Fast and clever, the distinctive Saluki dog breed has been a hunting and guard dog for the desert people of the Arabian Peninsula for 5,000 years. Indigenous to the region, this dog’s speed, intelligence and loyalty make it a breed much beloved by the UAE people. One of the oldest known breeds of domesticated dog, the Saluki comes in two varieties, smooth or ‘feathered’, with its name coming either from the city of Saluk in the Hadramout region of Yemen, where the dog may have first been domesticated, or from the Bani Saluk tribe in Yemen, which may have been the first tribe to domesticate the breed. Today, Salukis are still known for their incredible speed, intelligence and stamina, traits that make them the perfect hunting companions.
Bedouins hunt with Salukis in packs of two to six hounds, and they train their dogs to hunt with falcons as part of a team. Falcons usually spot and hover over their prey, while Salukis speed off towards the target - often kilometres away - as the hunters follow on horses or camels.
Today, Emiratis still hunt with their Salukis, who run next to cars at 46 to 64km/h. The Rub’ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, the largest sand mass in the world, is the dog’s favourite hunting ground. Tents and villages dotted along the edges of this desert remain strongholds of Saluki breeding.
Abu Dhabi’s Saluki Centre honours the desert traditions of hunting, training and breeding Salukis, with visitors learning not just about the unique traits of this dog, but also how to care for it.