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As noble as an Arabian horse, as persevering as a camel and as brave as a lion – there is no better way to describe the Azawakh. The African greyhound, the most valuable symbol of wealth and culture of the Tuareg nomads, only found its way to Europe around 50 years ago. Its pure originality, paired with independence and sensitivity, makes the proud Azawakh a companion for real individualists.

The origin of the Azawakh

Oriental-Asian nomadic peoples, among them the ancestors of today’s Tuareg, very likely brought the Azawakh with them from the east. According to one theory, the immigrants are descendants of Ham, a son of Noah. Among other things, the Egyptians emerged from the Hamites, whose beginnings date back to 4000 BC. To be dated. The Azawakh is named after its central area of ​​origin, the Azawakhtal, a more than 1000 km long and 40 km wide dry river bed in the border area of ​​the states Niger and Mali.

Although there are mixed forms of Saluki on the southern borders of the Sahel, the Azawakh is the only dog ​​breed in the core area. The habitat of the shepherds was and is to this day the Sahel zone, the transition area from the dry and hot southern Sahara to the tropical savannahs of Central Africa. To this day, keeping dogs is an integral part of the way of life, whereby natural selection based on the climatic conditions and selection criteria of the breeders resulted in a breed that has adapted to the extreme living conditions. In the Tuareg language, this exclusive breed is called “Idii n’illeli”, which can be translated as “dog of the free”.

More valuable than gold

The Azawakh is so valuable in its African homeland that it cannot be sold. The Bedouins appreciate the breed’s intelligence and stamina, which is essential to its continued existence. Despite the emerging interest in dog breeding in the 19th century, the European colonial rulers of the time hardly paid any attention to the Azawakh. That changed only with the granting of independence in the 1970s. At that time, the Yugoslav diplomat Dr. Pecar stationed in Burkina Faso, West Africa. The dog lover tries in vain to buy an azawakh from the Bedouins. One copy could only be given as a special gift. Fate hurries Dr. Help Pecard when he kills a bull elephant that terrorized the Bedouin camp for a long time. As a thank you, the diplomat is given an Azawakh bitch, and later two animals from the same litter were added. The doctor takes these three dogs to Yugoslavia and thus establishes breeding in Europe. A short time later, French civil servants took another seven specimens with almost identical appearance from Mali.

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The breed standard in the crossfire

Right at the start, a great debate about the nature of Azawakh flares up. It would be a variety of the Sloughi breed, so it was agreed on the name Tuareg-Sloughi, since both varieties, Sloughi and Azawakh, are smooth-haired Salukis. In 1981 the FCI recognized the Sloughi-Azawakh breed, and in 1986 the addition of Sloughi was withdrawn. Confusion continued until the late 1980s, and ultimately three new races were established: Sloughi, Saluki, and Azawakh. French breeders develop the official breed standard, which refers to the offspring of the first seven animals of their own. The country of origin Mali is not an FCI member, so the patronage is French. This standard is very restrictive, especially with regard to coat color and does not reflect the great diversity of African Azawakhs. The French breeders’ association states that the pure-bred Azawakh must have a certain distribution of the white portion of the otherwise red-sand-colored coat color on the legs, neck and head. At exhibitions, however, you can increasingly see black, grizzly and piebald animals with too much white, which probably originated in Africa through crossbreeding with other greyhound species. The opinions of the cynological associations are currently hardened to the extreme, resulting in uncertainty among breeders, judges and owners. For example, the French standard makers are said to be ignorant of the African dog population; in return, the 25-year-old Azawakh breed is portrayed as a mistake, since over five generations the offspring sometimes look completely different from the first French imports. Ultimately, due to the massive differences, the number of participants in dog shows and exhibitions is falling rapidly, as former champions are often devalued by the judges.

Body type and coat

The shape of the head is very narrow and finely chiseled with diverging boundary lines of the muzzle and skull. The back of the head is pronounced. Large amber-colored or dark, almond-shaped eyes with black pigmented lids convey an expressive appearance. The less pronounced stop turns into a long muzzle that tapers towards the nose, whereby the nose can be black or brown. When paying attention, the Azawakh erects its high set ears. The strong jaw houses a scissor bite. The long, but muscular neck opens into a rather narrow but deep chest area and the back line, which is straight or slightly rising towards the hips. The sloping croup, the raised belly and the long, slender limbs form a highly erect, rectangular silhouette. The light-footed, almost dance-like gait rounds off the aristocratic appearance with flowing movements. Dry muscles and bones are clearly visible under the thin, tightly fitting one. The long, thin tail is worn hanging down with a slightly curved tip when at rest. The coat should be light sand colored to deep red within the color nuances. The texture is fine, smooth, short and sparse on the underside of the body. White markings are allowed on the paws, tip of the tail and chest. The head can have a black mask. Faults include, among other things, curling, half-length hair or wire hair, inwardly curved ribs (violin case shape), clumsy physique, a light eye, misalignment of the legs, the lack of white coat color.

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The character of the Azawakh

His nature is guarding and hunting – nevertheless the Azawakh wants to be integrated as a family member, seeks close ties to his owner and gets along well with children. At first he is reserved but friendly towards strangers; However, if the Azawakh feels a danger against its holder or itself, it can react aggressively in a flash. All the moods of the sensitive race can be read from the expressive eyes, just as the attentive Azawakh registers the smallest mood swings of its owner from the sound of the voice or a gesture. He needs plenty of caresses and caresses in order to be mentally balanced, which is why strict training in a harsh tone will inevitably fail. A well socialized animal is suitable for housing, but a second dog in the household can be critical. As an energetic family dog, the Azawakh needs plenty of exercise and free movement every day, be it off-road or on green spaces, in order to work out its extreme fitness. A large garden surrounded by walls is ideal: his urge for freedom can encourage the Asawakh to bust out and another hobby is digging holes in the loose soil of freshly dug beds or under fences.


Certain breed typical diseases are unknown to the Azawakh. Despite its filigree physique, the breed is very robust, but after walks the thin skin should be checked for scratches and minor injuries. What he doesn’t like is cold. No wonder, there is extreme heat and a dry climate in its natural habitat. Under these conditions, the Azawakh is in top form, runs for hours without getting tired and reaches enormous speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour. In Europe, dog sports are the best thing to do when it comes to speed. He also enjoys accompanying his people jogging or successfully taking part in coursing and greyhound races. In his homeland, the Bedouins share their own food, milk and millet porridge, with the Azawakhs. Here, normal farmers give varied ready-made feed with sufficient fiber or prepare the meals yourself: 350 – 400 g meat with 200 g each of rice and vegetables, plus minerals and vitamins. The grooming of this breed is done quickly by occasionally wiping it with a damp leather.

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The Azawakh at a glance

Origin: Africa, Sahel zone Patronage: France FCI standard No. 307, classification group 10 greyhounds, section 3: short-haired greyhounds Size: medium to large Height at the withers: males 64 cm – 74 cm, females 60 cm – 70 cm Weight: males 20 kg – 25 kg, females 15 kg – 20 kghair coat: short, fine, almost hairless belly coat color: from light sand-colored to dark red with white markings and “white boots” eyes: dark or amber-colored, almond-shaped, black rimmed nose: black or brown ears: triangular shape, drooping, close-fitting, fine leather body structure : elegant, muscular but slender, tall-legged use: hunting dog, greyhound racing, coursingCharacter: cautious, attentive, chooses affectionate peopleHealth risks: skin injuries, diseases typical of the breed are unknownLife expectancy: 10 – 13 years

Image: © Depositphotos.com / CaptureLight