets. Salukis were way ahead of the greyhounds and Basenji breeds in “taming” humans to cater to their needs. Elegant in looks and skilled in the hunting fields, it’s no wonder these hounds were priced by Egyptian rulers of yore, becoming highly valued by the pharaohs of Egypt, as well as the other historical leaders such as Alexander the Great.

Like other sighthounds, Salukis are fast and possess a high-prey initiative. They normally depend on their eyesight instead of their noses when searching for prey and use their tremendous speed for hunting small prey. 

Since they were bred to run after prey in challenging desert terrain, the Salukis perfected their athletic prowess, developing the muscles and the lings to run 30-35 miles per hour at long distances. Some breeders boast they’ve clocked their hounds running 50 miles per hour or so. This is the reason why the tribesmen of the Arabian peninsula preferred to used Salukis to catch gazelle, a staple of Egyptian dinner tables. Nut oil or henna is rubbed on their feet to toughen up the nubs, as protection from possible injuries during sustained hunting runs that sometimes take several days. 

Salukis might not like getting confined in smaller apartments as they prefer to spread out in all their majesty, hence a spacious country house or maybe even a city dwelling with a huge yard is ideal for them. Since Salukis are extremely fast for humans to catch up running with, these hounds have gotten used to working alone. It’s common to hear Saluki owners claim their pets are super stubborn and can be a pain to train. That’s their personality.

When they’re given the opportunity to exercise regularly and get rid of their excess energy, Salukis can be gentle and docile when they’re spending the day at home with their human family. They especially love snuggling on a sofa, perhaps with a warm fuzzy blanket nearby. However, they can be hardheaded and detached, not looking to their owners for cues like other dog breeds do.
Salukis just do things when they want to. They have that independent streak.

Despite their aloof demeanor, Salukis do  develop strong bonds with their ‘persons’ and may be susceptible to separation anxiety, even if they’re left for just short periods of time.  

Salukis Had Names

Salukis’ names given to them by their ancient owners mirrored their personalities and quirks. As important members of the family, their owners go over name possibilities tediously before arriving on the most appropriate one. It even took months for some Saluki owners to pick the best moniker for their regal furbabies.  

Some Salukis names from ancient Egypt are Khataf (snatcher), Nimran (panther), Sougha (the gift), Saqar (falcon), Shihaab (shooting star), Lateef (friendly), and Shadeed (strong).   

How to Care for your Saluki

It’s highly recommended to have a fenced-in yard if you want to bring home a Saluki from the breeder. These sight hounds are known escape artists. During walks, hold their lead securely since Salukis have a strong prey drive. You can scream yourself hoarse belting out their names, they won’t even look back when there are bunnies and small animals afoot that take their fancy. 

Salukis have to run full speed at least twice a week. A civilized. leisurely stroll ’round the block just isn’t enough to satisfy them. Thus, a Saluki owner may find it beneficial to have fence in at least an acre of country property where this demanding hound can regularly exercise.  The fence should be 5 feet tall or higher considering that Salukis are exceptional jumpers.

The Salukis of Southern Illinois 


Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois hails the Saluki as their mascot since 1951, given that the area of the Midwest is called Little Egypt because of fertile farming soil, similar to the banks of the Nile River. Most SIU sports events are usually graced by beautiful Salukis from local breeders. 

In 2002, Salukis enjoyed an uptick in popularity due to the SIU basketball team’s inclusion in NCAA’s Sweet 16 round of college athletics. The SIU Saluki team were eventually eliminated but the Saluki mystique will never be lived down in obscurity again. 

2 thoughts on “Time-Worn Long Hounds: The Salukis of Ancient Egypt”

  1. My family has had salukis for hundred of years. That part of them not being indoor dogs is utter rubbish. If you take them in walks theyre 100% fine with it. You just need a nice size yard with a high fence. Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard from someone who obviously hasn’t had as much experience with salukis as we have.

    1. Thank you Aisha, obviously I appreciate your expert input on this article but I’m taken aback by the way you delivered it. “Dumbest comment” Ahhh…but it’s the internet, so everything is game. So I’d like your expert opinion to validate your claims, as this article was written by a Veterinary Sciences student I hired for the informational articles on this site. We foster an atmosphere of caring and helping on Every Creature Counts and your comment will be published because we don’t censor views here, negative or not.

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