According to the American Kennel Club the Saluki was the 116th most popular recognized breed out of a possible 156 in 2008. These very unique looking dogs really are one of a kind in appearance, combining features typical of the scent hounds with the amazing running ability found in the sight hound dogs. As a larger sized hound, the deceptively lean and long body of the Saluki often appears delicate, but these dogs are true hunters and racers.
The Saluki appears somewhat like a slightly lankier and heavier Greyhound, without the rounding or arching of the back. In addition the Saluki has longer, silky hair, particularly long on the tail and on the ears. The fringing on the tail is profuse and the tail is carried very low to the hocks and curving upwards at the tip. The body is lean and muscular and the legs are long and strong, giving the impression of the ability to run at the drop of a hat, which this breed literally is.
However, in combination with the sleek, racy look of the Greyhound there is also the slightly heavier, slighter squarer jaw of the typical hound, combined with the long, pendant ears. It is true that the Saluki, unlike other scent hounds, has long wavy fringing on the ears, but other than that they are true hound looking ears. This is not to say the Saluki has a thick or coarse looking head, they do have the leaner, narrower head of most sight hounds, just a bit deeper and wider than average.
The Saluki is considered by researchers to be one of the oldest breeds of domestic dogs with DNA very close to that of wild wolf ancestors. It was bred and developed in the area around modern day Turkey and continues to be a popular breed with the people of that area. There are depictions of dogs that very closely resemble the modern Saluki breed in ancient tombs dating back to 3500 BC, and Egyptian representations of the breed dating to 2100 BC. This wide dispersion of the breed within the Middle East and beyond has led to several variations within those regions including coat color and slight size variations, but the type is definitely the same.
The modern Saluki, like its ancestors, was developed to be a sight hunting hound, capable of long, fast runs that are not the sprints or bursts seen by many of the other sight hounds. Incredible stamina at a very high pace is the hallmark of the Saluki, plus their feet are covered with thick, long hair, providing protection over the roughest and most difficult types of terrain.
Unlike many of the larger types of sight hounds, the Saluki has a long lifespan of up to 15 years. During this time they bond very strongly with the family, often with one member in particular. This strong bonding can make the Saluki a challenging dog to board or keep in a kennel as they do need and crave human companionship with the family. They are not a demanding dog when it comes to attention and are less likely to be highly affectionate than many other types of dog. Typically the Saluki is rather aloof and cool towards people that it doesn't see as part of the pack. They are not aggressive but rather simply ignore those they don't know.
The Saluki can also be a challenging dog to train and is not considered to be a first time dog owner's choice of pets. They are highly sensitive to negative tones of voice or any type of punishment based training and will become very distrustful of people that use these training methods. Positive training that is short in duration with a minimum number of repetitions per training session is essential. Once the Saluki has mastered a command they become very non-compliant in constant repetitions. Mixing lots of activity, time to run and play as well as praise and attention is the key to successful training of this breed.
Often Saluki dogs are seen as very distractible during training, but this is largely due to their inherited sight hunting instincts. These instincts are very deep within the breed and even show lines have an extremely high prey drive. These are not a good pet for households with other types of smaller pets, although if raised with cats the Saluki can learn to accept the family cat. They will chase and kill other cats and animals if not obedience trained. As a traditional pack hunter the Saluki gets along well with other dogs and is typically slightly submissive, a good match for more dominant types of breeds. A pair of Salukis is a great combination as they will self-exercise more intensely than a single Saluki or a Saluki with a breed that isn't a sight hound.
Routine exercise that includes a place to really run is absolutely important for the mental and physical health of this breed. Like all sight hounds it is strongly recommended to keep the Saluki on a leash at all times when outside of a secured yard or area to run. Without proper exercise they can become very rambunctious and high strung, which are not the normal characteristics of the breed. Although they love to be outdoors they don't tolerate cold or wet conditions well and do need to be inside in these types of climates. The perfect home for a Saluki includes a large indoor living space with the family combined with a very large fenced yard or acreage to run while still staying safely within a fenced area.
One of the interesting aspects of owning a Saluki is that these dogs have a unique way of vocalizing. While they are more than capable of a standard bark, they also have a singing or yodeling type of vocalization that they use to let the owners know they are happy, content or that something is amiss. Often this singing type of sound is done relatively quietly but it can be very loud as well, but it is typically a sign of contentment and affiliation with the human pack.