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A reader asked some questions in regard to the Saluki.

“What should strike you first as they walk into the ring?”
What should strike you immediately is "This looks like a Saluki" as defined in the General Appearance paragraph of the Standard.

You should see a balanced Saluki which is a Sighthound that is graceful yet deceivingly strong. The expression should be calm and accepting. It does not need to be a soft expression as any color eyes from dark to hazel are acceptable. The lighter eyes do give a harder expression. They should never look wild as if they need to escape.

This is a difficult breed to understand. The Saluki people quarrel about what is correct. Each has their own preference. Those of us who have done a lot of research believe that there is room for every style and purpose - but they must have Saluki breed type.

There is such a diversity of terrain and game which makes for the huge size differential 23-28 inches (5 inches and bitches can be considerably smaller). It is not unusual to see a large entry with 24 inch males standing alongside a 28 inch male with a 26 inch male thrown in. Then you see the bitches and they can be the same height as the males or smaller. I once showed a 22 inch bitch to several specialty wins. What is the key here is do the males look like males without being ugly? Do the bitches look like bitches without being too masculine or too refined that they exhibit no strength.

The terrain goes from sifting sands, to hard packed ground, to mountainous, to marshy. It extends from Saudi Arabia, to Israel, Iraq, Iran and farther. The game is small rodents to large wild ass. Understand too that the gazelle they all talk about hunting in reality is only 19" high at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula to the wild ass in northern Iraq.

The diversity of terrain and game calls for different body builds and sizes. Those that go after fast prey such as the wild hare, tend to be built like sprinters. They are more upright in the front and rear. Those that go after larger game by necessity are much larger and heavier boned. Then you have everything in between.

Is there a particular trait that makes you cringe and should never be overlooked?
Poor condition, lack of underjaw, short necks, tail bouncing off the back when moving and flat feet.

A dog that is out of condition for their weight. A dog so skinny that you can see every rib and vertebrae or a dog so fat you can't find a rib! A soft squishy dog with no muscle tone. This is a hunting hound capable of endurance running with great bursts of speed.

Never ever reward a dog with lack of underjaw. The jaws must be punishing. That does not mean the dog has to be coarse headed. It means that when you look at the profile, you can see the underjaw. In some Salukis, you cannot see the underjaw. This is almost always coupled with a scissor bite that when you really look at it, does not align properly. The bottom incisors will lay a little flatter and pointing towards the front.

The short necked dog lacks elegance and cannot reach their head down to catch the hare.

Never ever reward a dog with flat feet. If the feathering on the toes gives you an optical illusion feel the toes. If there is no knuckle and the pads are thin, then it is a flat foot.

What have breeders worked hard to achieve in the breed that should be acknowledged?
Correct balance with moderate (as applies to the Saluki only) angulation.

The balance between no angulation meaning almost upright front and straight behind with no bend of stifle and correct moderate angulation. I think an overly long second thigh is offensive. The over angulated rears almost never have fronts to match. You will see at all!

Movement at the trot should be smooth and efficient. It should be light with the feet kissing the ground. Do not get sucked into the lift, reconnaissance gait, nonsense. This is a poor excuse for hackney like action.

Going and coming will shock you in this breed as many are unsound in that department. The Saluki coming at you should have a tendency to converge toward a single track and the same applies to the rear.

I forgive a little wonky front but almost cannot forgive a bad moving rear. If the entire entry is bad going and coming and they all look likes Salukis, then award the best light side gait.

The Saluki tends to toe out slightly as he is always looking around to find a way past their judge unless he is well trained.

Don't expect him to stop dead true. Most don't and who cares? That is not their role in life - their role is a sighthound.

Conversely, what do you see that could become a problem?
Myopia. There are many styles of Salukis that are equally acceptable. Don't get stuck on one look.

Please don't judge on coat appeal. Many people are judging on quantity and profuseness of coat. This is not what the Saluki is. Hair, amount of hair does not matter as long as it looks like a feathered dog or a smooth. You can have some short hair on the ears or down to the shoulder hair, a lot of leg and tail furnishing or almost none. It doesn't matter! The feathered with no toe furnishes is incorrect and should be placed accordingly. A smooth with 2 inches of tail feathering and britches is incorrect and should be placed accordingly. A smooth is smooth all over including the tail - they do not have feathering anywhere. We are seeing some identity crisis with the desert bred curs.

Is there something that every judge of Salukis should do (not do) or notice (not notice)?
Again it is in the approach the judge uses. Obliquely and calmly and not too chatty. Remember they are a sighthound, all sighthounds are far sighted and when approached will pull their head back to refocus on the close object - the judge in this case. There are some poor temperaments that will completely shy from the judge - they should be excused or at the very least not be awarded any placing.

The Standard is not clear on ear set but it should be eye level or higher. Not covered in the Standard, but important to breed type is the ear is mobile. When the ear is relaxed it is just at ear level, when the dog is alerted the ear is drawn upward and in some cases slightly forward.  A low ear set takes away from the desired look and expression of the Saluki.

There are two outlines in my mind, one is curvier with a rounder croup and the other is more angular in the croup. Both are correct. You want a good deep and long rib cage, with a long sternum bone curving into a tiny waist with a very strong hard loin. You need the tuck up. See photos of how the Saluki folds their hind legs up into the tuck in the double suspension gallop.

I suggest you look at various photos and large entries if you can. Looks tend to be regional. Some are good and correct and others even though they can win because of show appeal are not necessarily good. Do not be fooled by the generic show dog.

We have some proponents of the desert bred dogs, that I believe are of questionable parentage. I am starting to see Sloughis and Azawakhs in the Saluki ring. This is wrong! If you can't tell what it is, then withhold on the exhibit. It is not a good Saluki if it looks common. You should always get the impression of quality and grace with the strength.

Is it a hunting Sighthound that looks strong, graceful, balanced and most of all looks like a Saluki?  Trust your good instincts.

Article first published in Sight & Scent Magazine, 2008