Showsight Presents The Azawakh

THE

AZAWAKH

BY DEB KIDWELL

I n the harsh desert environment, nature and the selective hand of man created the Azawakh, a race of hounds with exotic beauty uniquely adapted to serve as a guardian and hunter. An African Sighthound, the Azawakh originates from Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Native to the Sahel region of the Sahara Desert, they are named for the Azawakh valley which lies between Mali and Niger. Azawakh means “land of the north.” The Azawakh is the only Sighthound indigenous to this region. Western cultures associate the hounds primarily with the nomadic Tuareg, but they are also bred and owned by other ethnic groups such as the Peulh, some clans of the Fulani, and the Bella. The Bella were the former slaves of the Tuaregs. The Hausa, a pas- toral ethnic group that make their living by trading and agricul- ture, also raise the hounds. The Tuareg are considered to raise the noblest hounds. In its purest form, the Azawakh is known as “idi n’illeli,” the “sight- hound of the free people.” The Azawakh, or idi, held an integral place in the Tuareg life and culture. The seasonal migration of the nomads increased the distribution of hounds and resulted in greater diversity within the gene pool. Such diversity strengthened the genetic health and the stability of the hound’s temperament. Selective breeding for conformation and markings, as practiced in the west, is unknown. There is typically one female per encamp- ment. Females are bred by the alpha male of the locale. The owner of the female usually culls the litter to two or three puppies shortly after birth. This helps prevent an insupportable increase in the population and ensures better nutrition for the surviving puppies. EUROPEAN ORIGINS The breed was first imported to Yugoslavia in the early 1970s by Dr. Pecar, a Yugoslavian diplomat stationed in Burkina Faso. Dr. Pecar received his male as a gift from the nomads, since the dogs could not be bought. He later bartered his services as a hunter, by killing a bull elephant that had been terrorizing the tribe, in exchange for a female Azawakh. The French military and civil servants also played a significant role in exporting the Azawakh to Europe. France is the patron country of the Azawakh under Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules and controls the standard for the breed. Originally, the Azawakh was considered a variety of Sloughi and was shown under its standard. From the beginning, most Sloughi breeders did not accept the Azawakh because of the extensive white markings and the difference in temperament. Thus, most breeders of the time did not mix the two breeds.

Dazol In Chenan Desert-bred bitch owned by Ursula Arnold.

When FCI recognized the Azawakh as a breed, the name went through several changes. First, it was called the Sloughi-Azawakh. The breed finally became the Azawakh in 1980. The first Azawakh FCI standard only allowed shades of red with white markings, since it was considered at the time that any Azawakh with brindle markings had been mixed with Sloughi. With increasing pressure from breeders and evidence from its Countries of Origin (COO), Azawakh with black brindling were finally allowed in the FCI standard in 1993. The breed developed in Europe along two lines, known as the Yugoslavian and the French lines. Yugoslavian Line – In the early 1970s, after Dr. Pecar obtained his two Azawakh, Vesna Sekalec ( Haris al Sahra ) began breed- ing them. Two Azawakh formed the foundation of the breed in Yugoslavia. Their names were Gao and Lara . Around 1975, a male was imported from Burkina Faso known as Darkoye Sidi , and he was incorporated into what had become known as the Yugoslavian line. Many breeders obtained their foundation Azawakh from Ms. Sekalec; therefore, the Haris al Sahra kennel name appears fre- quently in the pedigrees of most modern-day Azawakh. Dogs of the Yugoslavian line figured prominently in the foundation bloodlines of the Czech Republic and Russia.

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