The Saluki has been around for over 5,000 years with a lot of their original origin unknown and uncertain. The one thing about this dog that is certain is they were used for their great hunting ability back then and are still used for their great hunting ability now. The tribes that existed in the Middle East bred the Saluki for its stamina, intelligence, speed, courage, and endurance and were used to hunt hare and gazelle.
Their training began at an early age with the rat being their first prey, before working up to the gazelle. The dog was fearless, which contributed greatly to its success. The Saluki was the preferred dog of kings for hunting. They were also so treasured they were given away in the form of a gift or in exchange for wives or horses or camels.
The Saluki was taken out in the morning on the back of an Arabian horse to either the deserts or the mountains. Many of them had to pursue and kill a wild ass as part of their job. The particular hunting ground that was chosen would determine what game the Saluki had to get. Today the Saluki is the same excellent hunter with the drive, intelligence, and endurance they possessed so many years ago. Now, they do much less hunting and when it's done, it's more for the sport than for the matter of survival it used to be.
The Saluki has an exceptionally high prey drive, which contributes to making them such excellent hunting dogs. So high is their prey drive that the National Veterinary Scholars recommend the dog never be off leash because they will chase deer and other animals and often not respond when being called by their owners. When in the pursuit of animals, the Saluki appears to be in a world of their unknown, unresponsive to anything or anyone but the prey they are pursuing.
If the Saluki doesn't get the opportunity to hunt as they are accustomed to, the National Open Field Coursing Association sponsors open field coursing events. These events allow the dog to keep up with their hunting skills as well as provide them with competitive fun. This is one of the rare hunting events that use live game in the competition.
As part of the competition, the dogs have to chase a jackrabbit for up to two miles on a desert terrain. Some of the dogs, when running at full speed, run up to 40 mph. With the use of binoculars, the judges watch the dogs race and give points based on their speed, agility, and their ability to take their game. Sight hounds (dogs that hunt by sight instead of scent) are the only dogs that are allowed to compete in this event.